Monthly Archives: March 2014

Interpreter hits back at armchair critics –via iol news


Johannesburg – They sit in their offices translating their work with the help of a dictionary, and if there’s a word they are battling with, they can easily Google it or call around.

Yet “they have the audacity to criticise court interpreters who work in a highly pressured environment without the luxury of referring to a dictionary or the internet when a word they have never heard of before crops up during a trial”.

William Mnisi, a high court interpreter with over 30 years’ experience, said the criticism that had been levelled at them, especially from translators and linguistics professors, was unwarranted and wrong.

Mnisi, whose speciality is Afrikaans but also interprets Tswana, Zulu, English, Sotho and Swati, is the secretary of the National Interpreters Association of South Africa.

Since the start of Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial, court interpreters’ ability to do their job properly has been questioned. The South African Translators’ Institute (Sati) has been vocal in this regard.

However, Mnisi said the institute had no authority to attack them.

“They think they know what we are doing, but they don’t. They are translators. They have the luxury of dictionaries, they have the luxury of sitting in the office phoning around if they have a word they don’t understand.

“For an interpreter, there and then on his feet, he must put across what the person is saying. Off the cuff, you have to tell the court what the person is saying. People who don’t understand the field will come up with these kinds of attacks,” he said.

The criticism started on the first day of Pistorius’s trial when the interpreter abandoned her job. She had only six months’ experience.

This is despite the fact interpreters need about seven years’ experience in the lower courts before being sent to interpret in the more complex cases in the high court.

Mnisi conceded that she should not have been selected as she was inexperienced.

“The department (of Justice and Constitutional Development) solely depends on us to find suitable people for a case. They are doing a lot and pump money into this, and we are actually failing them,” he said.

However, Sati’s Johan Blaauw said they had “the fullest right” to comment on the quality and did not need to stand in court to say something was correct or not.

Blaauw said although he had never done court interpreting, he normally interpreted at conferences, and also did simultaneous interpreting at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

To read more of this article courtesy of IOL news, click the link below.

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Former Deaf Bronco Kenny Walker Uses Interpreter To Teach Track–via CBS Denver


HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Adversity is common in sports – a team loses a game or a player gets hurt and they have to bounce back. One Denver native was dealing with adversity long before he hit the football field, but it never slowed him up or stopped him from playing at the game’s highest level.

Kenny Walker, now an assistant coach with the Highlands Ranch track team, was a two-year starter for the University of Nebraska football team in the late 1980s. Even though he’s a Denver native, he picked the Cornhuskers because they had what most schools didn’t — a program for the deaf.

“They have very good deaf access there, and it was back in the 1980s, and it wasn’t an easy step for me,” Walker said. “You know most (schools) don’t have interpreters and they were willing to provide me with one.”

Walker has been profoundly deaf since age 2. He lost his hearing when he contracted spinal meningitis. Since then he’s only been able to hear noises over 110 decibels. When he played his final home game at Nebraska in 1990 against Colorado, Cornhusker fans made sure Walker knew he was appreciated — not by trying to cheer loudly — but rather by using the sing language gesture for cheering.

“I didn’t realize how supportive Nebraska was. I didn’t know how big the people were supporting me,” he said. “It was very special. To have that, deaf and hard of hearing, knowing we could succeed, it’s not easy for me, but I did succeed.”

In 1991 the Denver Broncos drafted Walker in the eighth round and he would end up playing two seasons for Denver before being released prior to the 1993 season. He bounced around the country for the next 18 years, and then two years ago he moved home to Denver looking for a job.

“We had a coach that left last year and I posted the position and he jumped right on it,” Highlands Ranch head track coach John Padjen said.

To read more of this article courtesy of CBS Denver, click the link below.


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Madame Justice, con permiso –via NY City Lens


Due to the city’s diverse population, court interpreters face challenges of dialects and cultural differences


Hussean Hassan is not a lawyer. Nor is he a court officer or a law clerk. Yet, when Mohammed Hassan, no relation, accused of groping a woman in a subway car, appears at his hearing, Hussean Hassan is by his side.

As Mohammed, the accused, stands in front of the judge in Part E courtroom on the second floor of New York City’s Criminal Courts building in Downtown Manhattan, Hassan stands to his right and constantly whispers in his ear in classical Arabic. No one stops him. Hassan, after all, is the court interpreter.

In a city as diverse as New York, quite often the people who stand accused of committing a crime do not speak English, said Sandra Bryan, the statewide coordinator of Court Interpreters. It’s the job of the court interpreter to bridge this gap between the justice system and the litigant. “Interpreters play an incredibly crucial role in the justice system,” said Bryan.

According to Bryan, the court system employs a total of 217 court interpreters representing 27 languages and dialects, that are appointed to the New York State courts within the five boroughs of New York city. Of these, 16 are employed in a supervisory capacity, but they also interpret in courtrooms.

“We are the people’s voice,” said Madhu Mishra, who translates Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali into English. The 51-year-old immigrant of Indian origin began as a freelancer but has been a permanent member of the staff since 2001. “We have to be unbiased and invisible, not get emotionally involved. We have to interpret what they say, verbatim, and not give our own opinions.”

Intrepreters have to intrepret what the judge and lawyer are telling each other so that the defendant is aware of what’s going on. Sometimes, during a trial, when a lawyer or a judge asks the accused a question in English, the interpreter translates it for the defendant in their preferred language, and then translates his or her reply into English for the court. It is not restricted to the accused – many a time, witnesses or victims are also in need of an interpreter. But most of the time, it’s for the defendants.

It is not easy to become a court interpreter. The process involves a written exam to judge language proficiency in both English and the foreign language, extensive background checks and an ethics training seminar.  Only 30 percent pass the the written exam and move to the oral exam. Only one out of four clear it.

“The language of criminal courts includes the whole range from forensic terms to street slang,” said Bryan. “People can be bilingual but not necessarily capable interpreters. It is a specific skill.”

The challenges are manifold. Arabic has many dialacts, and even someone like Hassan, who is from Egypt and has been an interpreter in the city’s courts for the past 19 years, does not know all of them. He interprets in classical Arabic, a language that most people in Arabic-speaking nations can understand.

Angela Chin, a resident of Bayside, Queens, and a court interpreter for Mandarin Chinese, says interpreting demands more than fluency. You have to “be impartial, be accurate and fast, have excellent short term memory, and a broad knowledge of the sciences,” she said.

Then there is grammar.. “If they ask you, ‘Didn’t you go to the park?’, in English, you will say ‘No’, to mean ‘No, I didn’t go to the park’ but in Mandarin, you will say ‘Yes’ to mean ‘Yes, I didn’t go to the park’,” said Chin. An incorrect interpretation in such a matter can be the difference between a defendant being found innocent or guilty of a crime and even call the credibility of the witness into question.

Then, same words can have different meanings in the same language, depending on which country the speaker is from, said Belinda Benavides, 52, a Spanish interpreter from Westchester County.  In Spanish, she explained the word for ‘balloon’ is ‘globo’ and ‘vejiga’ means ‘bladder’. But in the Dominican Republic, ‘vejiga’ is street slang for a balloon. In a case involving immigrants from the Dominican Republic, she interpreted the statement, ‘the balloon popped,’ as ‘my bladder popped’. “The courtroom burst out laughing,” she said.

To read more of this article courtesy of NY City Lens, click the link below.



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The High Costs of Language Barriers in Medical Malpractice – School of Public Health University of California Berkley


The High Costs of Language Barriers in Medical Malpractice. To access the research click here —–> Language Access and Malpractice

Kelvin Quan, JD MPH, Assistant Dean of the University of
California, Berkeley School of Public Health, served as the
Project Director and primary author and Jessica Lynch, 2011
MPH candidate, served as Graduate Research Assistant.

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Do You Understand? Reach out to Patients With Limited English Proficiency –via American College of Emergency Physicians


As you plan your EMS Week activities, remember that effective communication with patients and their families in your community may mean developing written materials in languages other than English.

When planning outreach to patients with limited English proficiency, identify the target audience for any written materials, including literacy level, cultural concepts, language and regional language variations.

Then determine what kinds of healthcare information these patient populations may need. For example, perhaps you have a large Vietnamese and Laotian community in which many elderly parents live at home in multigenerational families. These groups might need fall prevention materials in Hmong. Information about other topics, such as car seat safety, cross cultural lines and should be made available in a variety of languages.

EMS managers have several options for obtaining healthcare information in languages other than English. You can:

circle_arrowTranslate existing written materials from English to other languages. You may have bilingual medics in your organization who are willing to translate healthcare materials, or you can partner with community organizations serving non-English speaking populations;

circle_arrowDownload written materials in other languages from other reputable healthcare organizations to meet your patients’ needs. See the Resources box below for some Web sites that offer free healthcare material in languages other than English;

circle_arrowDevelop your own written materials in other languages. Although the most labor-intensive option, creating written materials in the language of the intended audience is preferable to translating existing documents, as your own materials will more accurately reflect the values and beliefs of your EMS service, as well as the audience. In addition, creating new materials can prevent content misunderstanding when words in English do not exist in other languages.

21 Million Americans Have Limited English Proficiency

Forty-seven million Americans, or 18 percent of the us population, speak a language other than english at home. twenty-one million Americans, or 8 percent of the population, have limited English proficiency.

In a study of 1,100 families conducted in and around Boston among parents who said they speak English “not at all,” 27 percent of their children were uninsured. among parents who speak English “very well,” only 6 percent of their children were uninsured.

For six of nine access barriers studied, parents with limited English proficiency were less likely than English-proficient parents to bring their children to a doctor for needed care, making it more likely that these children would be seen by EMS in the event of a serious illness.

Source: Limited English Proficiency, Primary Language Spoken at Home, and Disparities in Children’s Health and Healthcare: How Language Barriers are Measured, Glenn Flores, M.D., Milagros Abreu, M.D., Sandra C. Tomany-Korman, M.S., Public Health Reports, July/August 2005, 120 (4): 418–30

Resources for Healthcare Information in Languages Other Than English

Health Care Language Services Implementation Guide

Office of Minority Health

AHA Patient Education Materials in Spanish

National Alliance for Hispanic Health

The 24 Languages Project

Select Patient Information in Asian Languages

Ideas for a Successful EMS Week

circle_arrow EMS Week Planning: Make Your EMS Week the Best Ever
circle_arrow Ever See a Traumasaurus? EMS Mascots Make a Big Impression
circle_arrow Tips on Hosting a Successful Open House
circle_arrow Use Your Brain to Cook Up Some EMS Week Fun
circle_arrow EMS Week Placemats Entertain Kids (And Adults Read Them, Too)
circle_arrow Appeal to Reporters: What’s Your Story
circle_arrow Remember the Fallen – Establish Your Own EMS Honor Guard
circle_arrow Elderly Outreach – An Essential Part of EMS Week


To read more of this article courtesy of American College of Emergency Physicians, click the link below.


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