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Partner Blog

Information of use to those who serve private well owners.

The Force Behind our Spanish Language Program

Forward by Steve Wilson:

About 4 years ago, we realized there was a need for Spanish language materials for the Private Well Class. Being at the University of Illinois and as an alum of the Civil Engineering program, I reached out to a professor I knew, Dr. Marcelo Garcia, to ask if he knew of any native Spanish speaking grad students that might be interested in working with us to translate our materials. He introduced me to Santiago Santacruz, a PhD student from Columbia who was here on a Fulbright and was really interested in what we wanted to do. Santiago was engaging, intelligent, and shared that one of his frustrations were technical materials that were poorly translated from English. He pointed out a number of examples of inappropriate translation and after our first meeting, I knew we had found the perfect person to help us. Santiago translated not only the class text, but also all of the figures in the text, and did an amazing job. Since then, he has worked on videos, conducted webinars, among other things.

Then, about 2 years ago, Ana Chara and Santiago got married. Ana was working on her PhD at the University of British Columbia. When she was finished she moved here and as Santiago’s student responsibilities changed, she was able to start working for us as well. By now, others had seen the work that Santiago had completed and we were asked if we could support other translation activities. The most exciting being the translation of 6 water operator videos, developed by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, into Spanish. Ana did an amazing job, not only did she translate the videos, but she also had to memorize lines and be on camera to replace the English speaker in the original videos. She was a natural. She also developed a Spanish language video for homeowners on how to sample for lead, for a specific research project going on at the University.

We have relied on Santiago and Ana for so many things, they have been wonderful to work with. So, today, I wanted to share more of their story with everyone involved with the class. Santiago is finishing his PhD this summer and he and Ana will be going back home to Columbia in the near future. I can’t say enough how great they have been to work with, how much they have meant to our program, and how much they will be missed. They are both intelligent, driven people who I feel so lucky to have known. We all wish them the best.

Below, Katie asked them to answer a few questions that provide more detail about their Private Well Class work that gives you a better feel about who they are and some ideas and things to consider if you plan to translate your materials. At the end of the post are links to the Private Well Class Spanish materials, as well as the videos for water operators on operation and maintenance issues.

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourselves:

[Santiago]: I’m a Civil Engineer from Colombia. I am currently working on my PhD in Hydraulics at U of I. Water will always be a key topic for any society, it could be either a blessing or great threat. I want to help to facilitate access to clean water, protect communities from floods and droughts, and to guarantee that future generations can also benefit from healthy streams, wetlands, aquifers, and beaches.

[Ana]: I’m a Colombian Biologist with a M.Sc. in Aquatic Sciences from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Freshwater Ecology from the University of British Columbia. I am interested in studying how human activities impact freshwater ecosystems and water resources, in order to facilitate the development of strategies to protect them.

Q: How did you get initially become involved with Spanish translation for the Private Well Class and Water Operator at the Illinois State Water Survey?

[Santiago]: I heard of this opportunity through my adviser, Prof. M. H. Garcia. It was a nice opportunity to help many that speak my language, to empower them by facilitating access to valuable information on their own well system.


Q: You were both involved in many facets of the program. What were some of the things that each of you had to do?

[Santiago]: My first task was to translate the entire Manual for Homeowners with Water Wells. I participated in a couple Live Webinars in Spanish, help to setup the Spanish website for the Private Well Class project. I also had to learn how to record audios, and edit videos for over 15 videoclips we translated to Spanish.

[Ana]: I helped with the translation of the video clips Santiago mentioned above and also had the great opportunity of participating in the shooting of the Spanish version of six RCAP videos. Recently, I participated in the translation of guidelines (videos, instruction sheets) for the collection of lead (Pb) samples.

 

Q: Of all the projects that you assisted with, what did you enjoy the most?

[Ana]: The experience of shooting the RCAP videos was definitely my favorite. I’m used to public speaking, but being the presenter in a video was completely new for me. It was a lot of fun!

Q: What do you think is the #1 problem of programs that attempt dual language content?

[Santiago]: In the US, the lack of detailed and specific materials compared to English content you can easily find in the websites of local and federal agencies. It’s a pity we suggest our Spanish audience to check out more details on a document that is in English, without even having technical dictionary to translate some concepts or names.

 

Q: What is your take-home-message for programs using a bilingual approach to their content?

[Ana]: Getting help from a native speaker who also has a basic understanding of the topic is crucial. There are many technical words and concepts that may not be translated accurately if one does not have a technical understanding of the subject matter. Computer translations are far from doing a job that reads/sound natural, and gets worse for special topics like groundwater and wells.

 

Q: When did you personally feel the most challenged when working on our projects?

[Santiago]: Finding the most accepted name or expression for a technical name. Spanish is a rich and diverse language, spoken by an entire continent. For instance, tap is commonly referred as grifo in Mexico, llave in Colombia, and canilla in Argentina. But canilla is shin in Colombia.

[Ana]: I agree with Santiago. Even among Latin American Spanish speakers there are huge differences in usage of words and even the tone. One thing we struggled often with was deciding whether to use usted or tu in our translations. Both words mean you but the first is more formal and respectful, which would be the default in countries like Colombia. However, in many other Latin American countries like Mexico, people may prefer to use tu. It is a subtle difference and both forms would be understood, but we wanted to make sure the translations sounded as natural as possible to our intended audience.

 

Q: What is your opinion regarding the need for a correctly translated Spanish versions of documents for water resource and private well related issues?

[Santiago]: Private well is the main water supply for millions in the US. Education and training on water wells help these people to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases, but more importantly to keep the aquifers safe for everybody, not only for Spanish speakers. Nobody trust a poorly written document, because instructions are not clear, but ambiguous and cause confusions, which is completely opposite to its purpose. For many well owner that feel more confident in Spanish than in English, this is a great way to reach them out, and assist them to help us all to keep our aquifers in good conditions.

 

Q: What do you think is the best way of reaching the Spanish speaking communities in the U.S.?

[Ana]: Providing good quality materials in Spanish is a great strategy. Language may be an important barrier for people, especially when it comes to technical material. The effort to translate this important information and making it available for free is a good starting point to reach these communities.

 

Q: For the duration of your time working on projects with the Illinois State Water Survey and PrivateWellClass.org, did anything surprise you or did you learn anything unexpected?

[Santiago]: I realized how limited is the information for non-English speakers, and it was surprising how little content was available even in States where the Spanish-speaking population is very large. But also was a nice surprise to know that the ISWS at U of I is doing such a great effort to assist all these well-owners on their own language.

[Ana]: I was surprised to learn there is such a big portion of the population depending on private wells for their water supply in the States. I was even more surprised to find out private well owners are mostly on their own when it comes to the operation and maintenance of their water systems. That is why the work ISWS is doing to support and train private well owners is so important!

 

Spanish Language Resources: 

The Spanish Language Private Well Class – www.clasepozosprivados.org 

Spanish Private Well videos (YouTube playlist) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9rgMXzDxks&list=PL2jExPDtEDs5afPxPOX4FENUdfqIduuhU 

RCAP Spanish Water Operator Videos: 

- Protección de la Calidad del Agua en el Sistema de Distribución https://vimeo.com/234746215 
- Inspección Periódica de un Reservorio de Agua https://vimeo.com/234561979 
- Calidad del Agua en Instalaciones de Almacenamiento https://vimeo.com/234561698 
- Buenas Prácticas para el Muestreo de Coliformes https://vimeo.com/234557994 
- Medición del Cloro Residual https://vimeo.com/234557428 
- Inspección y Vaciado https://vimeo.com/234869819

Jerry Tinoco Discusses Reaching Spanish-Speaking Communities

Jerry Tinoco Discusses Reaching Spanish-Speaking Communities

The Private Well Class is currently putting effort forth to translate many of our resources to Spanish. The real challenge that we have encountered is getting these resources out the individuals that could really use them. We reached out to Gerardo “Jerry” Tinoco Jr. to interview him about his efforts in predominantly Spanish speaking communities. Jerry is a Rural Development Specialist for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and currently resides in California. Jerry works with Spanish speaking populations and provides many services in Spanish for private well owners.


Q: What is your current position and role in regards to your program working with Spanish-speaking communities?

JT: Currently I work in various capacities with Spanish speaking communities. I work both in private well related programs as well as in non-private well related programs. For my private well work, I mostly work in educating and outreaching to private well owners. I have conducted private well assessments and water quality sampling for Spanish speaking well owners and plan to hold a private well class for Spanish speaking communities dependent on private well systems. I also translate resources, factsheets, presentations, etc.

Q: What sort of situations do you encounter most often with working with a predominantly Spanish-speaking community that relies on private well water as a primary source of drinking water?:

JT: There is a general lack of basic operation and maintenance with most private well communities, both Spanish speaking and not. People are just unaware about the things they should be doing to not only ensure their well runs efficiently and effectively for a long time, but also what they should do to protect groundwater. Oftentimes, people are renters on properties with private wells and thus never really get invested in the maintenance of their private well system. I think this general lack of knowledge is fairly common in any private well community, Spanish speaking or not.


Q: Can you please highlight some challenges that partners may come across in private well outreach in Spanish-speaking populations?

JT: Unfortunately given the current political climate, I think one of the biggest challenges in working to outreach for private wells in Spanish speaking populations is simply gaining their trust. In working with Spanish speaking populations, one needs to be mindful that some may have a general suspicion of people going to their homes. But aside from that, a common challenge for any private well outreach is conveying the importance to their health and finances that properly operating and maintaining a well system has.


Q: In your experience, what is the best way to raise awareness about private well care in these populations? Does geographical location matter?

JT: In my experience, attending existing/established meetings in communities seems to be a good starting off point to raise awareness. Going to a local PTA meeting, being a guest at adult school classes, attending local organizing group meetings, or local government meetings to give brief presentations to spark people’s interest and convey the importance of well care. Once some interest and trust is established, then I would feel more secure in hosting a private well class and giving them more in depth information as well as maybe doing well assessments. There are of course easier ways, such as an ad in a newspaper or fliers around town, but to me this trust building and getting to know the community is the best.

Q: What sort of partnerships or collaboration that you have been a part of has made reaching out to these folks easier?

JT: As I mentioned before, partnering up with schools, local organizing groups, local non-profits, or any other groups involved in the community to help build that trust to allow the community to familiarize themselves with you and want to have a more in depth discussion about maintaining their private well. I often work with other partner non-profits on projects outside of private wells, but when a working relationship is established they’ll usually invite me out and do the outreach themselves of people interested in learning more about private wells.


Q: Can you describe what you believe to be one of your program’s largest successes?

JT: We are barely starting to focus more of our attention on Spanish speaking well communities so I feel our biggest success is yet to come since we have been mostly working with communities on other issues affecting them. So far they’ve been more isolated examples of success helping individual well owners learn more about their wells, getting people with dry wells low interest loans to drill new wells, or showing new well owners best practices to maintain a healthy well system. I do think simply translating a lot of existing resources and information has really helped as well.


Q: In your opinion, what’s the number one thing that partners can do in order to do a better job of outreach in Spanish-speaking communities?

JT: I think the most important and basic thing anyone can do to increase outreach in Spanish-speaking communities is simply to put resources and a deliberate effort to reach out in Spanish speaking communities. It sounds obvious, but honestly simply just trying will yield results. Often times, outreach efforts are not accessible to Spanish speaking communities or poor/rural areas in general as well. Invitations and fliers will be in English only which already will not get you any Spanish speaking well owners. If the workshops themselves are in English only, that too will deter people from attending. In rural areas, e-vites or online webinars/factsheets may not be accessible to many. So as simple as it sounds I think the number one thing that we can all do is to allocate resources specifically for the purpose of educating Spanish-speaking communities. Put out fliers and invitations in Spanish. Outreach door to door in Spanish. Host Spanish meetings and workshops. Not translated by interpreters, but actually taught and led in Spanish.