Easy to read, not so easy to do

At Eurideas we translate several thousands of words every day, but our routine and experience doesn’t mean that we don’t face interesting challenges which require a new approach and a different way of thinking. A Communication and PR consultancy in Brussels knocked on our door recently with an unusual request: they asked us to proofread the translation of a text about the European Union in 22 languages, following easy-to-read guidelines.

What does this mean exactly? People with intellectual disabilities have the right to obtain information that is easy to read and understand, so that they can learn new things, take part in society, stand up for their rights, and make their own choices. Texts written for this special target group are usually indicated as ERV (easy-to-read version) and should follow certain rules. The sentences need to be short and simple, the words used need to be common and easy to understand and should be used consistently through the document. The formal aspects are also important: one line should contain only one piece of information.

The growing tendency to consider and address the needs of social groups with special needs is welcome, and not only does it mean an exciting challenge but also a great honour for us to contribute towards this mission. After all, it is not common for a translation agency to receive an assignment that is so important in terms of social responsibility.

Of course, we had to approach this project differently from an “everyday” proofreading. Given the sensitivity and importance of this task, it required additional skills from the linguists, flexibility and empathy – we needed to rethink our usual working methods, put ourselves in the readers’ shoes, and consider the possible difficulties more than ever. Asking for background documents and doing research on the topic of the translation is always important, but it was particularly essential in this case. Luckily, our client provided us with the relevant guidelines to begin with, which we supplemented with additional information and instructions for the linguists.

Speaking of these, another crucial point of this project was choosing the most suitable proofreaders for the job. We needed open-minded and flexible linguists. It was very important to make them understand that this time, we didn’t expect them to change a sentence because it was grammatically incorrect, but also because it should meet the needs of a special target group.

Although the topic of the text was the European Union, it would have not been the best choice to rely on the linguists we usually work with on EU-related documents, as these are normally quite complicated texts, with long, compound sentences and an overwhelming amount of technical terms. Instead, we preferred linguists with a background in pedagogy or social studies who have a better understanding of people living with intellectual disabilities and their needs.

I’m happy to say that, in the end, the client was happy with the results and the translations have been published on the europa.eu website. We are very grateful to have this opportunity to contribute to supporting people with intellectual disabilities. We are always open to new challenges and look forward to receiving requests which require a different approach.

Written by Kata Vas, Project Supervisor at Eurideas Language Experts

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