Conference to Highlight Language Access Issues in Arizona

Arizona State University (ASU) is slated to host a nationwide conference for translation and interpretation professionals later this month, with a particular emphasis on achieving justice and equity through linguistic measures.

The conference, which will take place on ASU’s campus in Tempe from Nov. 12-13, and is open to academics, translation professionals and the general public for free. The school, which is hosting the conference alongside the group Arizona Humanities, stated on Nov. 1 that the conference aims to tackle issues that are particularly relevant to the state of Arizona, which, while being quite linguistically diverse, is lacking in language access services in the justice system and in education.

“The event is significant because it brings together academics, professionals, and stakeholders to discuss the power dynamics involved in the provision of equal access to linguistic minorities in Arizona through translation, interpretation and cross-cultural services,” said Jaime Fatás-Cabeza, a professor in the University of Arizona’s Spanish and Portuguese Department who also serves as the director of the school’s undergraduate program in translation and interpretation.

The conference, called “Engaging Translation: Questions of Language and Power in Arizona and Beyond,” has received support from numerous professional organizations across the country, including the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters.

Arizona’s legal climate and linguistic landscape make the state a particularly relevant focal point for the conference. According to the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ)’s 2021 Justice Index, Arizona is one of the most poorly equipped states in the nation for providing language access services within the justice system. Arizona scored a 15.72 out of 100 on the NCAJ’s language access measures, tying it with Kansas for the 47th best language access services in the country. The state’s eastern neighbor, New Mexico, scored an 89.31 out of 100, landing it in the number one spot on the rankings.

In spite of all this, the state is home to a large proportion of Spanish speakers — according to ASU’s announcement, approximately one in five Arizonans uses Spanish as their primary household language, while there are several indigenous languages used in and around the state as well, with the state being home to one of, if not the, largest population of Navajo speakers in the United States.

Fatás-Cabeza, who served as a member of the planning committee for the conference, added that the conference is an opportunity for members of the academic world and the private sector to synthesize their knowledge and connect in a way that they may not regularly get the chance to.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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