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Localizing Interactive Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

  • Client New York City Commission on Human Rights
  • Project Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
  • Service E-learning
  • Service Multimedia

When the New York City Commission on Human Rights needed to localize its sexual harassment prevention training in nine languages, the agency enlisted Eriksen to translate everything from the scripts for the main narration and supporting scenarios to the quizzes at the end of each section. We found the right voice talent for each role in each language, recorded the audio, and integrated it with our translations of the on-screen text to deliver a robust interactive training session in the languages most spoken throughout the five boroughs.

making anti-sexual harassment training accessible to New Yorkers

Around the country, state and local governments have been requiring that businesses provide their employees with sexual harassment prevention training. In New York, the 2018 Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act mandated that any organization with 15 or more employees provide such training on an annual basis. To help city businesses satisfy this requirement, the New York City Commission on Human Rights developed an online anti-sexual harassment course.

The Commission created a 45-minute interactive module based on stories inspired by actual cases of sexual harassment. To make the training accessible to the city’s diverse residents, the agency brought in Eriksen to localize the module, already available in English and Spanish, into nine additional languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish, Russian, and Urdu.

a culturally sensitive approach

The Eriksen team recognized from the beginning that the vocabulary would be a challenge. To start with, the training included sensitive terminology related to gender identity. Terms such as cisgender, transgender, and non-binary are still evolving in many languages, and there is not always universal agreement about their definitions.

The pronouns would also require a sensitive approach. Since many languages rely on gendered pronouns such as he, she, him, or her, it can be challenging to properly acknowledge individuals who fall outside traditional male and female gender roles. While the English “they” serves as a singular gender-neutral pronoun, there is not always an equivalent in other languages.

Contextual gender also entered into play in languages such as Arabic, French, and Russian, in which the gender of not just pronouns, but nouns, adjectives, and sometimes even verbs that refer to a person is determined by that person’s own gender. This could be a challenge, because the gender of a character in a given role could vary from one of the scenarios to another, without any change in the English text. Some scenarios featured a male “boss,” while in others this role was played by a female, but in English, this person was always simply the “boss.” This meant the Eriksen team had to keep close track of who was playing which role in each segment so that the appropriate gender would be reflected.

Cultural sensitivity was paramount. For example, consider the following sentence: “It is illegal for the manager to require Dani to change Dani’s appearance to look more feminine or sexy.” This needed to be communicated in a way that would be non-offensive to people with different cultural backgrounds without diluting the message. The linguists needed to handle progressive, inclusive messaging with the utmost sensitivity while adhering to the meaning and intent of the English script.

Ultimately, it was one big balancing act.

setting the stage

Eriksen’s linguistic team began by doing some legwork surrounding the vocabulary. They scoured the websites of other city agencies to see how they dealt with similar subject matter. Each of the linguists was given guidance on potentially challenging terms and their suggested usage. The translators and editors were provided access to the original course so that they could understand how the language was used in context.

Next, Eriksen’s production team initiated the hunt for just the right voice talent. The dialogue required diverse voices that could represent a wide range of different roles. Because Eriksen’s translators are authorities on the languages and cultures they work with, they reviewed potential voice talent to help inform the final selections.

checks and balances

With the infrastructure in place, we forged ahead with the translations. The text was first translated by a primary linguist, and then sent to a second linguist for editing. A final round of quality assurance was conducted before the translations were sent to the Commission for review. Finally, the text was returned to the authoring tool, then exported to an online format that allowed our linguists to see the course in the same way that its future users would. The linguists looked for functionality issues, such as a button not working or a gap in the sequence that would normally lead from one section of the training to the next. Sometimes the language didn’t work as expected in context, and alternate text was recommended. The linguists also reviewed the recorded clips, to make sure the scripts were articulated correctly and with appropriate intonation.

There were plenty of moving parts: from rollover text on buttons and graphics to audio descriptions that make the course accessible to users who are who are blind or have low vision. Thanks to the many layers of checks and balances throughout the process, Eriksen continued to refine the course at each stage. As the linguistic teams analyzed the same content again and again while checking each of the translated versions, they even discovered a few issues with the English source version, such as components that were out of sequence. Working closely with the Commission’s staff, Eriksen ensured that these issues were corrected in the source as well as across the target languages.

inclusive and accessible

Eriksen’s high-touch approach paid off. Thanks to the many checks and balances built into our system, we delivered a fully functional module that was finely polished in each of the additional nine translated languages. Our multi-step process, along with our team’s initial research into the terminology, ensured that culturally sensitive vocabulary was used throughout while communicating the tone and intent of the original.

The city promoted the course to 275,000 businesses throughout the five boroughs. Today, the course is helping keep New Yorkers informed about sexual harassment in the workplace, and teaching them how to recognize, speak out, and report it.