I was talking with a colleague about Title VI.

Interpreters are supposed to uphold Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and I was checking what, exactly, that meant.

Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance. There is information on this topic in the Health and Human Services website  and, of course, in the Department of Justice website of the United States.

Discrimination by national origin is understood to include language access issues.

So, my friend, an attorney, told me, “Well, you have to start with ‘Lousy nickels‘”.

Lousy nickels?” I was puzzled. She insisted, and we left it at that. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. This conversation was on the phone.

My daughter saw it and asked me what it was about. We looked it up. In the process, I found out that there was actually a court case, Lau v. Nichols. It set strong precedent for language access applications of Title VI.

Sometimes, the interpreter needs clarification… What do bad quality five cent coins have to do with civil rights? Not much. That’s why the interpreter should ask for clarification in this case. Because accurate interpreting is impossible when the meaning of what is understood simply makes no sense!