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 Tuesday, August 22, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Campus Information Made More Accessible to Non-Native English Speakers
by Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

Because of its diverse work force, the university needs to communicate campus information in languages other than English. In addition to written translation, oral interpretation is needed on both an individual basis and for large meetings. Helping to fulfill that obligation is the new Spanish and Laotian Language Access to University Policy and Announcements program coordinated by Omaira Bankston of organizational and employee development.

Made possible by a 2005 Diversity and Excellence grant sponsored by the Office of the President, the program provides in-house translators/interpreters who are available as needed. In fall 2005, the first team of five Spanish-language translators/interpreters took part in a rigorous training program. They have been handling requests for translation and interpretation since January 2006 and have already completed approximately 150 hours of work for the university.

Team members agreed to complete the training and contribute 50 hours each of translation/interpretation volunteer work. The team is comprised of Valerie McBride (staff, anthropology), Jesus Negron (staff, Payroll and Benefit Services), Maria Ruiz-Jargon (staff, Minority Arts and Sciences Program), Alfredo Ortiz (graduate student, art and art history) and Garrett Cardon (graduate student, speech, language and hearing sciences).

The team has been working primarily on translating employee benefits, campus policies such as the sexual harassment policy, discrimination policies and procedures, employee rights and responsibilities and important campus announcements.

They are gaining expertise in translation specific to the academic field, said team member Maria Ruiz-Jargon. She said a larger challenge is getting a feel for the audience and being sure that what's translated will make sense to the reader.

Reaching the Laotian community has proven more challenging. There were no Laotian-speaking program applicants, and translating written documents is difficult due to varying levels of literacy, irregular language forms and cultural norms. Alternatives such as the development of training videos in Laotian are being considered.

Because some university units conduct regular meetings and trainings for large multicultural groups, the Office of Diversity and Equity, the Department of Human Resources and Housing & Dining Services joined with Bankston's program to invest $10,000 in simultaneous translation equipment, including 100 headsets that can broadcast up to six languages at once.

Ruiz-Jargon said the team realizes that their work is just the tip of the iceberg of what's needed. Bankston agreed: "The program is working great. We're getting more and more demands from different departments."

Other recipients of the 2005 Diversity and Excellence grant are the Office of Diversity and Equity, Organizational and Employee Development and the Office of Internal Communications. More information about the Diversity and Excellence grants may be found by visiting the web site.

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