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An image of 13 hands holding up "Welcome" signs in 13 different languages. 

Language Access Guidance Summary

The information in this summary comes from the guidance found in the Office of Racial Equity’s 2023 Language Access Report and the Vermont Department of Heath’s Translation Procedure Draft. Below are the seven key steps to follow when setting up and contracting for language translations.

In addition, our office has developed helpful Translation Considerations and assembled a summary of Language Service Providers with Statewide Contracts.

Please note: You must be a State of Vermont Employee to access the Vermont Department of Health’s Translation Procedure Draft. 

Seven Step Language Translation Process 

  1. Determine Translation Languages

  2. Prepare the Content

  3. Find a Translator

  4. Estimate the Budget

  5. Estimating Time and Cost

  6. Billing

  7. Translate Vital Documents

Step 1: Determine Translation Languages 

The Office of Racial Equity (ORE) recommends translating notices of the availability of language assistance into the following languages, listed in alphabetical order. When you create this notice, make sure it’s clear that these language translation services are free for constituents to access. To learn more, see the Vital Documents section and Appendix C of the ORE Language Access Report. 

  • Arabic (العربية)
  • Bosnian (Bosanski)
  • Burmese (မြန်မာစာ)
  • Dari (دری)
  • French (Français)
  • Kirundi
  • Simplified Chinese (中文)*
  • Nepali (नेपाली)
  • Pashto (پښتو)
  • Somali (Soomaali)
  • Spanish (Español)
  • Swahili (Kiswahili)
  • Ukrainian
  • Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt)
  • American Sign Language (ASL)**

* Simplified Chinese is considered the written form of Mandarin Chinese.

** The Office of Racial Equity recommends that American Sign Language (ASL)-translated versions of vital documents be created to support language access and ADA compliance for people who sign ASL. People who sign ASL often consider English a second language and may have difficulty understanding written English compared to their fluency in ASL. This is because ASL has different grammatical structure and vocabulary from spoken or written English. The ADA accessibility requirement to provide assistance to people who sign ASL applies regardless of the number of ASL signers in Vermont.

Step 2: Prepare the Content 

Before translating your content into multiple languages, make sure the content is written in plain language and accessible. Some vital documents may be too long or too technical for the average reader to understand, even after translation. It’s especially important to create a plain-language summary of long or technical vital documents before translation to ensure that the translated version makes sense. There are many techniques you can use to ensure content is in plain language.

Techniques from the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) 

  • Reader-centered organization
  • Use “you” and other pronouns
  • Active voice, not passive
  • Short sentences and paragraphs
  • Common, everyday words
  • Easy-to-follow design features (lists, headers, tables)

Step 3: Find a Translator 

BGS maintains a list of language access service providers that have contracts with the State of Vermont. There are different categories of language access service providers, including telephone, written, video and on-site services. 

Step 4: Estimate the Budget 

Each page of standardized text takes approximately one hour for a translator to translate from one written language to another. Plan on $50-100 per page-hour. This range may vary depending on many factors including contractor, language, and document formatting. Keep in mind that this estimate is for one written language.

For more details, read Appendix G in the ORE Language Access Report, which offers more information on translation cost estimates. You can also find the per-hour or per-word rate for various translation services in each language access service provider contract

“Standardized” means that the original document does not have complex formatting. Complex formatting requires additional desktop publishing time and/or additional translator time to re-format after translation is complete. Complex formatting includes the addition of elements such as pictures, columns, bulleted lists, and different text colors. An example of a document that would require additional desktop publishing time after translation is the Buildings and General Services (BGS) Building Communities Grants Program flyer.

Step 5: Estimating Time and Cost 

How much time it takes to complete a translation depends on how many words you are translating, who is completing the translation, and whether you need graphic design services. It’s best to contact the translation service provider to get a time and cost estimate. 

Time Estimate

As a general rule: 

  • Count on 4-6 days for a team to translate, edit, and proofread a 300-word document. Allow 1-2 additional days for graphic design and formatting, depending on the complexity of the project. 
  • When fewer people in a population speak a language, there may fewer translators able to provide translation services. Such languages are called 'languages of lesser diffusion' and may take additional time to translate.
  • Once you have gotten the translated document back from the translation service, plan additional days to complete a third-party review for quality assurance.

Cost Estimate

When using the translation vendors, prices may vary. Below are some typical charges.

  • Written translation charge is based on the word count (either original English word count or target language word count) multiplied by the charge per word.
  • Layout costs vary depending on services requested.
  • Rush order fees, if the material must be translated in 24-48 hours.
  • How long an interpreter needs to stay at an event to provide in-person interpretation.

Step 6: Billing 

The BGS website does not list the specific department/agency level billing codes needed to bill for language services. Contact the financial services team in your agency for more information on specific billing codes. Using the correct accounting codes to bill for language services will also allow you to track and report on your department/agency’s use of language access services. 

July 2023 Flood Communications 

If an agency/department is translating materials that are part of the July 2023 flood-related emergency response, please reach out to your agency/department’s Public Assistance Coordinator to determine whether your agency/department may choose to apply for FEMA reimbursement.

Step 7: Translate Vital Documents 

If the information you are sharing requires a response or notifies the recipient of vital information, translate it into the languages listed at the beginning of this page.

Examples of Vital Documents

  • Consent forms
  • Applications 
  • Appeal rights information
  • Letters about appointments (times and places of meetings, etc.)
  • Agreements, acceptances of services, notices of understanding, etc.
  • Notices of decision
  • Program requirements
  • Regulations, if applicable (i.e., if participants or clients are given copies of
  • Regulations and expected to know and follow them, the regulations should be made available in the relevant language)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)/notice of privacy practices