2. Hiring bilingual staff
When particular languages are encountered often, hiring bilingual staff offers one of the best, and often most economical, options. If bilingual staff is also used to interpret between English speakers and LEP persons, or to orally interpret written documents from English into another language, they should be competent in the skill of interpreting. Being bilingual does not necessarily mean that a person has the ability to interpret. In addition, there may be times when the role of the bilingual employee may conflict with the role of an interpreter (for instance, a bilingual law clerk would probably not be able to perform effectively the role of a courtroom or administrative hearing interpreter and law clerk at the same time, even if the law clerk were a qualified interpreter).
Effective management strategies, including any appropriate adjustments in assignments and protocols for using bilingual staff, can ensure that bilingual staff is fully and appropriately utilized. When bilingual staff cannot meet all of the language service obligations, the L&I Program management should turn to other options.
3. Hiring staff interpreters
Hiring interpreters may be most helpful where there is a frequent need for interpreting services in one or more languages. Depending on the facts, sometimes it may be necessary and reasonable to provide on-site interpreters to provide accurate and meaningful communication with an LEP individual. Contract interpreters may be a cost-effective option when there is no regular need for a particular language skill. In addition to the Department of General Services' Language Assistance contract and commercial and other private providers, many community-based organizations and mutual assistance associations provide interpretation services for particular languages. Providing training regarding L&I programs, services, and processes to these organizations can be a cost effective option for providing language services to LEP individuals.
4. Using telephone interpreter lines
Telephone interpreter service lines often offer speedy interpreting assistance in many different languages. They may be particularly appropriate where the mode of communicating with an English proficient person would also be over the telephone. Although telephonic interpretation services are useful in many situations, it is important to ensure that, when using such services, the interpreters used are competent to interpret any technical or legal terms specific to a particular L&I program that may be important parts of the conversation. Nuances in language and non-verbal communication can often assist an interpreter and cannot be recognized over the phone. Video teleconferencing may sometimes help to resolve this issue where necessary. In addition, where documents are being discussed, it is important to give telephonic interpreters adequate opportunity to review the document prior to the discussion and any logistical problems should be addressed.
5. Using Community Volunteers
The use of coordinated community volunteers and working with community-based organizations may provide a cost-effective supplemental language assistance strategy under appropriate circumstances. Community volunteers may be particularly useful in providing language access for a program's less critical services and activities. To the extent the program staff relies on community volunteers, it is often best to use volunteers who are trained in the information or services of the program and can communicate directly with LEP persons in their language. Just as with all interpreters, community volunteers used to interpret between English speakers and LEP persons, or to orally translate documents, should be competent in the skill of interpreting and knowledgeable about applicable confidentiality and impartiality rules. Individual programs should consider formal arrangements with community-based organizations that provide volunteers to address these concerns and to help ensure that services are available more regularly.
6. Using Family Members, Friends, or other Personal Acquaintances as Interpreters
Although L&I programs should not rely on an LEP person's family members, friends, or other informal interpreters to provide meaningful access to important programs and activities, at the discretion of individual programs, and where LEP persons so desire, they should be permitted to use, at their own expense, an interpreter of their own choosing (whether a professional interpreter, family members, friend, or other personal acquaintance) in place of or as a supplement to, the free language services expressly offered by L&I programs.
LEP persons may feel more comfortable when a trusted family member, friend, or other acquaintance acts as an interpreter. In addition, in exigent circumstances that are not reasonable, foreseeable, temporary use of interpreters not provided by a program may be necessary. However, with proper planning and implementation, L&I programs should be able to avoid most such situations.
L&I programs, however, should take special care to ensure that family, legal guardians, caretakers, and other informal interpreters are appropriate in light of the circumstances and subject matter of the program, service or activity, including protection of L&I's own administrative or enforcement interest. In many circumstances, family members (especially children), friends, other acquaintances are not competent to provide quality and accurate interpretations. Issues of confidentiality, privacy, or conflict of interest may also arise. LEP individuals may feel uncomfortable revealing or describing sensitive, confidential, or potentially embarrassing medical, law enforcement, family, or financial information to a family member, friend, or member of the local community. In addition, such informal interpreters may have a personal connection to the LEP person or an undisclosed conflict of interest, such as the desire to protect themselves or another in a criminal or civil matter. For these reasons, when oral language services are necessary, competent interpreter services should be offered to the LEP person free of cost. This is particularly true in an administrative hearing, pre and post proceedings, situations in which health, safety, or access to important benefits and services are at stake, or when credibility and accuracy are important to protect an individual's rights and access to important services.
If the LEP person voluntarily chooses to provide his or her own interpreter, the program staff should keep a record of that choice and of the offer of assistance as appropriate. Where precise, complete, and accurate interpretations of translations of information and/ or testimony are critical for law enforcement, adjudicatory, or legal reasons, or where the competency of the LEP person's interpreter is not established, program staff should provide its own, independent interpreter, even if the LEP person wants to use his or her own interpreter as well. Extra caution should be exercised when the LEP person chooses to use a minor as the interpreter. While the LEP person's decision should be respected, there may be additional issues of competency, confidentiality, or conflict of interest when the choice involves using children as interpreters. The L&I program staff should take care to ensure that the LEP person's choice is voluntary, that the LEP person is aware of the possible problems if the preferred interpreter is a minor child, and that the LEP person knows that a competent interpreter will be provided by the program at no cost. The quality and accuracy of language services is critical as part of the appropriate combination of LEP services required.
Finally, when interpretation is needed and is reasonable, it should be provided in a timely manner to be meaningful and effective. While there is no single definition for "timely" applicable to all types of interactions at all times by all types of programs, one clear guide is that the language assistance should be provided at a time and place that avoids the effective denial of the service, benefit, or right at issue or the imposition of an undue burden on or delay in important rights, benefits, or services to the LEP person. Caution must be exercised when the delivery of services could likely result in delays for LEP persons that would be significantly greater than those for English proficient persons. Conversely, where access to a program, service, benefit, or right is not effectively precluded by a reasonable delay, language assistance can likely be delayed for a reasonable period.
7. Written Language Services (Translation)
Translation is the replacement of a written text from one language (source language) with an equivalent written text in another language (target language).