How Creole Solutions is helping the Internet speak Haitian Creole

    Marleen Julien, the CEO and founder of Creole Solutions, recently attended LocWorld – a premier conference for international business, translation, localization, and global website management – in Silicon Valley to talk with other leaders of the localization world. Her woman-owned company had been selected by a major U.S. social media platform in 2022 to help translate all content into Haitian Creole, and it was time to celebrate the success.

    The importance of “long-tail” languages

    Until a few years ago, localization in global website development focused on a handful of languages, typically English, French, Italian, German and Spanish (the so-called EFIGS group), although speakers of these languages make up less than 20 percent of the world’s population. So-called “long-tail” languages, which are localized less often, began to receive attention based on the enormous potential of making website content available to speakers of underrepresented languages such as Haitian Creole. The expression is derived from the Long Tail theory, which suggests that online business will ultimately drive demand to more diverse offerings. In plain language, it means that having content available in more languages is good for business. After all, when people converse in a specific language and share information, the communication inevitably includes products and services. Haitian Creole, spoken as a first language by 12 million people worldwide, is now the third most common language in the U.S. state of Florida.


    Special challenges of the localization process

    In her shared presentation entitled “A Transformational Journey to Launching […] Long-tail Languages”, Marleen detailed the difficulties her team had to overcome to meet client expectations. In addition to participating in a detailed onboarding process to learn about internal quality control and style guides, the Creole Solutions team also had to address challenges of a very different nature.

    As we detailed in a previous blog post, the team set out to carefully research and translate a large glossary of terms and phrases commonly used on the global website. Since the work to make the platform fully accessible required authenticity and familiarity with local terminology, the translated content was thoroughly reviewed and edited by native Creole speakers to rule out any inadvertent inaccuracies. Because of specific local conditions in Haiti, the linguistic work turned out to be only one of many pragmatic obstacles. Daily life amid civil war in Haiti considerably affected the team’s working conditions.

    For example, due to recent turmoil in Haiti, Internet access has been so sporadic that team members had to maintain service contracts with multiple Internet providers to keep working. The country is also plagued by power outages, which made it necessary to add redundancy to the scheduling in case a team member couldn’t use electronic equipment. This meant Creole Solutions needed to keep some translators in reserve to meet its project deadlines, and had to offer emotional support to team members when outside circumstances were especially frightening.

    The presentation was received with enthusiasm, with one attendee even calling it the “highlight of LocWorld”.

    Why is it important for social media to “speak” languages such as Haitian Creole?

    If you’ve ever had to translate content into a different language before you were able to communicate, you know how much detail and nuance can be lost in the process. Although French is officially taught in Haitian schools, Haitian Creole is the everyday language of transactions and conversation. Social media sites of course allow users to enter content in any language, but localization gives users the option to switch all content, including site documentation and user commands, over to Haitian Creole. For example, a fully localized community policy that explains the problem of harassment (“tizonnay”) leaves less room for misinterpretation than a formally written English or French version.

    In addition, monolingual users gain much more access to online communities. They can participate in discussions and share relevant information directly in their own language. When you think of the wealth of information shared daily in your own social media feeds, you can appreciate the immense value of such direct access. The conversations in Haitian Creole can now include small business promotion, job opportunities, or public health information. At the same time, users can educate themselves about potential scams or current events in their neighborhoods.

    Another aspect is of great importance to Marleen and her team – a fully localized social media website provides a model of properly worded and grammatically correct Haitian Creole. As the language is further propagated and used by large audiences, it gains appreciation and respect. Since many people mostly rely on Haitian Creole as a spoken language, there are many variations in spelling and grammar.

    A fully localized social media site, used by millions of people, makes daily contributions to preserving and boosting the importance of Haitian Creole – serving a large community in the process.

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