Bilingual Documentation - Large Hispanic workforce


Dan Larsen

I'm working with a client in the states with a rather heavy Hispanic workforce. Apparently the previous MR felt that bilingual documentation would create some kind of control problem. The President of the company asked my opinion.

I suggested that the policy and procedures could probably exist as English language documents, but I saw no reason documents of an instructional nature (at least some of them, depending on the audience) couldn't or shouldn't be bilingual. He mentioned then that the previous MR felt control would be a problem. I told him I didn't think it would be provided he had access to a translator (and he has several qualified bilingual management personnel) to accommodate changes. I also suggested that instructions with less text and more pictures might also be an avenue to explore.

My question: What issues have others run across in applying bilingual documentation? Any particular pitfalls or problems?


I have came across this issue a few times and, I have found that it all depends upon the number of users of bilingual documents within an organization, there is the problem of interpretation from one language to another, I had a very intersting experience with a Norwegian organization some years ago, whilst conducting an assessment of the QMS, I noticed that this organization had all documentation available only in english, I was surprised to say the least as, I spoke norwegian quite well at that time and, the reason that I was there was, to be able to respond to the bilingual issues that may come up. I was informed that the organization was advized by the registrar to compile all levels of docs in english as, it was one of the official languages of ISO.
I later found out that this caused some problems with the interpretation of the standard by the employees who were not very fluent with english.

Laura M

I work at a company with mostly Spanish speaking people. We have the master list reflect whether or not a translated version of the document exists. So far we have translated the quality criteria as they are primarily an inspection service facility.

Other documents I'm finding the folks can read/understand English, just prefer Spanish so we haven't translated. We used training to supplement the English documents. Then the plant manager translates if there are too many questions and we generate the Spanish version.

Small company ~50 people so control has not been an issue as yet.



Limit your translated documents to as few as possible. Problems exist with proper translation and are compounded with a variety of dialects.
Implement training and pictures/examples. Closer surveillance of new people during their first 60/90 days on the job.

A previous company that I worked for employed hispanic, chinese, vietnamese, korean and one person from indochina; Each with many, many different dialects.
They all preferred to speak their own language. Nightmares!!
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