The Multicultural Victoria Act 2011 (the Act) states that all individuals in Victoria are equally entitled to access opportunities and participate in and contribute to the social, cultural, economic and political life of the state. Availability of information online translated into languages other than English is important to ensuring this is achieved.
Government departments and agencies have a responsibility to ensure people with limited English, and people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, are given information in their own language to participate in decisions that affect their lives.
The Act also requires all Government departments to report annually on their use of interpreting and translation services. This includes reporting on the accessibility of information on government services in languages other the English.
Further detail about relevant Victorian Government legislation and policies is available in Effective Translations: Victorian Government Guidelines on Policy and Procedures.
Victorian Government digital standards
The guidance in the standards on ensuring that website material is discoverable and usable is particularly important for deploying translated content in community languages.
These requirements should be taken into account when planning and implementing translated government information.
Using credentialed translators
Victorian Government policy is that interpreters and translators should be appropriately credentialed by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). This is important to ensure the quality of online multilingual information.
It is advisable to avoid using translators based overseas as they may not be NAATI-credentialed. Also, overseas translators may not have a good understanding of the local community or issues and may not be familiar with Australian English.
Accessibility refers to the features of a website, and other digital channels, that enable all people, regardless of linguistic or other needs, to access its information.
Discoverability refers to how easily information can be found. For a translated webpage to be useful, people need to be able to find it through a search engine or a link from another website.
Machine automated interpreting and translating tools
Machine automated interpreting and translating tools undertake translating or interpreting with no human involvement and can, for example, automatically translate information on a website from one language to another.
Victorian Government policy strongly recommends engaging NAATI credentialed interpreters and translators and currently advises against the use of automated interpreting and translating tools, which cannot at present be guaranteed to be accurate. While some machine tools are improving, they still have a reasonably high chance of incorrectly translating information.
Machine automated interpreting and translating tools may be unable to take into account:
- variations in dialect and language
- linguistic preferences of communities
- actual meaning (i.e. word for word translation does not consider overall comprehension)
- specific cultural references
- other nuances such as politeness level.
There may be risks of legal action due to distorted translations. It is unlikely that a disclaimer about the content in an automatic translation would relieve an organisation of the responsibility for the information provided.
Written content that has been translated by a machine should always be checked for accuracy by a NAATI credentialed translator.
Also, machine translations may not support all languages that may be required.
Text to speech tools
Text to speech tools can be integrated into websites. These tools can improve accessibility, and can be appropriate for users who may have limited ability to read English but are able to understand spoken English.
These tools often support a number of different languages, and some tools also integrate machine translation. Not all community languages needed may be available.
Considerations that apply to machine translation tools also apply to text to speech tools that incorporate machine translation.
Reviewed 19 August 2019