23 August 2023

Eventbrite x Alpha CRC
Championing linguistic inclusivity and accessibility

Eventbrite x Alpha CRC<br/> <strong>Championing linguistic inclusivity and accessibility</strong>
In March 2022, events marketplace Eventbrite reached out to Alpha CRC for help with their latest project: an audit of their content to ensure it was as accessible and inclusive as possible. This project was spearheaded by Veronica Di Martino, Senior Program Manager for Eventbrite’s localization activities. The team at Alpha CRC was responsible for helping to update the company’s style guides, and providing linguistic auditing for six languages, as well as reporting any proposed changes that would improve user experience.
Jack Simpson, from Alpha CRC’s copywriting team, sat down with Di Martino and a group of linguists from Alpha CRC’s internal teams to find out more about the process, and how they helped to make it a success.


It’s easy to become blinkered when focusing on inclusivity and accessibility, but Eventbrite’s project aimed to achieve a much more three-dimensional approach. Veronica, can you tell us a little bit more about how Eventbrite tackled these issues?

Veronica Di Martino (VDM): Sure thing. For us, it was crucial to balance inclusivity and accessibility efforts with readability. I did a lot of research into how others were tackling these topics when trying to outline our own approach. In terms of gendered endings, think ‘Latina’, ‘Latino’, I had come across some usage of special characters such as the asterisk or the schwa (ə) to include all gender identities. On the surface, this seemed to be a great solution.

However, when I ran some experiments using assistive technology, I ran into a roadblock. By appearing to be gender-inclusive in this fashion, we were actually excluding other groups of people. Technology isn’t yet able to make sense of these ‘new’ spellings, which means making things even more difficult for people who have to use tools such as screen readers to interact with digital content.

I think we realized quite quickly that we had to take a step back and look at inclusivity and accessibility from a much broader standpoint, especially when it came to adapting our content for international audiences.


You raise an interesting point there. When you look at a project like this from a monolingual, English-language point of view, it can be relatively easy to adapt content to be more accessible and inclusive. It’s not always the case for other languages, many of which, as you say, have grammatically gendered terminology.

VDM: Exactly. Our research showed that it wasn’t enough just to adapt an English source text to be more inclusive, and expect those changes to be automatically reflected in other languages. Instead, we needed to change our fundamental attitudes towards our localization processes to support more engaging content, including customer outreach, and examine new methods of translation.

At Eventbrite, we’re thinking of this as a ‘people first’ approach. We’re not looking to break grammar rules or be provocative here. ‘People first’ means a shift from specific appropriate phrases that we apply throughout our international content, and instead taking a more collaborative approach with our linguists to ensure readability. This way, we were able to ensure a diverse group of people were involved in the decision-making process, something that, in itself, helps to ensure inclusivity and accessibility, and empowered the linguists, who felt that their contributions actually mattered.

‘People first’ is less about creating specific rules, and more about creating a set of guidelines, or principles, for linguists to keep in mind when working on our content. For us, this resulted in a move away from literal translations, and the implementation of a more adaptable transcreation-based approach.


It’s interesting to see how your commitment to diversity and inclusion has filtered down into how you engaged the linguists in this project. You’re clearly ‘walking the walk’, not just ‘talking the talk’, so to speak.

VDM: I really believe that the first step to ensuring a product is inclusive and accessible is by ensuring that the workforce behind it is equally diverse. Fostering a sense of community and belonging ‘inside’ the company and ‘inside’ the teams of linguists we rely on for our localization, means we’ve already laid the groundwork for creating truly inclusive, engaging content for our users.

It was exciting to collaborate with the linguists on a project like this, auditing our content and updating the style guides. It felt like we were already embodying the principles of inclusivity and accessibility.


Alpha CRC has linguists that specialize in doing work for Eventbrite, which meant they were already very familiar with your tone of voice and brand guidelines. It’s no wonder they felt comfortable making recommendations and getting more closely involved in this update to your localization processes.
A group of Alpha CRC linguists also joined the conversation to give their input on the project.


Sarah Ress, Senior German Linguist (SR): This was a fun project to be part of, for sure. I think it’s a good thing that we’ve entered into a social dialogue about inclusivity, and I’m glad that Eventbrite gave us a chance to be creative and look for new ways to play with our languages to improve accessibility.

When it comes to German, there’s definitely an ongoing dialogue about how we apply gendered language. We generally bid for neutrality when writing but, as Veronica said, we do have to balance that with readability. When gendered terms come up, as often happens in translation tasks, I typically find it’s easier to try and look for workarounds instead of using asterisks etc. If you address someone for instance, using both gendered forms in the greeting can be one way to be inclusive.

Of course, sometimes, there just isn’t enough space to do that. UI content typically requires short, snappy descriptors. In this case, I believe context is important. If your website is generally inclusive, with content that has been carefully crafted to be open to everyone, people will be able to overlook the fact that you’ve grammatically had to use the masculine term once or twice to keep the UI simple.


Nicole Went, Senior Dutch Linguist (NW): Of course, context is incredibly important. I also find that, as linguists, it’s important to be open to new ways of dealing with language. People’s expectations about language are changing constantly, which means we need to have our finger on the pulse to make sure we’re translating content in a way that’s engaging and appropriate to our times.

For me, inclusivity and accessibility are all about respect. It’s us saying to the world that no matter what gender, colour, or sexuality – you’re one of us. This project was especially interesting because it highlighted issues that wouldn’t have typically occurred to me. Take Veronica’s example about the screen reader having difficulty understanding new spellings of classically gendered words for example. While we’re trying to fix things for one group, I’d hate to have accidentally made things more difficult for another. In this sense, I think, as Sarah said, it’s the context that’s important. As long as we’re making clear strides to be more inclusive and accessible, I hope users or readers will bear with us as linguists while we try to find the most suitable approach for everyone.

I also believe that being able to transcreate from an English source, as opposed to having to translate directly, means that we can get more leeway to work around potentially sticky areas. English has the great ‘they / them’ pronouns. In Dutch, we can try to make things plural in the same way, but it doesn’t always work. In this case, it might be easier to try and swerve the issue entirely and take on a more creative approach to translation that gets the same meaning across, even if the text itself needs to change.


Jorge Arroyo, Spanish Language Manager (JA): Having the freedom to rework the sentence if we feel there is no other to way to make it inclusive or accessible in our own language definitely helps. It’s important to be flexible when dealing with issues like this, as you need to be able to adapt the language you’re using without losing readability. People expect certain terminology to be used in certain situations so, for clarity, it can sometimes be best to adhere to those expectations.

Romance languages have a lot of difficulty adapting to modern expectations for gender neutral language – much more so than English, for example. In this case, we have two options: come up with new words which are more inclusive, although not everyone will like them, or construct sentences in a new way that, as Nicole said, makes it easier to convey neutrality.


SR: I’d like to give one example of a change we recommended for this project in German. Previously, the site had been using ‘vom Teilnehmer / Ticketkäufer’ (attendees / ticket purchasers) which is a masculine term. There are now a variety of ways we can make this more inclusive. One idea would be to use a completely inclusive construction such as ‘von den TeilnehmerInnen / TicketkäuferInnen’. However, this would then run up against UI length restrictions, and is generally considered to have readability issues. Instead, we recommended a small change to the plural ‘von den Teilnehmern / Ticketkäufern’. While this is, strictly speaking, still masculine, it is more readable, and more inclusive than the singular would be. I think this is a good example of where we had to balance that inclusivity and readability.


There are many examples of more substantial changes throughout the project, not simply limited to gender-inclusivity. These include changes in Argentinian Spanish such as ‘ver’, or ‘see’, being replaced by ‘descubrir’, ‘discover’.


VDM: Another example would be a shift in Italian from ‘Are you sure?’, which defaults to the masculine grammatical gender, to the vastly more neutral ‘confirm’.

Honestly, from a collaboration point of view, it was amazing to see how the linguists came out of this feeling very empowered, and that their opinion really mattered. I think because of that, they’ve really embraced this new, creative approach to localization, and they’re consistently applying our ‘people first’ ethos into the texts they translate for us.

At Eventbrite, we’ve actually introduced inclusive and accessible linguistic standards in our requirements when selecting new translators or localization tools since we began work on this project.


It’s great to hear this has been such a successful project for Eventbrite. Would you say that you’ve now adopted this transcreational approach for all of your communications?


VDM: Generally, consumer outreach, such as email communications, needs to feel personal and keep the reader engaged. That’s when we’d strongly recommend our linguists use transcreation in place of word-for-word translation, as that’s one of the crucial moments to ensure we’re being as accessible and inclusive as possible. For things like UI, as Sarah said, the text tends to be much shorter, with much less leeway for rewriting. In that case, readability needs to come first, so we wouldn’t push so hard for translators to adapt the source creatively. There’s only so much we can expect linguists to do to manipulate the language without it starting to interfere with its readability.

Of course, it’s not just external communications that need to be made inclusive. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to make sure that everyone in a business feels like they belong. With many companies now being more international, with offices all over the globe, content which is thoughtfully localized to be inclusive and accessible is key to ensuring that a dispersed workforce feels engaged with their company.

I think that would lead into my final piece of advice for those looking at how to improve their inclusivity and accessibility – imagine how it feels to be the end user, and how it would make them feel to be, not just included, but seen. By creating content with that in mind, I think we’ll all be much closer to embodying the ethos of ‘people first’.


That’s what it really all comes down to right? Respect. Showing your users and employees that you respect their time and their attention.
The team at Alpha CRC want to extend a big thank you to Eventbrite for getting us involved in this project – one that our linguists thoroughly enjoyed being a part of. We’re incredibly proud that this was such a success. Extra thanks go to Veronica Di Martino for agreeing to sit down and talk with us. We look forward to our continued work together.