Tip of the Week
It’s tough enough to understand Twin Cities snow emergency rules for native speakers. Imagine trying to decode them if you’ve got a loose grip on English.
Here’s some help for limited-English speakers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Both cities offer translated versions of winter parking regs on their web sites.
In St. Paul, motorists can find snow emergency rules in
In Minneapolis, translations are available in
Looking for a cheap and easy way to learn how to say hello and exchange a pleasantry or two with recent immigrants? Check out the language lessons — many of them free — at the Open Culture website.
You’ll find introductions to 48 languages, ranging from Spanish, German and French, to Amharic, Bambara, Lao, Swahili, Vietnamese and more. Many of these courses are Foreign Service Institute book and audio packages intended to prep the diplomatic corps for a new assignment.
There’s much more to this wide-ranging website, including in-depth interviews with literary luminaries such as Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges, Roland Barthes and Toni Morrison, plus some oddball diversions, such as how to make, wear and fight in medieval armor.
Here’s a twist on a communication problem that has bedeviled Minnesota’s emergency management departments. How do you let non-English speakers know about imminent hazards if your audience doesn’t speak English, or isn’t familiar with the nature of the hazard itself? Consider, for example, the prospect of a blizzard from the perspective of a just-arrived Somali.
While not exactly analogous, here’s an interesting twist on emergency communication from the Indonesian island of Simeulue. When a tsunami roared through Indonensia in 2014, more than 150,000 Indonesians perished. On Simeulue, just seven died.
Why the disparity? The answer is linked to a well-known song that allowed islanders to recognize the signs that predict a tsunami, and warned them of the steps necessary to save themselves.
Read more in this Foreign Policy article, Indonesia’s Indigenous Languages Hold the Secrets of Surviving Disaster
A thousand words or a picture? Here are a pair of recent videos from the New York Times and Washington Post that offer a street-side view of the migrant caravan now making its way from Honduras, toward the United States.
New York Times: Anything is better than returning:
Washington Post: The Biggest Caravan in the History of Caravans
And, because words are still worth something, here is a set of short interviews from the New York Times with migrants en route — Voices from the Caravan: Why These Honduran Migrants Are Headed North. “We’re not going because we want fancy things,” says one young mother marching north.
One frequently cited observation in the world of cross-cultural care is that patients feel more comfortable dealing with providers who look like them.
How to get there? Here’s an example from the Minneapolis StarTribune. The article, Ladder program helps youngsters step up to health care careers, describes a north Minneapolis-based mentorship and training program aimed at turning more people of color into doctors, nurses and dentists.
The Ladder program took off six years ago, when Dr. Renee Chrichlow of the University of Minnesota’s Broadway Family Medicine Clinic, founded the non-profit organization. Kids can start in the program at age nine, but they can hang on to mentorship opportunities throughout high school, college, and medical or nursing school.
The annual Many Faces of Community Health conference is set for Thursday-Friday, October 25 and 26, at the Hyatt Regency Bloomington, at 3200 E 81st St, in Bloomington, with registration open now.
Conference sessions are aimed at improving care and reducing health disparities in underserved populations and among those living in poverty. With a focus on safety net providers, conference presenters will explore community care innovations, health care delivery models, and reform initiatives that promote health equity, prevent and manage chronic diseases, and ensure access for all.
Immigrants’ lives will become that much harder as the Trump administration imposes new rules on those who legally use public benefits such as food stamps, Part D Medicare drug coverage, or Section 8 housing vouchers. They could be denied green cards that allow them to live and work in the United States as the government aims at barring people it views as an economic drain.
The rule change could affect about 382,000 people a year, and is part of what the New York Times calls “the latest in a series of aggressive crackdowns by President Trump and his hard-line aides on legal and illegal immigration.”
Find a detailed examination of the issue in this Times piece, “U.S. to Place Stricter Limits on Immigrants.”
Here’s a interpreting/translation-related lawsuit that could have a major impact on your organization. The case started in 2015 when Houston resident Song Xie was sent home from the hospital with discharge instructions in English that his caretaker son couldn’t read. Song Xie later suffered a stroke. His family now wants to hold the hospital liable.
The resulting lawsuit alleges that the hospital violated a clause of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on national origin discrimination by failing to translate discharge instructions into a language the son could understand.
A detailed story from Bloomberg News — Hospitals: Patients Who Don’t Speak English Have Rights Too — explains that the ACA’s Section 1557 allows patients to sue providers when language barriers aren’t effectively addressed. Fines and damage awards, warns Bloomberg, could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars under this new twist on the law.
Let’s take a break this week from wondering how to help English language learners, and stop to think why most people in Minnesota only speak English. For some fresh perspective on how weak this is in comparison to the other end of the scale — that of the world’s premier polyglots — take a look at this recent story in the New Yorker magazine: The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages: What can hyperpolyglots teach the rest of us?
Among the hyperpolyglots who appear in the piece is Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia. Author Judith Thurman observes that Rojas-Berscia has “command of twenty-two living languages (Spanish, Italian, Piedmontese, English, Mandarin, French, Esperanto, Portuguese, Romanian, Quechua, Shawi, Aymara, German, Dutch, Catalan, Russian, Hakka Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Guarani, Farsi, and Serbian), thirteen of which he speaks fluently. He also knows six classical or endangered languages: Latin, Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Shiwilu, Muniche, and Selk’nam, an indigenous tongue of Tierra del Fuego, which was the subject of his master’s thesis.”
How does he do it? What can you learn from him and others with amazing language abilities? You’ll have to read the story to find out. Check it out here.
In case you doubted that it’s a hard language to master, here’s a video that demonstrates the quagmire through which English learners must wade. In this short film, Aaron Alon shows what happens when you apply consistent vowel-sound rules to English. The result is something that sounds like a version of Old English — sort of familiar, but often difficult to decode. Run through the video once and you’ll gain a new appreciation of the tough work that English learners take on.