Taipei New Immigrant Halls offer multilingual translation services

By Chi-Hao James Lo, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — “To aid in transitioning new immigrants from different cultural backgrounds and values into their lives in Taiwan, the Taipei City Government, Department of Civil Affairs (DOCA), stationed interpreters at New Immigrants’ Halls in Nangang and Wanhua in 2005 and 2006,” said DOCA Commissioner Huang Lu Ching-ju (黃呂錦茹) yesterday. As interracial marriages between Southeast Asian women and Taiwanese men increase, so have incidents of helplessness as a result of misunderstandings between interracial couples. Since most marriages between Southeast Asian women and Taiwanese men are arranged through marriage agencies, both parties experience numerous differences in communication, habits, culture, morals and values. At the center of the problems are linguistic barriers, which influence many facets of a couple’s interactions.

Where a Taiwanese groom might see drinking as a social event, an Indonesian bride might see drinking as a bad habit with the potential of escalating into violence. Such misunderstandings can be easily avoided if one party understands either the culture or the language of the other, unlike interracial couples who meet while one individual speaks the language of another. It is for the purpose of decreasing such incidences, while improving the quality of life and communications of foreign brides, that the DOCA opened New Immigrant Halls with interpreters to help the problems faced by interracial couples. Each New Immigrant Hall is stationed with English, Thai, Vietnamese and Bahasa Indonesia speakers every Tuesday to Sunday. “Our interpreters do not just provide services in translation,” said Huang Lu, “They also provide a supportive listening environment to those who are facing difficulties, either in adjusting to Taiwanese culture or family issues, as well as their personal experiences in dealing with adjustments.” As most of the interpreters are actual new immigrants from the country of their language service, these public servants also went through their own periods of adjustment problems. Like Li Fang-chao (黎芳草), who immigrated to Taiwan 14 years ago and who was fortunate enough to be happily married to her patient husband, who is one of the reasons why she had few troubles. Now the mother of two, Li has been working as an interpreter for the past 8 years, under the blessing of her supportive family. “I would use the word ‘fulfilled’ to describe my experience working as an interpreter, because I have put in my effort into helping fellow new immigrants from different countries.”