The Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville (LIPS) kicks off a new season with more languages than ever!

The Liaison Interpreter Program (LIPS) Kicks Off a New Season With More Languages Than Ever!

Zarita Araujo-Lane, President and Director of Cross Cultural Communication Systems at this year's first LIPS youth training at the Mystic Activity Center.

"When I came from Brazil 3 years ago I knew no English, but now I am giving back," says Luana Silva, a recent Somerville High School graduate, as she speaks to a room of 17 bilingual high school students.

Luana is speaking at the kickoff of a weekend-long intensive training for the Welcome Project's Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville (LIPS) on October 24 and 25. The Brazilian native graduated from Somerville High School in June, and is a graduate of LIPS as well.

On this sunny Saturday, Somerville High students whose families hail from Haiti, Portugal, El Salvador, Nepal, India, China and Brazil shuffle into the Mystic Activity Center for what looks like a weekend of school. Betty Calixte, whose family is from Haiti, squeezes past Gabriel Maldonado, whose parents emigrated from El Salvador to find a seat around the crowded multi-lingual table. All of the students are fluent in English one of six other languages. Zarita Araujo-Lane, president and director of Cross Cultural Communication Systems, which provides language interpretation certification for adults, begins the training.

“Being bilingual is a gift,” Zarita Araujo-Lane tells the group.

This cross-cultural weekend seminar is not a Somerville High School classroom -- nor is it the United Nations Security Council. It is an intensive weekend training that kicks off the year for The Welcome Project's LIPS students. Each LIPS youth has committed ten hours of their weekend and countless hours to come to learn how to be semi-professional language interpreters in their community.

After this October weekend, they will engage in a 20 week training course led by Maria Landaverde, the Welcome Project's youth program organizer. They wil also spend dozens of hours at community meetings, practicing their interpretation skills and then getting feedback on their work.

Many of the new LIPS youth have already experienced firsthand what it is like to confront language barriers as informal interpreters helping their families navigate a new culture. They are now here to help other people overcome similar hurdles. Navdeep Kalia, whose family is from India, speaks Hindi and Punjabi. “I joined LIPS,” he says, “Because I want to make the world better in any way that I can.”

“Being bilingual is a gift,” Zarita tells the group. For many of these young people it is a gift that – until today -- for which they have seldom been recognized or valued outside of a small private circle of family and friends. “There are muscles in your brain that get used that people who are not bilingual do not use," Zarita continues. On some faces, you can see a sudden beam of recognition after she says this, like a light being turned on.

Four days later – Wednesday, October 28 – and LIPS is called to action in the field. At the Argeniziano School in Union Square, they are practicing their new interpretation skills at a community forum on the Green Line extension in Somerville. Sponsored by the Community Corridor Planning Project (CCP), 75 community residents gather around round tables at the meeting, working together to build a vision for what they want to see, and not see, as the Green Line transforms the Somerville landscape.

“We need to be here so that everyone in the community can have a voice in important decisions,” says Debora Oliveira

The 16 to 18 year olds murmor with excitement and nervousness as they prepare to practice their interpretation at the first community event. Clivia Camara, a LIPS veteran in her second year, stands in front of the crowd with two new LIPS youth at her side – Lorenza Etienne and Sheena Lemus.

“Hello, my name is Clivia, from the LIPS program at the Welcome Project. I am here to help with interpretation in Portuguese. Please raise your hand if you need help in Portuguese.” "Oi meu nome e Clivia do programa LIPS do Welcome Project. Estou aqui para ajudar interpretar em português.  Por favor levante a mão se precisar de ajuda em português."  "Hola mi nombre es Sheena.  Estoy aqui para traducir en español.  Por favor, lava la mano si quisiera una interpredor.” Several hands are raised, headsets are handed out, and the youth begin their work.

Despite their nervous giggles before the meeting, these students understood why they needed to be at this Green Line Expanison meeting.

“We need to be here so that everyone in the community can have a voice in important decisions,” says Debora Oliveira, who moved to Somerville from Portugal two and a half years ago.

Debora explains that when she first came to the U.S. not speaking any English, she struggled to make sense of things in her new high school. She hopes that by being here she can open this forum up to non-English community members. IsabelaDe Carvalho Bravinof Brazil and Somerville, shares the sentiment, explaining that LIPS “allows more people to be heard.” New LIPS interpreters at their first training session

LIPS “allows more people to be heard.”

Clivia has assumed a leadership role in her second year. During the meeting, she works with those who are not actively helping with interpretation, leading the group in practice with the simultaneous interpretation equipment and doing live intepretations.

Gabriel Maldonado, from El Salvador, sits between a Spanish-speaking couple to interpret as the group prepares to vote on what matters most in the Green Line Expansion. With Gabriel at their side, this couple was able to cast their vote in Somerville's green line expansion advocacy group's decisionmaking process. "At first I was really nervous [when I went to interpret]" says Sheena, "but after awhile I got the hang of it. Now, I am really proud that I stood up here and interpreted."