The University of Nevada Extension serves diverse populations that may include participants who have Limited English Proficiencies (LEP). LEP populations are those who do not speak English as their primary language and may have limited ability to speak, read and understand English. They also may face language barriers that prevent them from participating and benefiting from Extension programs. Extension staff who design and implement Extension programs must take appropriate steps to ensure LEP population have equal opportunity and meaningful access to our programs. According to census and other statistical information regarding the populations in Nevada, many households speak in a language other than English. Spanish, Tagalog and Chinese are some of the more prevalent languages in our state. Extension staff are required to consider such information when creating and implementing programs. Here is an example of Nevada language statistical information from the US Census.
The University of Nevada, Reno Extension is federally funded, therefore we are required to serve all residents of Nevada, including LEP populations, by ensuring access to Extension programs. While federal law does not require the translation of every outreach material into every language, Extension is required to provide meaningful access to populations regularly encountered in the community and in the most commonly used languages spoken. We can never charge a participant for translations services, or expect or suggest a participant bring their own translator (such as a friend or family member) when participating in a program.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) encourages the use of bilingual staff to provide interpretations and translations of program materials (including outreach, teaching materials, flyers and handouts and other Extension information) to meet the Title IV and Executive Order 13166 requirements for federally funded programs. Bilingual staff members are those who are completely bilingual and fluent in two languages and are able to conduct the business of the workplace in either of those languages.
Extension recognizes bilingual staff as current employees who:
- Applied for a position with bilingual duties outlined in the position description and specifies being bilingual is a requirement.
- Successfully interviewed with at least one bilingual interview committee member, who determined their ability to speak another language, or was given a written assessment to determine written fluency of another language, or both.
- Follows a current WPS (Work Performance Standards) which outlines the translating and/or interpreting duties required for the position. All WPS are signed by the employee and supervisor.
Vital v. Non-Vital Information
In terms of translations (rendering written words or text from one language to another) or interpretations (rendering spoken words from one language to another), Extension programs must evaluate the nature of the information being communicated and who the intended audience is, as well as the intended purpose and use of the information. Extension program staff also must determine whether program information disseminated is vital or non-vital in nature.
Program content is considered vital if it contains information about federal services or benefits, if it is required by law, if it requires a signature of the participant, or if program information affects the immediate life and health of an individual. Other examples of vital information include applications, witness statements, consent forms, complaint forms, notices of rights, and disciplinary actions.
For vital information and documents, Extension professionals are to obtain a professional translation from the UNR Language Bank or through a certified or qualified translator. Certified translators have a professional designation from a nationally recognized organization such as ATA (American Translation Association). Qualified translators can be used for languages which an official certification is not available. Qualified translators have relevant education and 3 to 5 years of experience and/or a degree in Translation or Linguistics.
- Professional Translators and Interpreters Connect Us to Our World
- Language Bank
For non-vital information, Extension professionals have substantial flexibility in determining how to provide meaningful access to program material and identifying what information needs to be translated or interpreted for their audience. Extension professionals must determine which is the most effective and cost-efficient way to provide program information and participation to LEP populations. Sometimes written translations are most effective, while other times verbal interpretation is most effective, depending on the content and the audience for whom it is intended. For either vital or non-vital information, on-line translation modules or websites are not an acceptable method of translating or interpreting Extension materials.
Determining Language Needs
Extension professionals must examine the demographics of the populations they serve and the frequency of LEP populations encountered to determine language needs. Other areas to consider when determining language needs include the public’s requests for materials in specific languages, data from the United States Census Bureau, and/or data from other agencies who partner with Extension programs. Extension professionals are to work with the Civil Rights Coordinator or Title IX office for any questions that may have regarding the populations in the community for which they are responsible.
In summary, the USDA offers this guideline for federally funded agencies to follow when providing meaningful access to LEP individuals:
- The number or proportion of LEP persons in the eligible service population
- The frequency with which LEP individuals come into contact with the program
- The importance of the service provided by the program
- The resources and budgets available for the program
These four factors are further explained in the DOJ LEP Guidance found on the FCS website and published in the Federal Register on August 16, 2000.