Nothing's Lost in This Translation

Translation and localization of a child passenger safety site for the Spanish-speaking audience have demonstrated how to disseminate safety content effectively.

IN the United States, the leading cause of death and debilitating injury to children over the age of one is motor vehicle accidents. Impelled by this bleak statistic, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia® and State Farm® Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies formed Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) in 1997 as a program of the Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Prevention.

This joint research effort was created to ascertain how and why so many children were being killed or seriously injured on America's roadways, and to determine interventions that would help families avoid these preventable tragedies. Combining their scientific expertise, access to data, and clinical resources, the partners have been amassing and analyzing the largest source of data on children in motor vehicle crashes in the country. More than 455,000 State Farm policyholders have participated in the study by sharing their crash information and experiences with PCPS since it began its efforts.

Studied by experts representing various disciplines, the policyholders' data is used to uncover trends, statistics, and other keys to understanding what happens to children during crashes. From this information, PCPS researchers are able to draw conclusions about the best methods for preventing fatal and serious injuries to child passengers. These methods include educational programs, legislative advocacy, and improvements to restraint and vehicle designs.

Armed with scientifically based insights, PCPS strives to disseminate the information among those who are in positions to make a measurable impact to help in remedying the situation. This group includes lawmakers, doctors and other health care workers, educators, car seat designers and manufacturers, child care providers, and, most importantly, parents. PCPS follows its unique and extensive research with advocacy and promotional efforts reaching from the grassroots level right up to federal political leadership. PCPS researchers present their findings at scientific conferences. Their studies are regularly published in prominent professional journals and magazines.

One of the most important ways in which the partnership reaches out to its target audiences is through an interactive child passenger safety Web site ( Launched in late 2004, the site was designed as a resource for parents, child care providers, health care workers, educators, and other interested parties. Visitors find a comprehensive collection of information on all aspects of child passenger safety. The site offers age-specific videos on choosing and installing child safety seats, the latest research, laws in different states, air bags, recommendations for choosing a safe family vehicle, and a glossary of terms. All of these resources work together to help parents find the correct car seats for children based on their age and size.

The site, however, is not merely a great tool for those seeking information for their own consumption. The thorough, user-friendly Education/Advocacy Resources section also makes the site a powerful resource for those wanting to distribute knowledge about child passenger safety. PCPS took great strides to ensure the site became valuable in the campaign to protect children in motor vehicles. It recognized, too, that it was imperative not to overlook parents and other caregivers from the Spanish-speaking population.

Using a Translation Service
Next to English, Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005, those ages five and above who speak primarily Spanish at home exceed 31 million.

Knowing this, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia engaged the services of a foreign language communications company that specializes in medium and large-scale translation and localization projects. The company translated and localized PCPS's site for the Spanish-speaking audience, thus affording those visitors the same experience as that available to the English-speaking audience.

Localization involves making a product or information linguistically and culturally appropriate for the target audience that buys the product or uses the information. It includes translation of user-interface strings, adjusting culturally sensitive elements, and any other task required to make the product useable in a particular region or locale. At the outset of its involvement, the company's experts translated the site's English content into Spanish. Files were supplied by the client in HTML and delivered in the same format. As the project evolved, the company was further involved in the translation of disclaimers, marketing materials, and updates to the Web site.

Certain formatting issues arise with translations. For instance, Spanish text generally expands and requires more room than English. During the project, the translation company was instrumental in helping the team of designers at Children's Hospital make the necessary adjustments to the layout to ensure consistency between the source and target languages while adhering to their requirements. The contractor also was responsible for producing the Spanish audio narration for the five instructional videos featured on the site. Foreign-language audio/visual adaptation is a complex process requiring the right blend of multiple talents, including script translation, timing to picture, talent casting, professional voice-over talent, sound engineers, a state-of-the-art recording facility, and bilingual supervision during post-production. All of these elements must be integrated seamlessly to obtain a first-class finished product.

The information on the site follows current safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Projects such as this involve a great deal of technical terminology and instructional components, so it is crucial to have a thorough translation and localization process in place. Without it, the effectiveness and accuracy of the materials is jeopardized. And in this specific case, a weakened impact has the added gravity of putting children riding in automobiles at risk.

Promising Results
In March 2005, the car seat site's Spanish version was launched at Since then, initial traffic to the site has been exceptional, with hundreds of mostly unique visitors per month looking at the different sections and downloading videos and other materials. Numbers in 2006 reflect an ongoing increase in the number of users coming to the Spanish site, signifying that word of the resource's presence is spreading. For PCPS, this means that the vital information maintained online is making its way to the Spanish-speaking community where it can take hold and change behavior.

With the site now successfully reaching and resonating within both the English- and the Spanish-speaking populations, PCPS has made that much more headway in its drive to advance the safety of children in the United States and around the globe.

This article appeared in the November 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

Ten Tips for Translating and Localizing Your Safety Materials

  1. Think international from the beginning. During the process of writing original copy, it is important to be as culturally and technically "neutral" as possible. References to sports, religious, and literary metaphors may not resonate with other cultures.
  2. Define your target audience. Speak your readers' language. For example, is your material directed at doctors and medical personnel or at consumers?
  3. Choose the right language. Some languages have regional variations. Consider Continental vs. Latin American Spanish, Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese, and so on.
  4. Localize; language is only the beginning. Not all icons, graphics, and sounds produce the same associations in other cultures.
  5. Prepare documents for translation. Finalize your copy before starting the translation process, consider a realistic timeframe, and provide for ample lead time.
  6. Create glossaries. Glossaries allow you to make multilingual documentation consistent and unambiguous across your business units and over an extended time period.
  7. Style is important. If your documentation is well designed, the terminology consistent, and the content easy to follow, your translation will be, too.
  8. Work with in-country reviewers. Have the translated materials reviewed by internal or third-party reviewers.
  9. Let your contractor proofread your final product. Rely on the original translator or editor for quality assurance.
  10. Work closely with your localization partner. Professional translators are trained writers capable of producing texts that read well in the target language. Count on their expertise to obtain optimal results.

This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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