Amid a Disastrous Flood, Interpreters Are a Lifeline for Indigenous Farmworkers in California
Los Angeles Times (CA) (03/29/23) Vives, Ruben; Gomez, Melissa
Thousands of people remain under evacuation orders in the wake of the latest severe weather to pass through California, which left behind flooding and mudslides. Despite experiencing previous natural disasters, however, state and local officials have yet to fully include the growing population of Indigenous farmworkers into their emergency language access planning, often relying on nonprofits to communicate basic information. With different languages in the mix, and climate change likely to spur more extreme weather, community organizers say officials need to step up efforts to ensure that all non-English-speaking residents receive accurate and timely information.
“The language barrier, coupled with the economic situation that they’re in, means you’ve got a lot of people trying to process and make sense of what has happened and is happening to them,” said Erica Padilla-Chavez, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz. Second Harvest was among the nonprofits to provide language assistance to displaced migrant families sheltering at the fairgrounds in Pajaro, a farming town located on the border of Northern Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties that experienced severe flooding.
When evacuations began in Pajaro after a levee failed on March 10, a coalition of grassroots organizations came together to help Indigenous farmworkers, said MariaElena De La Garza, executive director of the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County. Community organizers worked with Monterey County officials to provide dozens of interpreters and volunteers to assist families at local shelters and evacuation centers.
De La Garza said her organization and others created a rotation of staff, contractors, and volunteers who speak Mixteco, Triqui, and Zapoteco, as well as Spanish, on four- to five-hour shifts at the fairgrounds shelter, which housed more than 300 evacuees. Because of variations within each Indigenous language, De La Garza also recruited residents and workers from the community to help interpret.
Arcenio López, executive director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project, said there are more than a dozen variants of the Mixteco language in Pajaro.
“To have Indigenous-language interpreting at the fairgrounds be a priority is new for us,” De La Garza said. “It’s important that the systems set up to be responsive are able to reach the communities that are most impacted.”
Luis Alejo, chair of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, said the county plans to make Indigenous interpreters an integral part of all the services it provides to residents, eventually including courtrooms and the police and fire departments. “This has to be part of how we deliver emergency services,” he said. “We also need to expand that to other services the county provides.”
While community organizers remain frustrated that local governments have not done more to address the language needs of the Indigenous community, they acknowledge that some progress has been made. They cite the interpreters at the fairgrounds, as well as televised news conferences in which Monterey County officials provided emergency response information in English, Spanish, and Mixteco.
Leonor Mendoza served as the Mixteco interpreter at one of the news conferences. She said it was important for the Mixteco community to receive vital information—and hearing their native language in an official setting made them feel visible. Still, she worried that other languages were not included. “We should have done the press conference in multiple Indigenous languages so as to not leave others out,” Mendoza said. “So, I felt a little bit frustrated, but I also told myself this was a step in the right direction. We’ve got a foot in the door, and this was a good thing.”
Supreme Court Rules Deaf Student Can Sue Michigan School District for Not Providing Skilled Interpreters
USA Today (DC) (03/21/23) Fritze, John
The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of a deaf student, saying he is allowed to move forward with a lawsuit against the Sturgis School District in Michigan under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Experts say the case could give parents of students with disabilities more leverage as they negotiate for the education of their children.
Central to the case was the story of Miguel Perez, who enrolled in the Sturgis Public School District in Michigan at age 9 and brought home As and Bs on report cards for more than a decade. Months before graduation, Perez’s parents learned that he would not receive a diploma and that the aide the school assigned to him did not know sign language.
Though the legal question raised by the case is technical, its outcome “holds consequences not just for Mr. Perez but for a great many children with disabilities and their parents,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote.
Perez’s journey through the 3,000-student school district in Sturgis highlights the challenges faced by many students with disabilities. His family says school officials misrepresented the qualifications of his aide. They say the aide was assigned to other duties in later years, leaving Perez unable to communicate with anyone for hours every day. Perez’s attorneys said he was promoted through each grade level despite not having a grasp of the curriculum.
Perez filed a complaint with Michigan officials in 2017, accusing his school of violating state and federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Before that complaint was resolved, the district offered to settle, agreeing to pay for Perez to attend the Michigan School for the Deaf. Perez’s family accepted the settlement.
His family then sued the district under the Americans with Disabilities Act for discrimination, seeking unspecified monetary damages. A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Perez had not exhausted the required IDEA process because his family had accepted the settlement. A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit agreed. Perez appealed to the Supreme Court in late 2021.
Roman Martinez, a veteran Supreme Court lawyer who argued the current case on behalf of Perez, said the ruling “vindicates the rights of students with disabilities to obtain full relief when they suffer discrimination.” Martinez said Perez and his family “look forward to pursuing their legal claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
French-Language Association Launches Legal Case over English-Only Translations at Notre-Dame Cathedral
The Guardian (United Kingdom) (03/22/23) Willsher, Kim
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is being sued by a French-language association for only translating its signage into English.
The Association for the Defense of the French Language filed a complaint against Notre-Dame with a Paris court in March. The association, which won a similar case brought against the Eiffel Tower, believes failing to include other languages when translating signage leads to the increasing global domination of English.
While members of the association are more generally opposed to the use of English words and terms in French documents, communications, and advertisements, they say the signs at Notre-Dame and other public buildings contravene a 1994 regulation requiring all public buildings to translate their signs and information into at least two other languages.
The 1994 Toubon law requires the use of French in official government publications, all advertising, in the workplace, commercial contracts, and all state schools. It also requires a “double translation” of public signs and translated official documents into two languages, usually English and one other, to promote multilingualism.
“The law doesn’t specify which two languages, but the lawmakers who came up with the legislation didn’t want the English language to overtake French,” said Marceau Déchamps, vice president of the Association for the Defense of the French Language.
The association has also filed complaints with 20 other public bodies over their use of English, including the national post office over the name of its banking service, “Ma French Bank.”
Judge Says “Non” to Nightclub Requesting Its Trial Proceedings Be Held in French
CBC News (Canada) (03/15/23) Britten, Liam
A judge in Canada has denied a request by a nightclub in Prince George, British Columbia, to hold a trial in French so it can challenge two $2,300 tickets issued in the winter of 2022 for non-compliance with COVID-19 health measures.
Learn to Earn Bartending School and Consulting, which operated the Lambda Cabaret in downtown Prince George, applied for a bilingual or French-language trial. In Canada, an accused person has the right to be tried in one of the two official languages, English or French, if they can guide counsel and follow proceedings in that language.
However, the club’s owner, Linda Allen, who was named as a defendant, is a monolingual English speaker. Provincial Court Judge Martin Nadon, who denied the motion, said he saw no evidence that the corporation being fined did any business in French. “It is the court’s view and consistent with the law that the person making an application to have a trial in French must have some competency in that language,” he said.
Saron Gebresellassi, the lawyer representing Learn to Earn Bartending School and Consulting, said a bilingual trial should be held, noting the case has attracted significant attention across Canada. She said the case is partly about “freedom of expression,” calling it “a public interest case for both English Canadians and French Canadians.” Gebresellassi said she plans to invite government leaders throughout Canada and Francophone diplomats to view the proceedings.
Judge Nadon stated that an interpreter could be provided to render expert testimony from a French-speaking witness. Although Gebresellassi said this is a good start, she added that a bilingual trial would be preferable in the interests of time and linguistic minority rights. She said she envisioned the case as “an opportunity to protect Canadians’ rights to access government services and the courts in both official languages and to protect the equality of both official languages.”
CBS to Review Closed Captioning for Live Events after Grammys Bad Bunny Controversy
Variety (CA) (02/10/23) Schneider, Michael
CBS is reviewing its closed captioning process for all live entertainment events following criticism over the network’s Grammys telecast and its initial lack of Spanish captioning. That’s according to CBS President and Chief Executive Director George Cheeks, who responded to a letter from U.S. Representative Robert Garcia addressing the controversy.
During the initial live broadcast of the Grammys, captions only read
“[SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH]” and “[SINGING IN NON-ENGLISH]” during Bad Bunny’s performance of “El Apagón” and “Después de la Playa.” Later, when Bad Bunny accepted the Grammy for best música urbana album, his acceptance speech was partially in Spanish—and once again, the captions only read
In his letter to Garcia, Cheeks said he took “full responsibility” for the lack of Spanish closed captions. “Regrettably, errors were made with respect to the closed captioning of his performance and subsequent acceptance speech,” Cheeks wrote. “We worked with a closed captioning vendor that did not execute at a standard to which we should rightfully be held. Regardless, we should have monitored the situation more closely. A bilingual (English and Spanish-language) real-time live captioner should have been utilized, and the words used on the screen were insensitive to many.”
Moving forward, Cheeks added, “our teams are now re-examining the closed captioning process for all live entertainment events on the network to ensure we properly caption Spanish-language content.”
“CBS’s failure to properly close caption both Bad Bunny’s performance and his acceptance speech called attention to an incredibly disappointing failure on the part of a network that caters to the millions of Spanish speakers we have here in the U.S.,” Garcia said. “If Bad Bunny, the first-ever Spanish-language album of the year nominee, can’t have his words made accessible to the American people, we have an issue.”
Episode 84: New Virtual Conference – Interpreting and Translating the Future
Do machine translation and artificial intelligence have you feeling like your “system” needs an upgrade? Up your game by attending ATA’s one-day virtual conference, “Translating and Interpreting the Future: Empowering Professionals to Innovate and Thrive,” on Saturday, May 20. In this episode, ATA Podcast Co-Host Andie Ho speaks with conference organizers Robert Sette and Andy Benzo to find out more about this educational and energizing look into how machine translation (MT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are shaping the translation and interpreting professions. Learn why ATA is organizing this virtual conference, who will be speaking, whether there will be networking opportunities, and much more.
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Be sure to check out the latest issue of The Chronicle. Here’s a highlight of some of the articles you’ll find in the March/April issue.
ATA Opposes Oregon Senate Bill 584
ATA recently submitted a letter in opposition to Oregon Senate Bill 584, which would task the Oregon Health Authority with setting up a web-based platform for scheduling and paying health care interpreters in Oregon.
Passive Income Streams to Attract Clients for Translators
Establishing a stable business with a steady client base can be achieved using one powerful approach: the strategic use of digital products to create passive income streams and attract potential clients even when you aren’t working.
Educational Translation and Interpreting: Strategies to Help Your Office Become Part of the Planning Process
This is the story of how a small team of language professionals worked together to transition a school district’s translation and interpreting needs from being an afterthought to a fully integrated part of the planning process.
Sound Like a Pro: Audio Basics for Remote Interpreting
Most interpreters around the world have now worked online, but hearing well, while sounding good to your audience and fellow interpreters, can still be a challenge.
Wondering what the latest informative ATA webinar topic will be? Look no further than your inbox and search for “Webinar Roundup.” The ATA HQ team will be providing an overview of all the upcoming sessions for each month. We will see you on zoom soon!
Make This the Year You Enter ATA’s School Outreach Contest!
There’s no time like the present to start planning a School Outreach presentation and contest entry!
Profile of ATA’s 2022 School Outreach Contest Winner
ATA-certified English>Spanish translator Aída Carrazco won the 2022 ATA School Outreach Contest. She received a free registration to ATA’s 63rd Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California, for submitting a story and photo she took with students during her interactive presentation to her son’s classroom at Instituto Thomas Jefferson in Zapopan, Mexico. Read Aída’s profile in The ATA Chronicle and watch the video!
And be sure to listen to Episode 53 of The ATA Podcast to learn more about the program and all the resources ATA has at the ready for putting together a presentation. The deadline for the 2023 contest is July 31.
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