Alfonso Interpreting Language & Safety Blog

Thoughts on all aspects of the language industry

November 22, 2018

Safety- Following Up

A company was having problems with a Hispanic crew. They were a very good crew with the reputation for working fast and doing quality work. There were a couple of issues however. They sometimes cut corners and didn’t follow safety protocols. Depending on the project and standards of the General Contractor this could sometimes be a big issue. It was common for the safety guy to call their attention to things only to get a smile with a head nod but no actionable change which could be very frustrating.


Was it a communication problem or a cultural one?


When I addressed the issues in Spanish with the sub-contractor, he made excuses. I got the sense he was comfortable getting away with doing things his way and pretending to not fully understand.


One day I randomly returned to a job site to observe the workers after doing a silica training and explaining the importance and legal requirements of wet cutting. I spotted and took pictures of a man cutting blocks while another stood over the saw with a two-liter bottle filled with water. The cap had a hole poked through it and he was squirting the dust with the water.


Silica dust was flying everywhere, and the effort was ineffective. At first, I was frustrated and very annoyed because they should have known better. Or should they?


After thinking it over I had to give them credit. I told them that they needed to wet cut, and they indeed were trying to do just that. I thought I was clear on what that meant, but perhaps I wasn’t.


This time I gathered the group together again and complemented them on their effort. Then I explained that they needed an attachment that worked with the saw to eliminate most of the dust. It couldn’t be home made. They needed to invest some money.


I explained again the dangers to their health and what kind of fines could be expected if they were caught cutting the way I spotted them.


If I was able to take pictures from across the street, so could OSHA.


Working with a crew to make changes requires a good system and follow through. It isn’t enough to have a one-time class. Training is a progressive process that requires consistent observation and adjustment. We always try to reach their heart and motivate them however at times other disciplinary actions are required.

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November 16, 2018

Six Action Items You Can Do to Limit Due Process Rights Violations in Court Part II

Last month we discussed three action items to minimize violations against your client’s due process rights.  To close 2018, here are the remaining action items that empower you to solve the issue.


  1. As soon as a court date is scheduled, notify the clerk’s office what kind of certified court interpreter is needed (for common languages or otherwise qualified for languages without certification available in SC).


I was scheduled to interpret for someone with a Spanish surname.  That person spoke ASL.  Money unwisely spent, time wasted, hearing continued.


Interpreters practice their profession; their schedule fills quickly.  Download our interpreter request sheet, complete it, send to the clerk’s office, and follow up with a telephone call.


  1. Become familiar with the Court’s Language Access Plan (LAP) (03/20/2015).


Court Administration was developing a new Case Management System to explore a mechanism for systemwide reporting of cases requiring an interpreter, the language required, and required interpreter appointments for future hearings.  Three years and seven months have passed.  Has the tracking mechanism been deployed? Is Court Administration still archaically tracking by payment disbursements to spoken and sign language interpreters?


According to SC census data before 2015, the prominent non-English languages spoken at home are Spanish, Asian languages, and others.  Four years have passed.  Is the SC census data still valid?


  1. If you see something, say something.


What happens if your hearing in Courtroom 2 is called, but the interpreter is in a plea in Courtroom 8?  Respectfully request that the judge hold the matter until the interpreter finishes in Courtroom 8.


Allowing some building employee who can barely interpret and uses English terms is a violation of the LEP person’s due process rights.  If you speak your client’s language and the interpreter does not provide an accurate rendition, it is your duty to inform the judge and object to the use of that interpreter.


If you read the LAP mentioned in number 5, you note there is no means for filing a state complaint.  However, since the judiciary does receive federal funding, it must comply with federal law.  The DOJ has sent letters in 2010 and 2016 to SC state court stakeholders.  You see something’s not done for the last two to eight years?  Say something to the Federal Coordination and Compliance Division of the DOJ.


In 2012, the DOJ received these primary complaints about the Hawai’i State Judiciary’s language access services:


  • no clear judicial policy on the provision of high quality, timely, no-cost language assistance services to LEP individuals in court proceedings and operations;
  • inconsistent procedures for court language services access;
  • a complaint system without notification to LEP populations and those who work with them;
  • an interpreter assignment system that did not adequately ensure that the most highly qualified interpreters were utilized before (emphasis added) lesser qualified interpreters; and
  • no accountability measures to certify the court interpreter program complied with Title VI.


In 2013, the DOJ issued recommendations to address remaining barriers, and worked with court representatives to establish appropriate deadlines to reach these goals. By 2015, the Hawai’i State Judiciary:


  • Issued a clear policy stating that the courts will provide all LEP individuals with free, competent court interpretation in all court proceedings, and that language assistance services will be provided in court operations free of charge;
  • Revised its court interpreter assignment system and improved training on the interpreter assignment process for interpreters and judges;
  • Committed to creating a language assistance complaint system; and
  • Tightened its oversight of language assistance delivery.


We look forward to the day when South Carolina Court Administration institutes a clear, detailed language access policy, annually trains judges and attorneys in language access requirements and procedures, keenly oversees language access services, instructs all courts in its unified system to post a multilingual “I speak” sheet at the entrance and the clerk’s office, and implement a language access complaint process.

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November 12, 2018

Great Interpreter vs. Good Interpreter

I have a few pet peeves to discuss. Sometimes I run into exceptional interpreters who have some terrible habits; I also run into good interpreters with great work ethic. Guess which one I prefer to work with? By far, I prefer to deal with the good interpreter with the great work ethic.

  1. Arriving late: Nothing drives me crazier than to work with someone chronically late! I like to arrive early and test out the equipment, meet the people I’m dealing with and establish a plan. After meeting presenters, I like to take some time to look up some words that will be added to my glossary. If there is a technical issue it can be dealt with ahead of time. There is time to go to the bathroom.

If someone on my team arrives late, it reflects badly on me and makes us all seem unprofessional. Therefore, I don’t care how talented someone is, I can’t abide by anyone having the bad habit of arriving late.

  1. The Snob: There is one thing that I hate more than chronic late comers, and that is snobs! Really arrogant colleagues can often be overly demanding. They create hard feelings and a toxic environment to be around. They are difficult to work with and at times create bad blood with the client. I don’t care how talented you are, if the client hates your personality they will seek out someone else.

On the other hand, a friendly, flexible and personable interpreter that does a good job, will get it done and foster a great relationship with the client.  I like working with happy, positive people who get joy from their work!

  1. Being inconsiderate: There is a difference between being a snob and being inconsiderate. The snob is an elitist who demands too much. You can, however, have a very friendly person with some bad habits like:
    1. Arriving late
    2. Not paying attention and helping with the rendition
    3. Bringing in smelly food
    4. Texting

As you can see, interpreters with great abilities can still be a problem if they have any of the previously mentioned bad habits. However, a good interpreter with great work ethic is a joy to be around and contributes to great success.

Obviously, the best scenario is to work with a great, humble interpreter with a super work ethic. They do exist and are wonderful!

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November 3, 2018

Gratefulness = Contentment = Great Business

Over time, I have come to identify two types of people. The person who tends to dwell on negative things and the positive person.

  • Negative people: Dwell on negative thoughts
    • Tend to be critical of others
    • Often suffer from depression
    • Often make other people frustrated and depressed
  • Positive People: Focus on the good side of things
    • Tend to be appreciative of their blessings
    • Are happy
    • Their happiness is contagious
  • Negative conference interpreters: Complain over every problem
    • Express criticism over every minor issue
    • Display a bad attitude and don’t seem happy
    • Irritate and frustrate co-workers and clients
  • Positive conference interpreters: Love and enjoy their work; it is an obvious passion.
    • Are grateful for the business relationships and the interesting work they have
    • They are flexible and have a happy outlook
    • They are a pleasure to work with

Highly skilled professional interpreters do well in having a mindset of gratefulness. Grateful people tend to be content and happy. Happy people are fun to work with and will likely be called back again. It is incredible how meaningful a simple and earnest thank you will go a long way in building a strong business relationship and goodwill!

Friends, I discovered that I had a glitch that didn’t allow anyone to leave comments. It is fixed now and I would love to re engage with you!

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October 29, 2018

Six Action Items You Can Do to Limit Due Process Rights Violations in Court

South Carolina has become a larger melting pot since the 1990s.  Today in Spartanburg, there is a decent Russian language community.  In Laurens, there are many Guatemalans for whom Spanish is their second language.  South Carolina has pockets of Asian communities.  French and German speakers also abound.  Let us not forgot those who are hearing impaired or speak American Sign Language.


This influx brings many rewards to the community, but also presents significant challenges.  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination based on national origin.  The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (Title III) protects these individuals against discrimination.  So do South Carolina’s Code of Laws.  Cooperation between the Judicial Branch, the State Assembly, counties, and municipalities are necessary in funding this necessary judicial operation.  “We are aware that the loss of resources may impose an additional burden on local court jurisdictions.  However, the opportunity for persons to effectively and meaningfully communicate in court proceedings and to participate in court services is a fundamental principle of justice that must be preserved despite the financial challenge it may create for local governments.”– Washington Administrative Office of the Courts, 2015


These six crucial action items help you become part of the solution.


  1. Learn the different codes of ethics for signed and spoken


Using a hearing/ASL violent husband to interpret for your meeting with your client/his wife, is not only a violation of the wife’s due process rights, but also a possible malpractice lawsuit against you.


  1. Ascertain all languages spoken by your client so you can locate the best certified or “otherwise qualified” interpreter.


Lawyers must comply with their professional rules.  They must communicate with their client.  Someone was in jail whose second language is Spanish.  The certified court interpreter relayed this information to the judge.  The judge kept asking if the person understood the charges.  The person didn’t.  Finally, the judge asked, “do you know why you’re in jail?”  The person replied, “Oh yes…”


  1. Family, friends, bilingual police officers, bilingual opposing counsel, and inmates are not court interpreters.


Court interpreters are officers of the court, bound by the Professional Responsibilities of Court Interpreters.  If there is no court reporter, does the bailiff find someone in the street who can do it?  If a victim’s attorney is not present, does the judge proceed with the hearing?  Then why is any old Spanish speaker you can hunt down and bring into the hearing considered an interpreter?  It is your responsibility to maintain confidentiality for your client.


Language access is not a farce; limiting interpreting and translating to professionals who have demonstrated the minimum standards of proficiency not only provides effective and

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