To translate or not to translate?

Posted on: July 15, 2013 Posted by: Manin Oem Comments: 0

To translate or not to translate?

translation full picA quick explanation of the choices we’re making about language.

At PEPY HQ, we have had many discussions about translating our communications into Khmer (or occasionally the other way round). Previously we have spent time, effort and money translating every monthly newsletter into Khmer, and translating every report we produce. We also discussed this issue at length when redesigning the PEPY website in 2011.

We want our communications to be accessible to our stakeholders as well as our international family. However, the majority of people accessing information online in Cambodia have a high working level of English, and often use English as their default “online” language. Our local stakeholders don’t have regular access to computers and so would not be accessing information about PEPY in this way.

In terms of our printed material, the majority of people who receive our reports – such as government departments and NGO partners, also have a high reading level of English. The time and cost involved in producing a report in Khmer would not be worth the few number of Khmer reports that we may hand out.

Translating from English into Khmer is time-consuming for our team, and also very difficult. Khmer is a complex language, and expressing ideas in the appropriate manner can be tricky– especially when relating to formal documents likely to be reviewed by official parties. It is possible to outsource translation but this is an extremely costly option. Given that, as outlined above, the demand for these materials is not high, PEPY’s Khmer leadership team made the following decisions on translation:

We will not translate our online monthly newsletter into Khmer. Instead, we are producing a separate Khmer newsletter, once every two months, specifically targeted to local stakeholders. This is printed out and handed out to teachers and students and also posted on community information boards. As our staff produce these articles electronically, we then post them online as well as it’s quick and easy with our new WordPress website.

We will not translate our annual reports into Khmer. The report is available online in English and we have printed a small number to NGO and government partners.

We will not translate our entire website. Rather than translating the entire site, we have created one page in Khmer which gives the basic information about PEPY and our philosophy. The link for this is available in the top right hand corner of the page.

The PEPY team believe that the large amount of time and money we would spent on producing these materials in Khmer could be better spend on programmatic activity.

Every year we will review our online and printed materials and revisit this decision to ensure that it is still the most appropriate way for us address this expensive issue!