Cultural advisement adds value to language services – for everyone

    Creole Solutions has over fifteen years of experience with translating corporate materials to help familiarize employees with a company’s culture. We receive frequent requests to translate employee handbooks, benefit plans, or safety training content for native speakers of Haitian Creole. In those cases, our first response is always to arrange a direct conversation with the responsible managers at the company. The details we learn in such a meeting help us and the client to determine the scope of the work. 

    Important questions to ask

    In a recent case, we had a meeting with a manufacturer in Florida, who was highly satisfied with his dedicated Haitian workers, but was worried about unsafe work practices he had observed – workers were not using the safety gear the company had provided and were making risky use of power tools. Since the company had safety protocols and the corresponding manuals available in English and Spanish, the owners had decided to translate these materials into Haitian Creole as well. During the meeting, our CEO Marleen Julien asked for further details about the target audience for the translated content. Did the workers have formal education, and was there any information about their literacy level? How was the company planning to distribute the material? She explained that Haitian Creole spoken in the U.S. is quite different from the version spoken in Haiti. In addition, schooling in Haiti focuses on French as a written language, while Haitian Creole tends to be the language people speak. If the materials were written in technical jargon, there was a risk that the Creole version would not be clearly understood by at least a portion of the workforce. 

    The discussion then turned to the ultimate objective of the project – what outcome did the company management want to achieve? Although compliance with state regulations was a consideration, the primary reason for creating Haitian Creole materials was to make sure no one got hurt on the job and to help people gain a better understanding of hidden risks. After further deliberation, the company decided to modify the existing content of the safety manual to create an audiovisual version. Creole Solutions ultimately provided the translations and the voiceover for short video segments that employees could watch on their own. The client was highly satisfied: “A great experience and wonderful results!”

    Because of the cultural and socioeconomic factors involved, translation into Haitian Creole doesn’t necessarily follow the same steps as translation into other languages. In the case described here, our initial project advisement led to a substantial change in the project scope. The audiovisual format was well received by workers and led to helpful discussions on work safety.

    Expertise adds value

    Preparing authentic HR materials such as safety warnings in Haitian Creole involves far more than transferring words and sentences into another language – it requires in-depth bicultural understanding to find the right phrasing and terms. Here is how our approach adds value:

    Benefits for clients

    As an employer, you set the tone for interacting with your labor force. You want to share accurate information about your company in culturally respectful ways to optimize employee retention and compliance. Our experienced Creole Solutions team supports you in your effort to prepare effective HR materials by translating them into well-researched, authentic Haitian Creole. 

    Our translation services are tailored exactly to your needs. Whether compliance with official labor regulations, onboarding materials, or active safety campaigns to lower your accident statistics – well produced, authentic employee materials go a long way toward making employees feel welcome and productive. At the same time, you need to trust that your materials are consistent with your corporate values and communicate the right message according to your specifications.

    Benefits for the target audience

    Your target audience wants to understand what is being said and why. It is important to keep in mind that concepts such as workplace safety policies or employee benefits may not have an exact equivalent in Haiti. They must be translated with sensitivity and colloquial knowledge to achieve your intended results. Based on our in-depth understanding of Haiti’s socio-cultural norms and values, we know exactly how Haitian readers respond to specific word choices. The concept of “diversity” is a good example. Although the idea is discussed broadly in the U.S., it is not prevalent in Haiti. Although technically a proper translation, the term “divèsite” would mean little to Haitian Creole speakers in the context of their workplace. We therefore provide a brief explanation to promote better understanding. When translating the term “diversity” into Haitian Creole, we sometimes use phrases such as “tout moun jwenn” (“everyone is included”), "tout moun ladan" (“everyone is involved”), or “tout moun alawonnbadè” (“everyone without exception”) to capture the meaning. Because Haitian Creole is a language rich in metaphoric imagery, we once even used the Haitian Creole expression “tout plim, tout plimay” (“all feathers, all plumages”)  as a creative slogan for a workplace diversity initiative. 

    Despite this linguistic variety, the written word sometimes is just one of many options. Depending on the preferences and needs of the target audience, audiovisual content or illustrations may be a more suitable vehicle to effectively communicate a message. 

    Benefits for linguists

    As linguists, we like nothing better than a clear project brief. A language with a long oral tradition such as Haitian Creole offers extensive proverbial and metaphoric expressions. Knowledge of the project objective and target audience helps us select the right register, brevity, and styles to get the message across appropriately.  The intended literacy level is an important guideline for our linguistic choices.

    Best practice – Checklist of project questions for clients

    A personal conversation is the best way to discuss the specific details of a language translation project. We invite you to schedule a cultural advisement session when you have:

    • Identified the exact purpose of the materials to be translated (points to be made, desired outcome, past experiences)
    • Defined the ideal length of documents/videos for your audience
    • In case of large projects, set up an organized structure of files/scripts that is easy to track
    • Set up a timeline for your project that takes proofreading and feedback rounds into account.

    How can we help you generate buy-in from your Haitian employees? Schedule an appointment with Marleen today.


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