March 7, 2001

Interpreter Translator Program Seeks to Raise Understanding

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Designed to meet the growing language needs of the community, the Interpreter Translator Program will pair bilingual volunteers with community agencies in Ithaca. Launched this semester, the program serves as a part of the ongoing language effort of the Public Service Center.

In conjunction with the existing Language Expansion Program (LEP), the Interpreter Translator Program will create a database of volunteers bilingual in English and a second language to act as interpreters or translators in emergency and non-emergency situations.

The LEP was originally established for anyone interested in learning a new language or improving their existing language skills. Conversational partners helped one another practice their language skills and explore a different culture through the program.

“After sending out a survey to about 300 community agencies, it was clear that the language needs of the community were not being addressed,” said Fatema Gunja ’01, who works in the Public Service Center and created the program. “The point of the program is to channel existing resources to where they’re needed in the community.”

The survey results determined Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean as the top five demanded languages needed in the Ithaca community.

The Public Service Center will be sponsoring a workshop and cultural sensitivity training Saturday March 10 at 9 a.m. in the Willard Straight International Lounge as part of the certification process.

According to Gunja, volunteers must pass a foreign language test and attend this Saturday’s workshop where 15 community agencies and volunteers will be brought together and introduced to one another.

“There are many different languages in Ithaca and especially in a time of crisis, it’s imperative that the words communicated are being communicated effectively and accurately,” said Joyce Munchan, a human rights commisioner with the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission. “Different police situations, medical situations and fire situations call for access to a different language communities.”

The progam aims to create a centralized database of volunteers online and a community agency would have to register with The Public Service Center in order to access individual information.

“It’s wonderful to know that as an international student and a ‘transient member’ of Ithaca, there are ways that I can get involved with the community life beyond the Ivory Tower,” said Ma Hongnan, a bilingual student fluent in Chinese and English. “Under the most mundane circumstances this program promotes intercultural exchanges and, personally, I believe I will learn a lot about various aspects of American life first hand.”

Archived article by Tanvi Chheda