Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Boycotting Arizona May Hurt Translation Industry

Despite the controversy in Arizona these days, there is no doubt that the state has a rich history in culture, immigration and language. According to 2000 U.S. census data, 25.9 percent of the population speaks a language other than English; primarily Spanish, Navajo, and other Native American languages, but also German, Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Italian and Korean.  Many of these these speakers are equally bilingual in English and another language, serving as translators and interpreters for businesses in the state and organizations around the country. Boycotting services from Arizona could potentially hurt the translation and interpretation industry in the state, and the businesses who use them.

According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, there were 1,293 active translators and language interpreters in Arizona in 2006. These figures are only expected to climb, with 1,573 by 2016, as demand for language needs in government, education, and business increases. More than 80 translators in Arizona are recognized by the American Translators Association (ATA). Translators and interpreters recognized by the ATA are often preferred by businesses, multi-national corporations, and NGOs in the U.S. and around the world.

To meet the education demands of the translation sector, universities have increased their language instruction offering. Arizona State University now offers degrees in Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. But some universities abroad have cancelled their exchange programs with Arizona state schools due to the controversial immigration law. Cultural exchange is integral to any language-related program.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (D), who opposes the Arizona immigration law, has called for an end to the boycotts and has blamed the media for the divisive battle. "Unfortunately, it's added another dimension to splitting the community over this debate," Gordon addressed the media earlier last month. The city of Los Angeles and many smaller cities and groups have begun to stop doing business with the state while many others are threatening to start doing so. "We were just starting to see recovery...I just plead with everybody not to be boycotting Arizona and Phoenix. It hurts everybody".

Perhaps the boycotting of Arizona may send a message to politicians, but is not in the best interests of the translation industry in Arizona and the businesses around the country who need such services.

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