Taken from October 2008 issue of Officer.com

By Carole Moore


A call for help

Twenty-six years ago, a San Jose police officer realized his department not only was fielding more calls for service from Spanish-speaking subjects, but a growing number of Vietnamese were also settling in the area. Launched originally as a non-profit, Language Line Services (LLS) of Monterey, California, acted as a kind of go-between for clients who needed to communicate with individuals who did not speak English.

Louis Provenzano, LLS president and COO, says the company partners with 911 calls, police and emergency dispatchers. LLS provides access to 176 different languages.

The concept is simple. The officer notifies dispatch of the need for an interpreter. Dispatch calls the company on a special emergency telephone line and the officer hooks up with an interpreter.

“Some cities just let the officer dial directly — [we do] whatever the police want to do to make it easier.” Provenzano says.

LLS’s most requested U.S. language is Spanish. No surprise there, but the runners’ up might make a few jaws drop: Mandarin is second, followed by Korean, Vietnamese and Cantonese. “We also get lots of requests for Polish and Portuguese,” says Provenzano.

One fascinating byproduct of this service are the trends they indicate — in the Washington, D.C., area, for example, there is a growing need for Krio interpreters. Krio is the language spoken in Sierra-Leone.

Phoenix, Arizona, has a growing need for Dari, spoken in Iran. Oromo, a language used in Ethiopia and other African countries, is showing up in Seattle, Washington, while Denver, Colorado, has a demand for the Tibeto-Burman language of Karen, and in Chicago, Illinois, Urdu is spoken by many Pakistani immigrants. Some countries, like the Philippines, have numerous dialects. They present challenges, but thus far LLS has managed to meet them.

Handling some of those calls is Susan Avila, one of LLS’s 4,000 translators. Some LLS staffers work in call centers, while others translate from their homes. Competition for Avila’s job is fierce: The company only hires one out of every 12 applicants.

Avila, who works in Fort Worth, Texas, has been interpreting for 10 years. She says one of the most dramatic cases she assisted with involved a man who had been kidnapped and managed to get hold of a cell phone to call for help. As the police were searching for him, she was asked to instruct him to kick walls and make noise so officers could find him. They did — and also found and arrested his kidnappers.

“Of course not every call is that memorable,” Avila says.

Commgap of Salt Lake City, Utah, is another company that works with law enforcement agencies and attorneys to facilitate interpretation over phone lines. Similar to LLS in structure, Commgap’s Leilani Craig, executive director, says “We’re a full translation agency and offer a whole round of language services. Part of our services are telephone interpreting on demand.”

The dynamics are pretty simple, says Craig. The agency contacts Commgap and within 30 seconds they have an appropriate interpreter on the line. Commgap routinely records conversations they interpret and, says Craig, there is no minimum, no set-up charges and no binding contract.

“Agencies can use us as much, or as little, as they want,” she says.



For more information about Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Cantonese and other Asian language translation, please visit 1-Stop Translation’s website at www.1stoptr.com or email us at marketing@1stotpr.com



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