CASE STUDY: A two-stage translation project, from English to Japanese, for Portland Public Schools

Idea TranslationsCase StudiesCASE STUDY: A two-stage translation project, from English to Japanese, for Portland Public Schools
CASE STUDY: A two-stage translation project, from English to Japanese, for Portland Public Schools


Client: Portland Public Schools
Service: Translation, Editing, DTP and Proofreading
Format: Math Workbooks and lesson materials
Subject Matter: Education
Volume: A workbook of 5 or 6 units each for grades K to 5, about 500 pages per grade

We are proud to present one of our dearest clients, Portland Public Schools, a school district that seeks to
provide a more culturally diverse environment for their schools, presenting us with interesting challenges along the way. PPS is one of our longest running clients, a long-term partnership that started in 2018 and continues to this day.

We have been involved in many of their projects throughout the years, helping them translate their educational content into several languages.

Over two years ago, they approached us with a two-stage multi-year translation project from English to Japanese. The first stage started by the end of 2021, and consisted in translating Math Workbooks and lesson materials for grades K to 5. Each grade had its own workbook of 5 or 6 units each, which amounted to about 500 pages per grade.

For a project of this dimension, organization is key. The material had to be analyzed and sorted out. Deadlines had to be set, prioritizing the lessons in the order that they would be taught first in real-life classrooms and taking into account several client instructions specific to each grade level. With so much content at hand, it was especially important to check that every last piece of text had been translated and the design matched the source material as closely as possible, which required strong communication and joint efforts between the linguistic and design teams.

We also needed to be mindful of the students’ different reading levels, keeping the material age-
appropriate according to each grade, since younger students required lower complexity than older ones. Therefore, different glossaries had to be drafted for each grade, paying special attention to not get them mixed up, as a mistake would affect the students’ comprehension of the material.

Having all of these aspects to consider, the final QA stage was crucial, since now we had to make sure all client instructions were followed accordingly throughout every file in the project. To tackle this, we implemented guidelines, glossaries and character lists specially drafted for each grade level, which were key for the review process.

In July 2022, when this first stage of the project was completed, the second stage came along. The translated material was reviewed by PPS teachers in order to make any necessary adaptations before it was presented to the students. This stage consisted of updating the material, as new glossaries were made by teachers with their preferred terms for the classroom, and specific feedback was provided to ensure the workbooks were classroom-proof. Furthermore, some additional material was sent for translation.

For this second stage, we implemented a double-check method, where a Japanese linguist would review the teachers’ edits, and then an in-house proofreader would re check the reviewed material and final documents. This last round of edits made the process longer, but it guaranteed accuracy and tackled any remaining details.

Two years into this journey, we can now say that what started as a massive-scope challenge is now one of our most ambitious and successful projects, with more than 15 experts in different fields involved and, as of now, almost 2500 pages successfully translated, reviewed and delivered. Deadlines have always been met timely and, in fact, we are proud to say that we have been delivering the material ahead of time for quite a while now.

All it took was a solid organization, fluent and constant communication with the client, and a clear understanding of the project’s goal, which is to ensure children’s right to be taught in their native language. We have been helping Portland Public Schools pursue this goal for almost five years now, and we hope to continue doing so in the years to come.

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