TRANSLATION SERVICES FOR Spanish-speaking residents were provided at a community meeting in Stockton on Tuesday evening after some previously raised concerns about language barriers that kept them from participating.

Griselda Juarez and Ernestina Barrios, both Spanish speakers, sat next to each other along with three other women inside a room at the Weston Ranch Branch Library. They were listening to Officer Rosie Calderon of the Stockton Police Department, who was translating crime statistics that were being given at the quarterly meeting.

Calderon said she is not a state-certified translator, but she is certified by the city to assist with translation when she is needed by the Police Department.

Previously, Juarez and Barrios said they attended each meeting faithfully in hopes of being able to hear about what was happening in their community and wanting to ask questions of their own, but they always came away disappointed.

Juarez said that at the previous quarterly meeting in February, an officer said there wasn’t anyone to interpret for Spanish speakers, so she didn’t get anything out of it.

“I felt like I went to waste my time … I went to sit and warm up a chair, as people would say,” she said.

About 45% of Stockton’s residents are Latino, with over 40% of people in San Joaquin County speaking a language other than English at home, according to the U.S. Census.

An improvement, with room for ‘a little more’

During Tuesday’s meeting, Debbie Lopez, a community service officer with the Stockton Police Department, informed residents about crime statistics, shots-fired calls and abandoned vehicles while Calderon relayed the information in Spanish to the five women.

Finally, Juarez and Barrios could hear about what was happening in their neighborhoods.

“We want them to be heard and get the same information as others,” said Calderon about the importance of translating.

While some of the Spanish-speaking women thought that Calderon translating next to them was sufficient, Barrios and Juarez felt that translation earphones would have been a better solution for them to fully comprehend what was occurring during the meeting.

“Although they brought a translator … it seems to me that a little more is needed,” Barrios said. “If you are asking her (Calderon) something and they are talking in front of you then you don’t know whether to focus on her or them.”

Griselda Juarez, left, and Ernestina Barrios listen as Community Service Officer Rosie Calderon, right, provides Spanish interpretation during a community meeting with Stockton Police at Weston Ranch Library in Stockton on May 9, 2023. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Both women expressed that at times during the meeting, if one woman was asking Calderon a question, then they weren’t able to get a word-for-word translation about what was still be talked about.

For example, an English speaker at the meeting told the audience that a drug deal occurred in her driveway, but because Calderon was answering a question for Barrios, some of the other women didn’t understand what issues were being discussed.

Calderon said she asked the women before the meeting if they preferred earphones to hear a translation of the meeting, or if they preferred for her to sit near them in a more personal space. The women said they were OK with sitting in a group instead.

Joseph Silva, a spokesperson with the Stockton Police Department, said in March that the department had recently purchased earphones that would be used at upcoming meetings to help with translations.

Calderon said that it was her first time translating at the meeting, but she is willing to try any method that will allow the information to be passed onto Spanish speakers at future meetings.

“I’m learning as I go,” she said. The next meeting for Weston Ranch will be held Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Weston Ranch Branch Library, 1453 W. French Camp Road.

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