Imagine you’re on vacation in Central America, there to explore lush rain forests and pre-Columbian ruins. You take a tumble down a hillside and later, take a taxi to the hospital. Or, maybe your teenager asks to walk to a nearby store. Two hours later you cannot find him at the hotel, the store, nor anywhere along the canopied road between.
Now, imagine yourself at the hospital or police station, unable to communicate beyond gestures and the simple guidebook Spanish you practiced on the plane. You’d feel helpless, perhaps hopeless.
Not so, for visitors to the United States. By law, persons with Limited English Proficiency have the right to a translator when seeking services provided by the federal government or provided by organizations receiving federal funds. Citizens as well as visitors rely on these laws to ensure their voices are heard – and that they comprehend what is being said to them – in medical offices, police stations, courts, immigration offices and schools.
When it comes to language, the great melting pot is more of a stew. Businesses eager to extend their reach into the cultural microcosms that comprise the nation often provide interpreters for their customers and clients.
Finding a certified translator or interpreter isn’t as hard as one might think. Reliable Language Services, situated in a converted house at the corner of Maitland Street and Fulford Avenue in Bel Air, provides onsite and telephone-based interpretation and translation services in more than 90 languages. A boutique, woman-owned business, RLS serves scores of contract-based clients throughout Maryland, providing help and hope 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Peruvian-board Rosa Long opened Reliable Language Services in 2009, after serving as a certified freelance interpreter for more than 10 years. As her business grows, so does her network of interpreters and translators.
“Once the website was up, translators and interpreters contacted us,” Long says. “They send me a CV of their work, I confirm their certifications and review their work, then send them an agreement. For some languages, I have constant work. For others, it is rare. I continuously secure interpreters to offer more languages and provide immediate service when it is needed.”
Long’s business acumen has grown along with her business. To ensure Reliable Language Services is competitive, she offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee and charges the same rate for all languages, Spanish to Swahili, Thai to Twi. Reliable Language Services also offers American Sign Language Interpretation.
Long’s American journey is one that inspires as well.
She met her husband, John, during a visit to the United States. First came love, then came marriage, then came two sons and citizenship. It was John Long’s job with Sun Products that brought the family to Maryland. The young mother secured a part-time job with the Harford County Health Department.
“She came in initially as clerical, but it was because she was bilingual that I hired her,” says Carol Knight, the now-retired HCHD nurse program supervisor for the Administrative Care Coordination Unit. “The Latino population was moving into Harford County rapidly and she was a motivated part-time employee, willing to go the extra mile. She really cared about the clients and even took calls after-hours.” Before long, Knight became Long’s mentor. She sent Long for interpreter training and ensured she sat for credentialing exams.
“I told her, ‘You are very good at this.’ I saw an article about people starting their own businesses and I brought it in and said, ‘Rosa, this is your future,’” says Knight.
Long used her certified interpreter skills in clinics throughout the HCHD. She secured contracts to provide interpretation services for others as an independent contractor. She left the health department and cobbled together full-time employment by offering freelance services through companies just like the one she now operates.
“I found my passion,” Long says, noting she personally does not provide translation services, nor does she speak languages other than English and Spanish. Opening her business, though, enables her to “bridge the gap and provide documents for legal and immigration purposes. When a patient is in pain and suffering, we ensure there is good communication.” I95
Reliable Language Services
221 Maitland Street, Suite B4
Bel Air, MD