Thursday, April 09, 2009

US Department of Justice's Reminder Music in the Ears of LSPs

In March, as federal agencies prepared to hand out funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the DOJ issued an important reminder about the role of language services.The Department of Justice highlighted the fact that all recipients of federal dollars — and that includes private companies — must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which expressly prohibits national origin discrimination, “including language access for limited English proficient persons.” In other words, before beneficiaries dole out AIG-sized bonuses, they would be wise to make sure that their budgets account for translation needs.

What does this mean for the language industry and practitioners inside corporations?

  • Savvy language service providers (LSPs) will alert their clients and prospects of the obligations under Title VI, to help raise awareness and alleviate potential hefty fees related to investigations and penalties that may ensue if these language duties are ignored.
  • The program is designed to help the economy recover, and the language services industry is in a good position to directly benefit. To determine which verticals and organizations will receive funding, suppliers should follow the money trail. And so should the freelancers.
  • The federal attention to language issues coincides with other state and industry-specific language access issues that have taken place since the new president entered the White House.

Even with cutbacks in many commercial accounts, beneficiaries of recovery monies — both public and private — will not be able to slash language services from their budgets without costly consequences. Since most of these LSPs cannot find enough freelancers inside the US, it looks like we may get a piece of the cake, or at least sizable crumbs. I would suggest that freelancers stop being shy and start looking for direct clients, too. After all, middlemen in recession are not always a persona grata.

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