Am I less Latino if I don’t speak Spanish?

Earlier this year I was intrigued by an article on the NBC Latino website. In an opinion piece by Raul A. Reyes, a question was tackled that I’m sure many of us of Latin American heritage have heard before. If you do not speak Spanish, are you less Latino? Reyes brought up San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who became well known on the heels of his Democratic National Convention speech. Apparently Castro is not fluent in Spanish and his lack of fluency implies, by some, that his Hispanic heritage may not be perceived as authentic.

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Should you hire a new translator?

At a recent meeting with a local Latino advisory group, I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Carlos Pava, director of Voices for Health, a Grand Rapids, Michigan based translation service provider. Voices for Health serves many clients but specializes in the health care industry.

As Carlos presented Voices for Health’s list of capabilities, he explained the process used for screening translation candidates. On occasion, Voices for Health may reject a candidate based on lack of linguistic skills or knowledge of meaning between languages. Even candidates that are native, life-long speakers of a language can be rejected. The truth is, just because someone is a native speaker of Spanish or is of Latin-American heritage does not make him or her an automatic bridge to Latino culture.

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