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Which languages is it worth translating into?

In our last post we discussed what materials museums should translate and what’s normally done according to their objectives. There are several reasons why a museum would deem necessary to translate their content. And depending on the type of materials the museum is interested in translating, they will have to pick several or just 1-2 languages to work with.

Say a museum decides to only translate their maps and audio guides into foreign languages. Then they should pick the most spoken languages in the world and also the most commonly spoken among their visitors other than English.

That will result in the museum translating maps and audio guides most probably into: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

But let’s say a museum has decided to really engage their audiences through every material they have available. In this case there will be several factors that can help decide what language(s) to choose. Because, even if maps and audio guides are translated into several languages, or even the museum’s website is, it is not really possible to translate everything into every language, especially when it comes to wall texts and labels, where there are space limitations.

So how can a museum decide? Well they would have to take a good look at their audience and location.

Maybe the museum is located in the United States, where Spanish has become the second most spoken language. Even more, maybe it is in one of the states with the higher number of Spanish speakers, and then almost certainly their current or prospective audiences will include a high number of them. In this case, Spanish should be the language of their choice. Why invest in any other?

Top Latino States in 2014, by population and ahsre


But being in one of these states or even in the US is not the only reason to choose Spanish as the language to translate into. The truth is Spanish is right now the one most spoken languages in the world, second only to Mandarin. Not even English has as many native speakers as Spanish! So, at least in the Western Hemisphere, Spanish is the second most important language.




Being able to speak Spanish is being able to speak the other half of the world!

Special circumstances are also to be taken into account. I’ve recently visited Bruges and there was a very high number of Spanish-speaking tourists, so much so that walking tours were offered in English and Spanish. However, Spanish was nowhere to be seen among the languages the museums presented their information in. Being a bilingual country, Dutch and French were the local languages and everything was translated into English, for it is the lingua franca.

But I would argue, given the incredible strong Spanish presence —literally everyone in the street was speaking Spanish—, that investing in translating their materials wouldn’t really be such a bad idea at all. It would only reinforce their welcoming of these tourists and promote more Spanish-speaking tourists to go visit and really enjoy everything this lovely town has to offer!

So there are a few things to take into account —what’s the second most spoken language in the region? If there’s none, what’s the language that would benefit the most number of speakers visiting the museum or institution?

Clearly translation is an investment, but the costs would never surpass the benefits it brings. It is the case of many museums that they have embraced the idea of inclusion and want to become as welcoming an environment as they possibly can. What do you think? Is this the way to go?

#art #translation #xl8 #ucreatewetranslate

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