Abstract: Evaluating a Language Interpretation Training for Monolingual and Multilingual Practitioners (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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543P Evaluating a Language Interpretation Training for Monolingual and Multilingual Practitioners

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Rogerio M. Pinto, PhD, LCSW, Professor, University of Michigan
John Doering-White, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, SC
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose

Language is a widespread barrier to accessing social services for monolingual immigrants, regardless of their native languages. Language translation/interpretation has the potential to ease immigrants’ entry into systems of care. In the absence of organizational resources (i.e., in situ professional interpreters), the burden of language translation/interpretation often falls on bilingual practitioners and/or clients’ friends or family members, including minor children. Meanwhile, the role that monolingual practitioners play in facilitating or disrupting language interpretation tends to be overlooked. This study evaluates a 90-minute, in-person, workshop aimed to sensitize about and to teach monolingual and multilingual practitioners key skills and ethical considerations surrounding language translation/interpretation in macro- and micro-level social work practice.


This study uses data from 78 individuals who participated in two iterations of the translation/interpretation workshop conducted in 2019. Participants worked in a diverse set of professional contexts (child welfare, community social work, social work administration). Participants completed identical pre- and post-workshop surveys with nine 5-point likert scale questions on their perceptions on interpretation work (1=Strongly disagree; 5=Strongly agree). Survey items were structured around three learning areas: awareness of the problem, best practices, and advocacy strategies. We used t-tests to examine differences in participants’ skills and ethics concerning language/interpretation before and after the workshop using paired t-tests. To estimate how closely participants’ responses related, we calculated Cronbach’s alpha for nine pre- and post-test items.


Most respondents identified English as their first language (89%) and 40% were able to speak at least one other language. More than half of respondents interact with clients who have difficulties communicating in English monthly (23%) or a few times per year (44%). Out of nine items on their perceptions on translation/interpretation work, respondents showed significant increases (p<0.05) in post-test scores in seven items (e.g., “Practitioners can ease interpretation by using short phrases when working with an interpreter;” “All bilingual clients need the help of an interpreter” [reverse coded]; “My role as a service provider includes advocating for effective language interpretation for my clients”). The nine items showed internal consistency in both pre- and post-workshop tests (Cronbach’s alpha=0.67 and 0.71, respectively); respondents reported significant (p<0.001) increase in aggregated scores.


Findings show that this brief training is effective in providing practitioners with skills for facilitating language interpretation with help from an interpreter, before, during, and after interpretation encounters. This includes micro-level strategies, such as setting expectations ahead of time and debriefing with interpreters after an appointment, as well as macro-level strategies, such as advocating for the inclusion of professional language interpretation in organizational budgets. Therefore, we recommend integration of this workshop into social work practice classes across the curriculum. Research beyond this evaluation will be needed to test the efficacy of translation/interpretation training interventions. We also discuss opportunities and limitations around an on-line version of the training, which likely mirrors opportunities and costs associated with telephonic and/or virtual language interpretation.