New York Hospitals Making Improvements in Spanish Interpretation Services

The availability of Spanish interpretation services in New York City hospitals has improved in the last two years, but more services are needed for speakers of other languages, according to a report released this week by the New York Immigration Coalition and other groups, the Newsday reports.

The report, “Now We’re Talking,” is based on surveys conducted between October 2007 and February of 617 New York City residents who speak Spanish or Korean and no English. Officials stressed that the study is only a snapshot of the issue and is not scientific, according to AP/Newsday. According to Adam Gurvitch, NYIC’s director of health advocacy, the state has made “real strides” in providing Spanish translation services, but a “real disparity” still remains for other languages.

The report found that 79% of respondents said they were able to receive interpretation services in state hospitals. Before state health officials began requiring hospitals to provide interpretation services for non-English-speaking patients in 2006, 29% of respondents in a similar survey reported receiving interpretation services, according to the report. Before the regulation, it was common for non-English-speaking residents to be told to provide their own interpreter, such as a friend or family member. The new survey found that 5% of non-English-speaking residents were told to bring their own interpreter.

The report called for more interpretation services for other patients who do not speak English, especially Arabic, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean and Russian speakers. According to advocacy groups, language barriers can make it difficult for patients to explain symptoms, understand diagnoses and navigate the insurance system, potentially leading to medical mistakes, misdiagnosis or death. They added that relying on nonprofessional interpreters to provide medical information violates patient privacy and could be traumatizing for an interpreter who is a child or family member.

Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a civil rights organization that participated in the report, said, “It is simply impossible to provide quality health care unless patients can communicate their symptoms clearly, understand their diagnosis and knowingly consent to medical procedures” (Franklin, AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/19).

Reaching Your Spanish-Speaking Audience with Global Translations

Your business wants to target Spanish-speakers residing in the United States, and the best way to do this is to have your materials translated into Spanish. So you contract a translation agency to provide you with an effective translation. Simple, right? But your publicity materials and product descriptions are meant to be read by Spanish-speakers all over the country. You want your message to be understood by educated Cubans in Miami, bicultural and bilingual New York Puerto Ricans, and first-generation Mexican immigrants. Each of these groups has a distinct accent, vocabulary, and set of regional phrases.

How can one translation impact all of these groups? Some translation agencies provide translations into what the industry calls neutral, standard, or universal Spanish translations. Put into simple terms, these translations are meant to be understood by the widest range of Spanish speakers possible, and are mostly free of regionalisms and any marker that distinguishes word usage as being from a specific country.

Some caveats about “neutral” or “standard” Spanish:

• Many translators argue that there is no truly neutral Spanish, but rather only an attempt to make written material as widely understood as possible.

• By trying to reach every segment of the Hispanic demographic, you may end up with a diluted message (a conversation with your translation agency about whether to use a global versus local translation would avoid this situation).

• Because Spanish-speakers are so linguistically diverse, there are some English words that have no universally understood Spanish equivalent (again, a good translation agency will be able to produce a document that will be understood by most Spanish speakers).

• Neutral Spanish is better suited for certain types of translations such as technical or industry-specific ones in which the vocabulary is more uniform.

• Neutral Spanish may not be suited for a message involving jokes or double-entendres. A quip that would get a chuckle from a Colombian businessperson may leave a Mexican farm worker scratching his head, thus possibly alienating a potential customer.

A good translation agency will be able to guide you through the process of deciding whether a neutral translation is the most effective way to transmit your message. If your target audience is US, the best option is to translate into Neutral Spanish.


Making Safety a Priority for All Employees: How Translations Can Help

Some sobering statistics about workplace safety for Latinos in the U.S.:

• In 2006, there were nearly 1,000 Latino workplace related deaths in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

• Latino workers’ fatality rate was 21 percent higher than all workers in 2006 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

• More than one out of three Latinos killed on the job worked in a construction related field.

The causes behind these stats are complex, but if your company has many limited-English speaking workers, the first step in ensuring the safety and productivity of your workers is to provide safety information in your workers’ native language. This is especially true in the construction, transportation, and manufacturing sectors where it’s common to find English-speaking supervisors and Spanish-speaking workers. While the latter group may speak enough English to get by, their English reading skills may not be strong enough to understand complicated safety procedures with technical vocabulary.

The Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that companies with safety training provide the information in the language that your workers understand. Getting this required information translated into Spanish is a good opportunity to form an ongoing relationship with a translation agency that will be able to provide translations that are culturally and educationally appropriate.

If your English safety materials are clear, concise, and accompanied by graphics, your chosen translation agency will be able to create Spanish safety materials for your Hispanic workers that are just as effective as the originals.

Points to keep in mind when preparing safety documents for translation and choosing a translation agency:

• Over 40 percent of Latinos living in the U.S. do not have a high school diploma (2005 American Community Survey) so make sure that the original safety material is at an appropriate grade level so that the agency can faithfully translate both the meaning and style.

• Spanish is an extremely diverse language, and what Puerto Rican workers understand may be lost on Central American workers, so make sure that you are aware of the country of origin of your employees so as to provide the most widely-understood translation.

• Also keep in mind when choosing your translation agency that Spanish has many varieties and nuances and make sure that the agency you choose employs translators who are knowledgeable about the regional variations and language subtleties.

• A good option is to translate into Neutral Spanish which will be accepted and understood by the entire Spanish-Speaking population.

There are many cultural and political factors beyond the scope of this article that make workplace safety such a critical issue for those who employ Latinos, but working with a qualified translation agency to provide materials in Spanish is the first step in ensuring that your employees follow safety guidelines.

Related Article
Hispanic Employees in the Workplace

Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – Second Part

Read the first part of this article

Honing Your Skills Through Education

Even the most seasoned translators benefit from continuing their educations, and you should consider studying at the university level either towards your Master’s or even a certificate program for translators.

New York University-SPCE offers a certificate in various language pairs entirely online (you may also attend courses onsite).

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers a Master’s in Translation Studies, but does not offer an online option.

In the Getting Established section of ProZ’s forums, you can find ongoing rousing discussions about whether a translator needs an advanced degree or if language skills and specialized knowledge suffice. If you don’t live near a university with a translation studies program or NYU doesn’t offer your language pair, the ProZ forum provides sound suggestions for self-study.

Building Your Network

Often freelance translators acquire work through a combination of using translation agencies and finding jobs on their own. Translation agencies provide a level of convenience and quality control for clients that an independent freelancer cannot, especially once starting out. Translation agencies will ask you for a test translation before placing you on their roster and contacting you for jobs. While contacting agencies is a worthwhile pursuit, working with one will not guarantee steady work until you’ve established yourself as a translator able to produce quality documents.

Although the United States has no universal certification requirement for translators, the largest translation association is the American Translators Association. By joining the ATA, you can increase your networking opportunities through conferences and professional development seminars, work towards a certification in one of 27 language pairs, and join local groups to assist you with marketing and support services.

Concluding Points

To successfully break into the freelance translation world, you will need to utilize various strategies at once. No one particular strategy will be able to guarantee the start of a thriving freelance career. Rather, you can work towards becoming a translator by attempting all of the strategies included here: working pro bono to gain clips, experience, and references; developing your skills either through formal education or self-study; applying to both local and remote translation agencies; and joining professional organizations.

Bilingual Blogging: How Translators Can Help

If your company has a web presence, your marketing strategy most likely includes a blog touting your product or service.  But if your blog is only in English, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expand your sales by reaching out to the Hispanic Community. What better way to target this demographic with enormous purchasing power than having your blog translated into Spanish?   You may already have your website available in multiple languages and perhaps have employees who can provide customer service in Spanish, but by translating your blog, you can increase Latino buy-in.  This is especially true if your blog includes value-added information such as news about your product or industry, tips, or commentary.   Translating a blog into Spanish isn’t as simple as cutting and pasting the published text into an automatic translation website, as explained in this blog post.  Doing this will most likely alienate and confuse the exact community you would like to target.   Because a blog is always a work in progress, most clients without a bilingual writing staff would be well-served by contracting this work out.  A good blog with a lot of traffic and comments needs to be consistently updated and the translation should be right behind the original English-language postings.   By contracting blog translation out to a translation agency, your company will ensure that the message and content of each post is just as effective as the English-language original.   Keep in mind some questions to consider as you plan to launch a blog in two languages: 

  • Should the English-language blog simply be translated into Spanish and left as is?
  • Should the translator also translate the user-generated comments on the Spanish language blog, and if so, what are the logistics of doing so?
  • Is it best to have two separate communities with separate sets of comments for the ease of translating?
  • If so, will the community created at the English blog lose out on the benefits of the comments at the Spanish blog and vice versa?

 There is no right or wrong answer to these considerations especially in the relatively new world of blogging.  When your company decides to actively reach out to the Hispanic community through dual-language blogging, a translation agency with experience in Spanish Translations will be able to offer guidance on how to navigate the above questions. Transpanish is offering 15% discount on Blog Translations. Offer expires on April 1st, 2008.  

Certified Translations in the U.S. and Abroad

While the words “certified translation” may bring to mind a translation that has gone through a rigorous process to check its validity, in the United States the reality is much simpler. A certified translation is simply a translation accompanied by the source text and a straightforward signed statement in which the translator attests to her ability to translate the material and the accuracy of the document.

Most documents granted by any government body must include a certification of accuracy along with the translation. The following is not an exhaustive list, but will give you an idea of which translations may require a certification from the translator:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Transcripts
  • Identity documents
  • Immigration documents
  • Wills

Some clients may request that the translation be signed by a notary public to add an extra layer of assurance that the translation is correct and complete. In these cases, the notary public simply adds her signature and seal to prove that she has witness the translator sign the certification.

Machine Translation vs. Human Translation: Pay Less, Get Less

In the province of Buenos Aires they exist around 150 helmets of stay with lodging capacity. Of modest to luxurious, all offer varied alternative for all the tastes and budgets. It is possible to be enjoyed an only day of field or one more estadía prolonged.

Babel Fish machine translation of text from

While you might get the gist of this machine-translated excerpt, the resulting text grates on your ears like fingers down a chalkboard. Using online machine translators such as Babel Fish will give you a rough idea of the foreign-language text, but will not render a translation useful for any other purpose.

Google’s translation site renders a slightly more comprehensible excerpt of the same original text:

In the province of Buenos Aires there are about 150 helmets stay with accommodation capacity. From modest to luxurious, all offer alternatives for all tastes and budgets. You can only enjoy a picnic or a longer.

Social Networking in Spanish Explodes

Facebook, Friendster, Hi5, and MySpace are all social networking websites that are extremely popular with youth. Users can connect with others to chat, share photos, videos, and comments through individually designed pages. Up until recently, U.S.-based web applications have primarily been in English, although users can chat, post comments, and interact in Spanish.

A 2007 article in USA Today explores how social networking sites are branching out to appeal to Spanish-speaking users., for example, caters to those interested in music in Spanish.

Language Shifting and the Role of Spanish Translations

A study released by the Pew Hispanic Center in November reports that English fluency increases across generations, even in first-generation monolingual Spanish-speaking families. Furthermore, by the third generation, Spanish has all but faded into the background.

While those who arrive in the U.S. as adults may always struggle with learning English, their children either grow up bilingual or use English as their dominant language at the expense of Spanish.

Spreading the Message: Spanish Translations Reach a Wider Audience

Your product or service is solid and well-received. Your marketing materials are glossy and your copy punchy. You’ve created a niche for your company in all the major English-speaking markets. Yet you want to push sales to the next level. Take sales up a notch by reaching out to the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. and translating your message into Spanish.

The Hispanic community’s buying power is increasing rapidly as the Latino population explodes in the U.S. Getting your message out to this demographic can boost your sales, especially if you are in the automotive, personal care, telecommunications, or food and beverage industries.

While many Latinos are bilingual, 60% of Hispanics prefer to make buying decisions in Spanish. If your company translates its materials into Spanish, you will be reaching a demographic with the power and desire to purchase products and services.

Once you make the decision to translate your message into Spanish, don’t rely on just anyone to do the translation. Most companies have bilingual employees, but don’t assume that just because someone speaks both English and Spanish that they will be able to accurately and effectively translate your copy. Make sure that you entrust your PR materials to a skilled translator who will be able to create Spanish-language materials that are just as dynamic and audience-appropriate as
the English originals.

A solid and culturally appropriate Spanish translation can allow your company to tap into the Hispanic community and boost sales. You will be able to target Latino radio stations, Spanish-language publications, and television programs to access new customers.

Having translations of your materials is only a start to forming a relationship with Latino customers. Your publicity materials must be backed up by a solid understanding of how to provide customer service to this demographic. If you do business in any of the states with high numbers of Spanish-speaking residents, such as New York, California, Texas, or Arizona, you probably also have bilingual employees on staff. Make sure that you also have Spanish-speakers as front line customer service providers so that you can take your message all the way to the finish line of solidifying new customer relationships.