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In August, the city of Holyoke began providing a live Spanish translation of its televised full City Council meetings.
Councillor and Acting Mayor Terence Murphy said he filed an order seeking interpretation services about a year ago, and the City Council worked with then-Mayor Alex Morse to work out the funding, which was provided through Holyoke Media, which in turn is funded through the local cable franchise. During the process, the council worked through concerns about how accurate the live translation would be. Final approval for the service came in the spring.
“I represent Ward 2, which is about 60% Spanish speaking or at least bilingual,” Murphy said. “We had no access other than the English channel.”
The city is using the services of TransFluenci, an East Longmeadow translation and interpretation services company. The company provides two translators for each meeting, which have been running three to four hours. The translators have access to the meeting agenda ahead of time, work in a separate room adjoining the meeting where they translate in real time, and the company compares the translation to the English transcript.
Viewers wishing to access the meeting translation change the audio setting on their television. Recordings of the meetings are also provided in both languages.
“The first time we did it, we only had 80 viewers, but it has grown since then,” Murphy said. “Meetings are carried live and provided on tape, and we have added more people that way. There are several hundred now.”
The city is hoping to expand to offering live translation for committee meetings soon, and to potentially use the translation services for documents and other areas of the city website.
“It’s helpful to have everyone understand what is going on in a comfortable setting,” Murphy said. “We want everyone to be a full participant in understanding the issues and giving their thoughts.”
Murphy believes Holyoke is one of the first in the region to provide the service, but he expects more communities with Spanish-speaking populations to follow suit.
“Trust that you’re getting a good interpreting service and that the message will be conveyed the way it should be, without political slants,” Murphy said. “If we can unite the community, everyone in the community wins.”