E.L. assists communication skills with language interpreter service
To help the growing international population in East Lansing, city officials have added an interpreter service to all departments to broaden communication with the international community.
LanguageLine Solutions is a 24-hour phone service that will translate face-to-face interactions between city staff and community members whose primary language is not English.
If a guest is in need of an interpreter, they can select their native language from a board at any desk in a city building. A staff member then will call LanguageLine, request a translator who speaks that language and allow the guest and the staff member to proceed with a their conversation with the translator on speakerphone.
Both the 54-B District Court and the East Lansing Police Department already use the service.
East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said LanguageLine has been successful for the city thus far, so it became a strategic priority to implement the service across the board.
“The city council sets long-term goals for the city and one of them was to expand outreach to international visitors and guests and residents,” Lahanas said. “It also comes from a general need. … We can serve and communicate with all of our visitors and guests and make people feel welcome, and let them know that we can work with them in their native language.”
City Clerk Marie McKenna said LanguageLine still is fairly new for her department and she has not used the service, but stressed the importance of it in a community where the international presence is so large.
“As our community becomes more global, it’s very important for people to feel welcome, especially in a situation dealing with law enforcement,” McKenna said. “It’s important to know that this is not a translation service, it’s an interpretation service. We have signs in every window of every department. It’s used by all of our customer service people. The people who need to pay their water bill will be able to use a translator.”
Director of the Office for International Students and Scholars Peter Briggs said the service is necessary to ensure international students and community members completely understand what transpires when dealing with the police and other entities within the city.
“This service makes sure there’s no ambiguity in what is taking place.” Briggs said. “The city goes the extra mile to make sure things are being done right, because we have a very fast growing international community here at (MSU.)”