Translating SELFIE

From the outset, the SELFIE team knew that building a tool for schools in Europe would mean working in many languages. Fortunately, we were assisted by the European Commission’s translation department as well as a great community of educational experts from across Europe. 

After developing the SELFIE prototype, we implemented the pilot release of the tool in 2017.  With the assistance of the national SELFIE  coordinators from ministries of education and research institutes in each of the pilot countries, we were able to translate this early version into 11 languages. 

As the full release in October 2018 would require translation into 24 languages, it represented an even greater challenge. We also had far more content to translate:  statements for teachers, school leaders and students; webpages describing what SELFIE is and how it works; instructions and a coordinators’ handbook; the navigation menu, error messages and all the headings and descriptions for the SELFIE school report. 

Understanding how the tool would look and operate was critical to the translation; knowing this, we sent this information in batches – along with screenshots and short videos explaining how SELFIE works. After around a month – and after many questions from the translators – we received the draft translations. As we needed to make sure that the language used would make sense in an educational setting, these were then double-checked by  the contacts in the ministries of education and research centres.  

Translation challenges 

The process of translation was not always smooth – the translators faced diverse challenges related to vocabulary and grammar. For example, in English the word ‘student’ can refer to someone following a course of study in a school, college or university.

An additional challenge was to work in languages that are spoken in more than one country, but within different educational contexts. For example, school terminology differs between Belgium (Flanders) and the Netherlands. We therefore had to ensure we used the correct vocabulary for both when translating the questionnaire into Dutch (see below examples for Belgium [BE] and the Netherlands [NL]).   

Thanks to the great work of our translation team and national partners, we now have versions of SELFIE in all 24 official EU languages. 

SELFIE also allows a school coordinator to set up the SELFIE questions for their school in one language, and then select a different language for students and teacher responses. This language selection can even be changed again by the students and teachers – up the point they begin filling in the questionnaire. This feature can be useful in schools and countries that use more than one language. 

Since the full launch of the tool on 25 October 2018, the Spanish, Bulgarian and Lithuanian versions of SELFIE have been the most frequently accessed.  

Given the impressive amount of interest in SELFIE, we have decided to expand translations for the tool even further. Later this year, we hope to release Western Balkans languages, Turkish, Russian and Georgian versions of SELFIE.