Thursday, June 25, 2009

100 Best Language Blogs

In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I'd like to let our readers know about the 100 Best Language Blogs competition that's ongoing right now. Not telling you who to vote for, mind you, just letting you know it's there...

At Our Core, We Help People

We've recently retooled ourselves here at In Every Language. Marketers and government agencies kept asking us for this thing called a mission statement. While we all know exactly who we are--what In Every Language stands for--putting that in words was tougher than you'd think for a business that works with language every day.

At our core, we help people. That's what kept coming up over and over again: we help people. We help people. Yes, we make money--somedays more than others--but the reason that I and my employees come here to work as opposed to McDonald's is because we believe in our mission.

So this is what we came up with. It's still not that beautifully concise mission statement some folks want to hear, but it is a summation of who we are. Let me know what you think:

When you place your trust with In Every Language, you and your company aren’t the only people who benefit. Your community does as well. Our focus isn’t on what makes us different from our competitors, it’s on the difference we can make.

From our school outreach project to our free translation program for refugees, we make helping others our priority. We’re not driven by money, we’re driven by change, and the work we do in our community has made such a difference, that it’s been officially recognized by two Kentucky governors.

We know that putting our commitment to community first might not be the quickest way to get you to do business with us. But before we get down to business, it’s only fair to let you know who you’re doing business with. We’re not driven by the dollar, we’re driven by the difference. This is who we are and what we set out to do when we go into work every day. And we would love to call you our partner in improving not just the way you and your company communicate, but in improving our world.

So that's it, kiddos. In case you ever wondered who those crazy chicks over at In Every Language really are, that's it right there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Speak English Well, or You'll Get a Ticket - Racism in Alabama?

Speak English Well, or You'll Get a Ticket. That's the title of a Jay Reeves article appearing in Saturday's issue of the Atlanta Constitutional Journal. Sad part is, this title isn't trying to be sensationalist, it's being honest.

Trucker Manuel Castillo, a native Spanish speaker, was driving his rig through Alabama when he was pulled over by Alabama State Police for a routine check. Castillo, who speaks English on a third-grade level (like many other Alabamians, I fear), had a routine conversation with the officer about his license and registration, the truck inspection, and so on. According to the article, he didn't forsee any problems (he's been a trucker for 20 years and wasn't speeding), until the officer gave him a $500 ticket for--you guessed it--speaking English poorly.

I encourage you all to read the article on the ACJ's website. There will certainly be more details and information available there. This blog entry is basically my personal outlet for sharing the sheer absurdity of it all.

A $500 ticket for speaking English poorly? In Alabama? Come on, people.

This is sheer racism and discrimination. Even if the Alabama State Police are able to hide behind the federal law which requires anyone with a commercial driver's license to speak English well enough to talk with police, they hopefully won't be able to hide for long. I can understand the necessity of being able to deal with law enforcement. What I can't understand is sheer hatred. Were those native to Alabama able to pass this requirement as well, we'd have no issue. But, according to the ACJ article, Mr Castillo was cited because he had an accent. An accent. In Alabama.

Now, I'm a Southerner. I love the South. My own brother lives in Huntsville. But, come on! The Alabama Department of Education admits to a 16.7% high school drop-out rate. According to the Department's Alabama Reading Initiative presentation, available online, 15% of the State's third-graders (the level at which Mr Castillo speaks English) tested below proficiency on state and national reading exams. When it comes to speaking English well enough to drive a semi, maybe Alabama State Police are pulling over the wrong people. If this is not a hate law, as it seems so much to me to be, could someone tell me how many native Alabamans who speak poor English have also received a $500 fine?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tips for Working with Legal Interpreters

A few tips I came up with to help our legal clients better work with interpreters. If you have any to add, please feel free.

1) Work with professional interpreters, as opposed to bilingual grocers/wait staff/etc. You are a professional and your client expects professional service from you and everyone you contract on his/her behalf.

2) Ask for the right type of interpreter. For legal proceedings, a legal interpreter is the easy default; however, if you're deposing an doctor about a malpractice suit, then you might need an interpreter who's worked in medical situations as well. Make sure your interpreter specializes in the case's subject matter.

3) Request the right language. Many languages have multiple dialects. Spanish, for example, has 19 major dialectal forms.

4) For appointments slated to last longer than three hours, schedule two interpreters who will work in half-hour blocks. When working with only one interpreter, schedule regular breaks.

5) Allow for extra time. Everything everyone says will have to be said twice and, in addition, some languages simply take more words to say something than others. Spanish, for example, uses 33% more words to say something than English.

6) Prepare the interpreter. Provide him/her any police report, transcripts from preliminary hearings, and other materials. In cases where multiple translations are available, knowing the context will help your interpreter choose the correct one.

7) Practice working with the interpreter when you prepare your client for questioning. You'll get the kinks worked out ahead of time, everyone will look more polished, and your client will be more at ease.

8) Keep it in the first and second persons. Instead of telling the interpreter "Ask him where he was on the night of the 15th," say "Where were you on the night of the 15th?"

9) Be as precise as you can with your questions. Anything in your syntax that is unclear (i.e., dangling modifiers, unidentified pronouns like "it," double negatives), may be interpreted incorrectly.

10) Be aware that EVERYTHING you say will be interpreted, even if it's just to ask the secretary for more coffee.

11) Don't be surprised if your interpreter has questions about seemingly simple vocabulary words. What's only one word in our language could be one of many words in the other language, depending on the context. In French, for example, the English word meeting could be a "tête-à-tête," a "rendez-vous," a "conference," or even a "meeting."

(Blogger's note: Only after Tweeting this post did I realize I put this same article on the blog Tuesday, June 17, 2008. Must be something about June that makes me think legal! My apologies to those of you who are long-time readers.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grant Awarded for Medical Interpreting

The following article written from staff reports is being reprinted from the June 15, 2009 issue of the Citizen-Times, a newspaper in Ashville, Nc:

"Buncombe medical society receives grant to expand interpreter network"

Buncombe County Medical Society Foundation has received a $7,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Henderson County to expand the WNC Interpreter Network into Henderson County.

WIN provides qualified and trained interpretation and translation services to medical practices and other agencies. WIN has provided interpretation services for 1,300 patients at 4,000 appointments in Buncombe County since its inception in 2005.

WIN will partner with the Blue Ridge Community Health Services to expand the availability of interpreters to physician practices at low cost.

“The expansion of WIN services into Henderson County will have a significant impact on our limited English proficient community,” said Jennifer Henderson, CEO of BRCHS. “We are excited to partner with BCMS and its innovative WIN program. Qualified interpreters through WIN will allow BRCHS to direct its own resources back to the community health center to address the significant health disparities of our patients and the community.”

(Blogger's note: Althea Gonzalez with the Buncombe County Medical Society will be speaking at the Second Annual Southeast Regional Medical Interpreter Conference this week at the University of Kentucky. More information available at