Trainers Network _ Facilitating Multilingual Spaces and Language Access

April 1, 2015

Facilitators: Catalina Nieto and Sapna Pandya (MLOV)

Everyone introduced themselves; the various languages they speak; and their individual goals for the workshop

Ice Breaker

Everyone split into pairs.  For 30 seconds, each individual in the pair introduced themselves. Afterwards, the entire group split into two different groups.

The goal was to mirror another individual’s introduction for 30 seconds.  The reason for this activity is to understand the role of interpreters/translators. It was also an activity to understand that translation and interpretation isn’t the same.

Everyone did a debrief and answered the following questions:

  1. How did it feel to have someone else repeat your info?
  2. How did you feel repeating someone else’s info?
  3. What was it when you/others forgot what was interpreted?

Interpretation requires good memory recall; ability to translate quickly; and, ability to process the information quickly. Certain interpretation is done consecutively while in other instances, translation is done simultaneously.

Importance of Interpretation

  1.             Interpretation involves trust. Individuals who can’t speak the dominant language in the space place their trust in interpreters/translators. That is their only means of communication. Accuracy is key in interpreting/translating.
  2.             It’s important for us to empathize and think about the challenges/concerns of individuals who are trusting an interpreter to convey their words/meanings.
  3.            Movement: The movement/revolution is multilingual. We have to incorporate language access and justice in our work to organize our base.  This is part of collaborating with other movement/social justice movements across the globe. We are very focused on our individual rights/environmental issues but have to broaden our scope and communication is key in ensuring to do so.
  4.            Imagine the power of our movements if we place access to communication and respect various methods of communication at the center of our social justice work. If we are talking about global social justice/workers, then workers across countries can communicate with one another.  
  5.            Language justice framework is borrowed from Alice Johnson/Highlander, and other interpreters, part of the DC interpreters collective, in the DC community. 
  6.           Ensure language interpretation/translation is part of the planning process for conferences/events.  Incorporate these costs into the  budget.

Local Context on Language Justice

  1. It’s critical to understand the importance of language justice locally in DC.
  2. What percent of the District is immigrant? – 20%
  3. 1 out of 5 people in DC identify as an immigrant. In order to build our movement, build our base, and accomplish anything, we need to ensure language access exists. Otherwise we are leaving people out if we aren’t incorporating a language justice frame. Within immigrant communities in DC, 25 percent don’t speak any English.

Languages spoken in DC  

- Amharic– spoken in Ethiopia

- Somali – in the last ten years the number of individuals that speak Somali in DC has increased significantly

- French – West African community

-Tagalog – Dialect spoken in the Philippines  

- Mandarin/Cantonese – Chinese dialect


- Vietnamese

- American Sign language (Deaf and hard of hearing) - ASL

- Bengali – Rise in the community of individuals who speak Bengali

- Arabic

Overall, there are 300 languages spoken in DC.  1 in 10 students in DC public schools is an English language learner. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals sometimes cannot read English or understand English because so much of language is learned from listening.

Planning an Event – Key Takeaways

  1.       Languages – Think about which languages will be spoken at the event by the attendees; think about the languages that will be spoken by the panelists.
  2.       How many individuals that attend will speak a certain type of language?
  3.       Materials for the event/conference should be translated in different languages
  4.       Is interpretation needed for the entire event? Is it needed for the panel/sessions (which ones)  
  5.       Registration table – Is interpretation available at the registration table?
  6.       Staffing – May need additional people  for the table where people pick up/return equipment                                         
  7.       Number of interpreters
  8.       Coordinating interpreters/equipment
  9.       Budget to pay the interpreters. If you are planning the event, there is a line item in the budget and organizers should plan accordingly
  10.       Staffing – Volunteers who are interested in speaking more/ interpreters
  11.       Note Taking/Signs – make sure that’s translated too.
  12.       Have at least 2 interpreters per panel/session so interpreters can take a break. Interpretation should be delivered all throughout.   Language can change at any minute

Group Activity

Everyone was divided in two groups and the goal was to plan an event/rally with including language access in the planning process.  The first group planned a multi-day conference with plenaries and workshops. The second group was assigned a march and rally that they needed to plan for.

Report Back

1)          All Day Conference

Logistics – 500 people

Languages – French/Vietnamese

Translation – Written/verbal interpretation

Staffing – 2 French/Vietnamese interpreters

-          Feedback given by group: Budget for the event; scheduling/picking up the interpretation equipment.  What type of workshops will be held and will translation/interpretation be provided?

-          The event would need a minimum of 500 sets for interpretation.

-          Plan to have additional staff to help set-up the interpretation because interpreters have to take time away to set-up, deal with technical issues with the equipment, and cleaning up.

-          Recommendation: Have one individual who is solely responsible for coordinating interpretation equipment.

2)      Rally: Language Accessibility

The group planned a march/rally in front of the White House. They would release all of the press release statements in all of the languages. Group wanted 6 interpreters, with 2 interpreters for each language. The subtitles would be projected on a huge jumbotron.

  • Recommendation for Accessibility: It might be difficult to have interpretation equipment. Perhaps have a conference call line where individuals could call in to hear the translation for the events. Chants would be in all languages.
  • Feedback from the group: Think about cell reception/how would ASL work in a rally?

Closing Activity

Everyone stood in a circle and share one key thing they learned during the training. Most of the comments centered around the importance of having language access in spaces. Many individuals reported the workshop was facilitated well. For example, anyone who wasn’t bilingual, English and Spanish speaker, was asked to use interpretation equipment. The workshop began with Spanish and would switch to English.