Speech services to assist refugees
So many immigrants and refugees have come to Western Pennsylvania from Nepal and Bhutan that two charitable agencies say they are creating a translation service to help them navigate doctor appointments and hospital stays.
“There is almost zero ability or knowledge among most Americans with these languages. This is not like finding someone who speaks Spanish,” said Leslie Aizenman, director of refugee services for Jewish Children and Family Services, one of the region's two largest refugee resettlement agencies.
JCFS and Sharpsburg-based Northern Area Multi Service Center are spearheading Language Link, which has 17 paid interpreters on staff. The agencies hope to have the service up and running by late summer and eventually provide interpreters for other languages, too.
Language Link has been planned for two years by the Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council, a group made up of representatives of the immigrant community and the public and nonprofit agencies that serve them.
The service initially is funded with a United Way grant and emphasizes medical interpretation.
“The doctor's office is probably the most important place to have accurate and impartial translation,” said Natalia Mytareva, communications programs director at the International Institute of Akron Inc., a nonprofit agency that provides services to foreign-born people in and around Akron, Ohio. A professional interpreter, Mytareva trained the 17 Language Link interpreters.
That kind of translation had been done informally for a long time, said Barbara Murock, project manager of the Immigrants and Internationals Initiative at the Allegheny Department of Human Services. Language Link will help provide services that are more professional and less haphazard.
“Our region has been growing in the number of immigrants and internationals, and they are participating in every sector of our community. Allegheny County is at a tipping point where we need a centralized resource to meet what is a growing need for interpretation and translation services in the languages spoken by the newest members of our community,” she said.
Since 2010 through this spring, more than 700 Bhutanese immigrants have been assisted by the Squirrel Hill Health Center.
Bhutan, a country of fewer than 1 million people, is sandwiched between China and India. Complaining of ethnic and political repression, Nepali-speaking Bhutanese have fled to Nepal, but those camps are closing, and more than 23,000 Bhutanese have settled in the United States.
Refugees arrive here with a series of strict timelines and guidelines involving medical checkups, enrolling in English as a second language programs and enrolling their children in school — none of which are easy without speaking English.
“Interpretation is all about access to information. Our interpreters will get paid. This is a serious commitment,” said Amy Hart, president and CEO of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services Inc., the nonprofit agent that is running Language Link. The center does 22,000 interpretations each year for hearing-impaired people.
Speaking more than one language does not make someone a skilled interpreter, said Mytareva.
“There is medical terminology to know; a code of ethics for medical privacy, HIPAA; and objectivity. It really is better that an interpreter not be a family member or friend because they are more likely to offer an opinion or give people incomplete translations,” she said.
Bishnu Timsina, 37, of Whitehall, a married mother of two, came to the United States two years ago after living in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal for 18 years.
She speaks fluent Nepali, Hindi and English and understands three other languages. Timsina has been trained as a Language Link interpreter.
“I gained a lot of experience from the training to be an interpreter,” she said. “I learned that I have to be more professional, that I have speak clearly.
“There's a difference between knowing a language and doing effective interpretation,” Timsina said.
For more information, call the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services at 412-281-1375.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
- Architecture: Visionaries saw buildings but not the political surroundings
- Western Pa. prosecutors zero in on human trafficking; legislation pending
- Bin Laden relatives among crash casualties
- Zimbabwe suspends hunts amid outcry over lion’s death
- Mercer Co. woman charged in husband’s shooting death
- Former Steeler Mendenhall relishes writing for HBO’s ‘Ballers’
- Road Trip! Destination: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- East Liberty native steps off Broadway to bring ‘Kinky Boots’ home
- Motorcyclist injured in Sewickley Township