D.C. Metro upgrades website with multi-lingual feature

Posted on May 6, 2011

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) enhanced its website with translations of critical pages in five languages: Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

These translations have been performed by skilled linguists rather than a machine, and are more accurate and user-friendly than the corresponding machine translations that were previously available.

Metro’s homepage features a link to select a language. Most of the homepage has been translated, including the pages that are most critical for accessing the system. The site’s most popular pages, such as the Trip Planner and the Getting Around and Fares sections feature the new, human translations.

Metro heard from individuals and groups with limited English proficiency that some of the machine translations were awkward and, at times misrepresented names and idiomatic expressions. In seeking to improve the site, Metro reached out to community groups to get their input on what information was most important to them to have translated.

Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese are the five most widely spoken foreign languages in the service area and were selected for the human translation service. According to a study conducted by The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, 21 percent of the Washington metropolitan region’s population communicates in non-English languages at home and 43 percent of the region’s foreign-born population is limited English proficient.

A language assistance page on the website has links to the free, “Pocket Guide” brochure in 11 languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese.

In addition, Metro has posted an instructional video on how to ride Metrorail and Metrobus in Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.

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