TWB’s Language Data Initiative is putting language on the map in the humanitarian and development sector.

There is little information available on the languages crisis-affected people speak and understand. Humanitarians often develop communication strategies without reliable data on literacy, languages spoken, or preferred means of communication. The result too often is that crisis-affected people struggle to communicate with humanitarian organizations in a language they understand. Women, children, older people, and people with disabilities are often at the greatest disadvantage because they are less likely to understand international languages and lingua francas.

We are supporting organizations to develop language-informed programs and communication strategies through language data research and analysis.

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Datasets and maps to help understand which languages are spoken where.

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Pre-formatted and translated questions for language data collection.

Your input and feedback can help us make language data as accessible and useful as possible.

Get in touch with us at


The Language Data Initiative was developed with funding from the H2H Fund, the International Organization for Migration, the Centre for Translation Studies at University College London, UK Aid, UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

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Tools and resources:

Data on the languages of affected people is as important for meeting their needs as data on their age and gender. This tool is a quick reference guide to your options on how to use language data at different stages of planning and delivering aid programs.

Brief: The 2021 multi-sector needs assessments should collect data on the languages of affected people

Read the brief in English or French.

This brief argues that MSNAs are a critical opportunity to strengthen the evidence base for effective and accountable humanitarian response plans. It provides recommended language and communication questions, and key considerations on how to include them in MSNAs.

This blog highlights the first efforts to provide openly available language data for humanitarian contexts in nine countries. The datasets are the result of a partnership between Translators without Borders and University College London.

global literacy map by gender

This map highlights the gender difference in adult literacy in individual countries. Women’s literacy rates are often lower than men’s. Orange shading indicates countries where male literacy rates are higher than female literacy rates. Blue shading indicates the few countries where female literacy rates are higher than male literacy rates. 

This infographic highlights the challenges we face when we fail to incorporate language data into humanitarian decision making. In order to address those challenges, we propose four key questions to include in all humanitarian data collection efforts.


View the infographic in English, Congolese Swahili, French and Lingala (Facile).

This brief summarizes key language and communication findings from the 2019 Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment in northeast Nigeria. It illustrates the potential for large-scale surveys of this kind to fill critical language and communication information gaps throughout the humanitarian sector.

Yahaya Tijani (TWB Kanuri Team Lead) conducting comprehension research. GGSS camp, Monguno, Borno State, Nigeria. Photo by: Eric DeLuca, Translators

This blog discusses the potential to use audio to confirm consent and verify the accuracy of recorded survey results in multilingual environments. It focuses on a pilot project between Translators without Borders and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

This short guide helps humanitarian and development agencies avoid language and cultural biases when designing and administering surveys. This guide was developed by Translators without Borders and People in Need. It is available on the IndiKit website in English, French, and Portuguese.

This report demonstrates that language is not a routine consideration in survey design. It concludes that enumerators often do not understand the words they must translate in surveys.

This report highlights the challenges associated with not having reliable data on language in humanitarian crises. It focuses on assessments conducted in Greece, Italy, and Turkey and develops a series of recommendations which went on to form the basis of the TWB Language Data Initiative.