What role is the translator’s role in content design?
The translator Ceri Brunelli Williams tells us about her experience of trio writing as part of a project to improve how bilingual content is designed.
4 April 2023
Although I have worked in the field of translation and copywriting for years, the term ‘trio writing’ was new to me.
I was sceptical and curious when I started work as a freelancer providing Welsh language support to the Centre for Digital Public Services on this project.
This is a project looking at content related to the cost of living on local authority websites.
The project has two objectives:
- Understand how local authorities can work together and share content that better meets users’ needs, and improve the services provided in terms of consistency through collaboration.
- Understand ways to improve Welsh content and the value of producing quality bilingual content.
We focused specifically on the ‘School Essentials Grant’ content page. This is a grant available to eligible parents across Wales to help low-income families with children in school to pay for school items and activities.
This may include classroom essentials and uniforms, but also sports equipment, music lessons and school trips.
We chose this specific service as a pilot as it’s part of the cost of living support available in Wales and our research found that not enough families were applying due to issues with the information available.
Not a translation, either…
From the beginning, it was clear this wasn’t a piece of traditional translation work, nor the role of a normal translator.
Usually, content is prepared in one language and sent over to be translated word for word.
But with this work, I was part of the project team who met regularly and was part of every stage of the work leading up to the trio writing session.
We had heard that Natural Resources Wales had tried ‘trio writing’ before so we met them to learn about their experience of including a Welsh translator in the writing process.
It is a joint writing session between
- a user researcher (to make sure we’re meeting user needs)
- the content designer (who specialises in content writing)
- the translator (who has been part of the project from the beginning).
The session was a couple of hours, and it was a breath of fresh air in terms of my experience for several reasons.
Benefits of this way of working
By being part of the work from the beginning I had a real understanding of the context and the subject in question.
Being able to listen, handle and discuss with experts in the field, Welsh Government policy officers and the opportunity to look at research meant that the Welsh content could be written as well as the English.
It was a creative experience and that is reflected in the quality of the work, ensuring that the content is simple, clear and flows naturally in both languages.
With a process of joint creation, rather than a literal translation, it was possible to give consideration and equal status to the Welsh language. A good practice that all bodies should consider for the future.
We’re currently testing the new content with users and we may need to review it from their feedback again before bringing it back to the local authorities for implementation.
We’re also in conversation with local authorities to identify what they’d find most valuable and helpful going forward, and how we can repeat and scale this work to meet the project objectives across the wider cost of living piece. This might include developing some tools and resources to support local authority content creators.
We’ll be sharing more about this work in the coming weeks and will be holding a show and tell later on this month with an open invitation for anyone who’s interested to attend.
If you’d like to get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.