Category Archives: Immigrant Issues

10 Quick Tips About Jamaican Patois

Jamaica map compressed

10 Quick Tips About Jamaican Patois
1. Jamaican Patois or Jamaican has long been regarded as a dialect. A simple definition of “dialect” by Merriam-Webster is “a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations.”
2. Some people see Jamaican as a language. In his article, “Is Jamaica Patois a Language?” Karl Folkes suggests this to be the case as it “is rule-governed (has a grammar of its own); has its own ‘standard,’ has a community of native speakers…and can certainly be expressed orthographically in a uniform way that can – and should – encourage literacy development.” A simple definition of “language” by Merriam-Webster is “the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other.”
3. The acceptable spelling of phonetic sounds in Jamaican has not been agreed upon by everyone. Folkes writes the following sentences in Jamaican that he compares to English:
– Dem a fi mi [They’re mine.] can also be written, “Dem ah fi mi.”
– Kuyaman, awara. (Say, what’s up?) can also be written, “Cooyah man. Ah wara?”
– Unu a fi nuo seh a soh wi tan. [You must know that’s the way we are.] can also be written, “Oonoo fi know seh ah so we tan.”
– A wan dege sinting smady a gi mi. [It’s a measly thing someone is giving me.] can also be written, “Ah wan deggeh sinting smaddy ah gi mi.”
To date, there is no authority to say which spellings are correct and which are incorrect.
4. Many people who speak Jamaican Patois have also attained a high level of formal education. The popular belief held by many that speakers of Jamaican Patois are unintelligent and uneducated is inaccurate.
5. Many people who speak Jamaican Patois can also speak English and other languages. The fact that speakers of Jamaican are hired to interpret in various settings between other speakers of Jamaican and non-native speakers is proof of this point.

Jamaican Patois can be translated into English or any other language
Jamaican Patois can be translated into English or any other language

6. There are many ways to say the same thing in Jamaican Patois. Just as in other languages, the same concept can be expressed in different ways in Jamaican Patois.
7 Jamaican Patois is spoken differently in varying geographic locations, situation and settings. There are various registers, accents, regionalisms and strains of Jamaican Patois. People from different parishes of Jamaica sound different, whether they hail from urban or rural areas.
8. Jamaican Patois can be translated into English or any other language. Jamaican Patois has come a long way in its verbal and written development and usage so that Jamaican concepts can be translated, transcribed, interpreted and transcreated from and into other languages.
9. Interpreters of Jamaican Patois are often hired so that non-native speakers can communicate with Jamaican speakers. Jamaican Patois translation and interpreting services are used for court cases, medical and hospital visits, prisons, insurance claims, and others.
10. Speakers of Jamaican Patois come in all ethnicities. Speakers of Jamaican Patois come from African, East Indian, Chinese, mixed and other origins.

Translator’s Guide to Handling Client Complaints

Continue reading Translator’s Guide to Handling Client Complaints

Movie review- Somewhere Between (2012)

It’s the weekend and I’m at home flipping through various Netflix movies to see if anything catches my eye when the picture of two teenage girls with warm smiles grabs my attention. “Somewhere Between,” directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, is a documentary about four Chinese girls living with American adoptive parents.

As I begin to watch the documentary, I realize that each and every one of the girls is experiencing an identity crisis in some way or another. Haley, Jenna, Ann, and Fang are teenagers living in a world where they don’t quite measure up in the eyes of everyone else and in their own eyes. When you are adopted it is hard not to question your past and to want to know more about your birth parents. Everyone around you knows you’re different, even if you don’t want to admit it. The girls wonder why they have been abandoned and they feel a compulsion to search for their birth parents.

Jenna attends school in New Hampshire; she plays the guitar and is on the JV Coxswain crew. She struggles to be “perfect” because rejection is her biggest fear as a result of being abandoned by her birth parents. Haley resides and receives home schooling in Tennessee and is deeply religious. She struggles with her identity and is intent on tracking down her birth parents. Ann lives in suburban Pennsylvania and is the only one who doesn’t have a desire to learn about her birth parents throughout the documentary. Fang, who was adopted at five years of age and speaks fluent Mandarin, lives in California. She sets out to find her birth parents and at the same time helps a young orphan find a home.

Language is a very important aspect of this documentary because those who share the same language can be brought closer while a language barrier can cause problems. When Haley tracks down her birth parents and meets them for the first time, an interpreter is present because Haley doesn’t speak Chinese. When sensitive questions are asked, the linguist interprets the answers in a non-threatening tone. When asked why Haley was abandoned, the mother’s answer is simple and straightforward: the family was too poor to afford another girl. However the interpreter doesn’t give Haley the same answer. Instead, she provides a sugar-coated version. I wish the interpreter had given Haley a straight answer instead of making excuses for the mother. The birth mother’s answer suggests that if Haley had been a boy, she may not have been given up for adoption.

Fang’s fluency in Mandarin facilitates the adoption of an abandoned orphan girl with cerebral palsy. They become close friends and she interacts with the orphan in Mandarin, the only language the orphan knows. Fang bridges the gap between the orphan and American surrogate parents because she is bilingual in both English and Chinese. My favorite part of the film is when the orphan is led by Fang to meet her surrogate parents for the first time and says, “Mama,” when told to do so by Fang. In the end, the orphan is sad to see Fang leave. However, I am sure she’ll thank her when she grows up and realizes how much Fang has done for her.

I highly recommend Somewhere Between as it is only an hour and a half, even though I wish it were longer because it was so captivating. As an immigrant, I really identify with the girls who alternate between feeling like insiders and outsiders in either of the two cultures.

Obstacles Encountered When Translating Rare Languages and How to Overcome Them

We were recently asked to translate three documents from English languages of the worldinto thirteen languages, including:

*        Arabic

*        Amharic

*        Burmese

*        Chin

*        Farsi

*        French

*        Karen

*        Karenni

*        Nepali

*        Somali

*        Spanish

*        Swahili

*        Tigrinya

Such a request is not unusual and whether or not the volume of the project is high, no effort should be spared to satisfy the client.

Before the project was confirmed, we had to evaluate and provide a proposal for the job. Two of the documents were in Microsoft Word and one was in Excel. Even though we have hundreds of vendors in our database, the search had to be fine tuned to meet the specifications of this particular project. A translator and editor/proofreader with expertise in the respective specialty area had to be assigned for each language.

Following are some of the usual concerns that need to be addressed when working with rare language translations:

1) Finding language service providers who are dedicated to quality and not to simply collecting payments. No matter how tried and true a vendor is, we have a saying at the office that “you are as good as your last screw up.” Admittedly, this sounds cynical and puts a great deal of pressure on the agency and on the vendor. However, the translation industry is one in which only excellence is good enough. Therefore strict quality assurance standards must be adhered to at all times.

2) Finding vendors who can work within clients’ budgets. Bidding on projects can be very competitive. A very important factor that clients take into consideration when selecting a language service provider is budget. Bearing this in mind, the right balance must be maintained, on the one hand by asking the client to pay enough to be able to ensure the required quality while on the other hand by asking providers to be willing to negotiate in order to be successful in landing the project.

3) Meeting deadlines. One of the biggest challenges that can be encountered during the course of a translation project involving rare languages is delayed responses due to differences in time zones and other technical factors beyond providers’ control. Some examples are loss of phone or internet service, power outages due to electrical storms and other situations that range from mild to disastrous. From the very outset of the working relationship, as far as possible, language service providers must be made to understand the importance of maintaining constant contact from the time they submit their proposals up to and including after delivery has been made to the client.

4) Ensuring that instructions are understood and carried out. Communication problems can occur, among other reasons, if English is not the native language of the language service provider and there can be other challenges if providers do not share the same work ethic as the project manager. At times a linguist may appear to agree with instructions provided, only to display behavior that proves otherwise. However, the project manager must see to it that instructions are understood and carried out.

5) Making sure that the client is satisfied with delivery. Very often the characters used for rare languages are different from those used in English and it is not unusual for them to be garbled in file formats such as Word and Excel. Therefore, along with those deliverables, pdf files should be provided so the client will be able to properly view the characters in the translations. In addition, the fonts used should be provided. Files should be zipped in a format that the client will have no difficulties opening. At times, a font installer may have to be sent to the client so that the client will be able to work with the foreign Microsoft Office files.

At the end of the day, whether a project is assigned to twenty-six different linguists or to one language service provider, the quality must be such that the client will keep coming back.

Obstacles Encountered When Translating Rare Languages and How to Overcome Them

We were recently asked to translate three documents from English into thirteen languages, including:

*        Arabic

*        Amharic

*        Burmese

*        Chin

*        Farsi

*        French

*        Karen

*        Karenni

*        Nepali

*        Somali

*        Spanish

*        Swahili

*        Tigrinya

Such a request is not unusual and whether or not the volume of the project is high, no effort should be spared to satisfy the client.

Before the project was confirmed, we had to evaluate and provide a proposal for the job. Two of the documents were in Microsoft Word and one was in Excel. Even though we have hundreds of vendors in our database, the search had to be fine tuned to meet the specifications of this particular project. A translator and editor/proofreader with expertise in the respective specialty area had to be assigned for each language.

Following are some of the usual concerns that need to be addressed when working with rare language translations:

1) Finding language service providers who are dedicated to quality and not to simply collecting payments. No matter how tried and true a vendor is, we have a saying at the office that “you are as good as your last screw up.” Admittedly, this sounds cynical and puts a great deal of pressure on the agency and on the vendor. However, the translation industry is one in which only excellence is good enough. Therefore strict quality assurance standards must be adhered to at all times.

2) Finding vendors who can work within clients’ budgets. Bidding on projects can be very competitive. A very important factor that clients take into consideration when selecting a language service provider is budget. Bearing this in mind, the right balance must be maintained, on the one hand by asking the client to pay enough to be able to ensure the required quality while on the other hand by asking providers to be willing to negotiate in order to be successful in landing the project.

3) Meeting deadlines. One of the biggest challenges that can be encountered during the course of a translation project involving rare languages is delayed responses due to differences in time zones and other technical factors beyond providers’ control. Some examples are loss of phone or internet service, power outages due to electrical storms and other situations that range from mild to disastrous. From the very outset of the working relationship, as far as possible, language service providers must be made to understand the importance of maintaining constant contact from the time they submit their proposals up to and including after delivery has been made to the client.

4) Ensuring that instructions are understood and carried out. Communication problems can occur, among other reasons, if English is not the native language of the language service provider and there can be other challenges if providers do not share the same work ethic as the project manager. At times a linguist may appear to agree with instructions provided, only to display behavior that proves otherwise. However, the project manager must see to it that instructions are understood and carried out.

5) Making sure that the client is satisfied with delivery. Very often the characters used for rare languages are different from those used in English and it is not unusual for them to be garbled in file formats such as Word and Excel. Therefore, along with those deliverables, pdf files should be provided so the client will be able to properly view the characters in the translations. In addition, the fonts used should be provided. Files should be zipped in a format that the client will have no difficulties opening. At times, a font installer may have to be sent to the client so that the client will be able to work with the foreign Microsoft Office files.

At the end of the day, whether a project is assigned to twenty-six different linguists or to one language service provider, the quality must be such that the client will keep coming back.

Language Professionals and Immigrant Issues

Being multi-lingual may serve as an indicator that some translators and interpreters are immigrants who at one point or another, have had to face some of the very same issues in which they become professionally engaged. Translators and interpreters do well to pay close attention to matters relating to immigrants and immigration since, among other reasons, the profession is involved in many ways.

A few years ago, through professional interaction with the LaGuardia Community College Immigration Legal Services Center, I learned about the services offered by the CUNY Citizenship and Immigration Project, which provides free services at various campus centers located throughout New York City. Services to the public include confidential one-on-one consultations with immigration attorneys and paralegals, as well as access to immigration and citizenship forms, and community and educational activities. and other citizenship and immigration clinics around the country. Usually, after immigrants cross the main hurdle of obtaining the right to live and work legally in the United States in order to make a living for themselves and their families, there are other issues they have to face.

Perception Issues. Through aiding in the communication process, translators and interpreters can help immigrants overcome the negative connotation that the word “immigrant” can sometimes bear. Because of fairly recent events in the U.S., some immigrants now have the appearance of being a threat to the security of the country. Others are often perceived as a threat to the economic wellbeing of U.S. citizens because of their willingness, borne out of their need, to work for a fraction of the prevailing rate in their respective industries. There is a tendency for some people to assume that immigrants have no assets or education and that their motive for immigrating into the U.S. is to take something from the country rather than to make a contribution there. While many immigrants do seek “opportunity,” a significant number have obtained tertiary education and/or professional skills and experience, while others are already property owners before hitting the shores of the U.S. Even though their decision to leave all of these behind may appear questionable to some, immigrants can have a lot to offer when they arrive in some cases at great sacrifice, especially when there are families in the new environment and/or back home to be supported.

Language Issues. Some immigrants who do not speak English tend to remain insulated in an environment where they feel they will be best able to function and be understood. The lesser the extent of the support they receive in their cultural communities is the greater the extent of the difficulties and challenges they will face when dealing with the public since they are unable to effectively integrate into the society, due to a lack of English language skills and cultural understanding. Because of this shortfall, some immigrants face difficulties because some US Citizens do not like the idea of having to accommodate immigrants so much. It is not unusual to hear the complaint, why do I need to press “One” for English when, after all, this is “America” and everyone should learn to speak English! Learning English to an acceptable level of proficiency takes time, nevertheless. Therefore, as long as immigrants are invited to the U.S., language professionals will continue to be called upon to bridge the gap, be it through teaching English as a second language or through translation and/or interpreting in a variety of situations in which immigrants find themselves.

Social Issues. At times, when people immigrate to the United States, they experience a culture shock and, not understanding the diversity that exists, may at times appear to be impolite. This can be very annoying for others when, for example, they may either avoid those who speak English or speak in a different language while in the presence of English speakers. This happens very frequently in places like grocery stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, nail salons and beauty parlors. Because their behavior may appear to be impolite, these immigrants need to be taught not only English but cultural awareness, especially in order to navigate service industries.

Over a two-year period, I observed the reaction of students in an English reading class I established for immigrants at St. Pius V Church, a Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica, New York comprised of a diversity of parishioners from the Caribbean, North America, Latin America, Central America, Asia and Europe. Some forty-one participants enrolled, and classes comprised mainly of Spanish, Portuguese and French speaking immigrants. The participants in the classes had some appreciation for their need to learn English in order to be prepared for life in the United States. A very important component that was added to the class was a cultural understanding of the community in which the students lived.

Other Social Issues. I was once in the presence of some women a few years ago and one very young mother of three told me that she was worried for her young toddlers and that she felt they would have a better life if only they could change her names. I understood her plight and the fact that for decades, some immigrants have changed their names for various reasons, including their need to avoid religious persecution, I cannot imagine a life worth living as someone else and would never consider changing my name, except to use a pseudonym for some artistic purpose. Immigrants from other cultures have had a similar social dilemma and have felt the need to use the anglicized versions of their names in order not to appear socially inferior. Others have felt the need to go to any lengths to look like their Western counterparts and have had their eyes surgically altered to lose their original look.

Health Issues. Immigrants are no exception to the numbers in the U.S. in need of adequate healthcare and healthcare coverage. Not only that, but they face the same concerns as everyone else when it comes to lifestyle, accessibility to proper nutrition, stress reduction and prevention. Because of litigation passed that requires healthcare facilities and providers to ensure that interpreting services are made available to non-English-speaking patients who present for medical attention, foreign language professionals are in greater demand and have more work opportunities than before. It is standard procedure for hospital and other healthcare facilities’ human resources departments to include multi-lingual healthcare providers among their personnel.

Legal Issues. Immigration attorneys deal with a range of concerns, including but not limited to adoption, asylum and protection, business and employment, consular processing, deportation and removal, family-related concerns, general matters, litigation, and naturalization. Some immigration lawyers also specialize in criminal law and human rights issues and immigrants needing support in these areas have to avail themselves of their services. Each of these legal areas entails distinct subject matter and call for informal meetings, conferences in chambers and a plethora of documentation requiring experience and the knowledge of various processes and varied terminology in all languages. Language professionals are required in the legal arena to assist with immigrant issues.

Working with immigrants can be very exciting and rewarding and it is certainly an area in which translators and interpreters can create and find many opportunities to develop their skills and make a difference.