Spanish: The Greatest Impact on Education Outcomes
To achieve a brighter future in the United States, our students will need to be accomplished in math and science, adept in technology, and fluent and literate in English.
There are, however, hurdles to jump. One is language. In 2014, the largest numbers of new immigrants came from India and China. But there is a tremendous diversity in languages spoken, as shown by this graph from the Census Bureau. In each of these 15 cities, at least 140 languages are spoken.
This may make the educational publisher’s task seem daunting. But it is still true that the largest group of non-English speakers in the U.S. is Hispanic. According to the 2015 census, 41 million native Spanish speakers live in the United States. Another 11 million Spanish speakers are bilingual. By focusing on Spanish, at least initially, a publisher can have the most significant impact on education outcomes.
The Need for Accurate Translation
Research confirms that students learn math, science, and social studies more deeply when taught in their native language. Accurate translations of texts are essential for helping students stay on track as they transition to full English proficiency.
No problem: educational content can be run through a translation program, right?
Not so fast.
Educational content is designed to meet specific pedagogical goals and targeted reading levels. To meet such exacting demands, effective translations must be sensitive to cultural biases and local idiosyncrasies.
One of the most important factors in the effectiveness of a translation is geographic. In order of size, the largest Hispanic populations in the U.S. come from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, Spain, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Argentina. These populations are spread throughout the states. Each is also rightly proud of its own unique vocabulary and turns of phrase. Yet when translating English texts into Spanish for use in North America, a translator must carefully choose words that are easily understood by all Spanish speakers, regardless of their country of origin.
Examples abound. For example, in Ecuador, Peru, and other Andean countries, guagua means baby. In Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other Caribbean countries, guagua means bus. Translators must be aware of the thousands of words like guagua that have completely different meanings from one country to the next.
Part of the Solution: Glossaries that Track Multiple-Meaning Words
Victory’s proprietary glossary tool, which contains more than 80,000 words, identifies those that shift meanings across linguistic regions. We use the glossary tool to ensure accurate translations that are grade-appropriate. Here are some examples of how the glossary is used:
The Rest of the Solution: Professional Translators
Machine-assisted translation has been used for many years to improve the consistency and quality of translations. Glossaries are an essential tool, but like any tool, a glossary is only as good as the person using it. What it really comes down to is the pedagogical experience of the translators. The key question to ask when choosing a translator: how long have you been translating in this field? Finding translators who know the field—and and all of its nuances—will ensure effective translations that do make a difference.