When the SafeStack team decided to build SafeStack Academy, we discussed at length, what it would mean to make our fledgling platform inclusive. We wanted to make sure that we were living by our value of making security for everyone.
To be inclusive, we must consider language
New Zealand is a multicultural country. We are made up of people from all over the world and built on a rich history of our indigenous population. This is a very challenging area for us as a country and not one we treat lightly.
One thing we were certain about however was that to be inclusive, we could not ignore language. Our team is predominantly English speaking (with a few European languages thrown in for good measure). But we live in a country with more than one official language. We decided that to provide security awareness training for everyone, we needed to provide it in English, Te Reo Māori and to provide closed captions.
Translating technical training into another language is a lot more challenging than we first thought. We learned a lot and today, we want to share those lessons.
Make space for new languages
English can be a very concise language when you are using it everyday. When written down, it physically takes up more space to write the same meaning in Te Reo Māori as it does in English.
At SafeStack, we are graphical communicators, we use a lot of visual choices to share our lessons. In Te Reo Māori, we literally have to make room to get the message right. You can’t simply “find/replace” to change the language of materials.
This creates a beauty in the new translated version. Language isn’t just swapping one word for another, it’s painting a picture with a new set of words entirely. This picture doesn’t always look and sound as you would expect it to. It's easy to be impatient with this new, longer turn of phrase however that patience is crucial. We must listen and appreciate language as it is, not as we want it to be.
Listen more than you speak
Just the process of listening to the Te Reo Māori versions of our awareness training taught us a lot about the shape and significance of language. The rich range of tones, the difference in range of syllables.
As someone with low frequency hearing loss, I spend a lot of time thinking about what aspects of speech I miss. This gave me a new perspective on what you hear differently in different languages. The range of tones, the cadence and the rhythm all creating a different experience.
We have to make choices
We learned how to leave our own language bias behind. For example when dealing with questions. In English, a question is signaled with a rising intonation. In Te Reo Maori, the opposite is true.
When we planned and recorded our voice over, we had to decide (much like radio presenters) whether to choose the Te Reo Māori or English convention. You might not see a need to choose, the obvious answer is to choose the tone convention of each language.
However, many outlets such as TV and radio employ the rising English intonation on Te Reo Māori questions to make it easier for people with varying levels of comprehension to follow.
It’s not an easy trade off to make.
Inclusivity is challenged everywhere
Even when choosing the fonts and lettering for our materials, it was obvious how challenging it must be to work in the digital space in a non-English language.
Fonts that claim to be open and inclusive, often have variations of their implementation. Many large vendor implementations don’t include the macron characters. Check out the title of this blog post for this mess in action :(
When your letters aren’t included in common fonts, how can you begin to be included.
To those in our community who have seen and felt this so long, I’m sorry we didn’t realize this until now.
We will always be learning
I am incredibly appreciative of this journey and the chance it has given our team to reflect on the importance of language and being inclusive when we teach.
I am grateful for the time and effort of those we have collaborated on to make this possible - from translation to voice over and final/cultural review.
We are committed to providing our general awareness and future privacy training in both languages, as challenging as that might be. It’s the right thing to do if we want security to truly be for everyone.
Experience Te Reo Māori security education for yourself
If you would like to experience our Awareness training in Te Reo Maori for yourself, grab a free trial over at https://academy.safestack.io/get-started.
This trial includes modules in both English and Te Reo Māori and we'd welcome your feedback.