Reaching new communities with foreign language tenancy resources

Tenants Victoria first began translating tenancy information in 1985, when Consumer Affairs Victoria provided us with a grant to develop short pamphlets about renters’ rights in a handful of foreign languages.  At this time, the majority of new migrants went straight into public housing and then often onto home ownership.  A brief pamphlet of information was suitable to meet the general demand.

Over the past decade, the demographic of private renters has changed dramatically.  Now, the majority of new migrants automatically enter the private rental market and often stay there for extended periods of time.  Almost one-third of private renters are from non-English speaking backgrounds.

While we started catering to the increase in demand by producing hard-copy resources, it has become more important than ever to ensure that the information provide on the Tenants Victoria website caters to as many tenants as possible as more people look to the internet for guidance.

While all tenants should have an understanding of their rights and responsibilities, this is of particular importance for new migrants – whose home countries may have different or non-existent tenancy laws.

Over the years, we have endeavoured to increase our foreign language resources by identifying broad groups of renters who might best benefit from these resources.

In many cases, this is because there is a large proportion of renters who speak a specific language.  Chinese (Traditional) has existed for quite some time, but we recently added Chinese (Simplified) resources to the Tenants Victoria website due to an increased demand for this version.  Both versions are consistently in the top five most utilised resources on our website.

We also endeavour to meet demand for emerging groups of migrants who may have a greater need for tenancy information.  For example, providing resources in the Somali language became a priority not only because of an increase of Somali-speaking renters, but because many of these renters came from very different environments.  They were largely disadvantaged once they settled here, thus having resources available in their native language became crucial to ensuring their safety and stability.  Two of our most utilised foreign language resources – Arabic and Persian – were also developed when waves of new migrants came to Australia from the Middle East in the 90s.

It is vital to ensure that the resources are translated correctly.  Anyone who has ever watched one of Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Google Translate Songs’ skits knows how badly the meaning of certain words or phrases can be messed up if not accurately translated.  This is obviously a very humorous example, but it shows how challenging creating foreign language resources can be.

Oftentimes specific words that are commonplace in the English language such as ‘tenant’ and ‘landlord’ have no direct translation in other languages.  What’s more, some seemingly harmless words and phrases such as ‘Tribunal’ can have very different connotations for people from certain cultural backgrounds.

As such, we only use the interpretation services of those accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters.  These interpreters have the expertise required to provide the most accurate translation of our resources possible whilst taking into account certain cultural sensitivities that may affect their quality.

As Australia continues to welcome new migrant populations from countries such as Burma and Syria, Tenants Victoria will strive to ensure that we provide the best range of resources possible.