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  • The Need for Back Translations in 2014 and Beyond

    Posted by on January 21, 2014

    The Hispanic market in the U.S. continues to grow and change at a rapid pace, which will present significant opportunities (and challenges) in 2014. One of the most important ways to prepare right now to better serve Hispanic members in the coming year is to conduct an audit of your bilingual marketing materials and signage.

    One of the most common misconceptions about the Hispanic culture is that Hispanics speak different forms of Spanish. Although there are different colloquialisms or words, phrases or statements that are unique to a certain culture or region, there are not completely different forms of the language — the basic language structure of Spanish is shared. Because there are cultural nuances in the Spanish language, it is important for your credit union to make sure that your translations are accurately conveying your messages. The best way to accomplish this is by performing what are called “back translations.”

    What is a back translation? It is a second translation of text back to the original language (in most cases, English) to ensure developers understand the final meaning of their translation.

    When the source language is English, there is often discrepancy in the meaning between the original source and the back translation. Spanish, for example, has a notably different vocabulary, and many words that are used in English simply don’t exist. Back translations should be performed to ensure that the language is a correct translation of the original, in which, the meaning was not changed, but also the readability of the text has not been affected through the translation process. The process should include conducting at least two back translations and working with the original translation to accommodate the findings of the back translation.

    Here’s an example: When you translate the English phrase “all the rage” to Spanish, you do not want to convey the literal meaning but rather the cultural meaning of that phrase. The Spanish translation of this phrase could be “lo ultimo.” A back translation of “lo ultimo” would tell you that you are translating “all the rage” to a similar phrase that will be understood in Spanish that means “the latest.”

    The important thing to remember when doing back translations is that the person doing the back translation should be familiar with the original version in English to avoid inadvertently changing meanings of the content. For credit unions, here are some examples of common phrases you’d likely have translated and the corresponding back translations:

    English source: Limit our sharing
    Spanish translation:  
    Limite la confidencialidad  que compartimos
    Correct back translation: Limit the confidentiality we share

    English source: Build Credit
    Spanish translation: 
    Establecer un Historial de Crédito
    Correct back translation: Establish a Credit History

    To prove how easy it can be to incorrectly back translate certain phrases, here are some examples of back translations gone wrong:

    English source: Batch (transactions)
    Spanish translation: Partida
    Incorrect back translation: Departure

    English source: Arrangement between two parties
    Spanish translation: Arreglo entre dos partes
    Incorrect back translation: To fix two parts

    Although they may seem to be a time-consuming and expensive task, back translations are a critically important part of your credit union’s validation and cultural adaptation to specific Hispanic markets. Doing back translations can help to avoid errors, as well as better understand what the credit union has had trans-created. For instance, many credit union compliance or legal departments request back translations to double check that approved messages are what is truly being distributed to members.

    By becoming more familiar with the language nuances of your credit union’s local Hispanic population, you will be better positioned to provide for these members’ needs. For credit unions willing to invest the time and resources, the benefits of a bilingual marketing audit will greatly outweigh the perceived costs.

    To best understand the make-up of the local population Coopera can help with a comprehensive market analysis. Rest assured, however, the basics of the Spanish language will be understood by your Hispanic members.

     

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