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Delavan business translates into success

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Catherine W. Idzerda
August 26, 2013

DELAVAN--Language isn't exact science.

A word in French might not translate exactly into English.

An idea or concept in Somalian or Mixe, a language spoken by indigenous Mexican Indians, might not exist in the North American culture.

That's why the work at a Delavan business is so important.

Since 2002, the Southern Wisconsin Interpretation and Translation Services, or SWITS, as it is commonly called, has been providing courts, hospitals, businesses and others with a clear connection to their non-English and limited-English speaking customers and clients.

The most common languages the company works with are Spanish and American Sign Language.  But SWITS also has interpreters and translators for Somalian, Hmong, Russian, Polish and dozen of other common and lesser-known world languages.

Translating refers to anything written. Interpreting refers to spoken language or American Sign Language, said Saul Arteaga, SWITS director.

It's an important distinction.

“Being bilingual encompasses many skill sets,” Arteaga said. “Interpreters are transferring a message, not necessarily the exact words.”

For example, a doctor might ask a patient if the pain she is experiencing is sharp or dull. A translation of those exact words might not convey the same meaning in a different language, Arteaga said.

The interpreter's job is to interpret the message in a way the patient understands.

Interpreters must retain the memory of what the English-speaker said while simultaneously thinking of the correct way to relay that message.

In addition, they must understand regionalisms and changes in the language.

“Think about the word 'tablet,'” Arteaga said. “That used to be a pill. Now, it could mean something else.”

The company has 33 full-time employees, more than 50 part-time employees and a list of more than 100 people who can work when needed.

SWITS services are available 24 hours a day, and they work on site and over the telephone.

This spring, the company expanded its reach, installing a call center with computer monitors and cameras that will allow interpreters to work from Delavan with clients all over the country.

The company is encouraging all of its interpreters who work in hospitals to become nationally certified medical interpreters. The certification, which is new, involves written and oral exams, and is expected to become an industry standard.



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