The United Nations Children’s Fund has had an eventful history. Founded in 1946 to help children in Europe after the Second World War, it’s now active in over 150 countries. From health, education and children’s rights to humanitarian aid in emergency situations, UNICEF is there to help when children need support.
Alongside its headquarters in New York, the organization has national committees in almost all industrialized countries. This includes UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Their main focus is keeping local people informed about the situation of children around the globe – while also raising funds for global projects.
More languages, more donations
The unicef.ch website is at the heart of this endeavor. Its 2,000+ subpages offer news, updates on how to help, and details about projects, and also let people donate directly. Until now, those pages have been in the national languages of German, French and Italian.
To reach Switzerland’s growing international population, UNICEF decided in 2022 to offer its website in English too. They came into contact with Supertext through their web agency MD Systems.
Systematic, lean processes for language quality
Good planning is essential for a project of this magnitude: What content needs to be translated? How can UNICEF’s tone of voice be consistently implemented? How will the data transfer from the CMS Drupal (and back) work? Who will approve the translated content – and how?
The aim was to create a process that minimized UNICEF’s workload, kept costs low and improved content management going forward. The procedure was sketched out at a kick-off meeting.
- The UNICEF website comprises around 200,000 words in German. In a first step, UNICEF and MD Systems defined which parts of it were to be translated. Using a translation memory analysis, Supertext was able to identify around 10% of repeated content in the approximately 120,000 words filtered in this way, further reducing costs.
- The tried and tested Drupal TMGMT plugin with a direct connection to the Supertext system ensured efficient data transfer. MD Systems made all the necessary technical preparations on the UNICEF side. This meant the content was transferred automatically to Supertext when the project got underway – and was then sent back to the right place with the right formatting once it was translated.
- To ensure that the style hit just the right notes, Supertext conducted a casting. Based on sample texts from six professional translators, UNICEF was able to select the two that best matched their tone of voice. This had the additional benefit of ensuring any ambiguities or uncertainties in terms of style and spelling came to light before the actual project started.
- UNICEF drew on its own internal specialists for the final approval. They thoroughly checked every translation in Supertext LocalReview. This tool enabled any changes and feedback to be transferred directly back into the translation memory database – which were then taken into account automatically during the course of the ongoing project, rather than only being implemented at the end.
“Friendly, helpful and always on hand”
After all this preparation, things really got underway in June 2023. Over about two months, all the content was translated, corrected and then approved by UNICEF. After working on some final articles in August, the English website went live in mid-September.
It was a winning formula. Kate Foster, Publishing Manager at UNICEF, was completely satisfied:
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Supertext’s friendly and helpful translation project team on this large project. They were always responsive and on hand to answer any questions. It was extremely helpful in particular when they sent screen share walk throughs to demo processes as it allowed me to progress with our work.”
And this is just the beginning. Supertext has compiled the insights from this initial project on UNICEF’s preferred language style and word choice for the Swiss market in a glossary and style guide. The next steps will now be defined in a joint debriefing – so that future content will also be available quickly, efficiently and in just the right style in English.
Cover image via Supertext