Magazine article University Business

FOUND in TRANSLATION: Ways to Approach the Challenging Goals of Providing Web Content for Non-English Speakers

Magazine article University Business

FOUND in TRANSLATION: Ways to Approach the Challenging Goals of Providing Web Content for Non-English Speakers

Article excerpt

The University of Iowa adds narration in five languages to its online commencement videos so families from around the globe can experience their children's graduation.

Ohio University offers virtual tours with subtitles in seven languages.

Colorado State University-Pueblo translates fact sheets geared toward parents into Spanish and posts them on admissions pages.

As competition for international students intensifies and more first-generation students enroll, there's no one-size-fits-all method for reaching families in their native languages. Institutions may opt for automatic translation tools, help from multilingual staff and students, or expert translations.

It's not enough, however, to simply translate some text into Mandarin, Farsi or Spanish. A website's images must reflect diversity and be culturally sensitive, says Yoojin Janice Lee, a consultant with Visions, Inc., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit diversity and inclusion consulting firm.

"It's really important that whoever is tasked with this, it's not only those individuals' task," Lee says. "From students to deans to res life to faculty to the president--there's a universal awareness of how to incorporate different cultures as well as a commitment to really prioritize that."

Thought, oversight and follow-up are keys to getting the multilingual web content goals right.

Hiring a translation partner

The admissions team at Ohio University, which has enrolled international students for more than a century and has offered English language instruction for 45 years, worked closely with its Global Affairs office to translate its virtual tour, powered by YouVisit.

They began with Mandarin and Spanish in 2009, then added five additional languages over three years.

A third-party service translated and coded the text, which appears as subtitles and in a narration after a tour participant clicks on a language-options button on the page. A grad student from China checked the vendor's translation, and world languages faculty proofread subsequent translations for accuracy. As the virtual tour is retooled annually, so are the translations.

"This is such a front door to our campus," says Craig Cornell, senior vice provost for strategic enrollment management. "We're a rural campus. We are often rated as one of the prettiest campuses. We want to make it authentic to who we are."

The team chose a virtual tour with subtitles for its first foray into multilingual content because surveys showed its international students were particularly attracted to its campus. "Unless you're ranked in the top 100 or on a coast, [international students] are not going to just show up," Cornell says.

The University of Iowa has also improved virtual tour accessibility, so a Mandarin-, Spanish- or Portuguesespeaking visitor to the admissions page can explore campus, says Downing A. Thomas, associate provost and dean of international programs. Geared to parents, the tours were created with the help of multilingual students.

Taking advantage of autotranslations

One quick and free--yet controversial--option for making an entire website multilingual involves adding a Google Translate button to every page. Kristen Capezza, associate vice president for enrollment management at Adelphi University in New York, says it's better than nothing, even with flaws such as the tool's inability to differentiate between regional dialects.

"For us, it's what's realistic. We'd rather get the majority of the information out there," she says. "We serve a highly diverse population--it gives us an opportunity to communicate, even if it's on an imperfect level."

Since this past August, when the school launched a Google Translate feature offering content in more than 100 languages, "the students and the students' families are both using it," Capezza says. The primary focus is on families who want to learn more about where their son or daughter is applying. …

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