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Indigenous people speak more than 4,000 of the world’s languages. These languages are not only methods of communication, but also extensive and complex systems of knowledge that have developed over millennia and are central to the identity of indigenous peoples.1

 

Why are Interpreters Needed? 

Interpretation is important because quality health care, legal care, social services, and advocacy require effective communication. Individuals may have a basic working understanding of Spanish or other national languages, but not enough to communicate the nuances of a legal situation, health condition, or educational requirement. Furthermore, interpretation is a complex skill that requires training and experience2, 3. When we are not culturally competent or ensure appropriate language services there can be 1) unnecessary expenditures in time and resources; 2) unnecessary processes or treatments; 3) a lack of important services (for example medical tests or education); or 4) legal liabilities.2, 3 

 

What Does Language Access Mean? What is the Law Regarding Language Access?

Limited English proficiency refers to individuals whose primary language is not English and who have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. Language access refers to the ability of individuals who have limited English proficiency to access programs or services.2

 

Title VI applies to federal agencies and recipients of federal funds. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. The 1974 Lau vs. Nichols case ruled that discrimination against individuals with limited English proficiency, for example failing to provide them with the same services as English speakers, was national origin discrimination under Title VI. Executive Order 13166 reinforces Title VI protections for individuals with limited English proficiency and requires federal agencies to have systems in place to ensure limited English proficiency individuals have access to services.2  

 

Article I, Section 14 of the California Constitution prohibits discrimination by the state or state agency on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, or disability. The term ethnic group identification includes linguistic groups.2  If an individual has been denied access to services based on language, they may file a complaint with the Department of Justice or agency that provides federal funding. Agencies who do not comply with Title VI may lose funding. If language discrimination is intentional individuals can file a lawsuit.2

 

Indigenous Languages Are Diverse 

There is a great deal of language diversity even within countries and local municipalities, and many individuals may speak a language that is not the majority language in a country. Many indigenous languages are not related to English or Spanish, such as K’iche’, Mam, and Zapotec – there are 129 distinct indigenous language families in Latin America alone.3,4 In addition, there are 68 indigenous groups and 364 languages in Mexico,4,5 and just within the Mexican state of Oaxaca, there are 16 language groups.3 Similarly, in Guatemala 40% of the population is indigenous.3 This means that providers cannot assume all patients that have emigrated from Latin America speak Spanish as their first language.

 

How Can I Be an Advocate for Language Justice?6

  • There are sizable indigenous speaking immigrant communities, especially from Mexico (mostly from Oaxaca) and Guatemala (mostly Mayan speakers).
  • Simply stop and ask for the individual to explain back what you have been communicating to them. This can help assess if an interpreter is needed.  
  • Know who you serve but don’t rely purely on Census data (Latino/a and Hispanic are too broad as terms). 
  • Identify and train multilingual and multicultural staff or use the interpreter services listed in this toolkit 
  • Seek trainings and workshops: by language justice local experts 
      • Dr. Gaspar Rivera Salgado (Ph.D UCLA Labor Studies): grsalgado@irle.ucla.edu
        • Expertise: Indigenous Mexican Migration to the US; History & Culture of Indigenous Peoples of Mexico; and Ethnic and Racial Relation in Mexico and the US.  
      • Antena Los Ángeles: info@antenalosangeles.org
        • Antena Los Ángeles is a 6-person collective founded in 2014, dedicated to language justice advocacy and organizing. Antena Los Ángeles works with individuals and groups to develop strategies for equitable communication across languages, using as our primary tools interpreting, translation, consulting, and education to expand the capacity to create spaces where everyone can participate fully. 
      • Odilia Romero: romeroodilia@gmail.com
        • Odilia Romero is a member of the Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) and for more than a decade has worked with indigenous Mexican and binational organizations advocating for human rights and cultural and political education.
    • Tips for speaking to someone who seems to speak limited Spanish 
  • Speak slowly and clearly, not loudly 
  • Ask them to explain back the information you have given them to help identify if they are comfortable in Spanish 
  • Ask what their primary language is 
  • Ask what estado (Mexico) or departamento (Guatemala) they are from 
  • Ask if they want or need an interpreter 
  • ¿Podría decirme de dónde es usted? ¿De qué estado? ¿De qué Municipio? ¿De qué Agencia Municipal? ¿Habla una lengua indígena? ¿Conoce a alguien que le pueda interpretar? 
  • Do not rely on friends or family members to interpret 
  • Work with communities to help inform people about language services 
  • Seek feedback from limited English language individuals and their communities on language access 

 

Resources for the deaf and hard of hearing communities in Los Angeles:

https://gladinc.org/resources/

 

Resources for individuals who are low vision or blind and their families: 

http://ccbnet.org/res.htm

 

CRLA Referral List:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kpa0GJXdQ1VxESgd9Ol5reeuTgOberPJ/view?usp=sharing

 

Cultural Sensitivity PowerPoint:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qIFcGNKXkhx40ksEI2z2DjBK_dSwwi8X/view?usp=sharing

 

 

References

1.The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. (2018, April). Retrieved April 4, 2020, from https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp- content/uploads/sites/19/2018/04/Indigenous-Languages.pdf

2. Language Access Powerpoint by Maureen Keffer  

Keffer, Maureen. (2015). Language Access Rights of Indigenous Language Speakers https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WTkkUQ5IPI1cYGYEZpVjEu0O2Ltv-NAv/view?usp=sharing.  

3. Gaspar Rivera Salgado, PhD: Project Director with the UCLA Labor Center 

Rivera-Salgado, Gaspar. (2019). Cultural Awareness and indigenous Migrants in California. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qIFcGNKXkhx40ksEI2z2DjBK_dSwwi8X/view?usp=sharing

4. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs 

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. (2019, January). Year of Indigenous Languages. https://www.iwgia.org/en/focus/international-year-of-indigenous-languages 

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. (2018). Indigenous Navigator. http://nav.indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/ 

5. El Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía . (2015). México - Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Retrieved February 2020, from http://www3.inegi.org.mx/rnm/index.php/catalog/214/related_materials?idPro

6. Odilia Romero and Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (CIELO)

ResourceLanguagesSummaryEligibilitySPA
Language Line Solutions

1 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Building 2 Monterey CA, 93940 USA
24/7
800-752-6096
ManyCorporate translation and interpreter services (written, phone, video, in person)Cost varies
Optimal Phone Interpreters

755 Clay Street Winter Park, FL 32789
24/7
877-746-4674
ManyCorporate translation and interpreter services (written, phone, video, in person)Cost varies
Pals for Health

515 S. Columbia Ave. Suite 320 Los Angeles, CA 90017
Hours vary
213-553-1818
Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Taiwanese, Thai, VietnameseInterpreter or translation services for medical contexts, usually in person or writtenCost varies
MGI-Maxine Waters Health and Dignity Center at York Elementary School

11802 York Ave Hawthorne, CA 90250
M-F 8:30-4:29
310-978-4357
English, Spanish, PortugueseInterpreter and translation services, case managementFree
Pat Cunningham's Health and Dignity Center at Zela Davis School

13435 S. Yukon Ave Hawthorne, CA 90250
M-F 8:30-4:30
310-978-4357
310-675-9347
English, Spanish, PortugueseInterpreter and translation services, case managementFree
Legal Aid At Work

180 Montgomery Street, Suite 600 San Francisco, CA 94104
hotline 24/7
415-864-8848
800-864-1664
English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, ManyLegal services nationwide in the areas of workplace rights and language-based employment discrimination or language accessFree
Children's Hospital Los Angeles

4650 Sunset Blvd. First floor Anderson Pavillion Los Angeles CA 90027
M-Sun 8:30-5 in person 24/7 by phone
323-660-2450
ManyMedical interpreters in person, over phone, over videoFree for patients in hospital
Access California Services

631 S Brookhurst St. Ste 107 Anaheim, CA 92804
M-F 8am-5pm
714-917-0440
Arabic, Armenian, Dari, Farsi, French, German, Pashto, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrinya, UrduInterpreting, translating, citizenship help, case managementCost varies
California Rural Legal Assistance, INC

1430 Franklin St. Ste #103, Oakland CA, 94612
Hours vary
Indigenous Latin American Languages, Spanish, EnglishInterpreter training services 40-hour Social Justice and Legal Services Interpreter Training is in the Central Valley They have a list of trained indigenous interpreters, see attachment. Free
Asociacion Mayab/Mayab Association

3012 16th St. #202, San Francisco, CA 94103
Hours vary
415-556-9800
415-569-0377
Mam de Guatemala, Tzeltal de Chiapas, Chol de Chiapas, Maya de Yucatan Interpreter services in person, phoneVaries
Mayan League

1201 K Street NW Washington, DC
Hours vary
202-827-6673
Mayan languagesInterpreter services phone, videoVaries
Mayavision

Hours vary
213-810-4730
Mayan languagesInterpreter phone, video, in person (LA based)Varies (about $300 for a day)
Mixteco/Indigenous Community Organizing Project

520 W. 5th St., Oxnard CA
Hours vary
805-483-1166
805-270-9483
Zapoteco, MixtecoInterpreter services phone, in personVaries
Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities

744 N Abby St., Fresno CA
Hours vary
559-499-1178
Mixteco, Triqui, Zapoteco, Chateno, Talapaneg, ManyInterpreter services phone, in personVaries
Antena Los Ángeles

Hours vary
Spanish, English, Indigenous Latin American LanguagesInterpreting, text translation, workshops on language justice basics and best practices for equitable communication across languages, training on interpreting and translation skills in a language justice frameworkVaries
Voiance

24hrs
800-481-3289
ManyInterpret services in person, phoneVaries

For more information on ESL support from school districts, please refer to the Education section.

ResourceLanguagesSummaryEligibilitySPA
Antelope Valley Adult Education

45110 3rd Street East Lancaster, CA 93535
Classes 5:00pm or 9:00am daily
(661) 942-3042
English, Spanish, ManyEnglish as a second languageNo cost, must register1
North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Regional Library

5211 Tujunga Avenue North Hollywood, CA 91601
(818) 766-7185
(213) 228-7037
Spanish, ManyEnglish conversation classes, tutoring, adult literacy classesFree2
Van Nuys Service Area: West Valley Occupational Center

6200 Winnetka Avenue Woodland Hills, CA
Mon-Fri: 8:00am-9:00pm
(818) 346-3540
ESLEnglish as a second language, career classes2
North Valley Occupational Center

11450 Sharp Avenue Mission Hills, CA 91345
Mon-Tue: 8:00am-11:00am, 5:00pm000-7:30pm
(818) 256-1400
ESLEnglish as a second language, instruction in speaking, reading, writing, listeningNo cost2
Central City Neighborhood Partners

501 S. Bixel Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-8:00pm
(213) 482-8618
ESLEnglish as a second language, educational youth programs for studentsVaries, ESL is free4
East Los Angeles Service Area: East LA Occupational Center

3921 Felix Place Los Angeles 90031
Mon-Thurs: 8am-8pm, Fri: 8:00am-3:00pm Sat: 7:00am-3:00pm
(323) 224-5970
ESLEnglish as a second language, career classes, academic classesESL and academic classes are free, career classes vary4
Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department

333 S. Beaudry Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Mon-Fri: 7:30am-4:30pm
(213) 241-1000
ManyStudents receive instruction in all content areas in both English and a second language beginning in kindergarten, in an effort to promote bilingualism and biliteracy.Available to all students4
Venice Service Area: Venice Skills Center

611 5th Avenue Venice, CA 90066-3512
Mon-Fri: 8:00am-8:00pm classes 8:00am-12:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm
(310) 664-5888
ESLAcademic and English as a second language classes are free, career classes at a reduced price, high school diplomaAcademic ESL classes are free, career classes at a reduced price5
Emerson Adult Learning Center

8810 Emerson Ave Los Angeles 90045
Fri: 8:00am-4:30pm Mon-Thurs: 8:00am-8:30pm
(310) 258-2000
ESLAcademic and English as a classes are free, career classes at a reduced price, high school diplomaAcademic ESL classes are free, career classes at a reduced price5
Maxine Waters Service Area: Maxine Waters Employment

Preparation Center 10925 S. Central Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90059-1023
Mon-Thurs: 7:30am-9:00pm Fri: 8:00am-4:00pm
(323) 357-7700
ESLEnglish as a second language classes6
City Of Commerce Public Library Rosewood Library

5655 Jillson St, Commerce, CA 90040
6:00pm - 7:30 pm
(323) 722-6660 ext 2823
ESLEnglish conversation classes, citizenship classesFree7
Eastmont Community Center

701 So. Hoefner Avenue East Los Angeles, CA 90022
Mon-Thurs: 8:30am-5:30pm Fri:8:30am-12:30pm
(323) 726-7998
ESLIn person language classes, citizenship/green card classesNeed to live in the following areas: 90040, 90640, 90022, 90660 (Bell, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, Commerce Pico, Rivera, Alhambra, Mentebello) Free 7
Norwalk La Mirada Adult School

15711 Pioneer Blvd. Norwalk, CA 90650
ESL Classes at La Mirada Campus M-F 8:15am - 12:00pm ESL Classes at Norwalk Campus Mon-Fri 8:15am-12:00pm Mon-Thurs 5:15pm- 9:00pm
(562) 210-3170
ESLEnglish as a second language classes for non or limited English speakersFree, Immigrants, Adults 18+, Non-native speakers7
Long Beach City College Pacific Coast Campus ESL Office

1305 E. Pacific Coast Highway Long Beach, CA 90806
Mon-Thurs: 8:30am-8:00pm Fri: 8:30am-4:30pm
(562) 938-4111
ESL, SpanishEnglish as a second language, employment servicesFirst 6 levels are free8
Paramount Unified School District Adult Education Center

14507 Paramount Blvd, Paramount, CA 90723,
9:00am-12:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm for classes
(562) 602-8080
ESLEnglish as a second language, citizenship classesFree with picture ID from any country6
Huntington Park Service Area: Slawson Southeast Occupational Center

5500 Rickenbacker Road Bell , CA 90201
Mon-Fri: 7:30am-4:00pm
(323) 729-6400
ESLHigh school diploma in Spanish, career classes (cost)N/A