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Should you provide a Spanish edition of your site?

A number of campaigns - especially in the West - have started adding Spanish-language pages to their websites. In general, this is a good thing - it provides a useful service, and it proves that you're aware of the multiple consituencies in your area.

That said, translation can be fraught with pitfalls. You don't want to appear insensitive to cultural differences, and you don't want to create a massive translation workload for your campaign team.

Some suggestions:

Don't try and translate the entire site. You'll go crazy trying to keep the two sites mirrored. Instead, aim for a welcome page - and perhaps a second page of issue information. Remember that the Spanish-language edition is only partly about Spanish-speaking website visitors. It's also about proving to everyone else that you're aware of your Spanish-speaking constituents and offering them service.

Use a human translator. The automated translation engines are good enough to give you a sense of what someone is saying - but not good enough for publication. If you publish it, you'll create the wrong impression - that you don't know a single person who can help you translate.

For example, here's an excerpt of a speech by President Mitterand inaugurating the Louvre remodel, translated from French to English by the babelfish translator:

Mesdames and Messrs, You came like many of other Parisian to see finally the pyramid, its neighbourhoods, the way in which it is imbricated with the whole of the monumental landscape of the Palate of the Louvre, which Palais of the Louvre were even to him museum and knew various fortunes. ... It was necessary to make the Museum at the same time more comfortable and more accessible for the visitors and conceived also better for the presentation from works. In this immense space it is advisable to avoid the tiredness of the visitor, to give him rest areas to enable him to occupy themselves of another thing or to return on its favorite subjects, the possibility of buying booklets under modern conditions of access.

You get the idea - but it ain't good enough for publication. My recommendation is to find a local Spanish-speaking person to do the translation. I'd suggest a native speaker who is from your area.

In particular, avoid Spanish language teachers -- they'll give you a formal dialect from Spain, rather than a colloquial dialect from Latin America (which is more common in the United States.)