Language Matters

How many times have you been “arguing” or passionately discussing something with someone, only to be misunderstood?
“That’s not what I meant!”
“Maybe that was the wrong word.”
“I didn’t mean that.”

Even within the same language, communication can be messy and frustrating. It’s no wonder then, that second-language English speakers can struggle even more to express themselves and understand clearly the intentions, nuances and subtleties of language when communicating in their non-native language.

Language and communication is especially important in mediation when there are several parties involved, each with their own motivations and different outcomes on the line. Each party is also entering the case with varying levels of legal knowledge, case details, as well as personal life factors of the injured worker that may be valuable to the outcome of the case. Making sure the injured worker– the ultimate decision maker– is heard, understood, and educated about his/her case is critical to a smooth and successful settlement for all involved.

When Prism Group started mediating cases with native Spanish speakers, we knew how important it would be to ensure those participants felt heard and educated about their case. That’s when we brought Vanessa Frincingues on board as our Spanish translator. Vanessa’s skills are unique and extremely valuable because not only is she fluent in Spanish and English, but she also understands mediation and worker’s comp. She’s not just translating words, she’s translating frustration, urgency, fear, confusion, relief, peace. She’s teaching, explaining, listening, without interjecting her own perspective into the case. As a translator, her job is to simply communicate a message between two speakers of different languages, not try to persuade or push.

Vanessa is also a native Spanish speaker, which matters a lot to our Spanish-speaking participants. The minute they find out they can connect with her over their language and know that they will not be misinterpreted by someone who may not understand completely what they’re saying, the ease and comfort they feel is palpable in the room. Language matters. We are thrilled and grateful to have Vanessa as a part of the Prism mediation team.