Federal agencies are required to provide meaningful access to government information to people with limited English proficiency. This applies to your agency’s digital content too. You need to determine how much information you need to provide in other languages, based on an assessment of your audience.
The need is increasing
- The number of people who are not proficient in English is growing dramatically every year. According to the 2010 Census, there are approximately 25 million who speak a foreign language at home and whose English-speaking ability is at the level “less than very well.” Among Hispanics, 16.5 million speak English “less than very well.”
- The Census Bureau report “Language Use in the United States” (April 2010) identifies the top six non-English languages in the United States as: Spanish, Chinese, French/Creole, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian.
- Many people who are eligible for federal services can’t effectively use those services because they aren’t yet proficient in English.
- Providing individuals who aren’t yet proficient in English with easy-to-find government information online encourages their participation in and inclusion into American society.
- If part of your agency’s mission is also to provide information to people in other countries, you may need to provide information in other languages specific to that audience.
OMB Policies for Federal Public Websites states that “your agency is already required to provide appropriate access for people with limited English proficiency by implementing Department of Justice guidance for Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency” (PDF, 255 KB, 6 pages, August 2000). Agencies must determine whether any individual document on their federal agency public website(s) requires translation.”
In February 2011, the Department of Justice issued a memo to federal agencies reaffirming the mandates of Executive Order 13166. The memo includes specific steps to help agencies comply with their responsibilities in this area.
Tools to Make it Happen
- Top 10 Best Practices for Multilingual Websites
- Official Directory of Federal Agency Names in Spanish
- Bilingual Glossaries, Dictionaries, and Style Guides—Browse the Guide and learn about Spanish language use of capitalization, abbreviations, punctuation, diacritics and much more. Consult glossaries on health, technology, government terminology and more!
- Lost in Translation
- Sample Video Editorial and Accessible Guidelines (MS Word, 56 kb, 2 pages, August 2012)—USAGov en Español (formerly known as GobiernoUSA.gov) and USA.gov developed these guidelines as a roadmap for producing and submitting videos. These guidelines agree with the principles and best practices that guide our YouTube channels.
- Multilingual Community of Practice—Join this group to share ideas, challenges, and government in Spanish, provides a list of agency names in Spanish and links to each agency’s Spanish Web pages and contact information.
- Lep.gov—Sponsored by the Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency, this website helps agencies meet requirements of Executive Order 13166 regarding language access.
- Language Data by Region—The Modern Language Association has created a language map that shows where speakers of 33 languages live in the United States.
- Pew Hispanic Center—Nonpartisan research organization that conducts research about the Latino population in the U.S. and its growing impact in society.
- USAGov en Español—U.S. government’s official Web portal to all online information and services in Spanish.
- CDC en español—The official Web portal in Spanish for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Social Security Multilingual Gateway—The Social Security Administration provides information in 15 different languages.
- MedlinePlus in Spanish—MedlinePlus, from the National Library of Medicine, provides comprehensive health information in Spanish.
- IRS Multilingual Gateways—The IRS provides basic federal income tax information in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Spanish.
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