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Translation Best Practices for Local Government Agencies

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In a diverse state such as California, public agencies usually have to consider providing crucial information in languages other than just English.* By providing language access to residents or constituents, public agencies ensure important information is reaching all community groups.

Tripepi Smith has navigated the multiple complexities of providing language services for print, audio and video formats. Below are some of our best tips to help guarantee your translations are accurate and efficient:

1. The Truth About Google Translate

Google Translate is an easily accessible tool offering translation of 100+ languages; it has become a universal translation tool among agencies. Copying and pasting content into Google Translate is free and takes little time or effort, which is cheaper and faster than going through a third-party translation vendor. So, why even look into vendors when Google Translate is a simple Google search away?

The only way to ensure an accurate translation of an idea is for the concept to be understood in its entirety, and then translated into the language of choice. According to the Language Doctors, studies show that Google Translate (2021) is approximately 85% accurate, leaving a good 15% chance of mistakes. And, unlike the human brain, Google Translate is not able to fully understand the big picture of what is being communicated. Instead, it translates word-for-word using a computer-generated statistical algorithm.

While Google Translate can be a quick and easy tool, it is important to remember that it is susceptible to mistakes. The tool does not replace a native speaker’s sense for idioms, specialized terms or phrases, or humor. For those reasons, Tripepi Smith suggests hiring a professional translator and/or enlisting a member of your agency to review the translation to ensure it’s accurate.

2. Find A Trusted Vendor

Whether you are looking for simultaneous interpretation services or someone to proofread a legal document, there are many vendors you can contract with.

The first step in the process is to figure out what your needs are. Each service requires a different level of skill, resulting in higher price points for some. Translation services may include the following:

  • Document Translation – The process of translating words from text.
  • Simultaneous Interpretation – The process of translating verbal words at the same time the original language is being spoken.
  • Consecutive Interpretation – The process of translating verbal words right after the original language is spoken. For example, the original language will finish a complete thought or sentence before the translation is given.

Once you figure out your needs, you can begin reaching out to vendors for cost estimates. Ideally, you can test a variety of vendors and find one that meets all your needs. In your research, make sure they provide translations for all needed languages and include quotes and contracts for all services. We also recommend you analyze reviews from past clients to determine if the delivery time of the translation and accuracy fits your agency’s needs.

Once you build an ongoing relationship with one vendor, the process of guaranteeing accurate and consistent translations should be smooth sailing.

3. Avoid Common Mistakes

The best way to avoid simple common mistakes is to create and implement a language-specific style guide outlining everyday use vocabulary and grammar. Examples of everyday language may include formats of dates, quotation marks and agency-specific or community-specific terms. Establishing this glossary will help you maintain consistency in communication across the agency and across languages.

Providing accurate communications in multiple languages can be tricky, but it is possible with the right precautions in place. Finding a good vendor will make your life a lot easier, as they will be able to translate content while you remain hands-free.

In need of quick Spanish translation services? Contact Tripepi Smith’s team of translators for press releases, social media, website content and more.

*Disclaimer: Every municipality is different. Check with your legal counsel and agency leadership on what is required or desired.