Multilingual Digital Content

Global internet communication, online messaging and translation concept

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.

Our Mandate

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

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