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The importance of accurate translation of training materials in the workplace

The importance of accurate and widespread translation of training materials in the workplace [Photo: Violka08 via iStock]
in Education and Training

Effective training and safety measures are the cornerstone of success and long-term sustainability in any business. When staff are well trained, their performance level and knowledge of the job will be second to none, making them an asset to their company.

But in an increasingly global workplace where people are moving overseas more often to help to fill skills gaps and address shortages in certain industries, it can be more complex to deliver effective and well targeted training materials, particularly for those who are new to the country.

For this reason, the effective translation of educational materials is an important tool for any company. Having the materials available to teach people what they will need to know to do a great job, but in their own language, can be the difference between employees being good and being fantastic in their role.

Rise in migrant workers

There are a number of industries in the UK that are dependent on migrant workers to fill skills gaps, often because there are shortages of UK-based people who are trained well enough to carry out certain jobs. Industries such as construction and healthcare have, for example, seen a real swell in the number of both European Union (EU) and non-EU nationals coming to fill skills gaps over the course of the last few years.

Migrant workers have an important role to play in the UK for this reason, and over the course of the last few decades, the volume of people coming to work in the UK from overseas has seen a significant increase. According to the Migration Observatory’s report published at the end of 2015, the number of people of working age in the UK who were born overseas has grown from 2.9 million in 1993 to 6.6 million as of the end of 2014.

This has made a difference to the percentage of the workforce who are non-British nationals. The report shows that in the same 21-year period, the proportion of people in part or full-time employment who come from overseas has climbed from 7.2 per cent of the total British employment market in 1993, to 16.7 per cent at the end of 2014.

What this shows is that there’s more need than ever for diversity in training materials. For most British companies, it would be natural to assume that all training materials need to only be produced in English, but remember that not everyone who comes to work in the UK will have English as their first language, and providing training materials that speak to them in their own language is the most effective way to ensure that everyone within your company is well trained, safe and ready to do the best job possible.

Diversity in languages

The most effective way to provide a strategy for the translation of training materials is to understand what is needed and not simply make assumptions. If you begin to assume what languages are most commonly spoken in the UK, for example, you might end up with training materials that are somewhat useful, but not as effective as they could be.

While English is the predominant language spoken across the UK with 92.3 per cent of native speakers, according to the latest reports, when it comes to lesser spoken languages, there are perhaps some surprising results.

The top five languages in the UK, excluding English, are Polish, with more than half a million people who have this as their primary language, Punjabi (273,000), Urdu (269,000), Bengali (221,000) and Gujarati (213,000). What’s important to note is that languages many would assume to be among the most widely spoken in the UK, such as French and German, rank far lower on the list.

Research is therefore vital when it comes to choosing languages to translate training materials into. When it’s important that you give new members of staff the best possible start to their career in your company, making sure you know what target languages will be the most useful to translate to is absolutely the key to success.

It’s also important to remember that the employment market is constantly changing, and any strategy for accurately translating training and safety materials must be regularly reviewed and adapted to fit current needs.

For example, there might be a strategy in place to translate documents into some of the most commonly spoken languages in your workforce, but there are often changes in law that can bring about a shift, like the UK experienced in 2004, with the opening of UK labour markets to A8 country nationals from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. When something like this occurs, it can mean you then have to deal with an increased number of new employees who might speak languages that your current translated training materials are not catered towards.

For this reason, it’s always vital to review strategies for translation as regularly as possible. Changes take place, and it’s always important to know if there are gaps in your training created by language barriers that are relatively easy to scale.

Training and safety materials are vital in any workplace. Regardless of skill and experience, anyone new coming into a role will need to know company policies on safety and procedure, as well as learning things about their job that may be new to them. And with the employment sector now more global than ever and companies taking advantage of skill sets perhaps not available in their own countries, it has never been more important to ensure that everyone who comes into a new role has well translated training materials available to give them the best possible start in their new position.

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