The Human Faces of Language Access: People in Your Community Benefitting from Translation or Interpretation

Language access – receiving information and materials in one’s own language — is a human right and critical for helping non-native English speakers thrive in our communities.

Every day, interpreters and translators get to use their language expertise and cultural intelligence to help people resolve legal and financial issues, get past trauma, receive medical support, thrive at school, and take advantage of any other assistance they need.

Here, we share six incredible examples of how language access services have impacted people’s lives.

Stanly: Getting past trauma

Stanly, a many from Poland, was a first responder at the World Trade Center tragedy. Because of his experience and the aftermath, he developed PTSD and began to see a therapist for help.  He did speak English at a basic level, but because the subjects were so personal to him he found it very hard to communicate in English. Once we brought in a bilingual and emotionally intelligent Polish interpreter, Stanly found it much easier to express himself at the emotional level necessary to begin processing his feelings.  Over several months he was able to enjoy the sessions, work through his trauma, begin to heal, and as a result he began to succeed and thrive again at work and in his personal life.

Nirmala: Receiving emergency treatment

Nirmala, and Indian woman, went to the hospital on Christmas day because she had severe abdominal pain. The medical professionals asked many questions, but Nirmala had hard time understanding their questions and explaining her symptoms and situation in English.  Once a Hindi/English interpreter arrived and was able to help her, the doctors properly diagnosed her issues, provided the right treatment and sent her home for Christmas with her family. This interpreter brought emotional intelligence, cultural understanding, and domain expertise as well as linguistic fluency to the situation.

Omid: Treating mental health issues

A teenage refugee from Afghanistan, Omid, was struggling with insomnia, stomach pains, and anxiety. His doctor was unable to get clear details from him in order to help him resolve the mental and physical health issues that were hurting his quality of life.  Omid, whose English is emerging but is not yet fluent, didn’t understand the questions, and felt uncomfortable talking with her because she was an unmarried woman with uncovered hair.  Once a bilingual male interpreter came in, Omid and the doctor were able to communicate clearly through him, and the doctor was able to prescribe medicine to help Omid. Importantly, Omid was able to get clear instructions about how to take the medicine.

Giang: Resolving school truancy

Giang, a Vietnamese speaking child, skipped school enough times that the school sent the parents an email message to ask about his well-being.  However, the parents didn’t understand the automatic email and phone messages, and were unable to connect with the details of the absences, the consequences of them, and who to talk with to resolve them. Once the language access coordinator got involved, the parents received communications in Vietnamese and were able to understand and resolve the absences and get their child back in school.

Raquel: Empowering entrepreneurship

Raquel, a young woman from Colombia, began a custodial services business in the United States, and needed a loan for equipment and banking support for payments and payroll processing.  The bank she chose provided her with all materials in Spanish, and the banker was a Spanish-speaker himself. Raquel was able to set up the accounts and finances that she needed for his business to thrive.

Anton: Resolving a bank dispute

A Ukrainian man named Anton was involved in a dispute with their bank. The bank was saying that Anton was behind mortgage payments, but he insisted he made payments as scheduled. It turned out that the issue started when Anton changed jobs and started working on a commercial fishing boat. His new job was seasonal, meaning there were months when he would be out in the sea and months when he didn’t work at all. His paychecks were quite sizable for the time he spent working but he didn’t have any income off season. He was overpaying his mortgage when he had income but when he didn’t receive paychecks, he was not making any payments towards the mortgage. He didn’t understand that the extra money was not covering the mortgage for the months he didn’t make any payments. Once an interpreter got involved, the 2 parties were able to clear up the situation and create a good solution.  They opened a savings account, connected it with Anton’s mortgage account, and set up automatic transfers in an agreed amount.

To chat with us about how language service can help your organization better serve your community, contact us here.


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