In San Diego, there is a large refugee population, many from Eastern Africa and various Somali tribes. Many of them don’t speak English when they arrive, and though they are able to get by with help from children and neighbors, they are finding it difficult to locate medical translation services.

Women Have the Most Difficulty with Medical Translation

Though the whole refugee community struggles with finding adequate translation help, it is doubly difficult for women. One woman told the story about her immigration and first hospital experience, and it reads like a horror story. She was pregnant when she arrived in the United States, and shortly afterwards, she gave birth.

Though she was a registered nurse in her home country and was familiar with the hospital setting, she wasn’t yet familiar with the English language and had no way to communicate with the doctor. In her country, it is common for women to be circumcised, and she needed to communicate certain medical procedures that would allow her to have her baby without unnecessary pain. However, there was no professional translator available for her, and instead she was forced into a difficult and painful delivery.

In California, there is a law that prohibits neighbors and children from acting as legal translators. Instead, people need to have professional translation services for things like medical and legal translation issues. The problem with this is that there are not enough professional translators to go around, and often the women from the cultures in Eastern Africa and Somalia are uncomfortable with male translators.

Trying to Solve Translation Problems From Within

La Maestra Community Health Center is located near the Eastern African community and cultural center, and they have started to help with the translation problems by hiring and training people from the local community. Many of the community members are being trained in the clinic, so that they are able to provide translation for prescriptions and other medical papers and products.

However, many community members who are being employed for translation services are not yet able to be fully reimbursed. This is because translation alone is not able to be reimbursed; the translator needs to provide some sort of medical or legal translation help to be paid, and they aren’t always qualified to do this.

In some cases, the refugees have simply stopped going to the doctor because of all the complications and hazards involved. Some have reported that they were given the wrong medicine, were misdiagnosed, or were even given the wrong surgery, all because of translation problems. In response, many second generation refugees are beginning to enter the medical field, and they hope to one day see a change for the better.


Overseas, translation services are not as widely available as they are in the United States, particularly in some Asian countries where diversity is not very high in race or language. This can especially be a problem for students studying abroad. For this reason, one university in China has created a volunteer translation team for the school hospital to help sick students with translation issues.

320 Students Need Translation Help

At Xiamen University, there are over 320 foreign students, and only a few of them speak Chinese competently enough to get by on their own. Translation problems can usually be dealt with, but when it comes to medical emergencies or sick students, the problems are not as easily resolved. Most of the doctors and nurses in the school hospital don’t speak English, and they can’t provide the necessary Chinese translation.

To solve the problems, a group of students on campus have formed a volunteer translation team to specifically help the campus hospital speak with foreign students. They don’t quite offer professional translation, but they do have enough English to provide the much needed services and make interaction between foreign students and the medical staff easier.

About a hundred students make up the volunteer translation group, and more are joining. Two student translators are on duty every day during the hospital hours.

Source: Whats on Xiamen

Though it has been a long time coming, the Jamaican people now have a Bible that has been translated into their own creole language, which was first created by West African slaves. The decision to provide translation services for the language has been highly debated for years and is still a touchy subject for some. However, many also herald the new translation as a huge success for the people of Jamaica and for the country.

Jamaican Patois Is Somewhat Controversial

The language of the former British colony is officially English, but a majority of the people still speak the creole language. Some eventually speak traditional English over the English-West African dialect, but it’s not uncommon for people in Jamaica to go their whole lives only speaking the patois. At first, the thought of providing professional translation for the Bible into Jamaican patois shocked and offended many people.

This is because there has been a lot of shame associated with the language because people have related it to social deprivation and illiteracy. However, Hubert Devonish, a linguist and coordinator of the Jamaican language unit at the University of the West Indies says that the Bible translation will hopefully help the state accept that Jamaican creole is a legitimate language that deserves recognition.

Language Translation for the Scriptures

Some people believe that the language might water down scripture or that the translation is sacrilegious.  The opposition isn’t as fierce as it has been in years past, but not everyone has embraced the translation with open arms. Faith Linton, the translator of the patois Bible, translated it from the original Greek text and is a professional translator for the Bible Society of the West Indies.

For the first twelve years of her life, all Linton spoke was the Jamaican patois, and she is convinced that the translation will have a large impact on the Jamaican people. She believes that it will make scripture more relatable and will encourage more people to read the scripture for themselves.

Translation as a Psychological Problem, Not a Linguistic Problem

The Bible has been translated into lesser known languages and into other patois from different groups. The problems that the translators encountered with the Jamaican patois were not linguistic problems, but psychological problems. People didn’t want the translation because many still see the language as poorly spoken English instead of a separate language.

Hawaii also has a creole language translation of the Bible, but the patois there doesn’t have the stigmas that are associated with the Jamaican patois by many people. Hopefully, this new literary hurdle will make people look more favorably on Jamaica’s traditional language and garner more acceptance than rejection.

Source: TriValley

New York’s Suffolk county, which has long had issues with providing translation services to non-English-speakers, has changed its policies so that all agencies in the municipality will provide services to citizens who are speakers of different languages.

Usually, tensions run high with the Spanish-speaking community members in Suffolk County, but other languages are represented as well.

Executive Order Mandates Translated Documents

In order to start providing better business and legal translation to the county, Executive Steve Bellone signed an order on Wednesday the 14th to have businesses and facilities begin providing translated documents in the most common languages in the county. The languages are Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French Creole, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese.

The businesses and facilities in the area will also have to maintain contact with translators to help assist community members with translation needs. Though the program will take time to implement fully, the county is hopeful that everything will be finished within a year.

Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo also signed a policy for state facilities similar to the one in Suffolk County. New York City also has a similar policy. The reason Suffolk County was the next to sign a policy is because it has a history of strife between suburban residents and day laborers, who are often citizens who speak a language other than English. The conflict was even the focus of a 2004 PBS documentary.



China has many international films that are shown in their cinemas every day, but only a few of them are actually dubbed in Chinese. The rest of the movies are in their original formats and are watched entirely in English.

In fact, dubbed films are only offered until 7pm every day, and the rest of the time, there are only English showings. The translation services offered for the dubbed movies have suffered in the past years because of a lack of talented voice actors and financial support, among other issues.

Golden Age of Dubbed Films

Chinese cinema hasn’t always been this way. In the 80’s, China experienced a golden age of dubbed films and over a thousand movies were imported into the country and dubbed into Chinese by famous voice actors. The Chinese translation services for movies have sadly waned since then, and many people are starting to complain about the selection of dubbed movies decades later. In 1949, the first dubbed movie was featured in China.

Before then, movies were only available with subtitles or they were silent films. For the first twenty years of dubbed movies, about fifty were dubbed every year, but they weren’t available to the public. Dubbed films were mainly reserved for senior officials.

In the 80’s, dubbed films were finally available for public audiences, and a large variety of films from all over the world underwent professional translation to be dubbed into Mandarin Chinese. One of the biggest hits of the 80’s was Zorro. The actor who played Zorro, Alain Delon, became one of the first foreign stars that the Chinese people adored.

Though many foreign actors soon became quite popular in China, it was the voice actors that really captured their hearts. In fact, when Delon came to China, many people who heard him speak were disappointed and thought that his voice wasn’t as glamorous as the Chinese voice actor who dubbed his lines.

Voice Actors of the 80’s Not Popular with Younger Generations

From the 90’s until today, about ten foreign blockbusters are allowed into the country every year. However, since the 80’s, China has been more open to foreign cultures and the traditional style of dubbed films has become unpopular to younger generations now that more western styles and fashions are available to them.

This has created a deficit in voice actors that are able to draw in younger movie-goes, which has been one of the reasons there is a lack of dubbed films in Chinese cinemas. Also, the budget for a single production is only about $8,000, which is half of what it used to be. This isn’t enough to provide quality dubbing for films, and so usually no dubbing is done at all.

Source: China Daily

It’s not unusual to hear of books being translated into different languages, but what about books being translated to fit a different country’s way of life? This type of professional translation isn’t found quite as often, but it has been done. One retired classics professor has spent over 10 years translating the Iliad into a South African context.

Eurocentric Translations & South African Students

Professor Richard Whitaker says that while there are many concepts in the Iliad that are familiar to South Africans, there are also many concepts that don’t resonate with students and other South Africans as well. By translating the epic into a better context, the true meaning of the book is able to be more easily imparted. The translator services that Whitaker provides will make the book less archaic than other older translations. However, since some of the words that Whitaker uses aren’t familiar to every South African reader, he helpfully provides a glossary of terms for easy reference.

 The South African Language

The South African language has words mixed in from other parts of Africa as well as words from other languages that have gradually become a part of the everyday words used in conversation. For example, some words in the glossary are words in Portuguese since the language is common in Africa. However, not everyone is familiar with the Portuguese words and so a Portuguese translation must be provided for a fuller understanding of the new text.

Though a settlement has been reached with BP, the Vietnamese fishermen on the Gulf have still not received their compensation, and many of their businesses are struggling to survive. One of the main issues has been with translation services provided for the Vietnamese workers. The issue is that very little translation help has been provided to help the fishermen struggle to understand all of the legal issues involved with the settlement.

Hundreds Are Waiting for Compensation

With a lack of legal translation, hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen are still waiting on the money that will allow them to rebuild their businesses or to get started in a new career. The people who wish to receive compensation must fill out a damage claim, and that has been difficult because many of the business owners do not speak English well enough to fill out the paperwork by themselves.

Some people, like Dung Tran, have families to support. Tran has been making only $50 a day with his crabbing business because the oil spill destroyed his 300 crab pots and severely depleted the crab population.

Vietnamese Fishing Community

With over 3,000 Vietnamese fishermen on the Gulf coast in the United States, providing professional translation has been tricky. However, the Southeast Asian Fisherfolk Association – founded in 2011 –  has been helping the Vietnamese fishing community so that they can file their claims and read the paperwork they are sent.

Most of the fishermen want to return to fishing because they find it difficult to obtain other work due to language restrictions. Also, many think that they will be treated differently because of their language barriers. Some of the fishermen supported this by saying that native English-speakers were given preferential treatment and their boats were hired over the Vietnamese boats to help clean up the oil spill, even though everyone went through the same training.

Lack of Education Makes Finding Work Difficult

Besides not being able to speak English proficiently, many of the fishermen say that they do not have the education necessary to work elsewhere. Many of the Vietnamese immigrants were raised to fish, and when they came to the United States, they continued in the business and did not receive a full or continued education. BP proposed a training program for fishermen over the age of 40 and 50, but some have declined.

They say that fishing is all they know and they are not in a time of life where they can simply learn new skills and enter a new career. Many want to continue fishing, but that isn’t always a possibility even if they receive their settlements. As one attorney with several Vietnamese clients said, “They can fix their homes, boats, road, but they can’t fix the water.”

Exports to Asia from the Pacific Northwest are one of the main reasons behind Oregon’s economic health as of 2011. Oregon’s largest trading partners are China and Japan, and many freshly-graduated college students find fascinating business opportunities by going overseas and working in Japan. Whether professional translation services are needed or not, these experiences are what make a relationship with Oregon’s Asian neighbors across the ocean so worthwhile.

Diplomas and a Change of Address Form

There are many people affiliated with Oregon – and especially Lewis & Clark College – who have recently risen to become business leaders in Asia. Respective cities in Korea, China, and Japan have sister-city friendships with Portland. A Lewis & Clark student who graduated a year ago is now in Japan as a resident, employed as an account executive for a job-finding service that provided bilingual translation services. A senior at the college who was born in Japan, is moving back soon and has found employment with a prominent Japanese company that produces educational materials.

Jobs are hard enough to come by these days, especially for young college graduates. However, by thinking beyond the borders of your own country in terms of opportunity, the job challenges are slightly smaller. Even though the prospect of moving to a new country may seem daunting, and needing to use services for business translation are equally as intimidating, thinking globally for career options is looking like a good choice for Oregon residents.

Commerce and Ideas Go Both Ways

Besides Portland’s sister-cities, sixteen other communities in Oregon also have affiliations in Japan. Tokyo’s Waseda University has had a 40-year affiliation with Lewis & Clark College. Both professors and students from each college provide opportunities for international study. Oregon’s products and produce are transported to Korea, China, and Japan regularly, and range from hazelnuts to computer chips and chemicals. In Oregon, you can easily access Chinese translation, unlike some other states. Portland’s public schools have Mandarin Chinese classes available, and a Trans-Pacific Partnership is being pursued by U.S. Trade officials.

It can never be said that what happens in Asia doesn’t affect the Pacific NW, or vice versa. The cultures, careers, talent, and economic ventures are shared every day. It would be a shame for Oregon to waste the opportunities that come from their unique Asian relationships. Even students who aren’t bilingual should still take advantage of the benefits. After all, professional translation services are readily available, even oversees.

The book Passages is an anthology from the northwestern United States written by over thirty-five authors and translators. The anthology contains stories that are set in different countries all over the world. The short stories are from every type of viewpoint and genre, and some range from light and happy, to dark and disturbing. Often, the very people who wrote the stories provided their own translator services, making the book very unique and highly diverse.

A Unique Passport

Barbara Lloyd McMichael, a writer from the northwest, says that the anthology is a “globe-spanning collection of literary shorts.” The poems and stories found within the anthology transport the reader to a different time and place throughout the world where the reader is exposed to different opinions and different cultural experiences, which are difficult to gather alone. From Russia to Canada, the stories are a gateway into languages and cultural values that are both foreign and familiar to readers.

Some of the authors and poets say that they have had to sacrifice things in their stories and poems for the sake of translation, but that it hasn’t taken away from the words at all. The act of being their own professional translator puts the authors and poets in a singular experience where they have to think about how to present the original meaning to an audience with different views on life and culture.

Elliott batTzedek, poet and translator, says that an author or poet must “value message over music” when translating a piece of literature. This isn’t to say that a translator shouldn’t do their best to find the right words that closely relate to the originals, but that they shouldn’t sacrifice the message for finding the most accurate words.

Similarities and Differences between Writers and Cultures

McMichael says that as she read the book, she became acquainted with the authors and poets. She could see the differences in the words and between the poems and short stories, but she could also see the similarities. Instead of focusing solely on the cultural differences in the stories, McMichael chose to see the essential truths inside the words that could cross the boundaries of both language and culture.

Though the stories had received cultural and technical translation from the authors, the true meanings behind the words remained communicable, revealing that no matter where the story is written, it can speak important truths to readers everywhere.

The topic of education is on many people’s minds after the recent elections. The reason why it stands out is because some feel that it was inadequately addressed during a time when education should be something the nation is focusing on intently.

The former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Joel Klein, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell both feel that education should have been a bigger topic during the election, and both would like to see some more educational reform in Delaware and across the United States. They feel that the educational reform should include an emphasis on foreign languages and culture to prepare students for a more globally oriented world.

Delaware’s Kindergarteners Learn in a New Way

Many states have implemented immersion programs or have started immersion schools, but Delaware has started a controversial language program where over 340 kindergarteners are taught lessons in a foreign language. Their math and science lessons are entirely free of the English language and children are given the opportunity to learn a new language while they are still young.

Parents and their children can decide what language they will learn, and there is a wide variety to choose from, including the difficult language of Chinese. Chinese translation materials as well as other materials for the different languages are available for parents, but the children go completely without any English translation services during their lessons.

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