Plek blog

Multilingualism and automatic translation

 02. Oplossingen - Community - Bereik iedereen, overal en altijd-3


Connecting & engaging across language barriers

Engaging and connecting everyone is a crucial objective for Internal Communications, and there are plenty of barriers to consider: departments, locations, age, education level, and so on.

For many organizations, there’s an additional significant barrier: language. This is either because the organization operates across multiple countries or because there are various nationalities working within the same country. In both cases, language can be a major hurdle for people.

Some organizations consist of highly educated individuals who effortlessly switch to English. Here, English often serves as the working language, with the mother tongue occasionally used in smaller, informal groups. This arrangement generally works well, although it can still exclude some people and miss opportunities.

The challenge is much greater in organizations with a wide range of educational levels. Here, using English as the working language can be problematic. It hinders a significant portion of the workforce. While reading might still be manageable, often with a bit of help from browser translation features, actively participating in a different language is too much for these individuals. By enforcing English as the working language, these employees are distanced.

Automatic translations are improving

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if colleagues could communicate while each uses their own familiar language? Fortunately, automatic translation has greatly improved over the years. The days of producing awkward sentences are largely over. The use of automatic translation has become mainstream in many places, allowing employees to participate in discussions in their own language, even on platforms like Plek.

If you decide to use automatic translation, a few principles are important.

1. Differentiate between content types.

On a platform like Plek, there are various content types that can be multilingual. Some are more suitable for automatic translation than others:

Responses to posts or chat messages are very suitable for automatic translation. These are short, personal texts that colleagues post individually.

Posts themselves come in many shapes and sizes. From personal messages in social groups to more formal organizational news or announcements from Internal Communications or HR. For the latter, the sender often wants more control over the quality of the translation and may choose to use a translation agency.

Pages often contain formal information, such as about protocols or personnel policies. This information is updated less frequently than news and is important within the organization. Automatic translation is generally not an option here. At most, a starting text might be run through a translation application as the starting point for a revised translation.

2. Be transparent

People have gotten used to automatic translations and understand that mistakes can happen, especially in short texts with little context. Make sure it’s always clear when viewing an automatic translation. Also, provide the option to view the untranslated original.

3. Use resources wisely

We already do this for you. Automatic translation isn’t free, so we use translations wisely. Translations are only made when requested in a specific language, and then we save them, so the same translation isn’t requested again. This helps limit your costs for translations.

4. Make it personal

At Plek, we standardly use the automatic translations from Deeple. This works very well for almost all our clients. For some larger clients, we make an exception. They often have their own translation engine in use, with established preferences. Plek can be integrated with these systems. For example, we at Plek wouldn’t want to translate the word ‘Plek’ to ‘Spot’ in English.

If you want to learn more about what’s possible regarding multilingualism and automatic translations at Plek, check out our FAQ or contact support or your account manager if you’re ready to start!