Communicating across multiple languages can be a challenge, but it is one Banyan often encounters since we are located in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minnesota, with nearly 60% of residents speaking a language other than English (Minnesota Compass). Even with Banyan’s multilingual staff team, it can be challenging to ensure that all attendees are able to participate fully at community meetings.

To help bridge the language barrier, there are two main styles of language interpretation that are utilized. The first is the traditional consecutive interpretation, which involves an interpreter restating a few sentences after the presenter speaks them. This leads to a very jerky conversation flow for all participants.

The second style of interpretation is simultaneous interpretation. In this style an interpreter translates into a microphone while the presenter talks. The translation is then transmitted to the participants in real time through headsets allowing for smoother participation. A second benefit of these headsets is the multiple channels of transmission. This means Banyan Community has the capability to share conversations in up to 10 different languages simultaneously with interpreter assistance. While using a microphone and headsets is smoother, faster and more effectively engages participants, the equipment to facilitate simultaneous interpretation is quite expensive – a basic set for 20 people costs over $1,000!

Thanks to a history of effective community development, Banyan Community was contacted about organizing a focus group amongst Spanish-speaking residents regarding a nearby road construction project. We agreed to host the focus group to provide an avenue for Banyan families to share their thoughts and opinions on the project. Without such intentional involvement, our families’ perspectives may be left out of local outreach efforts like this. As part of this project, Banyan received funding to purchase a 20-person simultaneous interpretation system that can be used for years to come.

 “These are so helpful and efficient!” one participant made sure to share following the meeting.

The system worked beautifully during the focus group, keeping the meeting running smoothly. During the focus group, the facilitators also wore headphones, so whenever participants answered in Spanish, the presenters heard the English translation and were able to immediately take notes and ask follow-up questions. Thanks to this new equipment, Banyan is now better equipped than ever to hold meetings and educational programming in the multiple languages present in the neighborhood.

Joel McReynolds

Story written by Joel McReynolds, Family & Community Engagement Team Manager