The translation process for election materials can be challenging due to short turnaround times and pressure to complete the work. We understand, because as a language service provider (LSP), we’ve been there. For example, we recently translated the Voter’s Information Guide (VIG) for the California Secretary of State’s elections office for the special election to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom. This project entailed translating a 32-page VIG into the nine threshold languages for limited English-speaking voters. As an experienced LSP providing elections offices with their translation needs, we put together 10 tips on planning and developing elections translation projects.
#1 Choose Your LSP Wisely
There’s no shortage of LSPs, so how do you pick the right one for election materials? Look for one that has experience specifically with election processes and translating election materials, and don’t be shy about asking for references. Not every LSP has or can work with the specific requirements of the election process, which requires an experienced team of experts to produce high-quality work with a short turnaround time.
#2 Hold Planning Meetings with Your LSP as Early as Possible
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” goes the saying by Alan Lakein. The translation process requires many steps, and it takes planning and time to create high-quality work. Meet with your LSP as early as possible to plan. Identify responsibilities, set deadlines, discuss the scope, and walk through all the necessary steps to complete the project, so everyone understands what’s involved. Another important area to cover is technology: types of files the LSP requires, a Customer Portal to track files and projects, etc. Planning should set you both up for a successful project.
#3 Make Room in Your Process for Translation
During the planning process, your LSP can provide you with project timelines. As we mentioned, many steps are necessary for the translation process to produce high-quality work. Election materials are often quite urgent, so it’s important to understand what’s required and why it takes time. Build this timeline into your schedule as early as possible to avoid issues later on.
#4 Create Glossaries and Style Guides
Election materials often have similar types of terminology, both for general topics like the voting process and specific topics about each issue. Creating a glossary that includes the term in context has many advantages. You can get these terms translated and approved before the translation begins, and then the terms will be automatically pre-populated for the translators. A glossary provides consistency throughout each document, decreases the translation time, and reduces costs due to the ability to reuse terms. An LSP can also benefit by having a style guide early on, containing font types and sizes, color palettes, and other similar items. If you don’t have a glossary or a style guide, create them with your LSP.
#5 Establish an Internal Review Process, if Appropriate
All translations benefit from having an internal review by someone who knows the subject matter. While glossaries help with consistency and make the reviewing job easier, nothing beats a full review. Using internal resources is a great way to have the content reviewed (see tip #8).
#6 Allocate a Central Team Member for Translation Requests
As we discussed during the planning tip, it’s important to identify roles and responsibilities. One of those roles should be a single point of contact to work with the LSP. The LSP should also have a single main project manager. These two people should work together to plan new projects, discuss updates, etc. Having one central point of contact at each organization helps simplify the process and eliminate confusion.
#7 Build Formatting Time into Your Process
The actual word-for-word translation is just part of the overall translation process. Formatting is another major step, as each language requires its own layout adjustment and review. For example, some languages like Chinese may be shorter than English, whereas others like Spanish may be longer. Consequently, each part of a document needs to be reviewed and adjusted for language nuances. Your LSP can give you time estimates for the formatting part of the project, but don’t overlook this step.
#8 Avoid Hidden Costs of Using Bilingual Employees for Translation
You may be tempted to use bilingual employees from your office to do the translation work. However, there are several hidden costs with this type of scenario. Translation may not be a job responsibility, in which case, the work won’t be a high priority. And while employees are working on the translation, they’re not doing their core work. Also, people can have biases, so the translation work may not be as neutral as it should be. Finally, language changes over time, so if employees don’t keep up with the evolving nuances, the translation may not be as up-to-date as it should be. However, internal resources are great for reviewing final work (see tip #4).
#9 Talk to Your LSP about Invoicing Requirements from the Beginning
You should discuss all your business requirements, including invoicing requirements, at the beginning of an LSP partnership. It’s a wise business practice to understand invoicing, services, pricing, and service level agreements at the beginning of a partnership so no one is surprised down the road.
#10 Don’t Panic! Close Partnership with Your LSP Means Your Needs Are Always Taken Care of on Time and Within Budget
Your LSP is your partner, and your working relationship should reflect that. Just as you’d plan resources and budgets for internal projects, do the same for language assistance projects with your LSP. Each project should be a win-win for both organizations. While your LSP is there to help and support you, they also have limitations, so planning is key (see tip #1).
Do you have any questions about these tips for elections translation projects? If so, reach out to us. We’re happy to provide you with a free quote and share our experiences as an LSP providing multilingual services for elections offices to produce translated election materials for limited English-speaking voters.