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Screenshot showing Spanish-language error page
For the Caution of Health:
January 21, 2014 - By: - In: In the News / Awards, Language - 5 comments

The Obamacare website sucks in Spanish, too: “Obamacare es un desastre en español también.”

Spanish speakers hoping to enroll on the federal healthcare website still can’t use the site even after a two-month launch delay.

Critics say the Spanish reads like machine translation. Isn’t that what they always say? But the translations are so clunky and full of grammatical errors that the information is useless. The name of the site itself can literally be read as “for the caution of health.”

“When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them,” says Adrian Madriz, a healthcare navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.

According to Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, “’s October 1st launch was a disaster. But at least it was a punctual disaster. The site’s Spanish-language version — — launched more than two months late. It doesn’t look like the Obama administration used the extra time wisely.”

An example of the kind of translations on the site: “premium” is translated as “prima” — which usually refers to a female cousin. An insurance industry translator would, of course, use such terms as “cuotas,” ‘”couta mensual” or “costo annual.”

The site also breaks that cardinal rule of good website localization:  if you start a transaction in a language, you stick with that language until the transaction is complete. Instead, directs back to English-language pages on the main site. However, the Spanish-language site does maintain fidelity to the original, at least in terms of crash frequency and screen freezes.

Health and Human Services Department spokesman Richard Olague claims this is a “soft launch” with corrections and suggestions welcome. But website problems have slowed sign-ups among Spanish speakers, a key constituency expected to benefit from the new health law. Efforts to enroll Spanish speakers have fallen short so far with fewer than 5,500 people signed up in Spanish through November 2013 out of 4.3 million Spanish speakers in California.

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