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To the editor: The article “ Really Lost in Translation: Court-Appointed Translators Can Make or Break an Asylum Case” by Barbara Johnson and Patrick Togni clearly illustrated how professional interpreters often are not given the respect they deserve. A truly professional interpreter retains the entire original message, often working under intense stress and making split-second decisions about how to convey all the nuances of the original. The performance of these highly educated, experienced individuals is crucial. The suggestion to use a family member or friend is not a good one — no matter how the person is instructed — because untrained bilingual speakers may be unfamiliar with technical terminology and may have trouble remaining unbiased and keeping their emotional distance, especially in disturbing cases, such as those involving torture or sexual assault. The article correctly advises attorneys to seek and use professional services, but that should be the rule every time, not only when it’s convenient. According to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in order to be effective, “Service providers and clients must be able to communicate effectively.” Only trained, experienced interpreters can do that. When you need a tooth pulled, do you want the dental hygienist or the dentist to do it? Information about the profession and how to find a qualified interpreter is available from the American Translators Association and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. Alexandra Russell-Bitting President Harvetta Asamoah Vice President National Capital Area Chapter American Translators Association Washington, D.C.

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