Swell in growth of immigrant communities spurs need for interpreters.

The number of Latinos, Somalis, Russians and Asians making their home in Central Ohio has swelled in recent years. The influx has contributed to the cultural diversity of Columbus and it’s suburbs. But, it has also created the need for interpretors in a variety of situations, especially area hospitals and the courts. WOSU’s Marilyn Smith reports.

County sheriff’s deputies use interpreters in the field. Lawyers and court officials use them to facilitate legal proceedings. In 2005, the last year for which records were compiled, outside interpreters were called to Franklin County Municipal court four-hundred-fifty-three times to the tune of more than ninety-thousand dollars. Administrator Suzanne Ruzicka says Municipal Court also employs two full-time and two-part time Spanish interpretors and two parole officers fluent in Spanish. Ruzicka says for the most part the system works well but she’s aware that problems crop up from time to time. She says occasionlly lawyers are concerned that their message is not being accurately interpreted.

The Executive Director of the Franklin Common Pleas Court is also aware of the potential for problems. Atiba Jones says it’s important that interpreters are professional and adhere to high standards. The Ohio Supreme Court is currently reviewing those standards but it must be careful to balance the need for well-qualified interpreters against tight small county budgets.

Language interpreters can also be found in local hospitals.

Jaime Gonzales is visiting his infant daughter at Childrens’ Hospital in Columbus. The fifteen-month old baby requires treatment for birth defects. While Gonzales speaks some English, his lack of fluency, makes it difficult for him to understand his daughter’s medical treatment. It also makes it difficult for him to communicate with doctors and nurses on the case.

That’s where Annabella Sanchez comes in. For the last seven years, Sanchez has been coordinating interpretor services for Childrens’ Hospital. Sanchez oversees an in-house staff and a stable of free-lance interpretors who help non-English speaking patients or their parents communicate with the hospital staff.

Many professional intrepretors are trained at Asist Translation Services on Sawmill Road. Starting out in 1975 as a scientific translation service, Asist has grown into the largest interpretation and translation service in Central Ohio and among the largest in the Midwest.

Marketing Director Susan Bowles says classes for medical, legal and business and technical interpretors are held throughout the year. And, she says, Asist provides interpreters for area hospitals and law enforcement for non-English speakers who need them, even if the need for an interpretor comes in the middle of the night. Night-duty dispatchers take emergency requests, sending out interpreters who speak an ever-increasing number of languages. Bowles says Asist is fielding more requests for African and Arabic dialects.

Bowles says it was once common for an emergency room nurse or doctor to press an English-speaking friend or relative into service. Now, she says the risk of a misunderstanding or even a lawsuit demand the use of professional interpreters in many situations.

She says interpreters trained by Asist must be fluent in a second language, fully grasp their respective field of medicine, law, business or technology and be aware of potential cultural clashes that might cause additional problems. For example, she says in some Asian cultures it is taboo to tell an elderly relative he or she is dying. Conversely, American physicians are required by law to do just that. Often, Bowles says, interpreters are caught in the middle.

Bowles says Asist turns away more potential interpreters for training than it accepts each year. In addition to interpreter training, the company also provides cultural classes for people doing business abroad, or entertaining non-English speaking clients. In addition, she says the company translates materials for the Internet, print ads and radio and television commercials. One of their interpreters will broadcast this years Emmy Awards to a Portuguese-speaking audience in Brazil.