By Linda Weiford, WSU News
PULLMAN, Wash. – Retail giant Amazon recently launched a Spanish language website. Meanwhile, the Latino pop song “Despacito” made history for being the most streamed track of all time. Two examples of the escalating visibility of Español in the 21st century.
Now comes a third.
In what may be the first among U.S. public colleges, Washington State University has rolled out a fully translated student financial services website in Spanish.
“In our research of university financial aid websites, we didn’t find any that had been completely translated. As far as we know, we are the first in the country to do this,” said Brian Dixon, WSU assistant vice president of student financial services.
More than 40 million native Spanish speakers live in the United States, and another 11.6 million people are bilingual — many of whom are children of Spanish-speaking immigrants, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Increasingly, these children are enrolling in U.S. colleges.
In seven years, the number of Hispanic undergraduate students attending WSU more than doubled, increasing from 1,405 Hispanics in 2009 to 3,512 by fall of 2016, equating to roughly 14.1 percent of WSU’s undergrad students. With this in mind, Dixon and his team set out to create a website that spoke their language.
“In Hispanic culture, parents and family are big participants in the financial decision-making process. We felt it was important that they have easy access to the same helpful information as English speakers,” he explained.
The newly finished site goes beyond answering commonly asked questions and guiding viewers through the financial aid process.
“It also conveys the message that you are included, you are respected,” said Dixon.
Some universities provide partially translated websites with links to Google Translate. Not wanting to divert users to a mechanized translation platform, WSU created a site fully translated by humans.
Among them is staff employee Ramiro Mora.
“We kept expanding the website’s content until it completely matched the English version,” said Mora, communications advisor with student financial services. As a result, limited English users no longer struggle to interpret information and instructions, he said.
“Frustrated parents would call our office and say, ‘My student wants to go to WSU. I’m having trouble following the process on your website,” he recalled. “I’m happy to say, this is no longer happening.”
WSU student Carmen Kroschel, pursuing a master’s degree in Spanish, helped translate the website, as did undergraduate students Jose Alejandro Garcia and Alejandro Brito. Those two, along with Mora, belong to a generation of young college-educated American citizens whose parents emigrated from Mexico.
- Brian Dixon, Assistant VP, WSU Student Financial Services, 335-9720, Brian.Dixon@wsu.edu
- Ramiro Mora, Communications advisor, WSU Student Financial Services, 335-9737, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209, email@example.com