Tip of the Week
Here’s a chance to learn more about the important cross-cultural health work done by community health workers while getting in on a complimentary breakfast as well.
The Minnesota Community Health Workers Alliance is offering its first-ever Bridge to the Future Breakfast, starting at 7:30 am, Friday, October 5, with a program beginning promptly at 8 am.
The breakfast is at Neighborhood House at the Wellstone Center, 179 Robie Street East, St. Paul, MN 55107. Parking is available in the ramp adjacent to the building.
RSVP to interim director Renae Oswald Anderson at RENAE@MNCHWALLIANCE.ORG, or by calling 651-387-1612.
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.
Have questions about how to provide the highest level of care for refugee women and adolescents? Learn more about current best practices at a September 21 event scheduled for the Minneapolis Airport Marriott hotel at 2020 American Blvd. E in Bloomington.
Key topics to be explored include:
- Reproductive Health/Family planning
- Domestic and Dating Violence
- Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation
- Adolescent Reproductive Health
The all-day event, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health, the University of Minnesota, and the Center of Excellence in Refugee Health, is aimed at health professionals who care for refugee women and adolescents — physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers, psychologists, social workers, and public health professionals.
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.
“On the Autism Spectrum: Families Find Help and Hope,” is a series of five short films produced by the Minnesota Department of Human Services that raise awareness and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and services available to Minnesota families. The videos are aimed at specific communities, including:
The films provide support for families experiencing ASD within communities that have historically underutilized available resources. Each 15-20 minute film features interviews with parents, advocates, medical professionals, educators, and community leaders speaking in the language of the target community, with subtitles in English.
Here’s a thought-provoking article from Psychology Today that explores how language can affect memory and behavior. Author Viorica Marian, Ph.D., psycholinguist at Northwestern University, describes how memories of multilingual people are linked to the language used while the event occurred. “Memories,” she observes, “will often be more emotional when there is a match between the language spoken when the experience took place and the language spoken when remembering it.”
Among the results:
- multilingual speakers may experience more stress when taboo words are spoken in their native language;
- but they may be less biased and more consistent in their non-native language;
- and their assessment of risk may be altered depending on the power and variety of examples that come to mind — which, again, may depend on the language spoken when previous examples presented themselves.
Where’s the significance for health care providers? This is how Marian sees it: “How risky something feels affects the choices that we make for everything from medical decisions to national security. For example, in the United States, over 25% of doctors are foreign-born and many of their patients speak another language as well. It is important to be aware of how the language being spoken may be influencing the decisions we and others around us make.”
What if it was widely understood that Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev had said, “We will outlast you,” instead of “We will bury you,” in 1956 at the height of the Cold War?
What if, days before the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japanese prime minister Kantaro Suzuki had been correctly understood to tell a US emissary, “No comment. We need more time,” instead of being thought to convey an attitude of “silent contempt”?
The perils of sketchy translation and interpretation are explored in a New York Times opinion piece, “Why Mistranslation Matters” by Mark Polizzotti. Pilizzotti, author of the recent book, Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto, lays out a series of translation- and interpretation-inspired misconceptions, starting with the so-called apple tree in the Garden of Eden.
Looking for a compendium of resources on cross-cultural communication and language access? Here’s a web page loaded with tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the links you’ll find here:
- a language access portal available via the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities,
- help on how to address the National Cultural and Linguistically Appropriate Service (CLAS0 standards,
- the Guide to Providing Effective Communication and Language Assistance Services from the Office of Minority Health,
- plus more.
For anyone with children (or really, anyone at all) the news about Central American immigrant kids being separated from their parents is heart-rending. But that’s not to say that American history is free of numerous other similar examples.
Get some historical perspective in this piece by CNN: Actually, the US Has a Long History of Separating Families. The story is a brief reminder that African-American slaves, native people, Mexican immigrants in the 1930s and Japanese-Americans during World War II all experienced family separation.
CNN’s final analysis: “Critics say the policy… is not emblematic of who we are as a nation. Others say it runs counter to the America they know and love. But history shows policies like this have been implemented time and time again since the nation began.”