Language Resources: Translation and Interpretation Services and Beyond

Language Access, Linguistic Diversity, and Language Justice

Language translation is not simply the matter of using Google Translate or ad hoc translation from multilingual speakers in your immediate reach. Languages are complex and meaning is communicated contextually, dependent on syntax, often in varying ways dependent on dialect and colloquial use, and with invisible or intangible cultural factors that impact readability, understandability, meaning, and intention. By paying professionals for translation or interpretation services, you acknowledge that translation is labor intensive and ensure – as much as possible – that your impact in communicating information is inclusive, respectful, and accurate.

Providing live language interpretation services makes your program and/or event accessible to people who do not speak English. Presenting information in the multitude of languages that are spoken and understood in our communities immediately and visibly creates an inclusive, welcoming environment. Most importantly, crucial information provided by libraries that is only available in English means that services are not being provided to non-English speakers or to those with limited proficiency in English.

Finding Translators and Interpreters

Translation and Interpretation Tips and Caveats

Typing Characters in Other Languages

Further Reading and More Resources

Above are only some resources curated specifically to the needs of libraries and with library services and resources in mind – some localized to Colorado communities. There are, however, language access services available through agencies and organizations concerned with healthcare, legal and court services, elections, and other government or social services.

Beyond translation and interpretation services… 

Language translation or interpretation services may not be available for your library program or class. In unscheduled interactions with persons who are not English language proficient or otherwise struggle to understand what you are saying, there are opportunities to be inclusive and respectful. Some things we don’t think about – even when we’re aware of multilingual or non-English language proficient program attendees or students – can create barriers to both intellectual and emotional safety. We may mean well, but we may also miss the mark in our attempts at inclusivity.

Some basic best practices or speaking with linguistic inclusivity and cultural competence in mind for those interactions are:

  • Speaking at a moderate pace.
  • Ensuring one person speaks at a time (no cross-talk)
  • Not using acronyms (or immediately explaining the significance of each letter)
  • Reducing use of figures of speech or idioms

Language access and justice are not just for spoken languages, either… 

In addition, the above resources center on spoken non-English languages though some include interpretation services for deaf and hard of hearing persons. We acknowledge a need for interpreters of American Sign Language (ASL) and other non-English, non-American languages for deaf and hard of hearing persons. For more information about ASL interpreters in the Colorado area visit Colorado Registry of  Interpreters for the Deaf and Colorado Hands & Voices.

Refer to this page on the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing website for information regarding Medicaid coverage for interpretation and translation services and the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

Cristy Moran