Bringing ‘Language Justice’ to the Region

Online workshop shares Hudson Valley Farm Hub’s ‘Language Justice’ story; seeks to build a regional network of professional interpreters

By Amy Wu 

Language Justice as two words combined may still be unfamiliar to many.

At the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Language Justice is a program that fosters a multilingual work environment, and one that uses language as a platform to foster diversity and inclusion. The program includes a team of seven bilingual staff, most of whom work on the farm in production and maintenance, while also providing professional translation and interpretation at the Farm Hub.  More recently, they have begun interpreting at food and farming events around the region. 

Interpretation is a part of the morning meetings.

According to Adriana Pericchi, Language Justice Program Manager, it is a “framework and a movement” that has yet to reach the norm. 

In July and August of this year, the program hosted two free virtual workshops titled “Language Justice 101” which offered an introduction to language justice and tips for how to implement it within an organization. The events, held via Zoom, drew nearly 100 attendees, many of whom were from Kingston and other parts of the Hudson Valley. A number of the participants work at area nonprofits engaged in community organizing, agriculture, and healthcare. Several of them of them are already freelance interpreters while others were newly interested in exploring opportunities in the field. 

The workshops were led by Pericchi, who was joined by members of the language justice team. 

Since starting in 2016, the Language Justice team is broadening its reach into the region by sharing their story, strategies, and techniques and, beyond offering a foundational primer of language justice, the team hopes to inspire organizations in the community to follow suit and incorporate these practices into their work,” Pericchi said during the presentation.  

The presentation covered foundational concepts of language justice, which is defined as “the right everyone has to communicate in the language in which they feel most comfortable,” according to Pericchi. They also defined translation and interpretation and discussed how the two are distinct. [see glossary below]. 

An example of how interpretation works through the Zoom webinar.

The workshop format proved that language justice transcends physical space and can be successfully extended online. This was made evident through the language interpretation function on Zoom, comments that were translated into Spanish or English in the chat box, and simultaneous interpretation provided by Li Sierra and Telesh Lopez, two freelance interpreters who have worked closely with the Farm Hub for years.  

The interpretation function allows for participants to choose a language channel of their choice, and receive the presentation in that language.

During the workshop, the chat box populated rapidly with responses to the prompt “What are some phrases and words that come up when you hear the term ‘multilingual space’? What might it mean?” Some of the answers included:

    • All languages are valued
    • Exciting but challenging
    • Inclusion
    • Growth
    • International culture
    • Community! 

Pericchi also suggested that language justice is connected to racial justice and environmental justice issues. There are few professional interpreters in the Hudson Valley region, and an even further scarcity of interpreters who are BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color]. Environmental justice can be linked to the dialogue around diminishing indigenous languages that hold certain terms and rituals of connecting with the earth.

The presentation ended with an opportunity for attendees to describe a personal or professional goal related to language justice. For KayCee Wimbish, project director of The Kingston YMCA Farm Project, the goal was “to facilitate an introduction to Language Justice for our youth farm crew and create interpreter training opportunities for the bilingual youth that work at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project.”

Specialized equipment is required for simultaneous interpretation.

The event was a milestone as the language justice program seeks to expand its programming and educational opportunities to the nearby communities. In recent years this has included providing interpretation for agriculture events such as Cornell’s Farmer-to-Farmer workshop, organizing a 2-day training on interpretation for social justice for select community groups, and the creation of a pilot shadow interpreter program. In Kingston, the Farm Hub Language Justice Program team is providing monthly interpreter practice sessions for anyone fluent in Spanish and another language and supporting the creation of a local Language Justice Collective. The team also provided the coordination of interpretation and Language Justice considerations for Soul Fire Farm’s day-long workshops, which were held virtually this year.

Looking ahead, the team is putting together a simultaneous interpretation equipment library that will be available for use by community organizations, post-pandemic. The program is flourishing and in October welcomed Li Sierra as the new full-time Language Justice Program Coordinator (see below).

While the pandemic means that many events have gone virtual and the in-person experience is on hold for now, there is a silver lining – thanks to technology, the trainings, practice meetings, and the information exchange that they engender have the potential now to reach a national and even global audience. 

If you would like to learn more about Language Justice and how you can adopt it into your work or if you missed the webinar and would like more information on the material, please email Adriana Pericchi at apericchi@hvfarmhub.org.

 

English Spanish Definition Definición
Translation Traducción Transmitting a message from one language to another in a written manner Transmitir un mensaje de un lenguaje a otro de manera escrita
Interpretation Interpretación Transmitting a message from one language to another in a spoken or signed manner Transmitir un mensaje de un lenguaje a otro de manera hablada o con lenguaje de señas
Language Justice Justicia del lenguaje The right everyone has to speak and access information in the language they feel most comfortable/powerful in El derecho que tienen todas las personas de hablar y accede información en el lenguaje con el que sienten más comodidad/poder
Language work Trabajo de lenguajes The labor of cross language communication (E.g. Interpretation and translation) El trajabo de comunicaciónes entre lenguajes (por ejemplo interpretación y traducción)
Multilingual person Persona multilingüe A person who speaks more than one language Una persona que habla más de un idioma

 

Liliana “Li” Sierra

New Language Justice Coordinator
The Farm Hub’s Language Justice team welcomed the recent addition of Liliana “Li” Sierra as Language Justice Program Coordinator, bringing the team to a total of eight. Sierra is a professional English-Spanish interpreter with more than seven years of experience working with communities in New York City and the tri-state area. They were a founding member of Caracol Language Coop, a worker-owned cooperative that opened multilingual channels of communication to bring language justice into the community. Sierra’s first visit to the Hudson Valley Farm Hub was in the fall of 2017, when they started providing language work for the staff and learned about the work being done on the farm. They were also one of the facilitators of the “Interpreting Social Justice” workshop held at the Farm Hub in 2019.