3 translation options for your multilingual painting crews

by Amanda Haar

Even in the best of circumstances, achieving clear communication with teams and coworkers can be a challenge. Add non-English speakers to the mix, and the challenge is compounded.

With the safety of individuals and the reputation of your company on the line, it’s vitally important to take whatever steps necessary to make sure the message you’re attempting to convey—from which coatings to use on what surfaces to company policies and procedures—is received loud and clear.

Here are three options for improving communications with multilingual crews.


If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got the means to communicate with colleagues in more languages than you probably realize existed. Google Translate offers translation for text, voice, camera (think signs at the worksite), conversation and handwriting. Best of all, it’s free for Apple and Android devices.

Another free option, Microsoft Translator, provides translation for text, camera, voice, website, and conversation (with up to 100 participants). It’s available for Windows, Apple, Apple Watch, Android and Android watch.

iTranslate is available for Android, Apple, Apple Watch and Windows phones. The base version is free and features text—including iMessage and iTranslate keyboard—translation, but also includes ads. A pro version costs but it’s ad-free and includes camera, website, voice and offline translation.

One word of caution on all three apps: not all the features are available for all languages. So, if you have a colleague who speaks, say, Tagalog, you may want to double-check what models you can actually use to communicate with them.


While there are too many to list here, project management apps with photo capabilities can be incredibly useful for communicating specific information about work to be completed.

Using the photo feature, you can clearly indicate what areas need to be tackled, annotate with notes and arrows, and even include images of products and colors to be used on specific surfaces. In turn, team members can send images back to you if they have questions or issues about a job, or to update you on progress.


While they’re not always free, many payroll and insurance companies, as well as professional employment organizations, offer translation services for their clients.

This includes translation of worksite signage, employee handbooks, payroll and insurance forms, job postings, and, in some cases, live video translations for critical conversations related to hiring, firing and insurance claims.

More than a nicety to provide to non-English speakers, having key information and documents translated for all employees is an important step to ensuring safety on the job and avoiding potential lawsuits. If your providers don’t offer translation services, they may be able to direct you to a reputable company that can.

For more articles related to running your painting business, visit

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