Interpretation & Translations News

Picture: Getty/Twitter

BTS’ TikTok profile description translates to ‘the official carbon dioxide’

BTS fans don’t miss a thing when it comes to the South Korean singers’ social media profiles, so when some of the ARMY noticed their TikTok account – where they have over 8.5 million followers – holds an incorrect translation they took it onto their own hands.

One fan who noticed the error shared a screenshot of the bio on Twitter translated into English, where it reads: “It is the official tick toik [sic] of the carbon dioxide carbon dioxide. This is the official TikTok for BTS.”

And in loyal BTS ARMY fashion, fans naturally decided to roll with the error and turn it into a branch of the BTS fandom.

“Follow carbon dioxide pls,” one person joked, as someone else declared: “I Stan 2CO2.”

Another accurately pointed out: “If they are carbon dioxide then we are plants. We can’t live without them.”

“BTS who? All I know is Carbon Dioxide.”

BTS’ TikTok account isn’t the only reason they’ve been trending lately, after news their next documentary is underway surfaced online.

The boys have another docu-series in the works called ‘Break The Silence’ and fans can’t wait for all the new content showing the boys’ daily lives.

Just months after Jin, Jungkook, J-Hope, Jimin, Suga RM and V starred in the 2019 ‘Bring The Soul’ series that chronicled their journey through the ‘Love Yourself’ world tour, fans have spotted they’ve registered the filming of a brand new one.

The boys are well known to be some of the hardest working stars in the industry and before the 2019 doc-series came their 2018 documentary, Burn the Stage: The Movie, so they’re no stranger to opening their life up on film – and the ARMY couldn’t be happier they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

Apparently the same director used for their previous documentaries, Jun-Soo Park, is being enlisted again, and fans are now hoping for a deeper insight into the boys’ lives from their own perspective.

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Interpretation & Translation News

Daniel Ward argues that AI is supplemental to human communication, not a replacement

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Now that we’re about 25 years into the communication revolution and artificial intelligence has become the focus of the technology sector, predictions abound that faultless automated translation and interpretation systems will soon obviate the need to speak different languages and voice recognition technology will replace the tasks of typing, writing, and even reading. No doubt these technological innovations are enhancing our communicative capacities, but our human desire to communicate is too strong to permit us to give up personal avenues of socialization, so they should be seen as additional means of communication rather than replacements for direct human interaction.

One of the most challenging and revolutionary things artificial intelligence (AI) can do is speak, write, listen to, and understand human language. Natural language processing (NLP) is a form of AI that extracts meaning from human language to make decisions based on the information. This technology is still evolving, but there are already many incredible ways NLP is used today. forecasts that the global NLP market size will grow from $10.2 billion in 2019 to $26.4 billion by 2024—a compound annual growth rate of 21% over the next five years. That’s a lot of automated calls, texts, and emails, but at the same time, we’re seeing an upsurge in small family businesses with a personal touch, restaurants that push the farm-to-table movement, and artisans that encourage the maker movement.

Over the last decade, free online translators have improved exponentially. Google Translate uses an engine that translates complete sentences using an artificial neural network, linking digital “neurons” in layers, with each layer feeding its output to the next—a model based loosely on the brain.

Neural translation systems are first trained by huge volumes of human-translated text, then they take each word and use the surrounding context to turn it into an abstract digital representation. Next, they try to find the closest matching representation in the target language, enabling much better translation of longer sentences. The latest upgrade significantly enhances the efficiency and accuracy of machine translation by integrating computer vision capacity and AI self-learning capacity that instantly captures and understands multimodal information presented by the speaker. While apps and automation technologies might work for consumers looking to solve simple problems and carry out mundane tasks, more complex uses require human input. Even in the same language, sales messages have to be customized for each target market. Using machine translation to produce nuanced messages for a new market will create a less effective pitch and result in critical cultural mistakes.

The consequences of such errors in global interactions could be catastrophic.

Almost 30 years ago, I witnessed the launch of IBM’s latest innovation—a voice recognition system they claimed would make typing a thing of the past. Soon afterward, IBM’s Deep Blue shocked the world by beating world chess champion Garry Kasparov, thereby proving that computers were capable of the most complex of human reckoning. However, we’re still typing, we’re still joking, and we’re still singing in multiple languages. The U.S. has become more multilingual than ever before.

Communication is much more than words—context, body language, intonation, and cultural inference that help us understand meaning beyond words when we communicate with each other. A machine’s ability to understand human speech is a spectacular achievement, but humans’ desire to interact with each other is so fundamental that we will always be looking for additional means of communication rather than replacing them.

Interpretation & Translation News

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ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. — The Navajo Human Rights Commission, in partnership with Navajo Technical University and the Navajo Interpreters Association developed a Navajo language translation program, which focuses on Navajo interpretation and translation in election terminology in preparation for the 2020 elections.

“The goal of this continuing education certificate program is to address the need for Navajo interpreters to be present, available and expertly trained to meet the needs of the Navajo speaking population for the upcoming 2020 election year, so that the Navajo people will be properly informed and represented when they cast their ballots,” asid Dana Desiderio, NTU adjunct professor and graduate student of Diné studies.

Desiderio said the program is borne out of the need for Navajo-speaking people to be counted and represented in their local, tribal, county, state and federal government’s elections.

The continuing education certificate program was designed in partnership with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, the Navajo Interpreters’ Association, the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarships and Financial Aid, the Rural Utah Project, the Navajo Nation Bar Association and the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.

Desiderio said the need to ensure that Navajo voters receive consistent and uniformed voter information is central to increasing informed voter participation.

“NTU developed a curriculum on Navajo interpretation and translation for election, and voting terminology that is to start in January 2020,” Desiderio said. “The program is certified and will allow for Navajo speakers to advance their Navajo language skills toward a more formalized platfo​rm that is similar to the Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese and other world languages that are already in place at polling sites on Election Day across the United States. 

Fluent Navajo speakers who are interested can apply for the Navajo language certificate program at NTU now. Navajo individuals who speak, read and write the Navajo language are ideal candidates. The Navajo Nation Scholarship Office will provide scholarship assistance to those that qualify and enroll into the program.  

“The program will focus on developing the technical skills necessary for a Navajo Interpreter to do consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, sight interpretation and transcription and translation for Navajo-speaking voters,” Desiderio said.

The program consists of five courses, each focused on the areas for proper preparation of election workers: principles and ethics of election procedures, introduction to election and voting terminologies, consecutive and simultaneous interpretation, site interpretation and translation, and a capstone course that will test each student’s skill in context.

Each student’s progress toward successful completion of the program will be evaluated. Students must complete each course with a grade of B or higher and must score at least a B on the exit examination. The exit exam will be facilitated by the Navajo Interpreters’ Association. 

The programs does have prerequisites: people must be above average proficient in technical language in English and Navajo and have good command of both languages, especially in the areas of terminology, legal terminologies, etc.

Proficiency will be measured with an entrance interview consisting of five questions given in English and five questions given in Navajo by the Navajo Interpreters’ Association. Successful interviewees will be admitted based on the strength of their answers. 

With the successful completion of the exit exam, individuals may be hired as a Navajo translators and interpreters for 2020 elections and other special elections in their districts.

“Fluency in the English language is the standard for non-Navajo election authorities. No government across the United States gives attention to effective Navajo language assistance until Navajo Nation entered settlement agreements with county state authorities. Standardizing interpretation in Navajo is not only thinking outside the voting rights box but also an initiative to preserve our Diné language.” said Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Commission. 

More information on the certificate program is available by contacting Dana Desiderio at or contacting the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission at (928) 871-7436. 

Information provided by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission

Interpretation & Translation News

Sharon Choi is an aspiring filmmaker who has a legion of fans online thanks to her work interpreting for Bong Joon-ho this awards season.

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That also meant viewers watching at home saw a lot of a young woman on stage with him: his interpreter Sharon Choi.

Choi — who, according to the Guardian, is a 25-year-old Korean American living in Seoul — has been a staple during the awards season as the Parasite squad slowly conquered Hollywood.

“I’m just a huge fan of this film and all the filmmakers. So it’s been great,” she told the Hollywood Reporter last month.

She’s been working with Bong since May 2019, when the film won the top prize at the Cannes film festival, according to the Korea Herald.

Bong’s jokes and speeches have charmed fans and industry figures alike, but many have praised Choi for her nuanced and careful interpretation and delivery of his remarks.

“I’m always super anxious,” she told the Hollywood Reporter of appearing on stage before some of the biggest stars on earth.

“She has a big fandom,” the director told the same outlet. “She’s perfect, and we all depend on her.”

Indeed, Choi was the subject of a ton of internet love during Sunday’s show. Lulu Wang, the writer and director of The Farewell, and Henry Golding, star of Crazy Rich Asians, are among her fans.

Fans have even made videos for Choi, celebrating her work this season. Rachel Choi, an 18-year-old fan who lives in Georgia and who tweets at @squashgalosh, made a video because she’s been struck by how well the interpreter does her job.

“Often times interpreters will translate the words but not the emotions or ideas as well, so I think Sharon’s doing an amazing job,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Also as a Korean who isn’t fluent, I feel in awe every time I see Sharon do her thing. She’s so so cool.”

“She’s also so charismatic and charming from the interviews I’ve watched and how the Parasite cast and crew speak of her,” 17-year-old fan Romina Estrada of Los Angeles told BuzzFeed News. Estrada, who tweets under the handle @rominamargie, made a video for Choi, saying she had a new respect for translators everywhere. “This is such a Gen-Z thing, especially on Stan Twitter, where if we see someone who’s talented and popular at the moment, we make fancams for them,” she explained.

Being a translator is not Choi’s only job. She’s studied film at college and is an aspiring director.

Bong told reporters in the press room at the Oscars that Choi was working on a script. “She’s writing a feature-length script,” he said. “I’m so curious about it.” According to the Wrap, the script is about — what else? — awards season.

Choi, through Parasite’s distributor, did not immediately return a request for comment. But as he and Choi walked the red carpet before Sunday’s ceremony, Bong told E! he was grateful for her work — although, of course, it was Choi who spoke for him.

“It’s very embarrassing to translate,” she said, “but he said that thanks to me, this campaign has been a smooth journey.”

Interpretation & Translation News

For migrants who speak Mayan languages, a grassroots group of interpreters is often their only hope for receiving asylum.

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Oswaldo Vidal Martín always wears the same thing to court: a striped overshirt, its wide collar and cuffs woven with geometric patterns and flowers. His pants are cherry red, with white stripes. Martín is Guatemalan and works as a court interpreter, so clerks generally assume that he is there to translate for Spanish speakers. But any Guatemalan who sees his clothing, which is called traje típico, knows that Martín is indigenous. “My Spanish is more conversational,” Martín told me. “I still have some difficulties with it.” He interprets English for migrants who speak his mother tongue, a Mayan language called Mam.

Martín, who came to the United States with his parents in 1999, when he was four, was studying to be an engineer when the trickle of Mam speakers migrating to the Oakland area, where he lives, turned into a flood. In 2014, some sixty thousand unaccompanied minors crossed into the United States, in what President Barack Obama called “an actual humanitarian crisis on the border.” A local immigration lawyer told me that at least forty per cent of the children and teen-agers arriving in the Bay Area were Mam. Martín trained with a nonprofit in San Francisco called Asociación Mayab—which offers workshops in translation for indigenous-language speakers—and then began interpreting. There is bottomless demand. “I could do it three, four, five days a week,” Martín, who also works for his father’s construction company, told me. “Every day.”

One morning in early December, Martín was interpreting for a criminal case in Dublin, east of Oakland. A clerk signed him in—“Buenos días,” she greeted him—and then he met the people he’d be translating for, a Mam husband and wife who had been the victims of an attempted home burglary. Through Martín, the couple sought reassurance from the judge that their immigration status wouldn’t be questioned.

Martín accompanied the husband to the witness box, while the wife waited in a nearby room. Watching a skilled simultaneous interpreter is a bit like watching someone speaking in tongues. As soon as the judge starts talking, the interpreter mutters along, not waiting for the sentence to be over before beginning to translate. Martín relayed the witness’s answers in a low, steady voice, in American-accented English.

The testimony turned on the layout of the kitchen. There are twenty-two officially recognized Mayan languages in Guatemala; all of them use relational nouns instead of prepositions—Mam uses “head” to say “on top of”—and they have complex grammatical rules to describe bodies in space. The witness pinched his fingers and dropped them down to imitate his wife putting cash in her purse. He worked his eyebrows. He didn’t look up when the prosecutor asked a question. He was telling his story to Martín, the only person in the room who understood.

When his wife emerged and was asked to spell her name, she looked at the ground and whispered in Mam, “I will not be able to spell my name. I did not go to school to learn how.” But she warmed to Martín, glancing over at him as she became more comfortable.

The prosecutor asked, “What is your primary language?”

“The same language I’m using now,” she said. “I only know a little bit of Spanish.” She does not speak English at all.

During the lunch break, Martín and I went out for burritos. In line, a man in a baseball cap approached. “You are doing a great job in there,” he said. Martín looked at him, confused. The man lifted his cap. “I’m the judge!”

Guatemala has a population of fifteen million people, forty per cent of them indigenous, according to the most recent census. In the past year, two hundred and fifty thousand Guatemalan migrants have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. At least half of them are Mayans, and many speak little or no Spanish. According to the Department of Justice, Mam was the ninth most common language used in immigration courts last year, more common than French. Three Guatemalan Mayan languages made the top twenty-five: Mam, K’iche’, and Q’anjob’al.

The Bay Area is unusual in that Mam-speaking asylum seekers may be able to access in-person court interpretation. The vast majority of indigenous-language interpretation in the U.S. is done over the phone, by for-profit companies such as Lionbridge and S.O.S. International. Credibility is an official factor in a judge’s assessment of an asylum claim, and much can be lost on the phone. The quality of telephone interpretation also varies wildly. Martín says that he took the exam to become a Lionbridge translator, and, to test the company, invented extra material, a cardinal sin for translators. He passed anyway. (Lionbridge declined to comment.)

The U.S. government claims to provide proper translation at all points in the immigration process, but, in practice, it rarely offers Mayan-language translation at the border or in holding cells. (A spokesperson from Customs and Border Protection said, “We use a third-party translation service via telephone when we are unable to communicate due to language barriers. We do our best to make sure we can communicate accurately, with everyone, throughout their time in our custody.”) Until just a few years ago, there was a tendency to treat Mayan languages as “dialects.” A former immigration judge told me that all her Mayan-language cases, when they came from Customs and Border Protection, were “listed on the court docket as Spanish.” When Mayan-language asylum seekers can manage some Spanish, it is often not enough to navigate credible-fear interviews—in which migrants must explain why they are afraid of returning to their home countries.

Between April and June, 2018, the Trump Administration adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy, intended to deter migration at the southern border. As part of the policy, parents were forcibly separated from their children. That July, Martín got a call from Asociación Mayab. Lawyers at the border were looking for Mam speakers to translate for detained migrant families. Martín travelled to the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center, in McAllen, Texas, which became notorious for holding children in cages made of chain-link fencing. He ended up translating for a migrant named Mario Perez Domingo, who spoke “barely any Spanish,” according to his lawyer, Efrén Olivares, of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Domingo and his two-year-old daughter had been picked up by a Border Patrol agent who asked for their papers and then accused Domingo of forging his daughter’s birth certificate. The agent asked in Spanish if he had “paid for the certificate,” and Domingo said yes, because Guatemalans pay a small fee to the civil registry for birth certificates. The Border Patrol argued that Domingo had bought it on the black market and that the child was not his daughter, and took her away. (BuzzFeed reported on this separation.)

Domingo didn’t have the language skills to explain. Not even Olivares, his lawyer, could fully understand what had happened. During Domingo’s criminal hearing, he was given only a Spanish-language translator. On the stand, he kept talking about a son who had been taken away. “But he didn’t have a son, he had a daughter,” Olivares said.

By the time Martín got involved, Domingo had been transferred from McAllen, so they talked on the phone. In fewer than five minutes, Martín had the facts of the case. I asked if Domingo spoke Spanish. “Not to the point where he could really explain himself or be able to understand what was going on,” Martín said.

I asked if language was a factor in the separation, and Martín said, “Definitely.” Martín is generally unflappable, but an edge of anger came through. “They know that they can get away with it.” The father was reunited with his daughter only after taking a DNA test, a month later, and then both were released.

Extended detentions or deportations caused by mistranslation or lack of translation are not rare. A former volunteer at the South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley, Texas, the nation’s largest immigrant-detention center, told me that cases can turn on the difference between competent and incompetent translation. A mother held there told non-Guatemalan interpreters that she had had “trouble” in Guatemala because of her “blouses,” which sounds innocuous in English. She meant her huipil, a handwoven blouse worn by Mayans. She was saying that she was persecuted for being indigenous, but the interpreter didn’t understand or explain. The woman’s claim was rejected, and she was deported.

According to a filing by the A.C.L.U. last August, a father accused of a crime was separated from his son without a Q’eqchi’ translator present. During the six-month separation, the child “began to forget his family’s native language, and he suffered extreme isolation because of his inability to speak Spanish, English, or any language common in the shelter,” according to the filing. Another boy was separated “due to father’s alleged mental health problems; child advocates later determined father’s indigenous language may led [sic] to wrong mental health concern.” By the time U.S. authorities acknowledged that there was no mental-health problem, they had deported the father.

Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U., which brought a lawsuit to stop the child separations, told me that, of more than five thousand parents separated from their children, at least eight hundred were deported without them. “A significant number of those were indigenous,” Gelernt said. His team found that half were Guatemalan, and that “ten to twenty per cent” were from indigenous-majority departments, such as San Marcos, Huehuetenango, and Quiché. (Children were taken from their parents before the zero-tolerance policy took effect, and about eleven hundred have been taken since it was ruled unlawful.) “The indigenous population was likely the least able to understand their rights, and may therefore have been more susceptible to losing their children and waiving away their own asylum rights,” Gelernt said.

Both Olivares and Gelernt believe that the system denies basic rights to Spanish-speaking asylum seekers as well, but that difficulties are exacerbated for Mayan-language speakers. “The language barrier contributed, at least in part, to a lot of those separations,” Olivares said.

Then there are the deaths. “Kids dying on the border are Mayan,” Naomi Adelson, the interpreter who trained Martín at Asociación Mayab, told me. Six children have died in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security since Donald Trump took office. Five were indigenous. Jakelin Caal Maquín, a seven-year-old Q’eqchi’ girl, had a fever that spiked on a long bus ride from the New Mexico desert, where she was picked up with her father, to a Border Patrol detention center. She died from a bacterial infection that led to multiple-organ failure after she received no medical care for ninety minutes. Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an eight-year-old Chuj boy, died of the flu as he and his father were shuttled between holding centers. President Trump placed blame for the deaths on the children’s fathers, who had signed intake waivers stating that their children did not need medical care. The waivers were in English, and officials provided a verbal Spanish translation—two languages that the fathers did not speak fluently or at all.

Mayan Guatemalans have a persistent problem: explaining to people that they still exist. The ancient Mayan cities collapsed in the eighth or ninth century, but the Mayan people remained, farming corn in small towns. One archeologist compared it to the fall of the Soviet Union: the structure of life has changed, but the people are still there. All the Mayan languages share a common root, but most of them are mutually unintelligible. Yucatec Mayan is tonal, like Cantonese. K’iche’, the language of the “Popol Vuh,” has six or ten vowels, depending on the dialect. Mam is produced far back in the mouth and comes out softly raspy. The variations are not a mark of being cut off from external influences, the linguist William Hanks told me, but, rather, a sign of development. Mayan languages have had four thousand years to ramify. “Mayans have never been isolated,” Hanks said. In 1990, the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala was formed, and a branching linguistics tree, showing the common origin of all Mayan languages, became a symbol of the Pan-Mayan movement. (Mam emerged from the trunk about two thousand years ago.) There is still debate about which subdivisions should be counted as dialects. (A chestnut in the field of linguistics: “A language is a dialect with an army.”) The introduction to the Academy’s official Mam-Spanish dictionary reads, “Language is the backbone of the culture and cosmovision of a people.”

Last summer, I visited Martín’s home town, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, in the lofty pine mountains near the border with Mexico, one of the coldest parts of the highlands. To get there, I drove through seven distinct language groups in two days. On the mountaintop just before the descent into the valley of Todos Santos, there is no running water—women fetch it from wells with plastic jugs. Suddenly, you start seeing men in cherry-red striped pants watering their vegetable patches.

Nearly everyone in Guatemala has some Mayan heritage, but the indigenous are considered a separate group, identified by language, place of origin, and, for women, colorful clothing woven on backstrap looms. (In Todos Santos, the men, too, wear traje.) Mayan people tend to be much poorer than non-indigenous Guatemalans, the result of a long history of oppression and land theft.

Some Central American migrants to the U.S. have adopted the slogan of the post-colonial immigrants’-rights campaigns in Europe, from the nineteen-eighties: “We are here because you were there.” In 1954, the C.I.A. backed a coup that overthrew a President who was overseeing land-reform measures that included expropriating United Fruit’s holdings. The coup led to a civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996, during which Marxist-Leninist guerrilla groups tried to topple a series of U.S.-backed governments and dictatorships. In the early eighties, the Guatemalan Army believed—often wrongly—that Mayans were susceptible to guerrilla ideology. Soldiers pillaged indigenous communities, raped women and girls, and stole children who survived massacres, putting hundreds up for adoption. (Guerrilla fighters also attacked Mayans whom they believed were informing for the Army.) The Army burned houses and churches as well as cornfields—sacred sources of sustenance for Mayans. Two hundred thousand people died during the war, the Western Hemisphere’s bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century; eighty-three per cent of them were indigenous.

In Todos Santos, which was then a small cluster of adobe houses, the Army openly massacred Mam families, intending to terrorize the population. American Green Berets helped train a special-forces unit called the kaibiles, named for a Mam leader who had evaded capture by Spanish conquistadors. This unit committed the worst atrocities of the war. A Mam man told an anthropologist that, in 1982, soldiers captured an accused guerrilla fighter and summoned the people of Todos Santos to the town square. A soldier cut the man open from his neck to his belly. “Then he took out the liver of the poor man,” the witness said. “He grabbed the liver out, and he ate it just like that, in front of the soldiers, in front of the people. We did not understand.” After the war, a U.N.-backed truth commission found that the Guatemalan government had committed “genocidal acts” against Mayan communities.

Interpreters a generation older than Martín told me that, when they work on asylum cases, they must confront their own traumatic memories. One man translated for a woman who had been separated from her son at the border. He said that it was “living my experience all over again.” The woman described how her son had been pulled from her arms. At first, he was screaming. Then he began hyperventilating, and couldn’t get a sound out. Then the guards took him away.

When the interpreter was ten years old, his mother was kidnapped by the Army. “It was Sunday. I had climbed up into a tree to play with kites. My aunt came out. She’s one of those people with a strong personality, who doesn’t tell you things calmly,” he recalled. “And she said, ‘Come down out of there. They have taken your mom.’ ”

Despite the genocide, asylum status was hard to come by in the U.S., because Guatemalans were fleeing a regime that was supported by millions of dollars of U.S. military aid each year. In 1982, during the height of state terror, President Ronald Reagan met with the Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who was later convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. (The sentence was overturned shortly afterward, under political pressure.) Reagan praised Ríos Montt’s “progressive efforts” and said that he was “getting a bum rap on human rights.”

Indigenous people fared little better after the signing of peace agreements, in 1996. The country was opened to international mining and to palm-oil corporations, which have steadily encroached on indigenous land, forcing families to move to Guatemala City. Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj, a K’iche’ anthropologist and a public intellectual, wrote in the Guatemalan newspaper El Periódico, “The urban children, cornered into selling on street corners, were left choosing between an education for the poor that could only provide them with a survival-level job, or joining the gangs.” Interpreters told me that racism and even violent discrimination are such ingrained features of Guatemalan life that some Mayan asylum seekers don’t think to mention them in credible-fear interviews. They have plenty of other reasons to flee: gangs, death squads, domestic violence and femicide, disillusionment with a series of corrupt Presidents, and climate change, which is drying out cornfields—a spiritual as well as an environmental crisis. Guatemalans confound the distinction between “economic migrants” and the types of persecution that the U.S. requires to grant asylum.

Today, Todos Santos is a tangle of “remittance houses,” several stories tall, built of concrete block, with columns and fanciful towers, blue reflective windows, American and Guatemalan flags painted along the trim, and ears of corn strung out to dry on balconies. Most of the houses remain unfinished, with fingers of rebar reaching up from the top floor. Migrants send back money in installments and build floor by floor, until they decide to come home or are deported. The town runs on remittances: a store selling pens and paper is called Librería California, and coyote services are available for Spanish and Mam speakers. In the cemetery just outside town, on the day I was there, a large family was visiting. The son—the only family member who spoke Spanish—pointed to the raised graves, which are painted red, white, and blue, and told me, “Those are the ones who died up there.” The graves were decorated with plastic flowers and offerings of bottles of water with the caps unscrewed.

María Martín (no relation to Oswaldo) is the single staff member in Todos Santos of conamigua, a Guatemalan government agency that works with migrants and retornados, a local euphemism for the deported. Her office is in the town hall, where posters warning against migration are captioned “This message was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.” Martín told me that conamigua’s recent efforts to dissuade migrants included a radio spot in Mam with marimba music. She translated the ad: “Here in Todos Santos Cuchumatán you can excel if you stay and start studying. The trip to the North is very risky and you could encounter death, and then your family would have to suffer and cry.”

Martín admitted that her job is nearly impossible. In her spare time, she volunteers with a group that provides free translation via phone for Mam-speaking migrants in the U.S.

Other people in town work for the for-profit phone-translation services. The wife of a pharmacist who moonlights as an interpreter says that her husband is constantly getting calls from the border in the middle of the night. Oswaldo Martín said that the services “lowball” translators—they offered him forty-five cents a minute for highly skilled work—but pay that is low in Oakland is high in Todos Santos.

Most people from town who leave for the U.S. try to make it to Fruitvale, the part of Oakland where Martín lives. Pedro Pablo Solares, a specialist in migration and a columnist for the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, travelled throughout the U.S. between 2010 and 2014, providing legal services to migrants. He found that the “immense majority” of Mayans were living in what he called ciudades espejo—mirror cities—where migrants from the same small towns in Guatemala have reconstituted communities in the U.S. “If you are a member of the Chuj community and that is your language, there are only fifty thousand people who speak that in the world. There’s only so many places you can go to find people who speak your language,” Solares told me. He described the migration patterns like flight routes: Q’anjob’al speakers from San Pedro Solomá go to Indiantown, Florida; Mam speakers from Tacaná go to Lynn, Massachusetts; Jakalteco speakers from Jacaltenango go to Jupiter, Florida.

“I grew up my entire life speaking Mam, and there is no word for asylum,” Henry Sales, a twenty-seven-year-old immigrant from San Juan Atitán, told me. Sales and Oswaldo Martín were at the César E. Chávez branch of the public library, in downtown Fruitvale, where they met with other Mam speakers to work on a Mam-English legal dictionary. Sales, who came to the U.S. a decade ago, has jobs at several libraries, translates in immigration court, assists a linguistics Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, and gives Mam classes. He has a radiant smile and tends to dress formally, down to his shined shoes.

Martín had the idea for the legal dictionary when he came across a Mayan health handbook, which listed ailments in English, Spanish, K’iche’, and Mam. Translation isn’t just words to words; it’s about expressing whole ways of experiencing the world. There has been a long-running debate in Guatemala about whether non-indigenous doctors should be trained to diagnose and treat “xib’rikil ”—“el susto,” in Spanish—“fright” or “spirit attack,” a common illness among Mayans that can involve symptoms ranging from depression to diarrhea and anemia. According to Mayan cosmology, the malady can be caused by violent events, or by the appearance of a “restless soul” who has died in a traumatic way and is unable to find peace.

Sales and Martín speak different dialects of Mam. Though they understand each other, Martín said that Sales’s Mam sounds more like French—airy, with swallowed consonants—while his is more like Portuguese—choppy and guttural. Even I can hear the difference. In addition to the legal dictionary, Sales and Martín want to provide workshops in various dialects for Mam translators. The U.S. government does not offer certification tests for Mam interpreters—Martín said that he had once been challenged by an opposing lawyer for not being certified—and Sales and Martín believe that learning more dialects could further “professionalize” Mam interpreters.

They take notes during asylum interviews and court cases, in order to include important terms in the dictionary: “credible fear,” “release,” “gangs,” “stipulate,” “persecution.” “What we’ve been doing is try to come up with a definition of ‘asylum’ and translate that to Mam,” Sales said.

Their shorthand translation is “To be held and looked after by the law.” “Qlet tun ley.”

A longer, more complete definition that Sales teaches in Mam class is “Jun u’j tun tkleti tij qa xjal aj kyaj tun tkub’ tb’yon ay bix qa tk’awali tu’x txuli / tchmili.”

“A paper that saves / protects you from people who are harming / attempting to kill you and your children, your wife / husband.”

I asked Sales and Martín if Mam speakers generally understood their explanation of asylum, and Martín said yes, but he mentioned another problem cited by nearly everyone I interviewed. “A tendency for a lot of indigenous people is to agree to everything being asked of them in Spanish,” he said, even if it’s incorrect and self-incriminating. “A lot of times they get deported,” Sales said. Marianne Richardson, a graduate student at the University of Texas, studies access to indigenous languages at the border in Arizona, where many Mayan migrants cross. She told me that, often, when the Border Patrol asks a migrant if he or she speaks Spanish, “the person will just say ‘Sí.’ And they’ll be, like, ‘O.K., can I continue in Spanish?’ And the person says, ‘Sí.’ But there’s not really a comprehension check.” She added, “Some of them are really intimidated by an authority figure with a gun and just want to do what they’re told.”

Sales said, “We have been taught that, if we don’t speak Spanish, we are stupid.” He said that, when he first went to school in Guatemala and didn’t speak any Spanish, “I couldn’t defend myself.” The other kids would say he was dumb, and he just answered, “Yes, yes,” without understanding. “It happened five hundred years ago,” he said. “They came and told us, ‘You are savages.’ ”

San Francisco’s immigration court convenes in an unmarked skyscraper in the financial district. On an August morning, a list of the names for the day’s cases was tacked onto the wall of a waiting room: Manzares, Martínez, Mendoza, Misa. Eleni Wolfe-Roubatis, the director of Immigrant Legal Defense, a nonprofit, told me that about thirty per cent of the court’s cases involve Mam speakers, but they are hard to pick out. Unlike other Mayan groups, which have distinctive last names, Mam speakers were named after Spanish people whom they worked for as semi-enslaved peons. A common last name among Mam people is Pablo, for former peons of a certain Don Pablo.

In a courtroom handling family cases, children were scrambling over the furniture and crying. Some migrants didn’t have a lawyer, but every case involved an interpreter. The judge, Scott Gambill, told the room, “All these family units have to be heard in a given time. This is a high priority for the Attorney General.” In 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions imposed strict quotas and performance metrics to speed up immigration reviews. Sessions announced that family-unit cases were to be heard within a year. Critics saw the move as a way of deporting more people, faster. The change meant that judges were required to rule on at least seven hundred cases per year, which the National Association of Immigration Judges has said impinges on due process.

Judge Gambill repeatedly told asylum seekers and lawyers that he was sorry their court dates were so soon. The speed gave the proceedings a feeling of hitting a language barrier even when there wasn’t one. The judge mentioned “riders” several times before I understood that he meant children.

The day’s session was intended to set future court dates and check if asylum seekers had changed their address. Migrants tend to move frequently, and if they miss a notice to appear they are ordered deported. One of the asylum seekers was a woman in an elaborately flowered traje, with a hot-pink smartphone tucked into the sash. Did she speak Spanish? the judge asked. Her lawyer, Alexandra Bachan, said, “She’s going to identify herself, but beyond that . . . ” She made the gesture for “so-so.”

Leonel Pablo, a young man with gelled hair, ripped jeans, and spotless white sneakers, was in court without a lawyer. The judge asked, through a Spanish-language interpreter, “Do you want a Mam translator?” Pablo looked confused. Then he said, “Sí,” and was quiet.

During a break, Bachan stepped outside with Pablo. When they returned, Bachan told Gambill, “I’m probably crazy, but I’m taking the case.”

“Delightfully crazy,” the judge answered. “You are stepping into the gap.” The whole asylum request would have to be assembled and argued in three months. Pablo was alone in court that day, but his “rider”—his eight-year-old son, Hugo—was part of his family unit.

Pablo told me in broken Spanish that he had tried to secure a lawyer: “I call, but they are all busy.” On finding Bachan, he said, “Estoy muy agradecido con mi Diosito lindo,” a very Guatemalan way of saying that he was thankful to his sweet God. He had come to court that day planning to represent himself in a language he could barely speak.

From court, I walked to the office of Ilyce Shugall, at the Bar Association of San Francisco, where she runs the Immigrant Legal Defense Program. Shugall was sworn in as an immigration judge in 2017 but stepped down last March. She wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explaining that, under Sessions’s immigration rules, she could no longer guarantee that asylum seekers had the opportunity to fully present their cases. (In January, 2019, access to asylum was further restricted, when the Trump Administration began to require that many asylum seekers remain in Mexico while waiting for the disposition of their cases.)

I asked Shugall whether indigenous asylum seekers got due process. She let out a big sigh. “Sometimes,” she said, and paused. “They were definitely the most challenging for me as an immigration judge.” She explained that the accelerated schedule has disproportionately affected “rare-language speakers.”

“I wasn’t going to give short shrift to people who clearly weren’t understanding things,” Shugall said. “It was just really time-consuming, and I know not all judges do that.”

Shugall worried less about Mam speakers—since groups such as Asociación Mayab can sometimes provide interpreters—than about the K’iche’ and Q’anjob’al speakers who work as day laborers in the Central Valley. “If you speed up their case, it just doesn’t give them as much time to find various resources, like people who can help them with language, and then find counsel, and get the documentation they need from their village,” she said.

“I found it incredible that people who come from remote villages in Guatemala, do not read or write Spanish or English, do not speak Spanish, and are living in rural Central Valley, California, with no transportation, make it to San Francisco for their hearings,” Shugall said. “As long as you have the proper language interpreter at their final hearing, that is the culmination of everything, and they have an opportunity to speak in their language and tell their story, which I’m sure is very gratifying for them in many ways, to finally be able to explain to someone in great detail why they are where they are right now.”

One Saturday, I attended a Mam class that Henry Sales teaches at Laney College, in downtown Oakland. It was Labor Day weekend, but thirty people showed up, a mixture of social workers and public-school teachers. Dave Rose, a teacher at Fremont High School, said that he has a total of a hundred and forty students. “Sixty of them speak Mam,” he said. The other teachers gasped.

Soon Sales was running us through the alphabet. The letters were familiar but the sounds were not. There were glottal stops (as in “uh-oh”), and apostrophes that made a little popping noise out of the preceding consonant. We could barely get out chjonte, “thank you.”

Sales showed us how to pronounce “tz’,” a hard buzz. “It’s not in the books, but our elders say the sounds are from the sounds of forests and animals,” he said.

Rose wanted to know how to say “You’re late.” Yaj matzuli. “I’m going to use that a lot,” he said.

During a break from pronunciation drills, Sales gave some background on Mayan culture. “I don’t call myself Latino or Hispanic,” he said. “No offense to them. But the Spanish have been the enemy.” Sales told us about the biggest event of the year in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, a horse-riding festival that commemorates an anti-colonial rebellion. “The ancestors saw horses for the first time when they were enslaved by the Spanish,” Sales said. They danced, as an offering, before stealing the horses and escaping into the Cuchumatán Mountains.

The festival is a major holiday for the Mam. Men wear hats with feathers, to represent roosters and a masculine spirit, and gallop through town, past onlookers and marimba bands. Martín told me that he rode in it for the first time in November. It was his first trip to Guatemala in twelve years. He visited family in Todos Santos, and began to set up partnerships to teach Bay Area interpreters various Mam dialects via Skype.

The trip turned out to be an education in what Martín called “Mam modalities and etiquette,” a way of being that is subtly different from that of Californians. “I would describe Mam etiquette as addressing everyone in the room and not taking up space,” he said. “I’m here, but I’m not here for me—it’s for you.”

Interpretation & Translation News

European Union Looks for 50 Translators with ‘Perfect Knowledge’ of Irish

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Less than two years before the Irish language’s derogation status is expected to expire in 2022, the European Commission is actively seeking 50 Irish-language translators.

According to a February 13, 2020 post on the European Union’s career page, the linguists will work from English into Irish and may be based in Brussels or in Grange, Ireland. Monthly salary is reported to be approximately EUR 4,500, and successful candidates will be offered four-year contracts, which can be renewed for a maximum period of up to two years.

Applicants must be EU citizens with a “perfect knowledge” of Irish and a “thorough knowledge” of English, as well as a university degree of at least three years in any discipline, translation-related or not.

Sisyphean Recruitment
This call for applications is the latest in the EU’s efforts to put Irish on equal footing with its 23 other official languages.

Recruitment challenges have dogged Irish since it became an official language of the EU in 2007, and the resulting derogation status has exempted European institutions from providing Irish translation and interpretation.

In December 2015, the European Council scheduled the gradual reduction of the language’s derogation, stipulating that, if there are enough translators available by June 2021, the derogation will end completely by January 2022.

The pool of fluent Irish speakers is small to begin with: Ireland’s Census 2016 showed that about 74,000 people spoke Irish on a daily basis, a mere 1.7% of Ireland’s total population of 4.75 million.

Previous hiring campaigns have had limited success. In 2016, the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) announced 62 openings for Irish translators, but ultimately found only 10 suitable linguists. Less than a year later, in 2017, the European Parliament struggled to fill 23 of 26 open posts for Irish linguists.

Irish Translation As a Career Path
Mary Phelan, Chairperson of the Irish Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association (ITIA), is optimistic that, this time around, the EU will be able to find enough qualified Irish translators.

“We have known for many years that these posts were coming down the tracks,” Phelan told Slator.

Efforts made by the European Commission include the European Masters in Translation (EMT) network, which recognizes quality translation programs. Two Irish universities, each of which offers an MA in Translation Studies for Irish, are part of this network. Each year, students in these programs visit Brussels to meet EU translators and learn about their work.

Phelan said that the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) has also sent translators to speak to undergraduate and postgraduate students about translation as a career.

At the national level, as part of the Advanced Irish Language Initiative, the Irish government approved EUR 1.6m in September 2019 to support nine Irish language courses at higher education institutions.

Only 11 English-to-Irish translators are currently listed in the ITIA’s database, but Phelan points out that association membership is optional. Foras na Gaelige, an organization that promotes the Irish language throughout Ireland, offers a seal of accreditation for Irish translators. Foras na Gaelige’s list of accredited Irish translators consists of 209 individuals who are “available on a full-time basis.”

Phelan suggested that some current EU employees might also be promising candidates, noting that a translation degree is not required to work as an EU translator.

“There are probably many others who have fluent Irish but are currently working in different areas and who may consider applying for the new translation jobs,” Phelan said.

Interpretation & Translation News

How would you vote if you couldn’t even understand what the candidates were saying?

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Imagine if you tried to watch tonight’s presidential debate but couldn’t understand what was being said. Now imagine if, after several such debates, you went to the polls and found that your questions couldn’t be answered because no one spoke your native language.

For some deaf Americans, this is what elections are like. But SignVote, a new digital campaign from Communication Service for the Deaf, aims to change that and make the voting process genuinely accessible to those for whom American Sign Language, or ASL, is the primary means of communication.

“We have seen improvements with accessibility at live events such as the Democratic debates this year, but there’s still significant work to do,” said Kriston Lee Pumphrey, community engagement manager for Communication Service for the Deaf.

One in four Americans live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control. With numbers like that, disability policy should be a major component of any candidate’s platform—and most of the 2020 Democrats have released theirs already. On Pete Buttigieg’s website, the candidate pledges to “end the shameful subminimum wage” that allows companies to pay disabled workers pennies, and Bernie Sanders has promised to create a National Office of Disability Coordination.

But while many disability platform promises would benefit deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, late-deafened and deaf-mobile citizens, the community has unique needs that can’t wait until after the election to be addressed. That starts with equal access to telecommunications and to information about the political process.

On the SignVote website, deaf voters can access videos in ASL, call the ASL Voter Hotline run by the National Association for the Deaf, read policy recommendations and more.

“For many deaf voters, the majority of the everyday informal political discourse that they have is in ASL,” Pumphrey said. “There is a deep disconnect between the information shared at the dinner table and at the actual polls.”

When debates aren’t translated through onstage ASL interpretation, deaf and hard of hearing people sometimes rely on Communication Access Real-Time Translation, or CART, captioning. But Pumphrey told Adweek that at a recent debate, CART was “useless” because of a weak signal at the venue.

Adweek reached out to NBC News, host of Wednesday’s Nevada debate, to ask whether onstage ASL interpretation will be provided, but they did not respond to a request for comment.

As Pumphrey points out in a SignVote video, deaf accessibility in voting isn’t just about having ASL interpreters onstage at debates and available to answer questions at the polls. It’s also about missing out on large segments of the overall political conversation due to lack of captioning, poor captioning or a total lack of ASL translation on broadcast and cable news programs.

Outlets for the deaf and hard of hearing community often pick up the slack. In the last week, CNN partner Sign1News has covered caucus results, Bloomberg’s Stop-and-Frisk policy and the resignation of the Iowa Democratic Party chairman—all in ASL.

The disability community overall is increasingly vocal on social media through the 2020 election process. As Democratic candidates take the stage in Nevada tonight, activists will livetweet the debate using the #CripTheVote hashtag to discuss disability issues in a nonpartisan way and increase political engagement throughout the community.

CripTheVote has held online town halls with candidates—as it did with Elizabeth Warren in January—and has been pushing for more visibility for disability issues at the debates themselves.

“A lot of these candidates have disability plans on their websites and have spoken in forums, but watching the debates, you wouldn’t know that there is a disability community,” #CripTheVote co-founder Gregg Beratan told ABC News in December.

Interpretation & Translation News

Looking for love abroad? A brief description of Valentine’s celebrations around the world, plus the most important translation of the day.

Finnish Hyvää ystävänpäivää! In Finland, Valentine’s Day is called ystävänpäivä, means “Friend’s Day”, and is more a celebration of friendship and platonic love than romantic love or couples.

Tagalog Gusto mo ba akong maka-date sa Araw ng Mga Puso? Valentine’s Day is called Araw ng mga Puso in the Philippines. The celebration is very similar to in the United States, with school children enjoying cards and candy, and many couples enjoying typical date nights.

Italian (Italy) Cosa fai a San Valentino? In Italy Valentine’s Day is known as La Festa Degli Innamorati, and is celebrated by couples and lovers. La Festa Degli Innamorati is very romantic.

Spanish (Spain) ¿Quieres ser mi pareja? In Spain (and the majority of Latin America), Valentine’s Day is known as Día de San Valentín or Día de los enamorados. It has been celebrated since 1948, after a major advertising campaign popularized it.

Portuguese (Portugal) Queres namorar comigo? In Portugal, Valentine’s day is known as Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day). Much like in Italy, the holiday focuses very much on couples and lovers.
Portuguese (Brazil) Quer namorar comigo? In Brazil, Valentine’s Day (February 14) is not a very widely celebrated date. Instead, Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day) is celebrated on June 12, in much the same way it is celebrated in February in the United States.

Greek Θέλεις να γίνεις ο Βαλεντίνος μου. In Greece, Valentine’s Day is also called Η γιορτή των ερωτευμένων (Lovers’ Day). Flowers, candles, and romantic dinners are common.

Russian Будешь моей Валентинкой? In Russia, Valentine’s day is known as День Святого Валентина (St. Valentine’s Day) as well as День влюбленных (The Lovers’ Day). Though it is mostly celebrated widely, some Russians consider Valentine’s Day to be too Western and commercial, and would rather Peter and Fevronia Day on July 8 be celebrated instead.

Japanese ヴァレンタインの本命はキミ Valentine’s Day is the considered the most romantic day of the year in Japan. School children exchange gifts and cards, and restaurant reservations are popular. Girls are encouraged to give gifts to boys they have crushes on, especially chocolate.

Chinese (Simplified) 你愿意和我过情人节吗? In China, instead of Valentine’s Day, Double Seventh Festival is celebrated. It takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month and originates from a very old tale. Today, more and more Chinese are celebrating this traditional festival again. Still, the Western Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated as well.

Korean (South Korea)
밸런타인데이를 함께 보내주실래요? In South Korea, Valentine’s Day is called 밸런타인데이, a word borrowed from English. The day relates to love, but most of the focus is on the male or more masculine identifying person in the relationship. A woman often gives a box of chocolate to her partner.

Interpretation & Translation News

With a set of quality standards in place, it is possible to make healthcare accessible to limited English proficiency individuals without delaying patient care or interrupting your workflow.

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As many as 1 in 10 working-age adults in the U.S. has limited English proficiency (LEP). Let alone the personal employment and economic implications of this reality, when LEP patients are inadequately represented in healthcare settings, the factor can literally be a matter of life or death.

It’s a scenario that plays out frequently in hospitals around the country: A patient who doesn’t speak English is left to rely on a well-intentioned, but an ill-prepared and untrained bilingual family member to interpret a medical diagnosis. The results range from frustration and dissatisfaction to misdiagnosis and even tragedy.

Sadly, there is no shortage of stories like that of Willie Ramirez, a young man who was left paraplegic after a hospital visit because of the misinterpretation of the word intoxicado as “intoxicated” rather than its true meaning, which implies food poisoning. According to a 2016 survey of 4,586 hospitals by the American Hospital Association, just 56 percent offered some sort of linguistic and translation services, a very slight improvement over the 54 percent recorded five years earlier.

Any clinic or organization that receives federal funds needs to be aware that, according to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, everyone must be able to access services, no matter what language they speak. In addition, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act indicates that interpreters must demonstrate language proficiency in English and their non-English language, knowledge of specialized terminology, and an understanding of ethics for healthcare interpreters.

The bottom line: health care should not be compromised because of language barriers. Yet, nearly half of U.S. physicians say language or other cultural barriers are obstacles to providing high-quality patient care. Why? Well, the logistics of planning and implementing professional interpreter services is certainly no easy task, but the problem many healthcare institutions face is being able to distinguish between quality healthcare interpreting and subpar language services.

Measuring Language Proficiency

In direct contrast with untrained bilingual individuals, such as friends and family members, qualified interpreters have completed formal training in ethics and standards for interpreters, studied medical terminology and the U.S. healthcare system, and had their language skills evaluated using a validated tool that is sure to provide an accurate, objective measure of language proficiency using an established scale. The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) offered by the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages is one such tool. Testing can be outsourced, and then it’s simply a matter of keeping a record of who has been evaluated and the results.

Ethics and Confidentiality

Beyond language proficiency, qualified interpreters will understand what to do when an unknown term comes up. This is where ethics play an important role, and the interpreter will know how to negotiate situations to make sure all information is communicated between parties.

Ethics also come into play when using the patient’s family and friends as interpreters. People close to the patient have a vested interest in the outcome of their care, while an interpreter is a neutral party. Not only does the practice of family members and friends put the patient’s care at risk, but it can also put the patient’s loved ones in an awkward position. Imagine a child interpreting for her mother’s pelvic exam, or a friend interpreting bad news. Terminology aside, these untrained interpreters will likely alter the outcome of the interaction between patient and provider in some way, such as omitting information that they fear will be upsetting to their loved one or incorrectly interpreting a complex concept.

Confidentiality also comes into play when friends and family interpret for patients, as it may expose confidential information that the patient is not comfortable sharing with friends or family. Professional interpreters observe strict confidentiality so that patients may speak freely and without fear that their information will be shared outside of the treating team.

Certified interpreters go beyond basic training and have passed exams that demonstrate their competence to perform the specific task of interpreting in a medical setting. They are also required to maintain their certification with professional development, so you can be sure they’re continually developing their skill sets. While certification is available for interpreters in healthcare in limited languages, there is no accreditation standard or statute that requires certification.

Bilingual staff members can be a boost, but training is required
Bilingual staff members can enhance your ability to provide language services, but they must demonstrate the same competencies as qualified interpreters. For example, since interpreters must have at least 40 hours of training (which meets national training standards) plus a language evaluation using a validated tool, then those standards must apply to your bilingual staff as well if they are to serve as interpreters.

Keep in mind that even if bilingual staff members won’t be interpreting, they must have the language skills to support safe communication with LEP individuals. Bilingual staff should still have their language skills formally evaluated if they’ll be performing their regular job duties in a non-English language environment.

It may be tempting to have your highly-skilled bilingual staff evaluate the language proficiency of fellow staff members in-house to save costs, for example. The problem is that your in-house language proficiency evaluation capabilities are likely very limited. While you may have someone who can evaluate for Spanish, you probably won’t be able to cover all languages. It’s best to measure language proficiency in a way that assures all bilingual staff members are being evaluated with the same tool.

Developing an interpreter services program is best approached as a process
Quality standards can be written into your facility’s Interpreter Use Policy, which can include specific information regarding language proficiency and training requirements for anyone serving as an interpreter. Once established as a policy, the information is easy to distribute to clinical staff and can help guide you as you recruit interpreters and vendors. Establishing quality standards is the foundation for planning and implementing a language access plan that will bring the proper level of interpreter services where they’re needed.

Overcoming language barriers to make healthcare accessible to everyone is more than the right thing to do; quality standards for interpreter services exist to make sure patients remain at the center of their care, with meaningful access to their healthcare providers. With a set of quality standards in place, it is possible to make healthcare accessible to LEP individuals without delaying patient care or interrupting your workflow.

Translation & Interpretation News

Bong Joon-ho and Parasite Sweep the Oscars!

Watch the Korean director give a moving speech with the invaluable assistance of an interpreter:

We are so encouraged to see foreign language film receiving the attention and adulation they deserve! As Bong himself says, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”. Congratulations Bong Joon-ho and the entire Parasite team!

Interpretation & Translation News

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When Japan’s new National Stadium was unveiled last month, visitors were greeted with several examples of oddly worded English on the signage there: “Hello, Our Stadium,” “Joho no Mori” and “Please Push the Under Button,” were but some of the phrases.

Given that the stadium is intended to put Japan’s best face forward to the world at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and that more than a billion dollars was spent building it, you have to wonder why apparently so little thought was given to how the English signs would come across to native speakers.

It’s hardly unusual to find strangely worded or even unintelligible English on the signs, menus, websites and documents that make up Japan’s corporate world. The question is, in a country famous for tight quality control and attention to detail, where English is a compulsory subject at school and where many native speakers — ones who presumably could be consulted for even the quickest proofing — are within reach, why do so many organizations persist in using poor English? Who writes it, and how does it get approved for use?

The root of the confusion
I have a few theories as to what could be behind this phenomenon, which I’ll describe here. Of course, more than one of these could be true in any given situation.

One likely culprit is the use of machine translation rather than human translators. Anyone can put text into a free online translation program, while there are also proprietary versions marketed to companies for internal use. While the quality of machine translation has certainly improved compared with what it was in the past, it still often produces translations that are slightly unnatural at best and complete gibberish at worst. Thus, machine translation is generally better used to get the gist of something written in a foreign language, rather than for producing a polished translation to be printed or published. Too many organizations continue to blithely cut and paste whatever comes out, without thinking about whether the result is accurate or even makes sense.

Organizations that actually employ the services of a human translator will often use one who is unqualified or inexperienced. In many cases, this is someone who is pressed into service to translate as a favor, often for free. The common culprit at the root of using less-qualified individuals or software is a lack of budget allocated for translation. Unfortunately, preparing translated text is sometimes an afterthought.

Another way that some Japanese organizations save money on translation is to ask an employee to do it. There could be a linguistically confident Japanese employee who feels like they can handle the translation themselves or just gets saddled with the job because everyone knows their TOEIC score. In either case, this goes against the general rule in translation that people should only translate into their native language.

In other cases, the English may have been translated properly, perhaps even by a professional translator, only to then come across the desk of an employee who prides themselves on their English ability who thinks they can “improve” the text. It gets worse in the process, but pointing this out to the employee causes a loss of face. Those who have pride in their own English ability may also feel that getting it checked is unnecessary.

Another contributing factor is the Japanese concept of a “native check,” which is when a person proofreads text in their mother tongue. It’s a nice idea but its importance is not universally recognized. Some organizations may like the idea of a native check but making it happen seems like too much of a hassle. Perhaps they have no idea of where to find a native speaker to do it, or they may not have any budget for it. As a result of the lack of checking by native speakers, problems that could have been caught end up going uncorrected.

For a long time, English has been viewed more as decoration than as a communicative device, especially when it comes to advertising and packaging. In those situations, the English is often written in a way that is easy for Japanese people to understand (under the assumption that they are the primary audience), and is viewed as a priority over accuracy. The “Hello, Our Stadium” sign at the new National Stadium is likely an example of this phenomenon.

No longer lost in translation
To check these theories, I contacted members of the Society of Writers, Editors and Translators (SWET), a community of Japan-related writing professionals that was founded in Tokyo in 1980, and continues to be a vibrant group that promotes online and offline networking among wordsmiths and professional practices in their crafts.

The SWET members confirmed that they had witnessed all of the aforementioned factors at play when it came to bad translations, with pride being a particularly frequent one.

Sherry Miyasaka, a former medical translator and editor, also raised the issue of typos, pointing out that English content may be retyped during the formatting or printing process, which allows for errors to creep in. Allotting sufficient time for proofreading, she says, can make all the difference.

SWET members also pointed out factors that should be considered in order to ensure a good translation, ones that may not be given sufficient attention. Frank Walter, who oversees writing, translation and consultation projects for Export Japan, stresses the importance of context, and the need for the translator to have detailed knowledge of the text’s intended use.

Translator and editor Lynne E. Riggs says that the type of English needs to be appropriate for the situation.

“English comes in many different styles and registers; the client side has to learn what it needs for different situations: standard expository writing for permanent signage, informal, popular-register promotional writing for web ephemera, internationally recognizable wordings for site directions, and so on,” she says.

Philbert Ono, travel writer and photographer, adds that a potentially bigger issue than the quality of the English is the quantity of the English.

“Information in English is usually a translation of the Japanese, but often times the translation is truncated and incomplete,” Ono says. “In Japanese, the information can be very detailed, while in English, it is abbreviated. Foreigners are the ones who need the most information, but they usually receive the least amount of it.”

A model project
SWET members are among the dozens of Japan-based writers and editors currently involved in a project funded by the Japan Tourism Agency and managed by Toppan Printing Co. to improve the quality of signage, websites, pamphlets and audio guides for tourist destinations across the country, including temples, shrines, museums and national parks.

The scale of the project is huge — preparation of more than 3,000 texts (averaging 500 words each) in fiscal 2019 alone— and the project is to continue in fiscal 2020. A key feature of the approach is that the texts are being composed in English, based on research by the writers, and are undergoing thorough editing and copy editing processes, rather than being straight translations of existing Japanese signage.

The project has also involved development of a detailed writing and style manual that the group hopes could be used by or become a model for other organizations in Japan. The tourism-oriented guide is based on the “Japan Style Sheet,” which SWET made available online free of charge in 2018.

It’s impressive to hear about the substantial resources being devoted to preparing high-quality English materials at scale. As writer Susan Rogers Chikuba points out, “The manual prepared for the Japan Tourism Agency project and that agency’s commitment to letting qualified English editors have mandate on the ground are huge steps in the right direction.”

Here’s hoping that other organizations in Japan will learn from this effort, and that we’ll see fewer problematic English signs and documents as a result.

Interpretation & Translation News

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The UW Translation Studies Hub, which aims to bring forth translation research and develop translation educational programs at the UW, gathered Jan. 17 with Seattle area interpreters and translators to discuss their work. 

Translation consists of converting written text from one language to another, while interpretation is real-time oral language conversion. 

There are many difficulties that professionals in these fields experience, including irregularity of work, the instability for freelancers, and low pay.

Low salaries were brought up by many of the speakers. Mary McKee, a freelance technical and business Spanish to English translator, said that she cannot afford the living wage rates in our city. 

McKee spoke of stratification in the industry. Those who are just starting out take small low paying jobs to get experience, and then try to work their way up. Those in her field that say translators can make a great living and should be respected are professionals that have made it to those upper levels. Hard work, and a dose of luck, is needed to get there.

According to freelance Russian to English literary translator Shelley Fairweather-Vega, many translators have a noble but defeatist attitude. 

“Of course we don’t do this for the money, we do this for the love,” Fairweather-Vega said. “No one’s ever going to pay us for it.” 

She countered this by saying there is only a certain amount that you can do for love. Translators deserve to be compensated fairly for their time, expertise, and effort. Translation and interpretation are highly skilled professions that require training, Fairweather-Vega noted. 

Russian-English interpreter Yuliya Speroff said that hospitals used to allow family members to interpret, since it would cost them nothing. However, “when it comes to ethics and boundaries, a loved one will not do as good of a job as an interpreter just because they are human and there are rules.”

Cultural views can complicate communication between doctors and family members. For example, in Russian culture, one is not supposed to reveal bad news to loved ones, which would go against American ideas of informed consent and autonomy. 

There is a lot of uncertainty in these roles. Speroff has no control over what jobs her agencies offer to her. One day, she might be offered nothing, and others, she might have three jobs coming in for the same time. She constantly has to check her phone to see job openings, and has to rush to accept the job before all the other Russian interpreters in the area. 

Despite the constant hustle and financial difficulties, the speakers’ passion and love for their field drives them.

Speroff lives for the life-altering medical appointments. She is happy that she can be there to help people communicate and get the information they need to participate in decision making.

She also loves the variety of work. She might be at school meeting for special needs one day and witnessing childbirth the next.   

What McKee likes about her position is that she has location independence. Only an internet connection is needed for her work, which has allowed her to work remotely in Thailand, Mexico, and Argentina.

Speroff noted that in her profession, when things are going as they should, she should seem invisible. She finds it demeaning when physicians ask her, “Do they take their meds?” The patients being discussed are adults, and they can speak for themselves.

When you talk to someone and you don’t understand what they are saying, it is tempting to look at the person you do understand, the interpreter. But, good physicians will talk directly to the patients who are speaking in foreign tongues, without the extra “tell him, ask her, do you know” directed to the interpreter. They will nod, look their patients in the eyes, and sometimes hold their hands.

“I see real communication happening, I am so happy to be in the background,” Speroff said.

The art of translation and interpretation is one that is not often fully understood by the general public, both in terms of what the job entails as well as the difficulties involved. Yet, as much as the discussion focused on the trials and tribulations involved in the speakers’ lives, what bonded them was an immense passion and joy for what they do. 

Interpretation & Translation News

A compelling new documentary shines a light on the Philippines’ biggest moral victory in World War II.

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The Holocaust, a genocide committed by Nazi Germany during World War II, saw the murder of six million Jews, which comprised two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. This was the darkest period in Jewish history: Every country rejected Jewish refugees and there was literally no safe place for them to take shelter.

Even in Asia, the Jews were not safe. When Germany turned its back on China, the Jewish population in Shanghai became vulnerable, especially when the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937. Fears grew that the Japanese might follow Nazi Germany’s policy on Jews. And it did.

Then, in 1939, something close to a miracle happened: The Philippines opened its doors to the Jews. Filipinos welcomed the refugees with open arms and, when World War II reached Philippine shores, they protected them.

A new documentary, The Last Manilaners, shines a light on the stories of the last living Jewish survivors who fled to the Philippines and how Filipinos protected them from the Holocaust and World War II. The documentary will be released on iWant on January 27, coinciding with the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The Last Manilaners is a nod to the last living Jewish refugees who fled to the Philippines to escape the Holocaust. It aims to preserve and propagate the largely untold history of how the Philippines defied every other country and took the Jews in.

The film gathered all the last living Jewish survivors who fled to the Philippines and asked them to tell their story, each survivor narrating how Filipinos protected them and regarded them as family. The survivors are now well into their 80s and 90s, which makes it even more crucial to document their stories.

“If it were not for the Philippines, none of us, none of us, would exist,” says Lotte Hershfield who is one of the last living Jews who found shelter in the Philippines.

“Our lives were equal to those of the Filipinos under the war, and there was no discrimination,” said another survivor.

The documentary is a follow up to the internationally acclaimed Quezon’s Game, a film about how President Manuel Quezon butted heads and outmaneuvered political sharks in Washington to save as many Jewish refugees as he could. The Philippines was able to shelter 1,300 Jewish refugees. After World War II, most of the Jews who fled to the Philippines established new homes in Israel.

To this day, Israel grants visa-free access to all Filipinos, a gesture of gratitude for the Philippines’ opening of its doors to all Jews at a time when the rest of the world rejected them. In 2009, Israel erected the “Open Doors” monument in remembrance of Filipinos’ protection of the Jews during their darkest hours.

Interpretation &Translation News

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Amber Heard is about as talented and passionate as they come, which was on full display this weekend during the Women’s March … where she showed off her ASL.

The actress was one of many celebs who showed up in L.A. Saturday for the fourth annual event — which got started back in 2016 when President Trump was elected. Amber got on stage at one point and gave a heartfelt speech about her role in the fight.

Check it out … while she never outright says his name, it sounds like some of what she’s talking about here might be touching on her marriage to Johnny Depp … which ended in a long, nasty legal battle where allegations of lies and abuse were made.

After talking to the crowd, Amber shared a sweet moment with a fan on the ground … who spoke to her in sign language. Turns out, she’s fluent in ASL — and it definitely shows

Interpretation & Translation News

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When you think of learning a second language in school, you may think of Spanish, French or even German.
Some students are choosing sign language.

Students and educators at Sioux City’s North Middle School are learning sign language as a way to better communicate with the deaf, and hard of hearing.

The idea came from area interpreters, who noticed a limited amount of people familiar with sign language.

Even though the class meets in students’ off time, the class has been so popular they’ve had to add two additional sessions.

Students in the class say they’re pleased with their new ability to communicate with others.

“I think the biggest benefit for them is obviously the start of a second language for them. And just being able to grow their friendships with deaf and hard of hearing kids in Sioux City,” said Sandy Leach, AEA Educational Interpreter.

The class was funded by a donation from Quota International of Sioux City, which has the goal of raising awareness of deaf and hearing impaired issues in the community.

Interpretation & Translation News

Washington state has sworn in its first Native American Supreme Court justice, Raquel Montoya-Lewis, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta Indian tribe. Judge Montoya-Lewis, 51, is only the second Native American person to serve on any state supreme court.

Montoya-Lewis attended University of New Mexico for undergrad, and University of Washington for law school. She also holds a masters degree in social work. She served on the Washington Superior Court from 2015 to December 2019. Montoya-Lewis has been a professor at Western Washington University, and has served as chief judge for three Washington Native American tribes: the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, the Nooksack Indian Tribe, and the Lummi Nation.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Montoya-Lewis spoke about her background, including her father, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribe, and her Jewish mother. Montoya-Lewis expressed the importance of diverse judges. In discussing the Washington Supreme Court building, she reflected, “The first thought I had was that these hallways, and those steps, were not built with people like me in my mind.”

During the swearing-in, there was an invocation from the president of the Quinault Indian Nation, as well as opening and closing songs from Port Gamble S’Klallam Singers. Rabbi Seth Goldstein, a rabbi based in Olympia, Washington performed a benediction. After her appointment, speaking with press, Montoya-Lewis said, “I was raised to remember that I come from those who survived. My ancestors on both sides of my family survived genocide, survived institutional boarding schools, survived attempts to eradicate their cultures, and yet as my father reminded me often, ‘we survived’. I am here because of their resilience, their courage, their intelligence, and their deep commitment to what is just.”

We thought we would take this historic opportunity to explore the languages spoken by the Pueblo of Isleta and Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribes. The history and complexity of the language families associated with these indigenous peoples is fascinating.

First, we must zoom out a bit. Both the Pueblo of Isleta and Pueblo of Laguna tribes are groups of indigenous people who are native to the southwest, specifically New Mexico, and belong to the Pueblo people, or Puebloans. This is the term that became used to refer to these people by the invading Spanish in the 16th century, named after their adobe constructed buildings, which the Spanish called pueblos.

To this day, 100 Pueblos remain, including Pueblo of Isleta and Pueblo of Laguna. Puebloans speak languages from four different language families, which are mutually unintelligible. In Pueblo of Laguna and six other Pueblos, people use the Keres or Keresan language family, which itself has many mutually unintelligible dialects. In fact, there are such extreme differences between Eastern and Western Keres, they are oftentimes considered wholly separate languages, not dialects. The Laguna speak the Kawaika dialect of Western Keres. There are currently about 1,000 speakers of this language.

In Pueblo of Isleta, Puebloans speak Southern Tiwa, a language belonging to the Kiowa-Tanoan language family. The Kiowa-Tanoan family consists of three sub-branches, Towa, Tewa, and Tiwa. Tiwa is the only Tanoan sub-branch that also has separate languages: Northern and Southern Tiwa. Southern Tiwa is spoken at two other Pueblos in addition to the Pueblo of Isleta, and is closely related to Picurís and Taos, languages spoken at other Pueblos. There are three dialects of Southern Tiwa: Sandía, Isleta, and Ysleta del Sur (Tigua). Isleta is the dialect spoken at Pueblo of Isleta, and is mutually intelligible with Sandía.

In 2015 it was announced that, as a part of the school’s transfer from federal to tribal control, the Tiwa language would be taught to children at Isleta Elementary School in Pueblo of Isleta. For more information about current events reauthorization of funding for Native language programs, check out our last article at

Interpretation & Translation News

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President Donald Trump announced that he had signed three bills “to support tribal sovereignty and native culture” in a tweet on Dec. 27. 

It is the first time the President, known for using “Pocahontas” as a slur against a political opponent, has tweeted about legislation for Native American communities, according to

The three bills include compensation to the Spokane tribe for the loss of their lands in the mid-1900s, reauthorization of funding for Native language programs and federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana. 

For the Spokane, the compensation act comes more than half a century after the Grand Coulee Dam flooded more than 21,000 acres of their land. The bill orders the Bonneville Power Administration, an American federal agency based in the Pacific northwest, to pay the tribe $6 million per year for 10 years and $8 million each year afterwards in compensation for the losses of their land. However, the bill also prevents the Spokane from claiming a share of the hydropower revenues generated by the dam, which they were previously entitled to. 

The Little Shell Tribe, based in Montana, has fought for federal recognition since the late 1800s, when treaty negotiations between the tribe and the federal government failed. 

“This has been a long journey for our people and I am proud that it is finally over. We have worked tirelessly in this fight and the United States has finally reaffirmed our existence. This fight has always been about the dignity, identity, and culture of our people. The Little Shell Tribe and its people have, and will always, persist and thrive,” said Tribal Council Chairman Gerald Gray in a post on the tribe’s Facebook page on Dec. 17. 

Meanwhile, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, which became law in 2006 but expired in 2012, will be reauthorized, granting $13 million in funds to smaller groups of Native American students each year starting 2020 until 2024. 

“The history of the United States tells us about the deliberate efforts to eliminate Indigenous peoples’ languages and cultures through forced assimilation, boarding school forced attendance, treaties that have not been honored, and promises not kept,” Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said during debate on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

President Trump’s relationship with the Native American community has been difficult, offending some with his use of the name “Pocahontas,” that of a Native American woman associated with the colonial settlement in Jamestown, as a slur for Democratic presidential candidate and political opponent Elizabeth Warren. But in recent months, the president has acted on several issues that affect the Native American community. On Nov. 26 he created a task force to look into the crisis of missing and murdered women in Native American communities. 

“We remain committed to preserving and protecting Native American cultures, languages, and history, while ensuring prosperity and opportunity for all Native Americans,” the president said in a statement. 

Interpretation & Translation News

Nine Years After Guatemalan Man’s Shooting, LAPD Officers Get Help to Identify Indigenous Languages

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The officer at the front desk of the LAPD’s Rampart station couldn’t understand the language the distraught mother and daughter were speaking. So he called over the intercom for help.

As she listened to the mother speak, Officer Lucia McKenzie identified a familiar rhythm.

“I said, ‘K’iche’?’ and she got super happy, a big smile on her face,” McKenzie said.

K’iche’, spoken by Guatemalan Mayas, is one of many indigenous languages common in Los Angeles’ immigrant communities. Later this month, Los Angeles Police Department officers will begin carrying pocket cards that can help them identify an indigenous language and, if necessary, call an interpreter. The city is home to Mexicans who speak languages such as Zapotec, Mixtec and Triqui, as well as Guatemalan Mayas who speak languages like K’iche’ and Q’anjob’al.

“Unfortunately, we always made the assumption that they were all Mexican, they were all Spanish-speaking and we could get the message to them about building trust, about working with us, in Spanish,” said Al Labrada, a South Bureau commander for the LAPD. “We hadn’t taken the time to identify the key leaders in the community that could help us bridge that gap.”

The need for such outreach became acutely clear in the wake of a 2010 police shooting.

On a September afternoon that year near the intersection of 6th Street and Union Avenue in Westlake, LAPD officers encountered Manuel Jaminez Xum, a 37-year old Guatemalan day-laborer, who allegedly was drunk and threatening passersby with a knife. Authorities said that police repeatedly ordered him — in English and Spanish — to drop the weapon, but that Jaminez raised the knife over his head and moved toward one officer, who opened fire. Jaminez died at the scene.

The shooting, which later was declared justified by LAPD’s oversight body, incited violent protests in the heavily immigrant neighborhood. The fact that Jaminez spoke K’iche’ underscored that there are those in L.A.’s Mexican and Central American immigrant communities who may not be fluent in Spanish.

Shortly after, indigenous Mexican community leaders began organizing training for officers in the LAPD — a department whose force is about half Latino.

More than 20% of Mexico’s population considers itself indigenous; in Guatemala, more than 40% of residents have been classified as Maya.

There is no census count on the number of indigenous people living in Los Angeles. The languages they speak can be as different from Spanish as Chinese is from English, and can contain dozens of variants. There are 32 Mayan languages, for example, said Danny Law, a linguist at the University of Texas at Austin who has participated in the cultural awareness training.

“Just being aware of that possibility goes a long way,” Law said. “A police officer might get the impression the person they are talking to is being uncooperative intentionally.”

Officer Lucia McKenzie at the LAPD Rampart station in Westlake. When a K’iche’ speaker arrived at the station about a year ago, McKenzie called Odilia Romero, a Oaxacan community leader who is part of a network of indigenous interpreters.

Back at the Rampart station that day about a year ago, McKenzie called Odilia Romero, a Oaxacan community leader she had worked with to organize the cultural awareness trainings. Romero helps run the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, a group that promotes the rights of indigenous people and has a network of interpreters. She connected the upset mother to an interpreter who spoke K’iche’.

Soon after, the station had a gang-involved battery case that detectives could follow up on.

“This person left at peace,” McKenzie said. “Normally their voices aren’t heard — they make the perfect victims.”

Advocates warn of mistakes that can occur when those who speak little Spanish are pressed to communicate with a bilingual officer.

“If the first responders — like the LAPD, the Fire Department — don’t know that there’s language diversity, that there’s this group of people, then a lot of things get lost,” Romero said. “If someone is a victim of domestic violence, of a rape, [the perpetrator] can go free if they don’t have an interpreter.”

During the police training sessions, presenters discussed prejudice toward indigenous people within Latin American culture. Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, a labor studies professor at UCLA, told officers, including many from Mexico, that in 2012 the Oxnard School District banned the racial epithet Oaxaquita, or little Oaxacan.

Romero, who works as a Zapotec interpreter, developed friendships with officers. On a recent Sunday, she texted Adrian Gonzalez, a patrol captain in the LAPD’s Rampart Division, saying she heard that officers had swept through a Guatemalan street market and confiscated vendors’ equipment — a rumor he said was not accurate.

“Any time the community has issues, they’ll go directly to her because there’s trust,” Gonzalez said, “and she’ll reach out to me to debunk something.”

Labrada said officers don’t use indigenous interpreters regularly. In most cases, someone like a family member can help out. But in more complicated situations, officers may contact Romero. They can also request to use the LAPD’s phone interpretation service.

The pocket cards, which already exist for Korean and American Sign Language, should make things easier. Assuming that the indigenous person understands a little Spanish, an officer can ask a person in that language what town they are from and whether they speak one of the nine indigenous languages listed on the card, which also contains contact numbers for Romero’s organization.

The all-volunteer Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations has a network of about 150 indigenous interpreters in the U.S. For Mixe languages, they have to call a contact in Oaxaca.

“There’s a large community of Mixe in L.A., but we haven’t found someone that wants to take it on,” said Janet Martinez, Romero’s daughter, who has helped coordinate training.

Efforts also are underway in other California counties to improve relations between immigrant communities and law enforcement.

A soon-to-be published study by the nonprofit group California Rural Legal Assistance examined how indigenous Mexicans living in Kern County are affected when they do not have access to an interpreter during interactions with police. Many of the 200 indigenous residents surveyed reported communicating with a bilingual officer who spoke varying degrees of Spanish. For some residents this was sufficient, if they too were fluent in Spanish. But others could not effectively communicate with officers.

“A cop will ask questions in Spanish and the person will answer in Spanish, and then the cop won’t recognize they’ll have little Spanish fluency,” said study author Marisa Lundin.

One person surveyed, a Bakersfield resident named Austolia who speaks Mixtec and understands little Spanish, said that several months ago police crossed a fence surrounding her family’s property.

Austolia, who declined to share her full name because she fears repercussions from the police, had been outside watering the grass. She said she tried to ask the officers in her limited Spanish what was happening, but they didn’t respond.

Her daughter-in-law, who speaks English, came outside and was told the police had been searching for a stolen car.

“We were very scared because they didn’t say what they were looking for, and I have my grandchildren here,” Austolia said. “They had guns, they had rifles.”

Sgt. Nathan McCauley, a spokesman for the Bakersfield Police Department, said he had been unaware there was a Mexican indigenous community in the county.

“It sounds like an unfortunate circumstance,” he said of Austolia’s experience, adding that police can’t always stop and speak to residents during an active situation. “We would like to communicate with everyone we come into contact with.”

Police in Oxnard have partnered for years with the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project, a nonprofit that works with indigenous communities in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Investigative Services Bureau Commander Sharon Giles said that as the relationship has developed, more indigenous residents are reporting crimes.

“We started seeing the volume of

[applications for]

U-visas increasing,” she said, referring to the visa for immigrant victims of crimes.

Back near the LAPD’s Westlake station, Mexican and Central American vendors lined Alvarado Street across from MacArthur Park on a recent afternoon.

Senior lead officer Robert Solorio chatted with various K’iche’ speakers in Spanish. He greeted a woman cooking tortillas at the entrance of the park who said she spoke K’iche’ — and a little Spanish. Before leaving, he pretended to warm his hands on her stove. She laughed.

“You’d be surprised how these little moments make an impact,” he said. “It’s just me, but to them, it’s the LAPD.”

Interpretation & Translation News

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George A. Sakheim, 96, of Gwynedd, a translator at the Nuremberg Trials who came face to face with some of Nazi Germany’s most notorious war criminals, died Thursday, Dec. 5, of pneumonia at Abington Lansdale Hospital.

In October 1945, Dr. Sakheim had just served two years in the Army in Europe and was stationed in Paris, expecting to go home, when he saw a flier asking for German-speaking interpreters to work at the approaching Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

“I had a conflict, because I really was anxious to get back to college, but then something in me, even at 22, realized that this was going to be historic, it was going to be exciting and unique,” he told the Jewish Exponent in a 2015 article marking the 70th anniversary of the trials.

Dr. Sakheim volunteered and was immediately flown to Nuremberg. The trials began Nov. 20. For the next seven months, he had the extraordinary chance to see and hear Nazi leaders, including Field Marshal Hermann Goering and Rudolph Hoess, commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.

Dr. Sakheim did much of his work from an adjoining room, but when in the courtroom, he recorded his impressions in a journal. In one entry, he described Hoess as being “so casual and calm” on the stand, the Exponent reported.

Dr. Sakheim believed that the trials accomplished two goals. One was to hold the perpetrators accountable for atrocities committed against the Jews. “The second,” he was quoted as saying in the Exponent, “had to do with Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor for the trials, saying these trials exist so that something like this will never happen again.”

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Dr. Sakheim immigrated to New York at age 15 to live with an aunt. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and had just enrolled at Columbia University when he was drafted into the Army in March 1943.

Because he could speak German, Dr. Sakheim was sent for military intelligence training. He fought in Normandy, northern France, and the Rhineland, according to his military discharge papers.

His division helped with the storming of Normandy on D-Day Plus 7, and he was present at the liberation of concentrations camps at Aachen and Cologne.

He was there on April 11, 1945, when the Allied troops liberated the Nordhausen Concentration Camp, his family said in a statement. He recalled seeing Allied generals shaking their heads and pressing handkerchiefs to their noses to mask the smell of unburied bodies.

Dr. Sakheim’s wartime experience formed the basis for a lifetime of writing and giving testimony about the Holocaust, his family said.

In February 2009, Michel Schaffhauser, then the consul general of France in Washington, awarded Dr. Sakheim and nine other veterans the Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest honor, for their part in liberating France during World War II. The ceremony took place at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, where all 10 recipients lived.

After the war, Dr. Sakheim earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, both in psychology, at Columbia University. After an internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York, he earned a Ph.D in clinical psychology at Florida State University in 1954.

In 1948, he had met Ilse Oschinksy, who had fled Germany at age 13 on the Kindertransport to England. They married in 1950.

Dr. Sakheim worked as a psychologist for many years in Maine and then New York. He specialized in treating teenagers and victims of abuse.

“He believed that reaching and supporting young people early in their lives could prevent them from developing psychological problems and could reverse delinquency,” his family said in its statement.

His belief in early intervention led him to create and publish an assessment tool for identifying suicide risk. Later, he created a tool to quantify risk factors for juvenile arsonists. He wrote the 1994 book Firesetting Children.

When not at work, Mr. Sakheim was active in the civil rights and anti-war movements.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by children Ruth and David, and five grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial were pending.

Interpretation & Translation News

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MONTREUX, Switzerland — International swimming’s favorite villain, Sun Yang , endured a spectacle Friday as the highest court in sports held a rare public hearing for an athlete’s doping case.

The high-stakes battle about the eligibility of Sun, a six-time Olympic medalist and a star in his native China, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport quickly descended into confusion. There were translation issues throughout the day and a pitched confrontation between Sun’s mother and opposing lawyers during cross-examination.

At stake is whether Sun, one of his sport’s dominant figures, will be able to compete in the 2020 Olympics. The World Antidoping Agency brought a complaint against Sun to CAS after swimming’s national governing body declined to penalize him for refusing to cooperate with three antidoping officials who traveled to his home in China to retrieve blood and urine samples from him for testing. Sun, 27, requested the hearing take place in public.

The hearing, held in a lakeside annex of a luxury Swiss hotel, was only the second of its kind to be open to the public since the court was established 35 years ago. It delivered an unusual glimpse into how justice is rendered — or isn’t — in the cloistered and often shadowy world of international sports.

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang explains, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the circumstances under which his entourage members smashed the vials containing his blood samples.

Sun’s case, which could lead to a suspension of between two and eight years, is being closely followed by his rivals, many of whom sparred verbally with Sun at July’s world championships in South Korea. Some of Sun’s competitors did little to hide their contempt for him at that meet — one refused to stand on the medals podium with him, and another refused to shake his hand after losing to him — and few argued he should not have been allowed to participate while was facing an open doping case. Sun previously was suspended, in 2014, by Chinese swimming authorities after he tested positive for a banned prescription drug. At the time, Chinese authorities did not disclose the ban to WADA.

The decision on Sun’s future will turn on a fractious three-hour visit by antidoping officials to his home last November that ended when his mother directed a security guard to smash a container containing Sun’s blood with a hammer. Sun’s entourage accused the officials of not having the correct paperwork to carry out their tasks and leave with his sample. He refused to provide a urine sample.

During questioning on Friday, Sun, dressed in a navy suit and polka dot tie, delivered statements that often sounded unrelated to what he was being asked.

“You couldn’t tell if he was being monumentally evasive or if he couldn’t understand the questions,” said Richard Young, an American lawyer making WADA’s closing argument. “It was hard to tell because the translation was so bad.”

Not getting any better. 15 minutes in and Sun Yang’s lawyer is struggling. “I’m sorry for leading but the translation was so bad,” says Ian Meakin QC. “Can you please translate.”

Sun’s legal team had chosen the first translator, but there was confusion from each side on what was being said almost immediately. Halfway through the hearing, both sides agreed to replace the first translator with Ying Cui, a Chinese WADA official who also speaks English.

Lawyers at the hearing said that between 2012 and 2018 Sun had undergone 180 drug tests, of which 117 were out of competition. Of those more than half were carried out by representatives of the company, Sweden-based I.D.T.M., that visited his home the night the vials were smashed.

All of the other tests occurred without incident, the lawyers said, except for one in 2017 when Sun had clashed with a woman on the collection team whom he accused of lacking correct documentation.

Sun later detailed how he and his entourage — which included a personal doctor who has served two doping suspensions of his own — doubted the paperwork and qualifications of the officials conducting the tests. Their frustration only grew after what Sun’s side described as inappropriate behavior by a chaperone, who took several photos and claimed to be a huge fan of the swimmer.

“How are you able to trust them?” Sun said.

Young said Sun’s refusal to cooperate, even if the sample had not been smashed, constituted a violation.

Sun’s mother, Yang Ming, said she became so concerned about what was happening that she had considered calling the police. She repeatedly clashed with another WADA lawyer, Brent Rychener, who pushed her to get to the point of her testimony. At one point, she snapped at Rychener, telling him she had not finished speaking.

Two members of the team that had tried to administer the tests on Sun were allowed to give evidence in private before the hearing. The chaperone accused of filming and taking photos of Sun declined to appear at all, and instead provided only written testimony that was not made public.

The court also heard testimony from Ba Zhen, who has served two doping suspensions for his work with Sun, the first for supplying the swimmer with a banned drug and the second for continuing to coach him while banned. Sun said he sought Ba’s advice on how to handle the three officials seeking samples from him.

“Given you’ve been found guilty of multiple antidoping rule violations, do you think you’re the right person for that?” asked Rychener, the WADA lawyer.

The case has also drawn focus on a general lack of independence in the antidoping process at sports governing bodies. In swimming’s case, FINA, the sport’s governing body, appoints the doping panel that determined Sun had taken a “huge and foolish gamble” with his actions during the failed doping test. But it refused to punish him.

Cornel Marculescu, FINA’s longtime executive director, told Germany’s ZDF television earlier this year that swimming needed to protect its biggest names. “You cannot condemn the stars just because they had a minor accident with doping,” Marculescu said.

Before Sun’s initial hearing at FINA, the organization replaced two officials — an Australian and an American — at the last moment, raising concerns about the process that eventually failed to punish Sun.

Friday’s hearing ended with additional translation confusion when the president of the three-judge panel suddenly spotted a man in a blue shirt to the right of Sun as he gave his closing remarks in Chinese.

“Excuse me, who are you?” asked the president, Franco Frattini. The man identified himself as a translator beckoned over by the swimmer, to make sure his words had been captured accurately. Frattini, visibly angry, told Sun he could not randomly choose people to participate.

“There are some rules,” Frattini said. “It’s not up to you to appear before the court.”

A decision in the case is expected early next year.

Interpretation & Translation News

Sourced from

When Jorge Rodriguez was a medical student, he saw a patient on his surgical rotation who only spoke Mandarin. None of the doctors on the team spoke the language — all they knew was the word for pain. To check on the patient, they would push on her abdomen, ask “pain?” in Mandarin, and use her response to guide her care.

“We didn’t actually know if she understood what we were asking,” Rodriguez says.

Now a health technology equity researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Rodriguez studies the growing need for interpreters and translators in U.S. health care. Patients who speak limited English are at a higher risk of a bad medical outcome than English-speaking patients because they have more trouble communicating with a medical team. Interpreters are expensive, and as U.S. demographics shift toward fewer English speakers, hospitals sometimes see them as an impractical option. To address these needs, some health care professionals are starting to rely on tech.

Virtual interpreting services already offer a nearly endless range of languages and are available nearly on demand. And according to unpublished data collected by Rodriguez, some physicians now resort to using Google Translate — even though it’s not validated for health care settings.

“Access to phone and video increases the number of patients who are having their conversations in their preferred languages,” Elaine Khoong, a general internist and assistant professor of medicine based at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told OneZero. “We certainly don’t have enough in person.” Khoong says technology can help fill gaps in interpreter access, even though what’s available isn’t perfect.

Often, hospitals can’t afford to have a full staff of interpreters. Even though federal guidelines recommend that government-funded health care organizations develop policies to provide for patients with limited English proficiency, there is no additional funding to implement these policies. One analysis found that around a quarter of hospitals with a high need for interpreters did not offer them, and a national study by a health care accreditation body showed that hospitals struggle with interpreter costs. (However, though interpreters do increase the cost of delivering care, when they’re used, the cost of follow-up visits goes down.) Demand for interpreters will likely continue to grow: In 2015, more than 25 million people in the United States reported speaking limited English, and the number of people speaking languages other than English at home continues to rise. Hospitals and health care facilities that don’t typically see patients with limited English proficiency, like those in rural areas, may soon start to treat them.

Unlike in-person interpreters, who can take a long time to arrive at a patient’s bedside, translation technology allows for immediate care. In one Australian hospital struggling with the lag, physicians worked with Dana Bradford, senior research scientist in the eHealth Research Center at Australia’s national science agency, to create a solution.“There were tons of interpreters, but they were always busy,” Bradford says. She developed an iPad app called CALD Assist that comes preloaded with medically relevant phrases — like “Do you have pain?” and “Please swallow” — in 10 languages most commonly used at the hospital so doctors and nurses could talk with patients before interpreters arrive.

However, Bradford says, “it was never designed to replace interpreters.”
Remote interpreters and tech solutions can be less effective than in-person interpreters and aren’t suited to all medical situations. Over the phone, interpreters can’t see patients, which means elements of communication like facial expressions and body language get lost, Khoong says. It’s also harder for patients to feel comfortable and build a rapport with a person behind a video screen who they’ve seen only once. Both interpreters and patients have been shown to prefer in-person interactions to phone or video services, and according to one study, only around 40% of deaf patients were satisfied with video interpreters for sign language.

Even when interpreters or interpreting systems are available, however, many doctors don’t wait to use them, choosing Google Translate instead, Rodriguez says. In an unpublished study, Rodriguez surveyed nearly 180 Massachusetts physicians and found that roughly a third of them use Google Translate in their clinical practice, even though the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine issued an advisory in 2016 cautioning that machine translation programs can be incorrect and that professional translators should be used to ensure accuracy for any written materials. (For example, Google translated “Your child is fitting” from English to Swahili as “Your child is dead.”) Rodriguez has also heard of physicians using the voice feature on Google Translate to interpret conversations in “low-risk” situations, justifying it as the best they could do. “Just like how in hospitals now we take out our phones and use them for flashlights, we similarly look for solutions like that,” he says.

Khoong, who says she had “informally” used Google Translate in her medical practice for written materials, ran a study testing the accuracy of Google Translate for written medical instructions and found that it could accurately translate 92% of sentences in Spanish and 81% in Chinese. However, she says, a small percentage of the incorrect translations were inaccurate in a way that could harm the patient.

As a result of her study, Khoong now takes more care with Google Translate, using it only for written materials in Cantonese, which she speaks. She makes it a point to write on the materials that they were translated by machine, and she translates only short, simple phrases, which the study showed the service is better at.

Bridging the language gap in hospitals using technology without introducing the potential to misunderstand a patient requires focused attention. For now, physicians are on their own when it comes to deciding the most appropriate translation or interpretation method to use in a given situation, and there is little consensus. “Most people would probably say that if there’s some sort of change in diagnosis, you should use a person, or if they’re consenting to a procedure, or starting a new medication,” Rodriguez says, noting that most physicians would probably also agree that end-of-life conversations or decisions should be done in person. “But we don’t have official guidelines.”

Interpreting technologies aren’t perfect yet, but they already play a key role in U.S. health care and will continue to do so. They’re particularly important in health care facilities that haven’t ordinarily treated non-English speakers. “Those are places where machine translation could play a bigger role,” Rodriguez says, and it’s important to have accurate tools for those doctors to use.

They’re also important for rural or underserved areas that might only see a handful of patients who need interpreters or translators, Khoong says. “It wouldn’t make sense to put the huge investment in in-person interpreters. That’s where having phone, video, or machine learning tools are going to be helpful,” she says. “Ultimately, at the end of the day what you’re hoping for is that increased communication results in better health outcomes.”

About our Cantonese Translation Services

This photo was shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 100

Cantonese Statistics/Facts:

Cantonese is a variant of the Yue language branch, a primary branch of the Chinese language. Cantonese is therefore a variety of Chinese. The name ‘Cantonese’ is often used to describe the entire language branch, including some mutually unintelligible varieties of Yue, such as Taishanese. This is due to Cantonese being considered the prestige (the most common and correct variety of a language or dialect) variant of the Yue language branch.

In mainland China, specifically in the province of Guangdong, as well as some neighboring areas, Cantonese is a lingua franca, or common language. It is the majority language of Hong Kong and other regions, including the Pearl River Delta. Cantonese is one of the major varieties of Chinese spoken by overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, and is the predominant variety spoken in the Western World, including the United States, Canada, and Europe. Today, there are an estimated 80 million Cantonese speakers in the world.


Cantonese Dialects:

It is often disputed whether Cantonese is a language or a dialect. In fact, in 2014, Hong Kong’s Bureau of education deleted an article from their website claiming “Cantonese is not an official language” after it garnered much criticism from Hong Kong locals. While some people say that Cantonese is a dialect of Chinese, others insist that it is its own language. Who is right- and how do dialects differ from languages anyway? To quote from The Economist:

“Two kinds of criteria distinguish languages from dialects. The first are social and political: in this view, ‘languages’ are typically prestigious, official and written, whereas ‘dialects’ are mostly spoken, unofficial and looked down upon. […] Linguists have a different criterion: if two related kinds of speech are so close that speakers can have a conversation and understand each other, they are dialects of a single language. If comprehension is difficult to impossible, they are distinct languages.”

So, by linguistic or academic criterion, Cantonese is not a dialect of Chinese. Rather it is a language, as are Shanghaiese, Mandarin, and other kinds of Chinese, which are not mutually comprehensible. Applying a social or political criterion, Cantonese is a dialect of Chinese.

Countries/Territories where Cantonese is spoken


Hong Kong



Cantonese Speaking Country Data:

Country: China

Capital: Beijing
Population: 1.357 billion
Current Government headed by: President Xi Jinping
Currency: Renminbi (CNY)
GDP: 11 trillion
Unemployment: 4%
Government Type: Communist Party of China
Industries: Mining, iron and steel, aluminum, coal, machinery, armaments, textiles and apparel, petroleum, cement, chemical fertilizers, food processing, automobiles and other transportation equipment including rail cars and locomotives, ships, and aircraft, consumer products.


Cantonese History & Development

Cantonese was developed from Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese). The word Cantonese is derived from the word Canton, the former English name of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong. This is the birthplace of Cantonese. Guangzhou was once considered the home of the most perfect form of Cantonese, however, through decades of media and pop culture evolution, Hong Kong is now recognized as the cultural epicenter of the Cantonese language.

Although Mandarin is the standard and official language of mainland China, it has only existed for about 700 or 800 years, while Cantonese history dates back roughly 2000 years. Cantonese is mostly an oral language, and is full of slang and non-standard usage.


Interesting Facts about Cantonese:

  • Spoken and written Cantonese differ, with written Cantonese being very similar to Standard Chinese and Mandarin.
  • Cantonese is generally thought to have six different tones, which are used to differentiate words.
  • Most schools in Hong Kong teach Cantonese instead of Mandarin
  • It can actually be considered culturally inappropriate to speak Mandarin to Hong Kong residents while in Hong Kong. According to the Basic law of Hong Kong, Cantonese is the official language, and should be treated as such.

About our Spanish Translation Services

Barcelona - Park Guell, Spain

Barcelona – Park Guell, Spain

Spanish Language Statistics/Facts:

The Spanish language has 400 million native speakers around the world, making it the second most spoken language, following Chinese. Spanish is wide spread in both North and South America, as well as in many parts of Europe, and has had a long road to becoming the current dominant language it is today. The extensive dispersion of the language was due in part to exploration, conquest, and also to forcible conversion, making Spanish today a worldwide vernacular, as well as one of the UN’s official languages.

Spanish Dialects:

Dialect Region
Peninsular Spanish

(includes Castillian, Andalusian, Murcian, Catalan, Basque, Galician, Exremaduran)

Canarian Canary Islands
Llanito Gibralter
Spanish of the Americas

(includes Latin American Spanish, Rioplatense Spanish, Carribean Spanish)

Equatoguinean Spanish Africa


Countries with Most Spanish speakers:







Spanish Speaking Country Data:


Country: Spain

Capital: Madrid
Population: 46.77 million
Kingdom of Spain: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Currency: Euro
GDP (ppp): $1.19 Trillion
Unemployment: 22.7%
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Machine tools, metals and metal products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, ship building and automobiles, tourism, textiles.


Country: Mexico

Capital: Mexico City
Population: 122.3 Million
Constitutional Republic: President Enrique Pena Nieto
GDP (ppp): $1.14 Trillion
Unemployment: 4.05%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Automobiles, electronics, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, tourism, chemicals, iron, steel, food and beverages.


Country: Argentina

Capital: Buenos Aires
Population: 43 million
Kingdom of Spain: Mauricio Macri
Currency: Argentine Peso (ARS)
GDP (ppp): $583 Billion
Unemployment: 8.5%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Beverages, food processing, motor vehicles and auto parts, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, publishing, furniture leather, glass, and cement.


Spanish History

The history of the Spanish language and the origin of the dialects of Spain begin with the linguistic progression of Vulgar Latin. Castilian & Andalusian dialects developed in the Iberian peninsula  (Hispania) during the middle ages. The emergence of modern Spanish more or less coincided with the re-conquest of Moorish Spain, which was completed by Isabella of Castile, and Ferdinand of Aragón.

Spanish is a member of the Indo-European family of languages. This group of languages originated in the Black Sea region around 5,000 years ago. The wide spread of the Spanish language can be largely attributed to Christopher Columbus, who visited America and facilitated its spread to the natives that he found there.


Interesting Spanish Facts:

  • Spanish is part of the Indo-European family of languages, which are spoken by more than a third of the world’s population. Other Indo-European languages include English, French, German, the Scandinavian languages, the Slavic languages, and many of the languages of India. Spanish can be classified further as a Romance language, a group that includes French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Romanian.
  • To the people who speak it, Spanish is sometimes called español and sometimes castellano (the Spanish equivalent of “Castilian”). The labels used vary regionally and sometimes according to political viewpoint.
  • Spanish is one of the world’s most phonetic languages. If you know how a word is spelled, you can almost always know how it is pronounced (although the reverse isn’t necessarily true). The main exception is recent words of foreign origin, which usually retain their original spelling.

About our Somali Translation Services

"Dadaab, Somalia - August 15, 2011: Unidentified children live in the Dadaab refugee camp where thousands of Somalis wait for help because of hunger on August 15, 2011 in Dadaab, Somalia"

“Dadaab, Somalia – August 15, 2011: Unidentified children live in the Dadaab refugee camp where thousands of Somalis wait for help because of hunger on August 15, 2011 in Dadaab, Somalia”

Somali Language Statistics/Facts:

Somali is a member of the Cushtic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, specifically Lowland East Cushtic. The Cushtic branch is made up of about 40 different languages, which are mainly spoken in the Horn of Africa, Sudan, Egypt, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Of these approximately 40 languages, Somali is the best documented, with academic studies dating back as far as the 19th century.

There are approximately 16-17 million Somali speakers in the world, with about 8-10 million living in Somalia. Somali is also spoken by the majority of the population in the country of Dijbouti, a part of which is encompassed in Greater Somalia, along with the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, and the North Eastern Province in Kenya.

The language is divided into three dialects: Maay, Northern, and Benaadir. The Northern dialect (also known as Northern-Central) is considered Standard Somali. The Northern dialect has historically been used by renowned Somali poets, as well as the political elite, and is often noted as the most prestigious dialect. Benaadir, also known as Coastal Somali, is primarily spoken on the Indian Ocean seaboard, and is mutually intelligible with the Northern dialect. Maay is primarily spoken by clans in the southern regions of Somalia, and its use extends from the southwestern border with Ethiopia to an area close to the coastal strip between Mogadishu and Kismayo. Maay is not mutually comprehensible with Northern Somali or Benaadir, and differs in sentence structure and phonology. It is also not generally used in education or media. However, Maay speakers also use Standard Somali, which is often learned via mass communications and urbanization.


Somali Dialects:

Dialect Region
Maay Southern Somalia


Northern Somalia


Benaadir Coast


Countries where Somali is spoken:

Federal Republic of Somalia




Somali Speaking Country Data:

Country: Somalia
Capital: Mogadishu
Population: 10,251,000
Federal Parliamentary Republic: President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Currency: Somali Shilling
GDP (ppp): $5.896 b
Unemployment: 70%
Government Type: Federal Republic
Industries: Mining, sugar refineries, livestock, and telecommunications.

Country: Djibouti
Capital: Djibouti
Population: 906,000
Parliamentary Republic: President Ismail Omar Guelleh
Currency: Djiboutian Franc (DJF)
GDP (ppp): $2.377 b
Unemployment: 59%%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, and agricultural production.


Somali History

The Somali have an intriguing history. The land they occupy today belonged to the Aksum Ethiopian Kingdom from the second to seventh centuries AD. The Somali are said to have migrated from present day Yemen to the land sometime around the 9th century AD. Somalia was later colonized by the British, which led to the widespread use of English in the country.

Somali has been the official language of the Somali Republic since 1972. It was standardized under the rule of Siad Barre. Somali remained the dominant language in the war stricken country, even after the collapse of the central government in early 1990s.

The Somali country and people have had a long period of tribal differences and civil war. In 2012, however, the first permanent central government was established, the Federal Government of Somalia. The war still continues.

Interesting Somali Facts:

  • Somali is spoken by the majority of people in Somalia (>85%)
  • The Somali were colonized by both France and Britain before attaining independence in 1960.
  • The majority of Somalis are Sunni Muslims

About our Slovak Translation Service

Image of Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia during sunset.

Image of Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia during sunset.

Slovak Language Statistics/Facts:

Slovak, an Indo-European language, is the official language of Slovakia. It is spoken by over 5 million people in Slovakia, and over 7 million people worldwide. Slovak speakers constitute more than 84% of the total Slovakian population, with other languages in Slovakia including Hungarian, Roman and Ukrainian.

The Slovak language is closely related to Czech, and generally the languages are considered to be mutually intelligible. (Read on for more information on the intricate and expansive history of the Czech and Slovak languages!)

Slovak Dialects:

Dialect Region
Northern Slovak Northern Slovakia
Central Slovak Central Slovakia
Western Slovak Western Slovakia
Lowland Slovak Outside of Slovakia; Serbia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia


Country where Slovak is spoken:

Predominantly Slovakia Republic

Slovak Speaking Country Data:

Country: Slovakia
Capital: Bratislava
Population: 5,400,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Ivan Gasparovic
Currency: Euro (EUR)
GDP (ppp): $132.4billion
Unemployment: 12.8%
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Industries: Food and beverage, heavy and light machinery, metal products, electrical apparatus, rubber products, vehicles, and ceramics.


Slovak History

The Slovak language arose from the language of the Slovene people, the Slavic dwellers of present-day Hungary, Slovenia, and Slavonia, then referred to as Great Moravia. The language first arose in the early 10th century, after Great Moravia was destroyed in c. 907. During this time, the language existed as several Slovak dialects.

By the 10th century, the Slovak dialects had already been grouped into the three modern-day groups (Western, Central, and Eastern Slovak). The very beginnings of the Slovak language can be traced back to the 6th and 7th century, but in general, Slavic linguists agree that it was in the 10th century that the Slavic languages, including Slovak, had become distinct enough to be referred to as totally separate languages.

With the installation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, Slovak finally became an officially recognized language for the first time in history, along with the Czech language. Later, in 1920, the Czechoslovak language (in which Czech and Slovak were seen as two official dialects of one language) was established as an official language. During this time, Slovak became strongly influenced by the Czech language.

Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993, and with this split, the Slovak language became the official language of Slovakia.


Interesting Slovak Facts:

  • Slovakia has the most castles and chateaux per capita in the world
  • Slovakia has the only capital in the world that borders two countries. The capital, Bravislava, borders both Austria and Hungary.
  • Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech and Slovak languages have remained close, culturally. Whether the Slovak language will continue to develop, separating itself from the Czech language even further as time goes on, linguists are divided. Continued observation of the languages will be the only way to know, providing us a rare glimpse into a rising language’s evolution.

About our Sioux Translation Service

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA, USA, OCTOBER 13, 2012. The San Manuel Band of Indians hold their annual Pow Wow in San Bernardino on October 13, 2012. Dances include the Grass, Chicken and Fancy dances.

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA, USA, OCTOBER 13, 2012. The San Manuel Band of Indians hold their annual Pow Wow in San Bernardino on October 13, 2012. Dances include the Grass, Chicken and Fancy dances.

Sioux Language Statistics/Facts:
Sioux is a language spoken by natives of North America. It is also a term that is used to refer to the natives of the great Sioux Nation. The group is comprised of three major dialects: the Santee, the Lakota, and the Yankton-Yanktonai. Today, the Lakota is the main dialect.

Before the 17th century the Sioux lived in Minnesota, around Lake Superior. However, due to conflict with other natives, they were eventually displaced to the plains. There they adopted a nomadic lifestyle, in which their main activity was buffalo hunting. The Santee generally live in Dakota, Minnesota, and Northern Iowa. The Yankton and Yanktonai generally live in the Minnesota River area. The Lakota people generally live in the great plains of North America. The total number of Sioux speakers is roughly 160,000.

Sioux Dialects:
Dialect, Region
Lakota, Northern Nebraska, Southern Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Canada, and also Northeastern Montana.
Yankton-Yanktonai, Western Dakota
Santee, Eastern Dakota
Sisseton, Eastern Dakota
Wahpeton, Eastern Dakota
Wahpekute, Eastern Dakota

Countries where Sioux is spoken:
United States

Sioux Speaking Country Data:

Country: United States
Capital: Washington
Population: 317,643,000
Currency: US Dollar (USD)
GDP (ppp): $15.68 Trillion
Unemployment: 6.6%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Mining, Construction, Manufacturing, Federal, Agriculture, Health, Telecommunications equipment, wood pulp and paper products, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel.

Country: Canada
Capital: Ottawa
Population: 33 679 000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Currency: Dollar (CAD)
GDP (ppp): $1.821 Trillion
Unemployment: 7.0%
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Food products, chemicals, natural gas and petroleum products, telecommunications, minerals, transportation equipment, drugs, wood and paper.

Sioux History:
The Sioux lived in the great plains of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota. They were also known to occupy Nebraska, Montana, and Illinois in smaller numbers. The word ‘Sioux’, as it came to be used to refer to the language, originated from the word “Nadowessi’ which means two little serpents. The translation of Sioux is serpent. Though the Sioux resisted the American colonialism in the battle of 1862, due to economic hardships most of the Sioux later surrendered and paved the way for colonialism. This was after the agreement that was signed in 1888, which led to the splitting of the great Sioux nation into smaller reservations. The Sioux land that remains today is about half of the original owned land.

Interesting Sioux Facts:
• The Sioux were the largest Indian tribe, and were also referred to as the Dakota or Lakota Sioux.
• The role of men in the family was to hunt for food (mainly buffalos), as the women took charge of the home.
• They were the original natives of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
• They lived in earth lodges, hogans, and pit houses. They also lived in tepees, or tent-like houses used mainly by the tribes in the plains.
• Many famous Sioux leaders are still remembered to this day, including Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Red Cloud.
• The Sioux only cut their hair when they were mourning.

About our Sinhalese Translation Service

Anuradhapura ruin, historical capital city.

Anuradhapura ruin, historical capital city.

Sinhalese Language Statistics/Facts:
Sinhalese is the language spoken by the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese speakers constitute a population of about 16 million, with a total of almost three million more people who speak the language as their second language. It is one of the official and national languages used in Sri Lanka. As a result of years of colonial rule, contemporary Sinhalese contains many European loanwords, with influences from Portuguese, Dutch, and English.

Country where Sinhalese is spoken:
Sri Lanka

Sinhalese Speaking Country Data:
Country: Sri Lanka
Capital: Colombo
Population: 20,270,000
Democratic Socialist Republic: President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
GDP (ppp): $116.3 billion
Unemployment: 4.2%
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Rubber and tea processing, coconut, tobacco, minerals, and telecommunication.

Sinhalese History
Sinhalese immigrants reached Sri Lanka from Northern India around the 6th century BCE. Before their immigration the Sinhalese civilization relied on irrigation to practice intensive agriculture. This civilization prospered extensively from 200 BCE up to around 1250 BCE. They practiced trade with China and South East Asia for many years. The Sinhalese people were then driven south in 1212 BCE by Tamil invaders from the Chola Kingdom in Southern India. This drove them to their current location in Sri Lanka.

Around 1515 BCE Portuguese traders tried to control the sea lanes in South Asia which included Sri Lanka. This influence led to the coming of missionaries and the conversion of a number of the Sinhalese speakers to Catholicism. The Dutch expelled the Portuguese from Sri Lanka around 1658. Around 1815 the British, who were at the time controlling mainland India, took control of Sri Lanka up to 1931. The Island became totally independent in 1948.

The country, however, erupted into civil war in 1971 as the Tamil and the Sinhalese people rose against each other. In 2009, the government defeated the last of the Tamil Tiger insurgents and peace prevailed.

Interesting Sinhalese Facts:

• There are about 2.5 million Sinhalese speakers who live out of Sri Lanka.
• The language has its own writing system. It is used in writing official documents, including currency.
• Sinhalese is among the official languages in Sri Lanka, together with Tamil and English.
• The majority of Sinhalese speakers are Buddhist. Mahinda, the son of Ashoka from the Mauryan Empire introduced Buddhism to the Sinhalese people around 250 BCE. Even after the conversion of most mainland Indians to Hinduism, the Sinhalese remain Buddhists.

About our isiNdebele Translation Service

isiNdebele Language Statistics/Facts:
The Northern Ndebele language, also known as isiNdebele or Sindebele, is a language belonging to the Bantu speaking language group of Nguni, found in the Matebele people of Zimbabwe, South Africa. It is also used by peoples in the Republic of South Africa. The Ndebele people are related to the Zulu and share the same origin. The language is spoken by over 1,090,000 people in the region.

Countries where iSiNdebele is spoken:
South Africa

isiNdebele Speaking Country Data:
Country: Zimbabwe
Capital: Harare
Population: 12,754,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Robert Mugabe
Currency: Uses multiple currencies since 2009.
GDP (ppp): $8.865 Miliion
Unemployment: 10.71%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Agriculture, mining industries in gold, household industries.

Country: South Africa
Capital: Pretoria
Population: 52,960,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Jacob Zuma
Currency: Rand (ZAR)
GDP (ppp): $408.237 billion
Unemployment: 23.8%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Mining, telecommunications equipment, wood pulp and paper products, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, electrical items.

iSiNdebele History
The Ndebele people were originally born by the Nguni people of KwaZulu-Natal. The Ndebele people have been long known for their artistic nature, portrayed by the elaborately painted homes they built. The AmaNdebele of Zimbabwe and the Amanzunza of South Africa are closely related, and are alleged to have come from the same origin. They have much in common, including their cultures and religious beliefs.

The Ndebele people are said to have settled in the Pretoria region around 1600 AD. Their King, Musi, soon died, and this led to bloodshed, as both of the King’s sons desired the throne. The sons’, Manala and Ndzundza decided to live apart, with Manala occupying the Pretoria region, and his brother occupying further east. In the 1820’s a Zulu general called Mzilikazi fled from the King of Shaka, with his army. They overpowered Manala and decided to settle down with them in their region. After some time Mzilikazi started fearing that Shaka may want revenge, and so he lured the Ndebele people to move further north, until they settled at Bulawayo, in the modern day city of Zimbabwe.

Interesting iSiNdebeleFacts:
• The SiNdebele are famous for an interest in art. This is seen in the paintings they decorate their homes with, and paintings on rocks in areas where they lived.
• The SiNdebele speakers of Zimbabwe were originally living in South Africa before Mzilikazi decided to run away from Shaka and moved them north to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
• SiNdembele are in fact Bantu speakers, close to the Bantus in East Africa.

About our Serbian Translation Service

PLOVDIV, BULGARIA - AUGUST 06, 2015 - 21-st international folklore festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The folklore group from Serbia dressed in traditional clothing is preforming Serbian national dances.

PLOVDIV, BULGARIA – AUGUST 06, 2015 – 21-st international folklore festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The folklore group from Serbia dressed in traditional clothing is preforming Serbian national dances.

Serbian Language Statistics/Facts:
Serbian is a standardized version of the Serbo-Croatian language. It is mainly used by Serbs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and also in Montenegro. Serbian is also used by minor groups in Croatia, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Czech, and Albania Republic. It is the official language in Serbia and Montenegro, and also in Bosnia. The actual number of Serbs is not well established, but is estimated to be around twenty million. The majority of Serbian speakers are found in the Western Balkans, which consists of the areas east of Bulgaria and east of Serbia.

Serbian Dialects:
Dialect, Region
Kajkavian, Slovania and Norwestern Croatia
Cakavian, Northern Croatia and the Indiatric Coast
Stokavian, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro
Smederevo-Vrsac, Croatia and Serbia

Countries where Serbian is spoken:
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Serbian Speaking Country Data:
Country: Croatia
Capital: Zagreb
Population: 4,300,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Ivo Josipovic
Currency: Croatian Kuna (HRK)
GDP (ppp): $79.69 billion
Unemployment: 18.6%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Chemicals and plastics, machine tools, fabricated metals, electronics, iron, aluminum, paper, wood, construction materials, textiles, ship building, petroleum and petroleum refinery, food and beverages, tourism.

Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Capital: Sarajevo
Population: 3,876,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President ZeljkoKomsic
Currency: Marka (BAM)
GDP (ppp): $18.5 billion
Unemployment: 44.5%
Government Type: Federal Republic
Industries: Steel, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, manganese, bauxite, vehicles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, tank and aircraft assembly, domestic appliance, and oil refining.

Country: Serbia
Capital: Belgrade
Population: 7,200,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Tornislav Nikolic
Currency: Serbian Dinar (RSD)
GDP (ppp): $80.467 billion
Unemployment: 23.7%
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Industries: Motor vehicles, oil refinery, base metals, furniture, food processing, machinery, chemicals, sugar, tires, clothes, and pharmaceuticals.

Country: Macedonia
Capital: Skopje
Population: 2,058,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President GjorgeIvanov
Currency: Macedonian dinar (MKD)
GDP (ppp): $22.147 billion
Unemployment: 31.3%
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Industries: Food processing, beverages, textiles, chemicals, iron, steel, cement, energy, and pharmaceuticals.

Country: Montenegro
Capital: Podgorica
Population: 621,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic
Currency: Euro (EUR)
GDP (ppp): $7.461 billion
Unemployment: 19.1%
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Steel making, aluminum, agricultural processing, consumer goods, and tourism.

Country: Romania
Capital: Bucharest
Population: 21,330,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Traian Basescu
Currency: Leu (Leu or RON)
GDP (ppp): $169.4 billion
Unemployment: 7.5%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Automobile, cement and construction, aircraft, textiles, and arms industry.

Serbian History & Development
The history of this dialect traces back to the middle stone age, where there is alleged interaction between different communities which yielded the Serbian language. It’s wide use in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Czech Republic, Bosnia, and Herzegovina shows it’s growth and dispersion, which led it to be used in the formerly larger Yugoslavian republic.

One of the most widely trusted theories of their origin claims that the Serbs originated in Turkey at a place called Boiki, which neighbors current day Croatia. It claims that the ruler of the land died, and since both sons wanted to take the leadership of the land they ended up splitting and moving towards the current location where the Serbs are found.
The first Balkan war of 1912 is the one that liberated the Serbs from foreign rule. After this war the kingdom of Yugoslavia was created. Belgrade was made the new capital and almost all the Serbs lived in this region. However, during the World War II, Axis powers occupied Yugoslavia, dismembering it. After the war the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed.
The communist Yugoslavia collapsed in the early 1990s and this led to the birth of new states from the previous united one. During this time there was serious civil war which claimed many lives.

Interesting Serbian Facts:
• Almost all Serbian names end with “ic”
• Serbian is the national language spoken in Serbia and Bosnia. It is also used by minorities in neighboring countries.
• The word ‘vampire’ is the most widely used Serbian word across the world.
• Serbian has been ranked among the most difficult languages to understand, together with Greek and Chinese.

About our Sami Translation Service

Sami Language Statistics/Facts:
Sami is a group of languages used mainly by people in northern Europe, including northwestern Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Contrary to the belief that Sami is a single language, it is in fact a group of languages, though closely related. Sami languages are divided into two groups, the Western and the Eastern. These dialects are not mutually intelligible. The number of ethnic Sami is around 100,000.

Sami Dialects:
Dialect, Region
Sami Lule, Spoekn along the Lule river, and in Norway and Sweden
Sami North, Spoken in Sweden
Sami Pite, Spoken along the Pite river
Sami South, Spoken in Lapland, and in Sweden and Norway
Sami Ume, Spoken along the Ume river

Countries where Sami is spoken:

Sami Speaking Country Data:
Country: Sweden
Capital: Stockholm
Population: 9,600,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt
Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK, kr)
GDP (ppp): $385.1 b
Unemployment: 8.0%
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Telecommunications equipment, wood pulp and paper products, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel.

Country: Norway
Capital: Oslo
Population: 5,077,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Currency: Norwegian Kroner (NOK, kr)
GDP (ppp): $498.8 b
Unemployment: 3.2%
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Petroleum and natural gas, wood pulp and paper industries, ship building, food processing, metals, chemicals, timber, mining, textile and fishing.

Country: Finland

Capital: Helsinki
Population: 5,454,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Sauli Niinisto
Currency: Euro (€)
GDP (ppp): $247.2 b
Unemployment: 8.4%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Metals and metal products, electronics, machinery and scientific instruments, ship building, pulp and paper, foodstuffs, chemicals, textile and clothing.

Country: Russia
Capital: Moscow
Population: 138,082,000
Constitutional Parliamentary Republic: President Vladmir Putin
Currency: Russian Rubble (RUR)
GDP (ppp): $2.380 Trillion
Unemployment: 6.6%
Government Type: Constitutional Republic
Industries: Mining and extractive producing of coal, oil, gas, chemical and metals, all forms of machine manufacturing, defense industries, ship building, rail and road transport equipment, agricultural machinery, electric power generating and transmitting equipment, medical and scientific equipment, consumer durables, textiles, foodstuffs, and handicrafts.

Sami History & Development

Though the genetic origin of the Sami people is complex, they have been linked to have originated from the Finns. Sami history dates back to the Viking age, where the Sami are said to have settled mainly along the rivers in the regions where they are found today. The strong distinctiveness between the two languages is associated with the time that has elapsed since the two diverged. It is said to have occurred around 23,000 BC and then reunited around 8,500 AD. After they diverged, the laws of heredity took place and each adapted and evolved in its own way.

Today, research on the language is constantly being done, and with every day new evidence and theories are being erected, often negating the ones previously put in place. At Cal Interpreting & Translations, we ensure that our interpreters are up to date on current language nuances, and have significant background knowledge of the language and culture.

Interesting Sami Facts

• The Sami religion is strongly related to nature.
• The Sami are the descendants of a onetime nomadic community that inhabited northern Scandinavia.
• Reindeer herding has been the basis of the Sami economy until in recent years.
• Writing came into Sami artistic expressions in the early 20th century.

About our Makassar Translation Service

Makassar schooners (pinisi) in Paotere harbor, the old port of Makassar,  Indonesia

Makassar schooners (pinisi) in Paotere harbor, the old port of Makassar, Indonesia

Makassar Language Statistics/Facts:

Makassar is the official language of the Makassarese residing in Indonesia, particularly in the geographically demarcated area called the South Sulawesi Island. It is also known as Taena, Tena, or Goa. This language in particular comes under the Austronesian language heading, having a close relation with the Buginese. The language is written in a unique script which is known as Lontara, a Brahmic script having, again, a close connection with the Bugis and Mandar languages. Throughout Indonesia there are about seven hundred languages spoken today, each depicted by the diversification of cultures within the country of Indonesia.

Makassar Dialects:
There are three fundamental dialects within the language of Makassar: Gowa, Turatea and Maros-Pangkep. The Gowa dialect is considered to be the most prestigious dialect spoken.

Countries where Makassar is spoken:
Makassar is used as a form of writing and communication by the ethnic community of Makassar. It is spoken only in the South Sulawesi Island in Indonesia.

Makassar Speaking Country Data:
Country: Indonesia
Capital: Jakarta
Population: 246.9 million approx.
Current Government headed by: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Currency: Rupiah (Rp)
GDP: $ 846.832 bn.
Unemployment: 6%
Government Type: Presidential system
Industries: Non-oil & Gas, Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Makassar History & Development:

The Makassar language has been developed in a very complicated way. In Indonesia there are about 80 languages developed and actively spoken. Written history of the Makassar language is only present in the South Sulawesi region, where the language predominantly exists. The language was developed in around the 1400’s, and the writings used until the 17th century. Makassarese literature has undergone a great level of scrutiny. These writings are a reflection of a very strong and rich cultural heritage. Being a derivative of the Brahmi, Indian script, the language falls into the category of a derivation, yet it still is unique in written and spoken form. Changes are made by adding dots or lines in the written form. Initially, the inherent use of this form of writing was in the writing of genealogy or descendent trees.
As far as the genres or versions of the literature of this history are concerned, they can be categorized into two main forms that exist to date. These forms are metric and non-metric. Metric texts are inclusive of solely long poems whereas non-metric texts include myths, diaries, speeches of wisdom, etc. The longest literary works that exist today are those of the South-Sulawesi region, in which Makassar is the dominant language. The major publications of the Makassar language used today are the Makassar-Indonesian dictionary and a descriptive form of writing called Tatabahasa Makassar.

Interesting Facts about the Makassar Language:
• The language is said to have been learned via a descendant from heaven
• The language exists only co-related with the Buginese language and in the Latin script
• The existence of the language is threatened, as it is not actively spoken except in rural settlements where English is not common

Multilingual Transcription Explained

Multilingual TranscriptionWe provide multilingual transcription, which is the transfer of oral language to written form. Cal Interpreting & Translations can take your multilingual recordings on DVDs, audio tapes, video tapes, mini-cassettes, and electronic files and convert them into written format. Our translators can then take that multilingual text and translate it into English so that you can work conveniently and efficiently.