“From an Interpreter and Translator’s Perspective” by Jeannette C. Antezana

jeannette c antezana In a country where thousands of new migrants are arriving on a daily basis, knowledge of multiple languages, and skills in interpretation and translation are valuable tools.  Translating or interpreting conversations or any type of document could seem so simple.  However, the person who does interpretation or translation might have to rewind his/her mind in tenths of seconds, back and forth, in order to attempt to express the same meanings in another language.  Being a translator or interpreter is not an easy task.  You may learn the techniques in a class but most of your lessons come from experience.

A translation or interpretation cannot be done in a literal way. It may not make sense.  To start, you would first read the document, understand it, write a draft and then review it. Next, you may read it louder if it is a short document, or you may go by paragraphs.  Finally, you would compare the two versions to make sure both reflect the same meaning and sense, as best as possible. Last, you would print it and the work would be done.

If you do an interpretation, you may be given a short document in order to know the subject of the interpretation.  Let’s say it’s a medical appointment.  You would know who was involved in the conversation as well as the health reasons.  You would introduce yourself to your client as well as to the doctor.  You would let them know that each of them have to direct the questions and answers to each other.  However, you will be located behind your client being very precise and accurate to avoid misinterpretations or gaps within the conversation.  You would always bring a dictionary with you.

For this kind of consecutive interpretation, you have to make it clear that you will do the interpretation by sentences, since you would not be able to recall too much information in your mind at a time.  You would be concise, asking questions of the physician in case you will have to interpret technical language.  Your client has to acknowledge your best disposition in helping him/her. He/she also has to speak clear and slow, by sentences. There are many opportunities for employment as an individual with training as an interpreter or translator.  One could be the bilingual receptionist in a legal immigration office, a skillful customer service specialist at a company, an executive assistant to a fancy CEO dealing with several languages at a time, or even a simultaneous interpreter at the United Nations summit. There are many alternatives.

Having said all this, why don’t you get a foreign movie with subtitles and think of what you have read above while watching it?  Now, I am sure you may have a different point of view!

Jeannette C. Antezana 

My name is Jeannette C. Antezana, I am an American citizen. However, my country of origin is Bolivia, up in Los Andes of the South American Continent. I was born at the extraordinary city of La Paz, surrounded by snowed cap mountains. In my life, I became a Bilingual Executive Secretary, then a Translator and an Interpreter. I love working and volunteering as an interpreter. I speak Spanish, French and English in that order. I like helping people in many aspects to find their ways. At present I work with refugees and I have a voluntary work too. Life taught me to appreciate foreigners and their diversity in cultures, customs and languages. I find amazing the sayings with the same meaning in the different languages of our beautiful planet, Earth. My goal from this blog is to support the hard work of the OLA – Languages Rights from the perspective of an interpreter.

“The Language Access Act Through the Eyes of a Virginian Latino” by Geraldine Govea

Throughout my time as an intern with the Office on Latino Affairs, I have learned about the Language Access Act that was instituted in the District of Columbia in 2004. Reading about this act as a Virginian who had never heard about it, I realized that DC was taking big steps in the process of assimilation and acceptance for the immigrant population in the District. I found out that DC had numerous offices that dealt with the biggest barrier in communication felt by the country – the language barrier. As a result, the Act permits LEP(Limited English Proficient) speakers to receive information and services provided by the government in their own language. The Office on Latino Affairs, specifically the Language Access Department, is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Act by the 34 agencies under Language Access. I was amazed to find that so many people had this benefit right at their hands and that they had the legal system finally back them up through the demonstration of a little blue card that reads “ I speak (language). I need assistance in my language”. Coming from a Hispanic family I have been used to, from a very young age, translating bills, notices, and important paperwork as well as answering phone calls for my parents; I have now pretty much taken it on as a personal responsibility. Looking back, I sometimes feel that my family has been taken advantage of because of this language barrier and I think of how much I would have liked it if my parents were able to receive these services in their language just by showing an “I speak” card.

In Virginia, translation services are not an obligation for an agency. Agencies carry translated documents or have interpreters only if they pay extra for those services, and even then, the translations are not correct or the interpreter is not always accessible. Health services do a better job at serving the public with information in their language but even then, not all languages are covered and not all information is given. What tends to happen in Virginia is that agencies use their bilingual staff to do the translation and interpretation services for them rather than having these documents readily available to hand out to the people. In the end, the only thing that this brings is disorganization and chaos within the agency and to the public.

Working with the Language Access Department and being able to compare DC and Virginia’s approach to Language Access, I can say that DC has invested much more effort in the idea of equal opportunity to all people. It disappoints me to see that access is limited and that people like my parents will have to move to DC in order to attain these services. To me it seems that Virginia’s “English only” movement is more predominant than the “English plus” movement, thus restraining access for all immigrants residing in Virginia. I only hope for the day that Virginia, along with the other states that are still trying to make English their official language, become conscious of their reality and start helping people rather than evading them, no matter what their language is.

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