"Bridging the Language Gap" by Patricia Ohmans THE MINNESOTA ASSOCIATION FOR INTERPRETING ADVOCATES FOR PEOPLE WITH LIMITED ENGLISH 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. --------------------- WHAT IS THE MAI? 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. -------------- WHAT DOES THE MAI SUPPORT? 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. ---------------- WHAT WILL THE MAI DO? 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. ------------------------- HOW TO FIND OUT MORE 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.