At the American Translators Association Conference in Washington, DC, I attended a session on Interpreting and Translating for Farmers and Migrant Workers presented by Michelle Pinzl.

This is the target audience of some of my translations, and knowing who we translate for helps us write in a way that our text is understood. When I can, I review the draft of my translation with the target readers.

This post will be a brief overview of Ms. Pinzl’s presentation with some of my conclusions. She has kindly allowed me to share her PowerPoint. Farmers and Migrant Workers Distributed

According to the 2013-14 National Agriculture Workers survey, there are 2.5-3 million agricultural workers.

Data submitted at the attached ATA presentation give the following statistics regarding migrant farm workers:

·         16% identify as migrating

·         84% are seasonal workers

·         73% are foreign born

·         68% were born in Mexico

·         31% said they speak English well

Who is a Limited English Proficient Individual according to the US Federal Government?

Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English can be limited English proficient, or LEP, entitled to language assistance with respect to a type of service, benefit or encounter.

See item IV on page 41459 of this link.

48% have an education of up to 6th grade. Therefore, written materials addressed to this population need to be:

·         Well written in English so they can be translated easily. Following the Five Steps to Plain Language to reach a 6th grade level on the Flesh-Kincaid scale (available on Word) will help.

·         In plain language in Spanish, making use of graphics, bulleted lists and charts to clarify the message. Reaching a 6th grade audience in Spanish will be a simple task when the document has been prepared for this purpose in English.

This means that when specialized terminology is introduced, it should be explained. Studies have shown that reading comprehension is reduced when stressed, ill, or reading on the computer. Considering these factors when preparing good source materials for translation to Spanish will also improve services to English-speakers.

The risk of a bad translation in this sector is high. A bad translation can cause confusion in the best of circumstances. As an interpreter, I have heard administrators tell people to ask their elementary school children to sight translate documents into English for submission to administrative offices. I have also seen Spanish-speakers decline translated materials with spelling and punctation mistakes because they do not trust the accuracy of the translation. In those cases, poor translations communicate disrespect and burn bridges instead of building them.

The LEP community needs to work with certified interpreters and certified translators as often as possible. We can’t afford to garble the message when communicating with a vulnerable population. The first step, however, is for translators to receive carefully written materials, prepared with this audience in mind. This will benefit the community at large in all languages, even in English.

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