Inside Seven
Current Issue: April 2014
article
Feature
Part of Caltrans’ Title VI compliance effort, the Limited English Proficiency Program allows District 7 staff to communicate with people who don’t speak English.

District 7 Speaks Your Language ... All 160 of Them!
by  Kelly Markham
Issue Date: 04/2010

In a region known for its diversity, the Limited English Proficiency Program ensures that everyone can communicate with Caltrans.

Imagine that there’s a rumor going around your neighborhood that a government agency is buying homes on your street for a freeway project. You don’t speak the local language well, so doing research using print or online sources is difficult. You’re anxious, confused, and concerned about your family’s future. Who can you call to get more information?

You can call Caltrans. In District 7, anyone can contact Caltrans and receive service in their native language. About 160 languages are spoken in Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and District 7’s Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Program allows us to communicate with people who speak all of them.

LEP is a statewide program designed to enable Caltrans to comply with the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act. This act requires California state and local agencies to provide services in the languages of the populations they serve. To achieve this goal, the program makes use of two important resources: staff volunteers and telephone interpreters provided by Language Line Interpreter Services.

Staff Volunteer Interpreters

District 7 has about 60 staff members who serve as volunteer interpreters. Volunteers’ language proficiencies include Spanish, Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Armenian, Tagalog, Igbo and Urdu, to name a few. The Office of Equal Employment Opportunity maintains a master list of staff interpreters. If someone needs interpreting services in person or over the phone, a volunteer on the master list who speaks the required language will be contacted.

District 7 LEP volunteers are especially helpful when someone who doesn’t speak English visits Caltrans in person. Let’s say, for example, a non-English speaking visitor comes to Caltrans seeking a map. Security staff will provide the visitor with a language identification flashcard that lists dozens of languages. The visitor points to his or her language, and Security will contact a volunteer from the master list who is fluent in that language.

Language volunteers can be helpful, too, when Caltrans hosts international guests. In February, a dozen transportation officials from Turkmenistan visited the district. Transportation Engineer Rimma Tebeleva, originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, was on hand to provide interpreting services.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I didn’t have to do much interpreting, but I was able to help a few times. I was happy to do it.”

Language Line

The Caltrans LEP Program also uses Language Line Interpreter Services, which provides phone-based interpreting services in 170 languages. All Caltrans employees can use this service to assist non-English speakers.

To access the service, put the caller on hold, dial (877) 245-0386, enter the client ID (597097), and provide the agency name (Caltrans) and access code (7897). An interpreter will be connected to the call in 30 seconds.

You and the caller can communicate directly with each other as if the interpreter were not there. Speak in one or two sentences at a time, and avoid using acronyms, jargon or technical terms. For a recorded demonstration of how over-the-phone interpretation works, call (800) 752-6096.

“The Language Line allows us to increase our responsiveness to non-English speaking customers and callers, which is part of our Title VI compliance effort,” said EEO Officer Sylvia Delgado, who oversees the program. “We want to be sure that we’re providing equitable service to everyone, and the LEP Program is helping us do that.”

Do you speak a second language? Want to become a volunteer interpreter? Contact EEO Officer Sylvia Delgado at (213) 897-8244 or Sylvia_Delgado@dot.ca.gov.

EEO Officer Sylvia Delgado oversees the LEP Program in District 7. Language identification cards allow visitors to indicate their language fluency. An interpreter will then be contacted to provide assistance. Language Line Interpreter Services, which is available to all District 7 staff, provides phone-based interpreting services in 170 languages.