Here is a little-known fact: More than 300 languages are spoken in the United States.That may sound like a lot, but, in fact, almost 7,000 languages are spoken worldwide.
Nonprofit leaders have always been sensitive to the needs of their multilingual communities. Now some are looking for ways to integrate a translation process into their content marketing strategy.
To be sure, repurposing content in other languages is a smart move, particularly for organizations that develop educational text or infographics that could enlighten the lives of immigrants.
Most nonprofits start the process of going multicultural with one language, the one most commonly used in their target communities. Nationwide, Spanish is by far the most-spoken non-English language in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau, followed by Chinese, Hindi, Urdu or other Indic languages, French or French Creole, and Tagalog.
But in your quest to develop multilingual content, how do you ensure that the translations carry the same meaning and editorial precision as the original texts? You avoid some common mistakes.
Five ways to bury your hard-earned reputation with poor translations
- Give the task to just anybody. When you decide it’s time to translate your nonprofit content into another language, select the right people to do the job. Don’t try to do it yourself. Knowing another language doesn’t make you an expert. Likewise, don’t rely on a bilingual friend. Opt for trained and certified translators who have a deep understanding of both languages (such as Spanish and English). Remember, translation inaccuracies might render your digital content useless.
- Work with a single translator. Take extra steps to make sure the translation is accurate, particularly when you’re dealing with a foreign language that you don’t understand. Don’t trust that a single translator will do the job correctly. As with any writing project, you need an editor and proofreader. Hire a team for your content. Demand the same high standards for the translation as for the original. After all, they both bear your name and reputation.
- Provide poor specifications. Once you’ve found the right people, make sure you’re telling them exactly what you want. Every aspect of the multilingual content project needs to be clear: What’s your purpose? What are the characteristics and education level of your target audience? What file format do you need? When’s the deadline? The translation specifications should be clear and complete to ensure a high-quality output.
- Trust machine translations. Automated translations are OK to use if you’re browsing the web and you need a rough overview of a foreign passage. But don’t use them to publish your information. High-tech tools don’t replace the high-touch process involved with a professional translator who can consider the nuances of a culture rather than create a word-for-word translation without conveying the sense of the original message.
- Send incomplete copy for translation. If you’re still updating your final copy, you should wait until it’s finished. The process will be greatly hindered if you start sending messages like “add this here” or “add that there.” The overall consistency and coherence of the text can be severely damaged by last-minute additions.
This article originally appeared in Kivi’s Nonprofit Communication Blog: www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com.