Blog 1: The Deficit of Legal Translation Through the Lens of New York City

Professor Danylenko and I are pleased to have been chosen to work on the 2019 Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research and hope that our research this summer will serve a beneficial purpose to a number of people and communities. The title of our project is “Strengthening the Field of Legal Translation and Combatting Its Deficit in New York City.” The research will emphasize the lack in funding, the small number of translators and interpreters, and the limited availability of translation programs in schools, and outline what can be done to tackle these issues. This idea first came to us last semester when I was working on a paper that focused on problems that non-English speakers faced in court when it came to defending themselves under the eyes of the law. Many times, they would not be given a skilled translator (or often a translator at all) and numbers of cases were dismissed due to a lack of translators available to assist.

Our goal for this project is to analyze those specific weaknesses through both academic research and the gathering of data in the real world to ultimately find ways of how these issues can be approached. We will target three of the most common languages (after English) spoken in New York City: Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. At the current stage, our focus is solely on academic research to better understand the core of the situation and why the aforementioned difficulties are still present given the advanced technology and the laws aimed at improving the situation. Our next blog post will be dedicated to the ongoing data and statistics that we will have collected on this topic. Amongst our methods of finding answers to our questions will be in-person surveys and online questionnaires to better understand the experiences of non-English speakers with translation services in our city. We will collect feedback on their overall thoughts of those translators and interpreters provided in court, and the translation services of non-profits, including The New York Legal Aid Society and The New York Legal Assistance Group. The third stage of this project will be visiting the New York City criminal and supreme courts that are involving translators to get an understanding of how legal translation services can be improved.

Our proposed final stage is designing a program to help eliminate some of the issues connected to legal translation, which will be ascertained during the initial three stages. It will consist of a review packet that will aid translators in utilizing the proper skills and framework when performing legal translation or interpretation, especially when it comes to non-profit settings where translators may be seldom or are volunteering to help without having the necessary experience. We will distribute mini-training packs to be employed by non-profit organizations in NYC that offer translation services and recruit volunteers. This program will also be made available to Pace students who are pursuing undergraduate degrees in modern languages and cultures, particularly translation studies (as a minor program) in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. There is also a potential to bridge our program with the Criminal Justice Department and the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University since all these touch on the legal system. As such, we are excited to have started working on this project and expect meaningful results at its conclusion that will benefit the legal courts and its people in New York City.

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