"Bridging the Language Gap"
		    by Patricia Ohmans


Most residents of Minnesota enjoy easy access to a vast network of
healthcare and social services. But the state's excellent services are, in
one critical way, often inaccessible to nearly a quarter of a million
Minnesotans-those whose primary language is not English.

Many Minnesotans with limited English proficiency are denied full access 
to the state's publicly funded services, because of a dearth of trained 
and qualified language interpreters. The Minnesota Association for 
Interpreting seeks to remedy that inequity.


MAI is a new, non-profit organization whose mission is:
--to advocate for Minnesotans with limited English proficiency (LEP), and
--to develop spoken language interpreting as a recognized profession with
defined standards and ethics.

Goals of the MAI are to:
--advocate for high quality interpreting;
--promote interpreting standards;
--offer training and continuing education;
--inform members about developments in interpreting; and
--develop skills and leadership among professional interpreters.


pecifically, the MAI seeks to promulgate a set of recommended standards
regarding competencies and ethics for spoken language interpreters. These
recommended standards were developed in 1998 by the Minnesota Interpreter
Standards Advisory Committee, a statewide group of 75 individuals
representing academia, health care, government, business, law, advocacy,
community and interpreter organizations. The committee published a report,

Bridging the Language Gap: How to Meet the Need for Interpreters in Minnesota.
(Click for Adobe Acrobat full-text .pdf file).

According to this report, the legal mandate for equal access to many 
public services  is frequently denied to an estimated 250,000 Minnesotans 
with limited English proficiency. Most of these individuals are recent 
immigrants to the United States. Many of them are minor children.

Health care and social services that target families and children are
ineffective if they can not meet their clients' needs for spoken language
interpreting. Services that can not accommodate LEP clients are in violation 
of U.S. civil rights law, as well as of Minnesota statutes.


The Minnesota Association for Interpreting does not provide direct
interpreting services, although many of its members are professional
interpreters. Instead, the MAI supports Minnesotans with limited English
proficiency, by:
--publicizing the need and legal mandate for spoken language interpreting;
--defining standards for high quality interpreting; and
--informing families with limited English of their right to full access to
public services, regardless of their English skills.

The MAI plans to embark on an ambitious program to influence public opinion 
and policy, inform stakeholders about interpreting issues and shape a 
consensus regarding the mandate for equal access.

We intend to:
--conduct regular public education and outreach sessions on issues 
regarding spoken language interpreting and limited English proficiency;
--implement an outreach campaign to disseminate the Bridging the Language
Gap recommendations,
--train health care and social service providers about the need for
interpreters and how to work most effectively with a spoken language
interpreter; and
--plan for a statewide organizing conference (tentatively scheduled for
early 2002).

Despite its interest in furthering professional interpreting, the MAI is 
not a career development organization for interpreters. Its overall 
mission is to improve the quality of interpreting, thereby improving the 
quality of services given to those who need interpreters. Anyone who has 
an interest in this mission can become a member.


The MAI holds regular monthly meetings at the HealthEast Outpatient 
Services Building, 1700 University Avenue, Saint Paul, from 5:30 to 7 PM 
on the second Monday of every month. (Please NOTE: No general meetings are
scheduled for July or August of 2001.)

For further information, please call the MAI secretary at 612-926-9703. 
You can also write the MAI at PMB 106, 3208 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, 
MN 55408, or email in care of pohmans@healthadvocates.org.