Around 2.5 million Bay Area residents of the 5.9 million who live here speak a language other than English at home. We know that to gather representative community feedback and make public agencies work for all of us, we need to meet people where they are - and that means communicating with people in their preferred language, whether online or in person.
Our expert team of multilingual outreach ambassadors can translate information and engage the public in longer dialogues about our clients’ important work. The following tips come from the experience we have gathered over the years, but they are by no means all encompassing. We’re always looking for new ways to better serve our communities!
Thinking of gathering feedback in the Sunset District but not sure where to start? In San Francisco, you can use the city’s neighborhood profile tools to help you determine language needs. Cities across the Bay Area have similar tools. Beyond the data, we often reach out to our network of community based organizations and ask for their opinion on language needs and outreach tactics.
Best practices suggest that translations should be side-by-side with the original English text. It makes it much, much easier for people to read and understand. In our work to support public agencies with their Language Assistance Plans, the number one request across languages and communities is side-by-side translations. This means there may be less room for content on a piece of collateral, but it shows your commitment to meeting community needs.
Pro tip: developing one piece with every language, instead different versions for each language can also help reduce printing costs and make handing out materials easier.
We can’t stress this enough. Having a team to think through the meaning and context of a translation is critical to establishing consistency and understandability in your materials. Once content is translated, triple check it – we recommend running your final draft by bilingual staffers, every time.
So you started your in-language outreach and asked people to submit their comments on a survey? Be prepared to receive responses in-language and have a game plan ready to translate back to English. Postering in the Excelsior for an upcoming community meeting? Prepare talking points for your outreach staff in case residents have questions – and think ahead to taking down those posters while you are at it.
We love our outreach ambassadors! We hireexceptional staffers who are native speakers and help train them for everyproject. Our small team is made up of part time employees so that we get toknow everyone individually. Know someone who would be a great fit? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and find out more!
A few weeks ago, a dinner party conversation turned to a particularly awkward icebreaker forced on a friend at her new job. A colleague asked everyone to share their favorite childhood camp experiences. My friend said the resulting conversation was painful, as one by one, it became apparent that this icebreaker leader was the only person in the meeting who grew up with enough resources to go to summer camp. All of my friend’s colleagues gracefully shared a nice childhood summer memory in lieu of a camp experience, but she said the rest of the meeting was challenging because of the careless icebreaker.