6 Website Translation Secrets
Learned From Colorado’s Pandemic
Communication Mistakes

By English Spanish Media | July 20, 2021 | Current Event

It’s March 15, 2020. “Corona Virus” has the highest Google Trends search peak at a resounding 100. Everyone is desperate for answers as uncertainty lays ahead. These feelings, of course, were not felt exclusively by English speakers. Among many Spanish speakers in the United States, there was elevated uncertainty and confusion due to a lack of information in Spanish. 

Now more than a year has passed since the first lockdowns that came with the CoronaVirus pandemic. But as vaccines roll out and stress levels fall, a question remains in many tired minds, “Did it have to be this bad?” 

Flash forward to March 16, 2021, just months ago. The State of Colorado proudly announces its Spanish language Coronavirus website. The problem is that they’re more than a year too late. The ramifications of neglecting the communication needs of the 12% of the Colorado population that speaks Spanish are unknown. Press releases from CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) claim this new website release connects to their equitable vaccine release strategy. 

How can a state Government be so delayed on a website translation? The State of Colorado admits that “(Covid-19) has had a disproportionate impact on a historically marginalized population,” yet this is not connected to the lack of available information in native Spanish. 

Tuesday. “State Launches More ROBUST Spanish Covid-19 Website.” Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, March 16, 2021. https://covid19.colorado.gov/press-release/state-launches-more-robust-spanish-covid-19-website.

Don’t make the same mistake in crucial moments. 
Consider the following for your organization: 

1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

As seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of readily available Spanish information potentially contributed to the non proportional amount of cases and fatalities in the Hispanic population. Focusing long-term on promoting credible Spanish-speaking websites can give a big boost to initial searchers. Having a trusted page set up with the structures in place to add relative Spanish content will always be easier and more efficient than building a brand new page.

2. Focus on Cultural Relevance

Translation can only elevate a webpage so far. When reaching out to a Spanish-speaking audience, cultural relevance should be at the forefront. This is the secret to making information helpful and relevant. Are quotes being given in native Spanish? Is the FAQ section of your website actually questions frequently asked by Spanish speakers or simply a translation of the English version? Do pictures and visuals represent your audience without fake-looking Stock photography or cultural tokenization?

3. Make Constant Updates a Habit

Websites die when they aren’t updated. This is especially true for a Spanish website. They can be put on the back burner and forgotten if the organization is not proactive. Consider bringing in additional help to sit in on website meetings and bring a cultural perspective. Translating and updates should happen simultaneously on the backend of a website so that parallel pages can launch at the same time. Consider creating a changelog that contains chronicle updates so everything stays up-to-date.

4. Consider how information is being presented

When a Spanish-speaking user lands on your website, what does their user experience (UX) look like from a linguistic perspective? If a separate URL is not used for a Spanish page, what does the main landing page look like for someone that doesn’t speak English? Does it look like an English page with Spanish as an afterthought, or is it clear that the page caters to a Hispanic demographic? Is there a clear Spanish language button or is it tucked into a hidden menu or at the bottom of the page? The ideal situation is that a language toggle button is the first element seen on the page by a Spanish user.

5. Create a separate URL or redirect link 

The ideal way to create an equitable site is to have a neutral language URL or Spanish-speaking language URL that leads directly to the Spanish side of a webpage. A neutral language URL is a web address that uses common language to appeal to an English and Spanish language audience. Think of making your URL, for example, ColoradoCOVID.org instead of ColoradoCovidInformation.org.

6. It’s only a translated site if it’s fully translated

A site can only be considered fully translated if every single element on the site is in a different language. This includes menus, graphics, captions, header, footer, videos, and all other content. A common mistake when it comes to translating a web page is copying all text or using a simple plugin. This does not account for making navigational elements and designed content in the correct language.

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