21st Century Digital Communication Solutions
Prior to the advent of the Internet, serving all our language constituencies of the region was cost- prohibitive, in printing, mailing, media and distribution costs. The translation work itself, while labor intensive to ensure the most accurate message rendering, was affordable and in many instances contributed, or cost-discounted, due to the public interest nature of the work.
Now, "in-language pages" can be embedded in, or hyperlinked to, existing websites, as was used so effectively by the 2010 Census.gov website. This website imbedded a 60-language menu on its 2010 Census information home page. In the five years since the Census website was designed, the technological advances in programming simplification have exploded.
This innovative multilingual information strategy enabled local communication professionals and community influencers to drive their respective language audiences to the Census site and specific in-language hyperlinks. Thus, the 2010 Houston Counts campaign emerged as the very first test case for a proving a performance basis for an effective multilingual communication strategy.
And it worked. After 4 decades of chronic, ever-growing Census undercounts, costing our region hundreds of millions in lost federal dollars for economic and other development support, this 2010 increase in Houston's Census response rates ranked second highest among the nation's 10 largest cities. While nationwide response rates remained flat, Houston's 6% increase in Census count documented an additional 125,000 residents, projecting an additional $278.5M of our own federal tax dollars returned to support our region.
Ultimately, expensing the costs of translations, formatting and web attachment programming is well within the budgets of public sector agencies. It is merely a matter of solution awareness and the will to engage their constituencies.
'Any Language - As Needed'
Houston Language Bank's business model delivers its web-based communication solution in "Any Language - As Needed".
"Any Language" means up to 46 distinct written languages for our 500,000+ foreign-born Houstonians.
"As Needed" means any vital public information needs identified & prioritized by our public agency partners, as well as our language communities' stakeholders.
Houston Language Bank's business model captures systematic cost/time efficiencies by condensing message text to its most essential English info basics PRIOR to any translation. Less text verbiage equals faster, shorter, cheaper translations.
Translating only vital public information assessed as 'needed' by public agencies and our language communities reduce cost outlays associated with unneeded info translations for any specific language groups.
Different language groups have different needs. While Bhutanese speakers may need juvenile crime prevention information, South Asian Urdu speakers may not.
Different public agencies have different language needs. Public safety and public health agencies always need the broadest possible in-language communications reach. While planning departments, ports and convention facilities need to target the languages of international business, like German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French and Arabic.
Houston Language Bank's "Any Language, As Needed" business model re-thinks and refines the traditional top-down, one-size-fits-all, unfunded Language Access initiatives / mandates currently generated by well-
intentioned public servants.
Current U.S. Language Access plan initiatives make two fundamental mistakes in planning & budgeting.
First, the numbers of languages are arbitrarily limited to 5 or fewer, which leaves out our most vulnerable refugee and immigrant communities where need is greatest. The rationale for limiting the number of languages is "We just can't afford to inform everyone!" HLB thinks we can't afford not to, especially for disaster preparedness or regional
The reason why universal communication of vital public information is costly, as currently configured, is because agency communicators fail to edit to condense vital public info copy content to only what is essential. Agencies are wasting limited resources on translating unnecessary messaging, re non-essential info focusing on public relations, policy justification, and other extraneous verbiage.
Targeted communication is cost effective communication. Translate only what is needed, only for those language groups that actually need it.
Translate the facts, the how-to and the 'who to call'. Less words = less translation costs. Less translation costs allows for more languages to better serve the public interest for the entire Houston community.