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How a Science Center Translation Made a Brain Exhibition Accessible to Children & Scientists Alike

In 2019, the Cox Science Center partnered with Florida Atlantic University’s Brain Institute to develop the world’s most advanced exhibit about the human brain. When the center needed Spanish translations of the exhibition’s high-tech displays, immersives, and interactives, it came to Eriksen.

The Science Center

Serving Florida’s Palm Beach County since 1961, the Science Center revolves around a simple premise: Science is exciting! Science means adventure and exploration, and the Center’s programming allows it to educate more young minds than ever before, serving over 250,000 students, teachers, and visitors annually.

Within the last five years, the Science Center dramatically renovated its facility, with a complete reconstruction of its 5,000 square foot Hall of Discovery, a new 1,000 square foot early childhood education room, and a new science laboratory. A cornerstone of that project was the $2.5 million permanent exhibition Journey Through the Human Brain.

The Exhibit

Featuring the latest research and innovations, with interactive displays, immersive experiences, and state-of-the-art equipment, Journey Through the Human Brain aims to inspire a new generation of scientists, technologists, and medical professionals.

In development for three years, the exhibit contains nearly 15,000 words, in 30 installations that take a bottom-up approach to tell the story of the human brain: the Virtual Reality Theater, Deep Dive into the Brain, and the Brain-Machine Prosthetics interactive are just a few of the exhibit’s innovations.

At the same time, the exhibit conveys hard science: from the molecular level to the integrated circuitry that reveals how the brain informs our senses, creates our thoughts and emotions, and how it has evolved into the most complex structure in the universe. Furthermore, the exhibit highlights ground-breaking research taking place today at world-famous brain research centers.

The Challenge

Exhibit label copy, graphics, voiceovers, interactives, and videos had to be translated into a Spanish suitable for the Science Center. Although the exhibition’s interactives are often gamelike and targeted to children, in many cases, they convey the latest in scientific research. Eriksen’s challenge was in choosing a linguistic team that could carry the exhibition’s scientific subject matter in a zippy, gamified tone, all in a Spanish appropriate to the Palm Beach metro area.

Which Spanish Where?

Although our institutional clients occasionally query us about Spanish localization appropriate to one country of origin, in many cases, a focus on one country alone would be a misstep. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, in Palm Beach County, Hispanics or Latinos originate from an eye-openingly wide range of nations: 20% are Mexican, 17% are Cuban, 16% are Puerto Rican, 9% are Colombian, 8% are Guatemalan, and 4% are Dominican. (Those numbers don’t add up to 100% because the data gets further broken down into an additional 16 countries of origin.)

With this array of cultures as the potential audience, our linguistic team decided to use what we call Latin American Spanish, a non-regional Spanish similar to what is heard on major international television cable channels such as Univisión, Telemundo, or CNN Español.

Science For Player 1

Once the localization of science was chosen, Eriksen’s linguists could focus on the science itself: a challenging but not unfamiliar task, as we have worked closely in this language with institutions such as California Academy of Sciences, the National Park Service, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

We began with a glossary of some 87 scientific terms, from acetylcholine (acetilcolina) to medulla (bulbo raquídeo) to white matter (material blanca). Once developed, reviewed, and validated, this lexicon was tapped for use throughout the entire project. At the same time, the gamified aspects of the project demanded we knew conventions for terms in interactives geared to the exhibition’s younger audiences, from player 1 (jugador 1) to all-time (histórico).

Eriksen Translations made the process of translating our exhibition very convenient, accommodating to our timeline while providing accurate, highly technical translations.

Esteban Parchuc, Creative Director, Cox Science Center and Aquarium

The Takeaway

The project was completed, and the exhibition opening was covered by the local news media, attended by happy teachers, engaged students, and local luminaries. Favorable press is always welcome, but the high point for the museum’s Creative Director and Eriksen may have been when a Spanish-speaking scientist complimented the exhibition on the accuracy of its translations, particularly with regard to technical terminology.

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