Research Outputs

Collaboration with External Partners

One of the goals of the BFC project was to establish new connections with Swiss and international BFC stakeholders interested in or working on any of the project's main research areas.

Thanks to the dissemination and outreach activities of the project, different collaborations opportunities have emerged and are now being transformed into action. This page features some examples. 

Project title: BabelDr: Spoken Language Translation of Dialogues in the Medical Domain

Project's main contact and co-leader: Dr. Hervé Spechbach (HUG)


BFC members involved in the project: Prof. Pierrette Bouillon (BabelDr project co-leader), Irene Strasly (responsible for sign language version)

Time period: 2018-2020

Funding: Fondation privée des Hôpitaux universitaires de Genève and Unitec.

Project website:


At the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), Geneva's largest hospital, 52% of all patients are foreign nationals and more than 10% speak no French at all. In the context of the ongoing European refugee crisis, the medical professionals at HUG, particularly in the emergency and immigrant health service departments, often find they have no language in common with a patient. Particularly important languages are Tigrinya, Arabic and Farsi; as of September 2015, Eritreans, Syrians and Afghans make up about 60% of all new asylum seekers. Language barriers of this kind pose serious problems regarding the quality, security and equitability of health care, a phenomenon which has been the subject of detailed investigation by several teams over the last twenty years (Flores et al. "Errors in medical interpretation and their potential clinical consequences in pediatric encounters." Pediatrics 2003; Wasserman et al. "Identifying and Preventing Medical Errors in Patients With Limited English Proficiency: Key Findings and Tools for the Field". Journal for Healthcare Quality 2014).

The BabelDr speech translation application is designed to address these problems. The system has been specifically designed to assist in triaging of non-French-speaking patients visiting HUG's A&E department, and allows a medical professional to perform a preliminary medical examination dialogue, using a decision-tree method, to determine the nature of the patient's problem and the appropriate action to take. In the current version of the system, the patient is expected to respond non-verbally, e.g. by nodding, shaking their head, or pointing. BabelDr differs from general speech translation systems like Google Translate in several important respects. Speech recognition is performed using linguistic methods and is specialized for medical translation dialogues, which allows excellent recognition quality for phrases covered by the system without requiring speaker adaptation. The range of language covered by the system has been defined by doctors at HUG. All questions are mapped into a set of standard types that are translated in advance by expert translators at the University of Geneva, guaranteeing reliable output.

Project title: Developing Shared Evaluation Frameworks for Digital Innovation in Culturally-Effective, Patient-Oriented Healthcare Translation and Communication: Australia and Switzerland

Project's main contacts and co-leaders: Prof. Meng Ji (USyd) and Prof. Pierrette Bouillon (UNIGE)


BFC members involved in the project: Prof. Pierrette Bouillon (project co-leader), Dr. Silvia Rodríguez Vázquez (accessibility evaluation of translation and communication technologies), Ms. Irene Strasly (PhD student - medical translation into sign language; sign language interpreter)

Time period: 2019-2020

Funding: USyd - UNIGE - Partnership Collaboration Awards (PCA)


Effective health translation and communication strategies among multicultural populations lie at the heart of efforts to combat physical and mental diseases in multicultural societies like Australia and Switzerland. There is a persistent lack of standardised criteria and benchmarks for the development and evaluation of healthcare and medical translation resources and computerised translation systems. The lack of international standards and guidelines have impeded the effective adoption and implementation of health translation resources and technologies in healthcare research and clinical settings. Our project represents a first attempt to tackle this persistent, costly issue, which has become increasingly urgent in multicultural Australia and the refugee crisis in European countries like Switzerland. A key component of this project is to explore opportunities of the joint development of healthcare translation resources and communication technologies for Australian aboriginal communities.

Additional Collaborators:



  • Prof. Lisa Jackson Pulver (Aboriginal Healthcare)
  • Prof. Jakelin Troy
  • Ms. Shaonnon Lin (PhD student)
  • Ms. Ziqing Lyv (PhD student)
  • Ms. Mengdan Zhai (PhD student)
  • Ms. Yanmeng Zhao (PhD student)

 Other Collaborating Investigators:

  • Mrs. Shannon Lin (Senior Officer of Aboriginal Diabetes Health Education)
  • Mrs. Bernice Murphy (Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health, Victoria)
  • Prof. Glenn Maberly (Westrn Sydney Diabetes Initiative - WSLHD)
  • Dr. Hervé Spechbach (Medical Doctor, HUG, Switzerland)


Project title: ENPSIT: European Network for Public Service Interpreting & Translation

BFC members involved in the project: Prof. Dr. Michaela Albl-Mikasa (ZHAW)

More information: Project website


The European Network for Public Service Interpreting (ENPSIT) was founded in October 2013 in Brussels. 

The initiator of ENPSIT was the former Kruispunt Migratie-Integratie (Junction Migration-Integration) now Agentschap Integratie en Inburgering (Flemish Agency for Integration).

On April 2, 2014 its members converted the informal network into a formal organization: ENPSIT. ENPSIT is working towards a European policy and funding for public service interpreting and translation. It writes policy recommendations for the European Commission. It confers with several members of the European Parliament and with the European Commissioner for Multilingualism.

Project title: Inclusive education for children with Cerebral Palsy: a multidisciplinary perspective

Project's main contact: Guillaume Goudy (Handi-capable)


BFC members involved in the project: Elisa Casalegno (PhD student, main researcher), Prof. Pierrette Bouillon (supervisor), Dr. Silvia Rodríguez Vázquez (mentor)

Time period: March 2019 - February 2020

Funding: Handi-Capable, Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (FTI) - UNIGE


The Department of Translation Technology (TIM) of the FTI (UNIGE) is officially collaborating since March 2019 with Handi-Capable, a Swiss association that supports the families of children with Cerebral Palsy (CP).

The aim of the project, initiated by Handi-Capable, is to collect research-based evidence on the positive socio-economic impact of inclusive education on the lives of children with CP. A brief overview of the project can be found in the association’s website. An External Advisory Committee composed of members from different backgrounds (Political Science, Pedagogy, Accessibility, International Development) will monitor the progress of the project, as well as periodically provide advice and support.

The TIM department is currently involved in the first phase of the project (March 2019-February 2020), co-founded by both the FTI and Handi-capable. After conducting a comprehensive review of the literature on the subject, the team plans to investigate current education practices in schools welcoming children with CP in Switzerland, with a focus on easy-to-read content and the use of technology in the classroom.

Members of the External Advisory Committee:

  • Quentin Beausire: Lawyer (Lausanne area, Switzerland), experienced in the fields of administration and education.
  • Dr. Dónal Fitzpatrick: Lecturer at the School of Computing, Dublin City University, Ireland, and senior researcher in the field of digital accessibility.
  • Sébastien Kessler: Physicist, Health Economist and Lecturer, Alderman in Lausanne and Committee Member of Inclusion Handicap – Disability Swiss Umbrella Organisation. Co-founder, partner of the access-consulting firm id-Geo.
  • Dr. Romain Lanners: Director of the Swiss Center for Special Education (SCSE), Bern, Switzerland.
  • Philippe Nendaz: Head of the 'Office de l'enseignement spécialisé' (OES), Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Prof. Mary Schuh: Director of Consumer Affairs and Development and the Center on Inclusive Education at the University of New Hampshire, USA.
  • Nathalie Stoeckli: Dean of the primary school institute Est in Morges, Switzerland, in charge of Special Education.



Project title: Indo-Swiss Interpreting and Translation Professionalisation (ISTIP)

Project's main contact: Prof. Dr. Michaela Albl-Mikasa (ZHAW)

BFC members involved in the project: Prof. Dr. Michaela Albl-Mikasa (ZHAW)

Funding: Swiss Federal Government Bilateral Research Collaboration with South Asia (Bridging Grant), SNSF (Scientific Exchanges / Project No. 182937)

More information: Project website


India and Switzerland share as an inherent characteristic their widely practiced and officially recognized multilingualism. In the management of multilingualism, English (as a second language) has played a much more prominent role in India than translation and interpreting (T&I), whereas, in Switzerland, English (as a lingua franca or ELF) has been gaining ground against a background of a strong T&I tradition. In India, it is mainly in professional circles that the need for highly qualified translators and interpreters is recognized. As this need remains intangible in much of everyday life, it is not accommodated for in terms of tertiary training opportunities. Instead, Indian universities have thus far focused on literary translation.

Commencing with a focus on dialogue interpreting, the ISTIP bridging grant project aims to facilitate an exchange of expertise between the Swiss partner ZHAW and the Indian partners from Pune University and Pondicherry University. A train-the-trainer and curriculum-development initiative, based on the long-standing expertise of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (IUED) at ZHAW from their accredited BA and MA programmes as well as continuing education sections, aims at extending the T&I programme range at the two partner institutions. Primary focus is on the development of dialogue interpreting workshops tailored to the needs of the Indian context. In return, the Indian partners will share their expertise with English as a hub language and ELF communication in a multilingual environment, which is making strong inroads into multilingual Switzerland, and with EMI (English as a medium of instruction), which is becoming highly topical at Swiss universities. The partners are ideal in that the two Indian partners are the country’s main representatives of Switzerland’s main languages, German and French (Pune for German and Pondicherry for French).

Against the backdrop of its potential for the professionalization of T&I in India, the opportunity of setting up small T&I businesses for Indian language students, the prospect of gaining intercultural experience and competence in a globalized world for Swiss students, and the examination of the implications of ELF on multilingualism and multiculturalism in international communication, the project will also explore the possibility of joint application for research projects extending the collaboration beyond the bridging grant phase.

Project title: #smARTradio™: Storytelling and Cultural Heritage

Project's main contacts and co-leaders: Dr. Elena Rocco (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), Dr. Giovanna De Appolonia (University of Udine), Prof. Susanne Jekat (ZHAW)

BFC members involved in the project: Prof. Susanne Jekat (project co-leader), Luisa Carrer (language consultant), Alexa Lintner (language consultant)

Time period: January 2019 - March 2020

Funding: The Friuli Venezia Giulia Arts and Culture Fund (Italy)


The #smARTradio™ project was launched by the Radio Magica Foundation (Udine, Italy) in 2016. The Foundation is a research spin-off of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice focusing on inclusive digital technologies targeted to children and young adults. The #smARTradio™ project embodies the mission of the Foundation. Through audio and video stories penned by renowned Italian authors, #smARTradio™ pursues a design-for-all storytelling strategy, aimed at enhancing the appreciation of Italy’s cultural heritage and making it universally accessible.

Inspired by the BBC-British Museum format “A History of the World in 100 Objects”, the project sets out to create short fictional texts dedicated to select objects of Italy’s cultural heritage. The narrative process involves heritage experts (e.g. art historians, archaeologists, scientists), stakeholders and the local community in a collective storytelling process side by side with the authors. The target audience includes children and young persons aged 8-13 with or without hearing, visual or cognitive impairments. Accessibility plays a key role throughout the production process. Texts are written in simplified Italian (according to the Radio Magica team’s own guidelines) and video stories are produced in both Italian and Italian Sign Language (LIS). English and German translations of a selection of short stories are also provided.

The dissemination of the project’s outputs is approached through multiple channels, i.e. the Radio Magica portal, the social media (Facebook, Instagram), web and FM radios, museums and museum educational services, online newspapers and magazines, schools, tourist offices, libraries, theatres, literary festivals and live storytelling events.

In 2018, the #smARTradio™ project was included in the Italian Agenda of the European Year of Cultural Heritage by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC). Following this prestigious acknowledgement, the project received the Friuli Venezia Giulia Arts and Culture Fund for the fourth consecutive year.

Against the backdrop of Leonardo Da Vinci’s 500th death anniversary, the project co-leaders aim to produce a series of long and short stories (with relevant audios and videos) focusing on objects of the Friuli Venezia Giulia cultural heritage that were created by human ingenuity and have a strong connection with water, the latter being a highly distinctive natural element of the region. The project will offer the opportunity to reflect on Leonardo’s influence on the development of hydraulic systems for both agricultural and defensive purposes in Friuli Venezia Giulia, as well as on the relationship between innovation and territorial sustainability. In this phase, the ZHAW team members will act as expert consultants on simplified Italian.

For more information on the #smARTradio™ project, please visit the Radio Magica portal.