It is not okay to assume that immigrants are going to learn the language of a country from day one of their arrival. It is not okay to assume either that even if they have lived in that country for many years, they are fluent in that language. It has been a long time battle that I have been having with many people, and friends too who still don't understand why interpreters and translators are needed in hospitals, courts, police departments, schools, etc.
I was reading my Facebook feed last night when I noticed that a friend shared a post which headline read: "The NYPD Didn't Translate Murdered Mother's Spanish- Language Warning." Imagine my surprise and anger when I read it! I clicked on the link, and then I did some more research. It was true; a mother of two little girls had been murdered because the police failed to do their job. She reported to the police, twice, that her husband had abused her physically, but because she made the reports in her native language and the police didn't do anything on time; she and her two girls lost their lives. How exactly is that okay?
I am a bilingual immigrant, fluent in Spanish, and English, and many times when I am under a lot of stress, I forget words in both languages!
The article mentions that the NYPD is looking into using software to translate people's statements; do you have any idea of what a big mistake they would be making if they do that? If you don't, let me explain to you why it's a bad idea.
Many people don't pay much attention to grammar, or spelling. Now imagine a person in distress; do you think they are paying attention to how well they are supposed to write? Do you think they are in the right state of mind to worry about punctuation, and spelling? Of course not!
That's what's so worrying about this situation. Even if the police departments decide to use a translation software, it could not be able to correct the errors made by a person when writing their statements, and therefore, the translation would never be accurate, and it could lead to a misinterpretation of the facts.
Yes, I am frustrated and outraged by situations like hers that happen too often, and it continues being ignored. My hope is that, if you didn't understand before the importance of having translators and interpreters for families, perhaps you are now open to at least have a conversation about it.
Here are a few links to the article in case you want to read them:
From the Gawker.
From the New York Post.