I gave this presentation to the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce on June 5, 2020, in the context of the civil rights protests. In that presentation, I put language access, which includes translation and interpreting, in the context of civil rights.
See this blog post for a history of language access on the West Coast.
This is the presentation I gave to the Chamber:
Who are we as a society, as a nation?
The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States states:
We, the people of the United States, in order to
- form a more perfect Union,
- establish justice,
- insure domestic tranquility,
- provide for the common defense,
- promote the general welfare, and
- secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
James Wilson, Pennsylvania (Helen Eby’s paternal ancestor) was a signatory of the Constitution and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence.
How can we promote the values of the Preamble in our community?
The following clauses would apply:
- Establish justice,
- Insure domestic tranquility,
- Promote the general welfare, and
- Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
These goals help every community thrive. They depend on clear communication, on building bridges.
Language access supports these goals.
Language access is providing meaningful access to services in a language that the person using the services understands, which is another way to say ensuring that everyone who accesses services, regardless of national origin (including language), can receive the same service with no barriers.
This is a federal mandate based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It is also good business and ensures that we can promote the values of the Preamble in our community.
Who provides language access?
People can receive services in the language they speak. For example, if you speak English, an English speaker could be at the front desk. If you speak Spanish, maybe a Spanish speaker could be at the front desk or answer the phone: monolingual access to services. No language barrier.
We can provide translated documents. Translating the most important documents, the ones people are most likely to have to sign or the ones that you really need people to understand, such as signs at the courtroom door about taking off your hat.
Language access includes interpreting. When two people can’t communicate effectively by speaking the same language, they call an interpreter. For example, an attorney could be interviewing a client, a teacher might be speaking to parents, a doctor could be explaining a treatment plan to a child’s parents, an insurance agent could be verifying a claim.
Why does quality matter?
People usually work with translators and interpreters in strressfl situashns.
Iff they wld find that the docmts had mistks in their spelling like the ones I put in italics, what would happen?
- Though these mistakes are not significant enough to make it impossible to understand the message, they discredit the document.
- The reader would have to spend extra energy reading at a stressful time.
- It is not respectful. These communities have already been marginalized and this is another sign of disrespect. I hear this from the Spanish speaking community.
- It is actually less expensive to do things right the first time than to do things carelessly and have to rebuild a relationship or reprint a document.
How can we get it right?
- There are language proficiency tests for monolingual employees. You can verify the speaking and writing skills of your employees so you can ask them to work within their scope of competence.
- There are certifications for interpreting and translation. Professional and government bodies certify translators and interpreters so clients can be assured that the people doing the job have the required skills.
- Why work with a certified professional? Well… we would not work with nurses, doctors or attorneys who were not certified. Why have a different level of expectation for translators and interpreters?
Services Gaucha Translations provides
Translation: English <> Spanish translations translated and reviewed by translators certified by the American Translators Association (Helen is certified by ATA in both directions)
Interpreting: Helen is also certified as a Spanish court and medical interpreter by the State of Oregon.
Spanish editing and writing classes. Helen is the founding President of the Spanish Editors Association and has written a book on Spanish writing for the US. It can be found on the SEA resources page.
Training: Training candidates who want to prepare for interpreting and translation certification exams.
Finally, I support the #blacklivesmatter statement issued by NCIHC, IMIA and CCHI, of which I am a member.