Educational Translation Services
educational translations

Educational translations: teaching to non-English speakers

Educational translations are a critical topic, impacting directly on the future of migrant children and their access to Education. The lack of properly translated materials or support in their own language can be devastating to their learning process.

Taking the United States as an example, approximately 14% of its population comes from another country. That in turn means that there is a sizeable number of children in the Education System that only speak English as a Second Language.

In today’s blog post we will cover the topic of Educational Translations, and show you how they are different from any other translations. 

Reading Levels

Let’s start with the subject of Reading Levels. While a translation of Technical or Legal content would assume a certain reading proficiency on the side of the reader, in Educational Translations it is important to understand what vocabulary the reader can really understand and translate the text accordingly. 

How can a translator create a translation that matches perfectly with the reader’s proficiency? The main references that translators review are textbooks written originally in the target language. Which gives a clear idea of the type of vocabulary that’s adequate for a specific Education level.

 Additionally, there are several online tools and services that allow the translators to verify that the reading level of the translations they produce meets the reading capabilities of the intended readers.  

To make sure that a translation fulfills its purpose it is key to determine the reading level that the translated text needs to have before the translation starts. Always put the focus on the readers. 

Tone and Vocabulary

The tone of a text is the type of language the writer uses to transmit a message. It’s the writer’s attitude towards their writing.

While the tone of an Educational text can vary depending on the subject matter and the wishes of the publisher, the tone used for content that’s aimed at Students tends to be informal. On the other hand, translations aimed at teachers tend to be a bit more formal in tone and vocabulary.

Besides the reading level and tone, it is important to keep the vocabulary as straightforward as possible and avoid overly complicated structures and purple prose.

Also, it is important to avoid regionalisms unless the translation is only going to be used in a certain region (and even then, you may want to avoid them anyway). 

Common challenges

Here are some of the most common challenges that a translator has to face when working on Educational Translations:

  • Dates and Measurement units: Pounds or Kilograms? Are the dates going to be DD/MM/YYYY or MM/DD/YYYY like in the US? What are the decimal separator and the thousands separator? These are some of the questions that need to be answered in order to ensure that the final product is what is expected. Don’t shy away from sending instructions that are as detailed as possible.
  • Rhymes: what easily rhymes in English may not rhyme at all in German or Spanish. In these cases, it is important to understand if it is possible to do a more free and loose translation that may change the structure of the original, or if the translation must stick to the original text and lose the rhyme.
  • Idiomatic expressions and Wordplay: Trying to translate them literally can end up producing sentences that are awkward and nonsensical. In these cases, the translator first looks for a similar expression in the target language, even if it doesn’t fully respect the structure of the original sentence. If a similar expression does not exist, then a translation is created preserving the meaning of the expression, although losing the wordplay (sometimes something’s got to give).


Final words

This blog post can’t possibly cover all the topics related to Educational Translations, but we hope that you can at least get an overview of the most important aspects you need to take into account.


If you are a member of an Educational institution or work with Educational Materials we invite you to visit our website dedicated to Education:

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