ATF en Español: Web Team Launches Public Spanish Site homepage translated into SpanishIn July 2019, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) accomplished something not many other federal agencies have: creating a Spanish language micro-version of its website,

“This has been in the making for a long time, and I’m so proud of this team’s efforts,” said Brian Nickey, chief of ATF’s Digital Media Division (DMD).

Why did ATF need to add a second language to the site?

Issued in 2000, Executive Order 13166 requires organizations that receive federal funding to make their services accessible to persons with limited English proficiency. ATF chose Spanish as its first non-English language based on data from the Census Bureau, which shows that about 41 million U.S. residents speak Spanish at home.

This was no easy task. The Spanish language site took more than three years of hard work to launch.

The Early Stages

ATF began laying the groundwork for the website translation project back in 2015. The initial goal was to translate the top 100 most-visited pages of and create a Spanish “microsite.”

At the time, the Web Media Branch (WMB) had recently finished migrating its website to Drupal, an open-source content management system. Based on their experience, the team thought the Spanish microsite would take less than a year to complete.

“Advocating for the site and explaining the justifications to senior management turned out to be the easy part; we learned soon that we had larger challenges,” said Hadiza Buge, deputy chief of DMD who kick-started the project.


The first obstacle the team had to overcome was their lack of expertise with Spanish language. Luckily, the WMB (which falls under the DMD) already had a native Spanish speaker, developer Mayela J. While Mayela was invaluable in reviewing translations, her main focus was building the site.

For the bulk of the translations, ATF needed to rely heavily on an outside contractor. Since those translators weren’t familiar with the technical terms in ATF’s content, mistranslations were common. For example, “display fireworks cake” was translated as “torta,” which could mean a dessert cake or sandwich depending on which country the word was used.

To solve this, the WMB knew they needed help. They sent out a call to the entire ATF staff looking for native Spanish language speakers to review translations. The team received a great response and the volunteers began editing translations immediately. Many took advantage of ATF’s Foreign Language Award Program managed by the Human Resources and Professional Development Directorate. Others volunteered their time with no additional compensation.

However, as the project continued over the next two years, some volunteers were no longer able to help as their workloads changed. By mid-2018, work on the project had slowed down significantly.

Something needed to change.

Project manager NeKeisha P., who was integral to the project’s success, came up with the idea to recruit new volunteers and hold a “review-a-thon” to breathe new life into the project. The goals were to decide on consistent translations for frequently used terms and to complete the last batch of translation reviews together.

“Over two half-day sessions, we brought in new and experienced volunteers to discuss best practices with one another. They are all experts in different fields and represent several Spanish-speaking countries,” NeKeisha said. “The review-a-thon was a huge success and helped us fix a lot of the inconsistent translations. We were able to use our decisions to create an ATF English-Spanish glossary for the site.”

The Finish Line

With the review-a-thon over, the WMB turned its attention to making final changes to the site before launch. Abigail Bowman, chief of WMB led the development of the Spanish language glossary which team members used to correct older translations on the site.

The project had changed significantly over the three years. The originally planned 100 pages expanded to more than 400. These included landing pages, resources, forms and press releases for the five initial field divisions.

A month before its public release, the Spanish site launched internally giving all ATF employees the opportunity to review and offer feedback.

On July 2, 2019, ATF en Español was officially launched to the public. WMB worked with the Public Affairs Division to post bilingual social media messages about the new site and share information about explosives safety before the Fourth of July holiday.

What’s Next

Mayela J. and NeKeisha P. discuss ATF's En Español site in front of audience at Drupal GovConOver the coming months, WMB will continue to translate the 20 remaining field divisions and other content. “Our team and volunteers have done an incredible job, but our work is just beginning,” said Abigail. “With the site now live, we will be constantly making updates and improvements. I think it’s important to share our hard-earned knowledge with others in the government community.”

WMB presented the many lessons they learned during the project at Drupal GovCon, a regional conference for digital and website teams.

During their presentation, NeKeisha and Mayela shared site translation resources, best practices and examples with an audience of state and federal project managers.


To view the Spanish site, go to the homepage and click on en Español. If you have feedback on the site, please let us know through our feedback form.

Last Reviewed October 1, 2019