By Jessica Sperling
Why use a vendor for language services?
The US government requires organizations that receive federal funds to provide language access for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals. If your organization does not have in-house translators and interpreters or qualified multilingual employees, outside vendors may be required to help serve LEP individuals. Even if your organization does have in-house translators, interpreters or qualified multilingual employees, hiring vendors can help your organization cover languages not spoken by your team or when your employees are overextended.
If your organization is interested in contracting vendors for this type of work, you are encouraged to include pertinent language in any vendor contract. The US Department of Justice has created draft language for vendor contracts — which complies with such federal award terms and conditions as Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13166. Access that document here.
What types of organizations offer language services?
Different types of organizations that provide interpretation and/or translation services for a fee. Many language service organizations are small, privately owned, for-profit companies, while others are a part of nonprofit community service agencies. Still others are large national corporations, as in the case of many telephonic interpretation services. Vendors can offer language access technologies that facilitate translation and interpretation, improving the efficiency of your in-house language professionals and possibly even reducing costs. For a report on these technologies and lists of select vendors, click here.
What are some key elements to include in an RFP?
The language services field is a fast-growing and changing area that is subject to little oversight and standardization, so vendors will vary significantly in the type and quality of services provided. Therefore, when drafting a formal Request for Proposals (RFP), you must clearly lay out your organization’s needs, expectations, and parameters for service evaluation. This RFP will provide guidance for vendors for their proposals, and it will help when drafting a final contract.
The specifications your organization should include in an RFP and subsequent contract will depend on many factors, including the type of service needed (translation, on-site interpretation or telephonic interpretation). Below are key elements to include in an RFP and contract; they do not represent the totality of considerations to make when drafting RFPs and contracts.
The information provided is based on a review of contracts and RFPs contained on the Migration Policy Institute’s Language Portal as well as the following publications:
Roat, Cynthia. 2003. How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies. The California Endowment.
United States Department of Justice. “On Choosing a Language Access Provider” http://www.justice.gov/crt/lep/resources/leptatool.htm
American Translators Association. “Translation: Getting it Right. A Guide to Buying Translations.” http://www.atanet.org/publications/getting_it_right.php
American Translators Association. “Interpreting: Getting it Right. A Guide to Buying Interpreting Services.” http://www.atanet.org/publications/getting_it_right_int.php
Jessica Sperling is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the Graduate Center of City University of New York (CUNY), where she works on issues of immigration and comparative integration processes. She holds a B.A. with honors in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.A. in Sociology from CUNY. Ms. Sperling has worked with language access implementation for the New York City Department of Education and the New York City public hospital system, and she has served as a consultant on language access issues for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Migration Policy Institute.