Language is such an essential part of functioning as a human. It connects and divides us, teaches and lies to us, keeps us honest and rips us off, makes us laugh, and cry, and occasionally gets us into trouble. FindLaw's mission depends on clear and trustworthy communication of the law to consumers, most of whom don't have law degrees. While the majority of Americans speak English, Spanish is by far the second-most spoken language in the United States. And since there will be as many as 41 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. by 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, we realized we needed to better communicate with this growing segment of legal consumers.
We're proud to say that FindLaw en Español is now expanded and vastly improved, thanks in large part to the dedication and hard work of Adam Ramirez, currently Sr. Editor of Digital Content for LawInfo (a sister site of FindLaw). Ramirez's task was to improve existing articles on the site, grow the content, and make it a better overall user experience for Spanish-speaking legal consumers.
"I was intrigued to connect with the Spanish-speaking audience in America," Ramirez said. "They lead the way as early adopters on mobile. Online they tend to read both in English and Spanish. And, more than anything, as an online audience they represent huge traffic gains for all websites."
Found in Translation
Simply replacing English with Spanish just doesn't cut it, since there are many different dialects and regional variances in the language. As Managing Editor Tanya Roth explained, the key concern was to understand the user and come up with translations that best spoke to the majority of users. This includes cultural as well as linguistic nuances. For example, Ramirez explained how most Latin American countries do not have juries and that the U.S. is much more litigious than other countries (and so it's important to clearly explain how statutes of limitation work).
Concerning the nuances in translation, Ramirez said he had to make some interesting calls on which Spanish phrase to go with on many occasions.
"In the end," he said, "I opted for the word or phrase that would resonate with the broadest U.S. audience." Within the U.S., he added, commonly used Spanish phrases in Miami sometimes differ from those used in New York or Los Angeles.
Of course, there are significant differences in how Spanish is spoken in other countries as well. The word for bankruptcy, for example, can be either quiebra or bancarrota, depending on the region or national origin of the user. Meanwhile, the title notario publico -- which translates into notary public in English -- refers to a trained legal professional with the title "lawyer." In the U.S., a notary public is authorized to authenticate signatures and other limited tasks that don't require legal expertise.
What You'll Find at FindLaw Español
Admittedly, FindLaw Español did not receive the TLC it deserved when it first launched several years ago. The site now consists of the following seven practice areas:
- Derechos Civiles (civil rights) - discrimination; the basics of civil rights
- Derecho de Familia (family law) - divorce; child custody; marriage
Ley de Inmigración (immigration law) - naturalization; visas; deportation
- Derecho Laboral (employment rights) - wages and benefits; employment discrimiantion
- Derecho Penal (criminal law) - crimes; criminal procedure
- Leyes de DUI (DUI laws) - DUI basics; judicial procedure for DUI charges
- Leyes sobre Bienes Raíces (real estate laws) - buying a home; foreclosure; landlord-tenant law
Most of the new content was in our criminal law (derecho penal) section, but there also were new articles in immigration and family law. The data tell us we're on the right track, showing a more than 70 percent spike in visits since the new and improved site was launched last year. Not that we're bragging (okay, maybe just a little).