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  • Writer's pictureJace Norton

Celebrating a Milestone for Mayan Language Interpreter Education

Recent graduates of the CCSF HCI program with their families and Jace Norton of Maya Bridge Language Services
The four Mam Graduates and their families, accompanied by Jace Norton of Maya Bridge Language Services

This past weekend, we had the privilege of attending the graduation ceremony for the Healthcare Interpreter Certificate Program at the City College of San Francisco where four Mam speakers achieved the milestone of being the first cohort ever of Mayan language speakers to complete the rigorous program.

According to CCSF's website, this two-semester program is "a 17-unit program designed to prepare bilingual and bicultural students to become linguistically and culturally competent interpreters who can function effectively and efficiently in a variety of health and community settings. This is done through academic preparation, practical skills training, and service in community-based health settings. The certificate candidates learn basic medical knowledge, intercultural communication skills, interpreting skills, related code of ethics and interpreter standards of practice."

Gayle Tang, program director for the HCI Certificate program, invites the Mam students up to receive their certificate
Gayle Tang, program director for the HCI Certificate program, invites the Mam students up to receive their certificate

I first became aware of these students when Gayle Tang, the program director, reached out last fall, asking for help and resources for this first cohort of Mam speakers. Over the next several months, I corresponded with Gayle to emphasize that there is a need for more interpreter education programs for indigenous language speakers, not just in Mam, but in many other Mayan languages like Q'eqchi', K'iche', Q'anjob'al, Akateko, Ixil, and Chuj. I also helped to connect Gayle with resources to provide coaching and evaluation for the Mam students. Maya Bridge was thrilled to be able to sponsor the graduation ceremony and to be there in person to support the efforts and achievements of these hardworking students.

CCSF HCI Graduation Ceremony Program
Maya Bridge was thrilled to be able to sponsor the graduation for these amazing students.

After the ceremony concluded, I was able to meet with the four students to talk about the work that we are doing at Maya Bridge Language Services to advocate for increased language access for indigenous languages like Mam by providing centralized and specialized language services in over 40 indigenous languages from Mexico and Central and South America. The students were excited to hear about our work, and we told them that we were equally excited to start working with them as interpreters.

Within the language services industry, far too little attention has been given to providing training, evaluation, and qualification for interpreters of indigenous languages like Mam. Seeing this personally as a Q'eqchi' interpreter with the various companies for which I interpreted was one of the reasons that motivated me to start Maya Bridge. Now, Maya Bridge is working to continue building on the evaluations and trainings for speakers of indigenous languages that already set us apart from others claiming to provide interpretation services in indigenous languages. We hope to continue working with organizations like CCSF to provide more credible (and accessible) programs for interpreters of indigenous languages all across the US. Stay tuned for more exciting things to come!

Three of the graduates performed a traditional dance at the end of the ceremony.

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