Not a new effort
The group is quite new although the effort to break the mentioned barriers are not new. They hosted a forum last week entitled “Access to Language Equality” with the agenda of bringing to light the language barriers among people who work in the legal, public health and education systems in Guam. The forum wants to show the gap in services due to the language barrier. The forum will allow the interpreters and service providers to join hands for a common goal of getting the residents to clearly understand what is being said, according to Mariles Benavente, Project Karino’s cultural and linguistic competence coordinator. She said that instead of working independently like before, the certified interpreters and translators should team up. The Judiciary of Guam leads the new coalition.
Program for standard training
Through the forum, Benavente hopes that the training program for interpreters and translators will be institutionalized. Retired Judge Pro Tem Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, speaking at the forum said that Guam should take a stand in providing language access services training, with Guam setting its own standard and curriculum tailored to the island’s languages instead of adopting the curriculum from another state. The President of Guam Community College, Mary Okada, fully supports the idea.
Strong need for interpreters
Mariles Benavente cited several incidences of the need for qualified interpreters. She said that they have been relying on interpreters who know a culture’s language, even if they are not trained. Oftentimes they would be utilizing the services of national trainers who are experts only in providing training for aspiring interpreters. Translators and interpreters in Guam do not have a formal job classification so they hold other jobs. Their group, CLASP, would like to see a clear-cut job description for interpreters and translators to provide support for their services.
Demand for various language interpreters
The biggest demand for translating and interpreting services are in the Chuukese and Chamorro languages, followed by several dialect, Micronesian as well as Asian languages.
Retired judge Barrett-Anderson recalled the times when interpreters were needed all the time in all their languages when trying cases and due process becomes difficult because the defendants cannot speak the language. Guam’s judiciary has provided training for 50 interpreters to date. Thirty-eight of them are still working at the court, and they represent 18 languages in Guam.
Dr. Margaret Hattori-Uchima, the interim director of the School of Nursing of the University of Guam recalled a significant case. It involved the number 11 and the word once (at one time). In Spanish, 11 is spelled as “once,” which is similar in spelling as the English word, once. The prescription called for the patient to take a pill “once a day” but since it was misinterpreted, the patient took 11 pills within the day.
Guam Community College will be doing its part to increase the number of qualified interpreters and translators. Meanwhile, Judge Anderson says that Guam is still in need of interpreters for Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese languages.