Students enhance Wetlands Education Center media with Spanish translations

By UNIVERSITY RELATIONS

Spanish speakers comprise the second largest population of native speakers in the world. It is also the second most spoken language in the United States.

Under the direction of Dr. Giovani López, assistant professor of Modern Languages at Fort Hays State University, translation and interpretation students at FHSU translate various materials into Spanish.

Thanks to those students’ work, Spanish-speaking visitors to FHSU’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) near Great Bend now have the opportunity to access information across multiple channels, including the internet and in the center’s exhibits. The KWEC, covering more than 65 square miles in south central Kansas, is one of the most important wetlands preserves in the U.S. and home to more than 350 species of birds. 

The KWEC project is one of several that students in the Department of Modern Languages are involved in to open the door to cultural happenings in Kansas to monolingual Spanish speakers. Fort Hays State senior Riley Sanford, a geology and Spanish major from Topeka, is working on a project for FHSU’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History. The museum’s mission is to advance an appreciation and understanding of Earth’s natural history, and this happens both physically in the museum and virtually through social media posts.

Riley translates the museum’s social media posts and the text that accompanies exhibits in their virtual museum and creates videos for the museum’s YouTube page in both English and Spanish. From posts about rhinos to exhibits about the evolution of wings, her work helps Spanish speakers learn about ancient creatures that once walked, flew, and swam across what is now Kansas.

Dr. Aly Baumgartner, Sternberg’s collections manager of paleontology, works with Riley on the project, including a weekly translation of their Fossil Friday social media posts into Spanish. “Translation isn’t easy, especially when you are grappling with both a specialized vocabulary and a limited character count,” Baumgartner said. “Riley’s knowledge of both Spanish and paleontology has meant that she is able to succinctly summarize content into Spanish, even when the character count limits make a direct translation impossible. This is the first step of many towards making our museum more accessible to a wider audience.”

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