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Conference Promotes Access for Language-Learners
The National Center for Interpretation at the UA has designed a mini-conference to train the local community how to ensure language access for individuals not proficient in the English language.
With the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 came Title VI, barring discrimination based on a person's race, color or national origin.
In 2000, Executive Order 13166 was signed, requiring the federal government ensure adequate access to services for those with limited English proficiency, particularly among organizations and programs receiving federal funding.
"The Executive Order was a revival of Title VI, which people appeared to have forgotten," said Roseann Dueñas González, director of the National Center for Interpretation, Testing, Research and Policy at the University of Arizona. "But providing language accommodations is just so new on the horizon for agencies to think about it, so some have a hard time."To inform agency officials, interpreters and students about existing federal mandates and how to abide by them while providing interpreter training, the UA center is hosting a conference this weekend.
The "Mini-Conference on Meaningful Access via Advanced Interpretation Training" will be held Dec. 4-5 at the UA's Student Union Memorial Center.
Registration is open with a $100 cost for the general public, or $75 for partial attendance for each day. Discounts are available for UA and Pima Community College students and also government employees.
"We are targeting interpreters and agencies who may be looking for some guidance, some direction on how to create a language-service plan that will meet the needs of their clients," said Dueñas González, who will discuss "meaningful access" and provide recommendations for government agencies and practitioners during the conference.
Despite such requirements, individuals with limited English proficiency are still barred from adequate and appropriate service in the medical, legal and other field, Dueñas González said.
"This is really a language policy, so we need to think about how we can help agencies make the right decisions," said Dueñas González, also a UA English professor.
She cited medical facilities that still offer printed materials and signage in English and law enforcement agencies that fail to offer interpreters during interrogations and other questioning.
Also of concern is the default usage of telephone interpreter serves when clients would be much better served with face-to-face interactions with a professional.
The conference is one among a range of different programs and services the 31-year-old center offers to improve the education and training of interpreters throughout the nation and in a number of other countries while also addressing policy issues relevant to individuals with limited English proficiency.
During the conference, Jaime Fatás Cabeza, a UA assistant professor of practice who directs the UA's translation and interpretation program, will discuss ways to apply linguistic theory to the practice.
Anthony Rivas, a federally certified interpreter and a court interpreter in California, will lead consecutive and simultaneous interpreting workshops for advanced interpreters.
Workshops also will cover issues related to linguistics, techniques, drugs and weapons trafficking, immigration, credit and real estate fraud, among other topics.
Victoria Vasquez, who directs the Office of the Court Interpreter for Pima County Superior Court, will also serve as a guest speaker during the conference. Vasquez will discuss ways courts can and should implement Title VI in Arizona.
Alison Colter-Mack, program manager for the city of Tucson's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, also will speak, addressing ways Tucson is planning for language access.
"What we hope to achieve is the beginning of a series of conversations about the rights of individuals when it comes to language access and the obligations that agencies have to meet federal guidelines," said Armando Valles, the interpretation center's assistant director.
"We are reaching out to everyone that is touched by Title VI in any way," Valles added. "I think this is something new, especially here locally."
Both Valles and Dueñas González said the challenges for improved programs and services are varied.
One area of concern relates to economics and the ability to offer skilled interpreters.
Another, broader area of concern is ideological.
Some either do not acknowledge or understand that translation and interpretation is more than merely translating words into another language, but rather it is a highly skilled practice that requires a strong command of two languages and also cultural and social understanding. An undergraduate degree is often required; experience is essential.
Dueñas González also founded the Agnese Haury Institute for Court Interpretation, a medical interpreting program that has since served as a model for interpreting programs.
The UA program started as a four-day program and, next year, will expand from one to two weeks to accommodate the growing demand and expanding complexity of its program offerings.
"This is an important step our our part," Dueñas González said, adding that the center has seen continued expansion, growth and reach since its origins.
The center was heavily involved in activities that led to the Court Interpreter’s Act of 1979, which requires the presence of certified interpreters during court proceedings for individuals who are not proficient in English. Center staff also developed the model for interpreter certification, resulting in the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam, among other efforts.
Especially in the realm of medical interpreting, Dueñas González said she and others at the UA center are pleased to see improvement, though much more is needed in a range of industries.
"We believe that, finally, people are beginning to understand what a complex area interpreting is and how much training is necessary," Dueñas González said. "It is needed and improves the quality of services and, more importantly, reduces error and horrendous liability."