Untangle ideas with plain language

Clear Communication for Everyone: Plain Language in Government Communications and Beyond

Written by Paula Penovi, CT, CMI, M. A.

At Argentum Translations, we understand the importance of clear and concise communication, especially when it comes to government documents and services. That’s why we champion the use of plain language in our translations.

What is Plain Language?

Plain language is simply using clear, understandable language that your audience can easily grasp. It means avoiding complex jargon, legalistic terms, and long, convoluted sentences.

Why is Plain Language Important?

The government plays a crucial role in our daily lives, influencing everything from social security benefits to public health initiatives. However, complex legalese and convoluted sentence structures can create a barrier for our communities. Imagine someone with limited English proficiency or a lower reading level attempting to apply for a government program but struggling to understand its complex instructions. Clear instructions written in plain language can guide families through government processes efficiently, ensuring they receive the support they need. Plain language guarantees that everyone, regardless of their background or education level, can access and understand vital information. This fosters transparency, builds trust in government institutions, and empowers individuals to navigate the system effectively. Besides, clear communication minimizes misunderstandings and misinterpretations. This leads to fewer inquiries directed towards government agencies, freeing up resources and streamlining processes.

Federal Plain Language Guidelines: A Roadmap to Clarity

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 established a set of guidelines to ensure clear communication from federal agencies. Here’s a simplified breakdown of the key points:

  • Audience awareness: Government documents are tailored to the intended audience, using language that aligns with their understanding.
  • Logical organization: Information is presented in a well-structured manner, making it easy to follow and navigate.
  • Simple and direct language: Technical jargon and overly complex vocabulary are replaced with clear and everyday terms.
  • Concise sentences: Sentences are kept short and to the point, avoiding unnecessary elaboration.
  • Active voice: The focus is placed on who performs the action, promoting clarity and directness.
  • Real-world examples: Abstract concepts are explained through relatable scenarios and illustrations, enhancing understanding.
  • Reader-friendly design: Headings, bolding, and shorter paragraphs are utilized to improve readability and information flow.

Basically, the key to clear writing lies in using straightforward language everyone understands. This means prioritizing the active voice and the use of simple verbs and terminology. Writers and translators should avoid turning verbs into complicated nouns (such as “utilization” instead of “use”); they should focus on short, everyday words instead of jargon or overly technical terms; and keep sentences brief and to the point. A few other great strategies are keeping the subject, verb, and object close together for clarity, avoiding double negatives and complex phrasing that might cause confusion, and making sure each paragraph focuses on a single main idea. Clear examples and illustrations are used to make things relatable to the audience and the information is presented in tables or lists to improve understanding. Finally, bold and italics can be used to emphasize important points.

Translating for the US Hispanic Population: Why Low Register Matters

Translating government documents into Spanish requires a “low register” approach. This means using everyday language commonly understood by the target audience, avoiding overly academic terms or formal Spanish rarely used in spoken conversation. Documents are usually kept at a 4th to 6th grade reading level whenever possible. This ensures a wider range of the population can understand the information. However, highly technical documents, like medical explanations, may require some specialized vocabulary due to the nature of the content.

Here are some specific examples of principles translators can focus on to ensure clear, concise, and accessible communication, even in technical domains:

  • Verb choice:
    A clear verb ensures the core meaning of the sentence is readily grasped and an accurate verb translation transmits the intended action without ambiguity. For instance, instead of resorting to high-register and complex verbs such as “realizar” (perform), “elaborar” (develop), “llevar a cabo” (carry out), “efectuar” (effect), it is important that we focus on the most common and versatile verbs in Spanish, such as “hacer” (do). This is a fundamental verb understood by a wider audience that conveys a basic action effectively.
  • Focus on Clarity:
    Use simple and brief terms and phrases. For instance, avoid creating adjectives from nouns. Instead of using complex adjectives such as “problemas hepáticos” (hepatic problems) and “problemas renales” (renal problems), use “problemas del hígado” (liver problems) or “problemas de los riñones” (kidney problems) to guarantee understanding. These nouns are readily understood by most audiences and even individuals with a lower vocabulary level could grasp the meaning without needing to decipher these complex adjectives.
  • Sentence Structure:
    Translators should favor the “subject + verb + complement” (S-V-C) structure whenever possible. This structure aligns with the natural flow of human thought. We inherently grasp who or what (subject) is performing an action (verb) and what the action affects (complement). When translating from a language with a different sentence structure, translators might need to rearrange the sentence elements to adhere to the S-V-C order in the target language. In questions, however, they may rephrase the sentence to avoid misinterpretations. For example: “¿Está enferma su madre?” (Is your mother sick?) could be used instead of “¿Su madre está enferma?” (Your mother is sick?) since the second phrasing could be misinterpreted as a statement.

While striving for clear and concise language is crucial, it is paramount that the translation remains faithful to the original source material. Accuracy is essential, ensuring the translated message accurately reflects the intended meaning. This does not negate the importance of localization. We can adapt the translation wherever possible regarding spelling, grammar, and terminology specific to the US Spanish-speaking audience and other non-English-speaking audiences in the country. This fosters better understanding and resonates with their cultural context. Furthermore, considering the nuances of language used within this community is vital.

By adhering to these guidelines, Argentum Translations ensures that translated documents in Spanish and other languages are clear, concise, and accessible to these communities in our county and beyond. This promotes inclusivity, empowers individuals, and fosters a more transparent government for all. Here is what sets us apart as a HUB-certified, women-owned translation agency that only relies on certified translators:

  • Accuracy first: Our unwavering commitment to fidelity ensures the translated message meticulously reflects the source material. This guarantees the integrity and legal weight of the information conveyed.
  • Plain language expertise: We transform complex legalese and jargon into clear, concise language readily understood by the target audience. This empowers individuals to navigate government processes with ease and confidence.
  • Cultural nuances: Our team possesses a deep understanding of the cultural context and linguistic variations in the languages we work with. This meticulous attention ensures the translated information resonates effectively with our communities.
  • Localization tailored for the US Spanish variant: We go beyond basic translation, adapting spelling, grammar, and terminology to align with the specificities of the US Hispanic audience. This fosters a sense of familiarity and strengthens the message’s impact.

* Note: This is a simplified explanation of the guidelines. For a comprehensive understanding, please refer to official resources: https://www.plainlanguage.gov/.


Argentum Translations on the News: Interview with Paula and Mariela

Argentum Translations on the News: Interview with Paula and Mariela


Paula Penovi and Mariela Solano are interviewed about language services in NC.

Paula Penovi and Mariela Solano were interviewed on the importance of language access and translation services in North Carolina. 👏

Language is more than just words; it’s about understanding, empathy, and connection. The Argentum Translations team are on a mission to break down language barriers and make communication accessible for all.

🗺️ Argentum Translations: Bridging the Gap 🗺️

Based in North Carolina, Argentum Translations has been providing language services at the local, state, and national levels. With a network of professionals proficient in over 50 languages, they are making waves in the field of interpretation and translation.

🌟 A Dream Rooted in Heritage 🌟

The company’s name, Argentum Translations, draws its inspiration from the Latin word for “silver” and reflects the roots of its founders, twin sisters Paula and Cynthia Penovi, who are from Argentina. Their passion for language access and education has been a driving force since childhood.

🌍 Mariela’s Journey: From Costa Rica to North Carolina 🌍

Mariela Solano-Segreda, another key member of the Argentum team, migrated from Costa Rica to the United States at a young age. She vividly remembers the challenges she faced due to the lack of Spanish translations and services. This experience led her to become a community health worker and interpreter at a young age, advocating for her family and friends.

🤝 Filling the Void: Language Access for All 🤝

Cynthia, Paula and Mariela share a common goal: ensuring everyone has access to information, including crucial documents like medical and city-related materials. They emphasize that true language access goes beyond mere translation; it involves conveying the appropriate tone and context to the audience.

💪 Empowering Through Translation 💪

Argentum Translations recognizes that some translations and tones cannot be replicated by machines. They continue to advocate for certified translations, especially in the medical field, where a single word can make a life-changing difference.

🙌 Let’s Celebrate Paula, Cynthia, Mariela, and the entire Argentum Translations team for their unwavering dedication to breaking down language barriers and ensuring that everyone has a voice. Together, we can create a world where language is never a barrier to understanding and empathy. 🌎💬 #LanguageAccess #TranslationServices #Empowerment #CommunicationForAll

Learn a little bit more about Argentum Translations, language access, and the work we do in the community here: www.argentumtranslations.com
Thanks, Spectrum News 1 North Carolina for the spotlight!

Watch the video and read the full article here: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nc/mountain/news/2023/09/19/argentum-translations-

Translation Global Economy

The Importance of Translation in Today’s Global Economy

The Importance of Translation in Today’s Global Economy

In today’s global economy, it is more important than ever for companies to communicate effectively with customers and partners around the world. One of the best ways to do this is by translating documents, websites, and other content. Keep reading to learn the importance of translation in today’s global economy.

Benefits of Translating Your Website: Reaching a Global Audience

Translating your company’s website and other online content is essential for reaching a global audience. Without translation, potential customers who speak other languages will not be able to understand your company’s offerings and may look elsewhere for products or services. By providing translated content, you are opening up your business to new markets and increasing your customer base.

Building Trust and Credibility through Translation Services

In addition to expanding your customer base, translations can also help to build trust and credibility with customers. When customers see that your company has taken the time to provide translations of the services and products you offer, it shows that you value their language and culture, and are committed to providing them with the best possible customer experience.

Translating Your Business Documents: Ensuring Clear Communication and Avoiding Legal Disputes

Translating your company’s documents, such as contracts, legal documents, and other business-related materials, is also essential. This ensures that all parties involved in the transaction understand the terms and conditions and can make informed decisions. Miscommunications can lead to legal disputes and financial losses, so it is essential to have accurate and certified translations when it comes to legal or medical documents.

The Positive Impact of Translation: Breaking Down Language Barriers

Translations also play an important role in making the world a better place. By breaking down language barriers, translations help to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together. They also play a crucial role in aid and humanitarian efforts, by enabling organizations and individuals to communicate effectively with those in need.

Translations Are Essential for Your Success in Today’s Global Economy

In conclusion, translations are essential for companies that want to succeed in today’s global economy. Translating your website, content, and documents will help you reach new markets, build trust and credibility with customers, and ensure that all parties involved in business transactions understand the terms and conditions. Moreover, translations make the world a better place by breaking down language barriers and improving communication between different cultures and backgrounds. Contact us at www.argentumtranslations.com and get a quote today!


The Most Famous Translation Errors in History

The Most Famous Translation Errors in History

Written by Malena Garcia Vildoza

There are more than 7 billion people and approximately 7,000 languages in the world. As you can imagine, not every human being can understand all these languages, so misunderstandings should not come as a surprise. However, it is one thing to make a minor mistake while shopping at a store in a different country because the label has not been translated, but another to make a translation error so serious that it could change the course of history. From a mistranslation that almost instigated politicians to start a world war to a mistake that implied that Mars was filled with aliens, here are some of the most famous translation errors in history.

Mars and its Apparent Intelligent Life 

There is a translation error so significant that the community of American Astronomers believed for a couple of years that there was intelligent life on Mars. This is because of the way the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli described the surface of Mars in 1877. He thought that he could see ancient “seas” and “continents” on the planet, and also lines that he referred to as “canali,” a term which was translated into “canals” in English.

Due to his use of words and this mistranslation, US astronomers concluded that the “canals” were built by intelligent aliens to carry water from the polar ice caps to the desert regions of this planet.

However, Schiaparelli never thought that these lines on Mars were artificial constructions. Actually, the Italian word “canali” refers to completely natural structures, such as canyons. This misunderstanding was resolved years later, although today it serves as a good laugh.

The Mistake that Almost Caused World War III 

Another error worth mentioning is the one that almost caused the start of the Third World War. In 1956, there was a mistake in the English translation of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s speech. The communist leader issued a statement that was translated by his interpreter as “Like it or not, history is on our side. We will burry you!” This sounded as a direct threat at the United States.

However, Khrushchev was only quoting Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and meant that the working class would outlive its creators. As unfriendly as this statement was, it was not meant to be a war threat directed at this nation. Soviet correspondents were quick to explain that the true meaning was actually related to an ideological issue and, fortunately, that clarification reached North America faster than the threat itself, so the problem did not escalate.


These few instances alone showcase the power of translation. A translation error can convey a completely opposite meaning than the one intended, which could have catastrophic and unexpected consequences. Linguistic and conceptual accuracy is so important that, when looking to translate content, hiring experts is always the best idea.

Our translators here at Argentum Translations are certified professionals with degrees and extensive experience trained to deliver high-quality, complete, and accurate translation services. We are aware of the critical need for precision and accuracy when translating important messages and legal documents for your company so that you do not have to deal with disastrous consequences similar to these. If you hire our reliable professional translation services, we will make sure your business avoids mistranslations and that your reputation remains intact!

Machine Translation and Human Translation

The Differences Between Machine Translation and Human Translation

The Differences between Machine Translation and Human Translation

Written by Alexandru Tanase

When requesting translation services from one language to another to bring your business to new countries and generate growth, you may wonder: what is the difference between machine translation and human translation? With so many translation tools based on artificial intelligence out there, do you really need a human translator? The short answer is yes, human translation is always the best option, since machines are not able to replicate the knowledge, expertise, cultural competence, linguistic skills, and know-how of a human being.

Machine Translation and Human Translation


Despite all the undergoing research carried out to produce better machine translation results, machine translation does not have the capacity to take into account any specific or general context. Therefore, it often introduces inaccuracies and ambiguities that did not exist in the source language. You can end up with low-quality translations, which can really impact your credibility, reputation, and professionalism. A human translator understands the local culture, linguistic nuances, dialects, context, cultural, and local expressions. As a result, human professional translators can provide much more accurate and high-quality translation services.


Machine translation tends to be either free or inexpensive. However, due to its lack of accuracy, you will eventually end up paying much more than intended and hiring a human professional translator. The reality is that human translation quality is currently unmatched and the only possible way to bring value and quality to your documents, applications, or web pages. When it comes to making this one-time investment, in the end, you pay for the value that you get, and it can be a waste of time and money to invest in machine translation that ends up being incomprehensible or nonsensical for your target audience.

Tone and voice

Human translation can be adapted to the tone and voice of your audience. Machine translation cannot know or understand your audience, so it cannot adjust the formality, style, or technicality of a text. Machine translation cannot reflect the voice, brand, or personality of your organization or company in another language. Professional human translators are trained and equipped with the tools to understand your message, values and uniqueness, and convey them appropriately to your audiences.

Industry terminology

Machine translation tends to produce an incorrect and inconsistent use of terminology and expressions. For instance, Google Translate mixes formal and informal structures, changes the context, uses ungrammatical sentences, and creates confusing statements. That is because machines can only resort to a limited database of words to produce literal translations, without ever considering the context or the bigger picture: are we talking to a senior CEO or a child? Are we addressing men or women? A human translator knows all of this information, and is therefore able to deliver real translations for real people, while also using industry terminology correctly and sticking to the context at hand.


It is highly recommended to work with a human translator from the start instead of trying any type of machine translation services and then dealing with those consequences. The truth is that nothing compares to working with a human translator when it comes to content quality, ease of reading, and appropriateness in communication. AI-based translation is currently defective, and in the end, you will still need to invest in a professional translator to help you improve the quality of your translations. Human translation surpasses machine translation by a long shot and it is the best option to produce high-quality content in another language!

At Argentum Translations, we use a translation process with three different human professionals who will give you the best quality available. You can learn more about it in this article about our translation process or watch our video to see how we work. Contact us at info@argentumtranslations.com today for a quote!


Argentum Translations becomes a Certified Minority- and Women-Owned Business ( MWBE)

Enjoy this article written by Cayla Clark and published on the Mountain Xpress on October 13, 2021, to learn more about Cynthia and Paula Penovi’s entrepreneurial experience in Asheville as women and minority business owners, and their journey to get their translation agency, Argentum Translations, certified as a Minority- and Women-Owned Business (MWBE).

Asheville works to partner with women- and minority-owned businesses

As the saying goes, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.”

In the context of women-owned businesses, a more appropriate — albeit less catchy — slogan might be, “Behind every great woman, there’s a man with a professional network, capital and the income/assets necessary to get an entrepreneurial idea off the ground.”

According to Rosanna Mulcahy, business inclusion manager with the city of Asheville’s Community and Economic Development Department, women sometimes have a difficult time starting small businesses without the help of their partners. “My husband’s house helped me collateralize the loan I needed to start my own business,” she explains. “Had it just been me, I wouldn’t have qualified for that loan because I didn’t have any assets at the time.”

The city’s Minority or Woman Business Enterprise Certification, a process that officially went into effect on Jan. 1, is designed to help overcome those limits. By establishing a database of firms owned by women or people of color, Mulcahy explains, Asheville can offer those entrepreneurs more opportunities for work with the city than they might otherwise receive. And once certified by the city, local businesses can go on to receive similar certification at the North Carolina level, thereby qualifying for state contracts.

Mulcahy says the city’s approach is meant to avoid paperwork that can burden small MWBEs and get them supported more quickly. “Rather than ask for credentials and taxes, we ask, ‘Do you need help with your finances?’” she says. “We want to remove potential barriers.”

Closing the gap

The new efforts are in response to a study, conducted by the city in 2018, to identify disparities between the contract dollars Asheville spent with MWBEs and what it might have been expected to spend based on their availability for work. The research found that white women received disproportionately fewer contracts for professional services; Mulcahy notes that disparities for women of color weren’t examined. “It’s important to differentiate that women of color have it harder than white women because they often don’t have access to additional resources like these connections, capital and their husband’s income,” she says.

Since the MWBE certification process was adopted at the start of the year, Mulcahy says, 83 applications have been received as of Sept. 29, 80 of which have been approved. Many of those firms are lifestyle businesses, she adds, for which city government has little demand. “We need more trade businesses to register, such as electricians, plumbers, general contractors, concrete and asphalt businesses and arborists,” she says.

Mulcahy says it’s hard to say whether certification is driving an uptick in the city’s usage of MWBE contractors; she notes that quotas are illegal and Asheville has “aspirational goals” for their participation according to its Business Inclusion Policy. Because a disparity study is only conducted every five to seven years, more recent data is unavailable. And the city’s software systems, she adds, aren’t set up to identify spending on MWBE contracts.

“I have to personally sift through every single contract,” Mulcahy says. “Sometimes there are 30,000 transactions in one year. I’d have to go through every single transaction, and if a business is not registered as an MWBE, we are not capturing that data. That’s why it’s impossible to say how many contracts are going to women.”

Buncombe County’s government doesn’t yet track whether its vendors and contractors are owned by women or people of color, says county spokesperson Kassi Day. She notes that the county’s Finance Department is implementing contract management software that will allow vendors to register themselves online as MWBEs by the end of June.

“Business ownership is a vital part of creating generational wealth,” Day says. “In alignment with our Strategic and Racial Equity Action Plans, Buncombe County is committed to helping create and grow women- and minority-owned business enterprises.”

The county currently furthers that goal through its community partnerships, Day says. The Western Women’s Business Center, operated by the Carolina Small Business Development Fund, received a Strategic Partnership Grant this year for $29,500 to provide small-business training and technical assistance. And of 211 business loans and grants from the One Buncombe Fund pandemic relief program, 62% went to women-owned businesses, exceeding the county’s 50% goal.

Paula and Cynthia from Argentum Translations

The story so far 

Local WMBEs report that Asheville’s certification process is both straightforward and beneficial.

Megan Naylor owns Mountain Goatscapes in Barnardsville, which uses goats to clear properties of invasive plants. She says she faced a few hurdles when she first launched her business in 2013. “There was definitely a steeper curve when it came to being accepted into the world of agriculture,” she explains. “As a woman in a male-dominated field, I had to prove myself in order to be respected.

“I’ve seen a huge shift from when I first started; women are now celebrated in the realm of outdoor work,” she continues. “That’s partially because the city is dedicated to bringing women to the forefront. We used to have to blaze our own trails; now, the city is supporting women who have been underserved in business leadership. The certification process helps level the playing field, highlighting education, talent and ability rather than sex — which is what’s really important.”


Sala Menaya-Merritt, owner of fashion business It’s Amira M, says the city has directly supported her work by providing market opportunities. “The city and the Business Inclusion Office have graciously paid for spaces at various markets in order for me and other minority-owned businesses to be able to sell their work,” she explains. “Imagine the load that’s taken off a small business if they don’t have to worry about paying for the fees to have a booth at a local market.  That is huge, especially for those who are just starting out.”

Menaya-Merrit adds that the resources the city provides during MWBE certification have been particularly helpful. “I’ve worked directly with Rosanna, who has been very supportive. I applaud [the city] for the hard work they’re doing for small-business owners,” she says.

Naylor agrees. “The city isn’t just highlighting women in business, but actively helping them grow their businesses and providing them with educational resources,” she says. “Being certified as a woman-owned business has been a positive experience; it’s been a way to show how strong women in our community can be in regards to agriculture, business leadership and entrepreneurship.”

The willingness of Asheville to embrace and support small businesses makes the entrepreneurial experience all that much easier, according to Cynthia Penovi, who runs language services firm Argentum Translations, a minority- and women-owned family business, with her identical twin sister Paula Penovi.

“Local residents encourage and embrace the small-business community, which is an integral part of Asheville’s identity and economy,” she says. “When we moved here [from Buenos Aires, Argentina], we felt we were becoming part of a gender-conscious community that constantly challenges the barriers that support gender and minority inequality. Asheville’s go-local culture, love for entrepreneurship and social consciousness make it a favorable place for business inclusion.”


The original Mountain Xpress article can be found here: https://mountainx.com/news/asheville-works-to-partner-with-women-and-minority-owned-businesses/.