As one measure of the area’s increasing cultural diversity, Dakota County last year spent more than $61,000 for telephone translation and interpretation.
LanguageLine Solutions provides the county with interpreters in 33 languages and makes them available by phone in an average of 13.7 seconds.
Under a renewed contract this year, LanguageLine will deliver a minimum of 5,800 interpreter sessions — most to the county’s Community Services Division — at a cost of 99 cents per minute.
When a person who speaks a language other than English approaches a member of the county staff, the employee calls the LanguageLine, gets an interpreter on the line and then hands a phone to the customer, said Stephanie Radtke, deputy director for community services. “It’s very quick. It works very well.”
The county considers the interpreting service essential, Radtke said.“The demographics of Dakota County has changed a lot in the last 10 years. We have a lot more diversity in our county.” Use of the line has grown in recent years, county officials say.
Last year, 70 percent of calls for an interpreter in Dakota were for assistance in Spanish. Other languages were Somali, Russian, Arabic and Vietnamese, said Tom Costello, strategic account executive for LanguageLine, which is based in Monterey, Calif.
Most immigrants know the word interpreter. “If you speak Hmong and I don’t, I can say ‘hold’ and ‘interpreter,’ and they understand,” Costello said.
LanguageLine can promise to have an interpreter on the line within an average of 13 seconds because “we employ over 6,000 interpreters in 200 languages,” Costello said. “The interpreters are very well-trained, very skilled at what they do.’’
The company has interpreters on call 24 hours a day — some in call centers, some in their homes.
Federal law requires agencies that receive federal funding to provide interpreters. The state uses the LanguageLine service, as do Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Small counties and cities may use the state contract if they need services.