TASK FORCE TO DESIGN
TRANSLATION OF CITY WEBSITES
By Pat Murphy
November 5, 2005
A Task Force was given the charge yesterday of making city website
and printed translations make sense.
Website translation services, which arose popular but imperfect
in recent years, too frequently render a bizarre disservice to
San Franciscans who do business with the city online.
Indeed, early translation services noted caveat that they deliver
'gist' of meaning.
In San Francisco, where one-third of the population speaks Cantonese
and only 40% of Chinese speakers understand English well, current
translation of "City Hall" is "City Corridor."
And the word "property" results in meaningless Cantonese
gibberish - a distinct problem for Chinese property owners seek
help on the city property assessor website.
"That's just something that we couldn't accept," Assessor
Phil Ting explained yesterday.
Ting joined Treasurer Henry Cisneros in an 11:30 a.m. City Hall
press conference as Mayor Gavin Newsom detailed the project.
Phil Ting, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Jose Cisneros
"We recognize in San Francisco that our greatest strength
is our diversity, and in order to advance the needs of an ever
growing and diverse population we need to do more to create to
create a bridge, to create access to city services," Newsom
"Oftentimes we'll get translations that make no sense whatsoever
just reads out as a bunch of nonsense and we've got to do better.
"We're announcing today creation of a Cultural Competency
Task Force led by Assessor Phil Ting.
In addition to website translation, the Task Force will review
city printed materials and forms.
Ting pointed to an elderly Chinese couple as missing the city's
homeownership tax deduction since 1996 because exemption notice
was mailed in English.
"Nine individuals will outreach to the five top departments
where people have contact, and
our focus will be on Spanish
translation, Chinese translation, and Tagalog translation.
More than one in four applicants making use of the Working Families
Credit this year did so through non-English mail notice, Treasurer
"I'm excited about taking the Treasurer's webpage and services
we provide, and following the Task Force's recommendations, and
providing the best services we can," Cisneros pledged.
Members include: Ting, chair; Cisneros; Luna Yasui,
CAA; Chris Vein, DTIS; Deborah Escobedo, Immigrant Rights Commission;
Joanne Low, City College of San Francisco; Nani Coloretti, Mayor's
Office of Public Policy; and Francisco Castillo, Mayor's Office
The Task Force will complete recommendations within three to
six months, said Newsom.