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Why do we need Spanish translations of government-created documents?

7/12/2013 by Susana Schultz

As I start researching the subject of Medicare and visit the many sites that give you information, it becomes very clear why all the social-services, government-created documents need to be translated, not just into Spanish but into many other languages. It is because they are VERY hard to understand the way they are written in English.

I would even suggest that they need to be simplified in English so that everyone can better understand them. I am a very intelligent person, fluent in five different languages, and even I have to reread the documents over to try to make sense of them. They are not simple to understand. I can imagine a naturalized U.S. citizen whose native language is not English and who has limited English proficiency struggling to understand what she or he is entitled to after years of contributing tax money to the system. That is why we have Spanish translations, and other language translations, of these documents.

One interesting fact is that Medicare and Medicaid require that all Spanish translations, in our case, are written at a fourth-grade reading level, but I suspect that a person with just a fourth-grade reading level in English would have a tough time understanding the original English documents to start with. So their motto must be do what I say but not what I do, right? Doesn’t this sound very familiar???

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