In many cases, the customisation process not only involves adapting the original materials to the program’s objectives but also translating them into a local language. In doing so, a crucial decision must be taken as to whether the materials are translated before or after customisation.

Customisation first OR translation first:

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. In many cases, the decision will derive from the constraints of a particular context. In turn the decision for one or the other of these approaches will have implications for a number of key elements. It may also be important to differentiate between large linguistic groups that cover different countries and could be integrated through a regional approach and smaller linguistic groups/ languages that are limited to one country (or even a regional language within a country). 

Key elements to consider:

  • Limited project vs. long term program – time and cost constraints/implications: Whether the translation is envisaged within a limited project or workshop or within a long term program will have a major impact on the decision to be made. Translating the whole of BRIDGE is a lengthy and costly endeavour. Obviously, it would not make sense to undertake such a huge task or even integrally translate a whole module for a ‘stand alone’ workshop. However, in the perspective of long term program targeting various audiences who share a same language, it can be more efficient and, in the long run, less expensive to translate the main resources of BRIDGE prior to doing the customisation. As much time and funds as it takes at the start, would be saved at the following stages of the program. Then this would most likely require an integrated effort from different partners who share common long term objectives. For a smaller project with limited time and budget customisation should definitely occur before translation.   
  • Material consistency, quality and relevance: A crucial issue with translation is ensuring consistency, quality and relevance of the material. Critical decisions often have to be taken to accurately translate a number of technical terms in a meaningful and relevant way for the intended audience. These can include ‘inventing’ or ‘creating’ a terminology in languages in which certain concepts are unknown (cf. Tetum/Arabic). In other contexts, there is a need to choose the relevant equivalent terms that most often cannot be done through literal translation. Translated material should always be thoroughly reviewed by the facilitation team. 
  • Material availability: one of the obstacles to the use of BRIDGE in some non-English speaking countries is linked to the fact that the material is not available in the local language, it limits the access and understanding of local stakeholders and decision-makers to what BRIDGE is and how it can meet their needs. In addition, clients may be reluctant to proceed with BRIDGE if they are required to take the burden of the translation prior to any implementation. Having a minimum of resources readily available in the local language can help remove this obstacle. This minimum can build up through ensuring collection, archiving and access to all translated resources.
  • Ownership and sustainability: having available material already translated in a qualitative way, allows concentration on the customisation process with the direct and full participation of the local partners. It is more inclusive for non-English speakers and helps them gaining ownership of the program and ensures greater sustainability through it. If local partners have bi-lingual skills they should be involved in both the customisation and the translation processes.

Whatever approach is chosen, it is crucial to build on any translation effort and avoid duplication through keeping track of the existing/on-going translation efforts (know what is available, ensure access to them); make room for improvement through feedback and update. It is also important to keep in mind the need of customising the translation i.e. adapt the level of language and the terminology to the specific audience (cater for the diversity within a same linguistic group). 


Coordination Team

Depending on the size of the materials to be translated and the number of people – translators, editors, proof readers, and designers – involved in the process, a coordination team led by a coordinator might be crucial to insure the translation process is on track.

The role of the coordination team ranges from providing guidelines for the translation process, supervising translation and providing prompt answers to emerging requests during the process. The coordination team should also make sure that translators, editors, proof readers and designers are delivering copy according to an agreed time line.

Preferably, an experienced BRIDGE facilitator should be part of the coordination team. This will help give better links with the overall BRIDGE program, as well as provide an insight to issues related to the nature of BRIDGE materials and methodology.


Glossaries are key tools for translation. In addition to providing terminology, they help explain technical terms, making it easier to find equivalent in the target language.

Early in the process, implementers should plan for the production of a glossary before any translation takes place. The rationale behind this can be explained by the fact that a good glossary helps achieve the following:

  • Translation consistency: especially if translation involves more than one translator geographically spread over different dialectical areas
  • Better understanding of technical terms in the original language which means better understanding of the subject materials
  • In countries with new or little election practice, glossaries could help promote technical election knowledge as well as experience sharing

Equally important is the process adopted to produce the glossary. In order to guarantee a certain level of accuracy, as well as achieving a broad acceptance among various stakeholders, a broad spectrum of people/expertise should be involved in producing the glossary. This should include BRIDGE facilitators, translators, linguists, election and legal experts. This combination of expertise is crucial to build support among different stakeholders who will be part of the BRIDGE program.

Finding an equal term for many BRIDGE and electoral terms in some other languages might not be an easy job. Local culture and experience may have a major impact on how terms are translated. The translation should take diversity into account by reflecting the existing local election terminology as used in constitutional and legal texts.

Where terms are completely new and not used in the target language, translators should focus on the meaning rather than the literal translation.

In addition to a glossary of electoral terms, a BRIDGE terms glossary might be required. The translation of such a glossary should benefit local training glossaries and training manuals.

Other key documents

8.9 Annex 9: Key Documents for Translation outlines a recommended translation order for BRIDGE documents, beginning with useful reference documents (outlines, summaries. guidelines) before translation of the curriculum itself.

Translation guidelines

  • Check if a previous translation exists!
  • Seek permission for the intended translation.

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  • Use glossaries if existing (develop one if there is none; feeding back different linguistic/ terminology usage into existing glossaries).
  • Use relevant/meaningful terminology (beware of literal translations; absolutely avoid any automated translation!): this requires thorough review by the facilitation team as a minimum; ideally the translation should involve local specialists in the relevant topics covered.
  • As much as possible select translators with appropriate background and experience: these may sometimes be difficult to find, it is important to consider strategies to ensure their availability and to invest in building up their capacities (amongst other things by providing exposure to BRIDGE).
  • At a minimum, the translator(s) should receive a proper briefing on the specificities of their task and what is expected from them as well as some guidance or tools (when available) to help them carry it out. They have to be given appropriate time to carry out their task. Their work should always be reviewed by the facilitation team. If the necessary language skills are not available within the facilitation team per se, it is important to ensure that a quality review takes place by specialists. It is also important that feedback be sought during the workshop from the participants and/or the EMB to adjust and improve the translation along the way.
  • Give feedback on translation issues so consistency and quality can improve; feedback any translated material (possibly with comments) to the BRIDGE Office or coordination team.


It is important to achieve a good return for your budget. The translation of material whilst vitally important will increase your overall costs. There are a number of budget items you may need to take into account:

  • translation of documents and resources
  • possible coordination fees
  • formatting and layout
  • editing and proof reading

There are a number of ways to calculate payment for translation. These can include:

  • a straight word count, payment per word
  • page count, usually 250 words per page
  • package price, an agreed payment for complete translation job
  • daily rate

Keep in mind local rates and international rates may change your costs markedly.

Other considerations

Always check to make sure that a translated document is not already held by the BRIDGE Office or perhaps locally by a partner organisation or is publicly available elsewhere. Be aware that a number of documents may already be translated and therefore will not have to be translated again.

When translations have been completed, please forward a copy to the BRIDGE Office.  All translations should include the date they were translated and used.

Before translating any documents permission must be sought from the owner(s) and authors of the documents.


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