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Plain Language in Translation

April 15, 2010 6 Comments »

What is ?

Plain English (sometimes referred to as ) is a style of writting that is simple and direct. It “emphasise clarity, brevity and the avoidance of technical language”.

Why Plain English?

“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other document (or any part thereof)…”

All documents in plain English should be easy to read and use. Gobbledygook, jargon and legalese can be hard to understand, as it does not have the general audience in mind. It can also be time consuming and cost you money if you don’t understand what you’re reading -or signing.

Using Plain English

There are numerous government and non-government organizations that works to improve public communication by caimpaining in favor of plain English in public communication. These organizations believe that everyone should have access to clear and concise information.

In the late 1990s, President Bill Clinton made Plain Language a major initiative of his administration. In a presidential memorandum he formalized the requirement that all new rules and regulations of his government be written in this style.

The U.S. goverment has a Plain Language Website which aims at improving communication from the Federal Government to the public.

Plain Language in Spanish

Plain Language is not limited to the English language. The plain language campaign can also be found in Latin America.

Since the mid 2000s, Argentina implemented a project entitled Comunicación en Lenguaje Claro, which is included in the technical assistance program in order to strengthening the National Public Investment System (FOSIP). It aims to follow guidelines similar to the Plain Language Movement. In its first stage, the project has focused on internal govermental communication; later it will regulate the communication between the government and the public.

In August 2004 the President of the Senate of Chile opened the seminar Transparency, language rights for citizen, in which academic leaders were involved. The seminar analized challenge of communicating legislative work to the public through clear language. The senate now face the challenge of transferring their work in a language that ordinary citizens understand.

On October 5, 2004, President Vicente Fox launched the inniciative Citizen Language to begin to simplify the language used by the government. Its purpose is to communicate government messages in a simple, clear and precise way, to achieve full understanding and to prevent complex and obscure communication.

Using Plain Language means more customers can access the information and services you offer. When readers understand the material, they are more likely to respond favorably, make fewer errors filling out your forms, and comply more accuratly and quickly with requirments. And they need less support over the phone, online or in person.

Plain Language documents make foreign language translations easier and more cost effective. If your English documents are easy to read, use and understand, so will your translations. A Plain Language document typically can have up to 40% fewer words than the original. As translations are billed per word, translation costs will be lower.

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6 Responses to “Plain Language in Translation”

  • Commented on April 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    @michelleb: Plain Language documents make foreign language translations easier and more cost effective.

    Plain language is better than unclear language. However, plain language does not minimise the cost of translation (http://www.techscribe.co.uk/techw/plain-english-problems.htm#translation).

  • Commented on April 16, 2010 at 5:30 am

    @michelleb: Plain Language documents make foreign language translations easier and more cost effective.

    Plain language is better than unclear language. However, plain language does not minimise the cost of translation (http://www.techscribe.co.uk/techw/plain-english-problems.htm#translation).

  • michelleb
    Commented on April 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Mike, thank you for your comment and the link. When I say that plain language minimizes the cost of translation, I refer specifically to when the source file is in plain language, thus lowering the word count and in turn the cost. I understand that your position is also correct; if you translate something that is not in plain language into that style, it is more time/cost consuming. Michelle

  • michelleb
    Commented on April 16, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Mike, thank you for your comment and the link. When I say that plain language minimizes the cost of translation, I refer specifically to when the source file is in plain language, thus lowering the word count and in turn the cost. I understand that your position is also correct; if you translate something that is not in plain language into that style, it is more time/cost consuming. Michelle

  • Commented on April 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

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