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Queens College's Asian/American Center Translation Program Helps New York City Nonprofits and Agencies

-- Free Service Translates Materials into Spanish, Korean and Chinese So Organizations Can Better Serve Their Multi-Ethnic Community Members --

FLUSHING, NY, JUNE 16, 2016 – In 1988, soon after its founding, the Asian/American Center at Queens College established a Translation Program to serve the increasing multilingual and multicultural communities of Queens. The first of its kind in New York City, the program has continued this role for the past 28 years by translating critical documents from English into Chinese, Korean and Spanish.

The program provides its services free of charge and encourages applications from government agencies, health care providers, youth-serving groups, senior centers, non-profit community organizations, arts groups and programs that promote interethnic, interracial and intercultural exchange. Primarily serving Queens organizations and government agencies at first, the Translation Program recently expanded its service citywide.
Hong Wu, a Mandarin- and English-speaking linguist, has directed the program since 1996. “The Translation Program is integral to serving the Asian/American Center’s mission of promoting cross-cultural communication and understanding,” she says.
For the Queens Botanical Garden, which receives 220,000 visitors annually, the Visitors Guide and Map were translated into Chinese, Korean and Spanish, the three languages most needed based on the garden’s research. “We used to rely on seasonal students and interns to do translations, but that’s not ideal,” says Jacky Ong, Visitor Service and Public Program Coordinator. “Although our staff is bilingual, that’s not enough. The brochure provides full information in writing for the majority of our visitors. The free translation done by the Asian/American Center was a very good service for us—we found nothing else like it.”
Additional recent projects included a Campus Sexual Assault Legal Guide for Legal Momentum in Manhattan, translated into Chinese and Spanish and distributed along with the English version to 80,000 students at 19 metro-area colleges. For the approximately 7,500 parents of Asian students enrolled in city charter schools, the Asian/American Center translated crucial charter school information, a project done on behalf of the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

When the Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation saw a big increase in its Asian patient population, it turned to the Translation Program for assistance. And at Flushing Hospital, where 28% of its 730,000 patients a year are Asian, the program translated patient information materials into Chinese and Korean. Other organizations in Queens that have benefitted from the service include Flushing Town Hall, Bowne House, Flushing Hospital, New York Hospital, LIJ North Shore Hospital, the Long Island City Business Development Corporation and the New American Program at the Queens Library.

“Translation is a unique skill that involves more than the task of rendering words from one language into another,” notes Wu. The translator, she explains, has to consider the context and intent of the original document. But also needed is an interpretation of the document “that takes into account not only the language into which it must be translated but also the cultural practices of the people who will be using it.”  

The program recruits professionals by placing ads in the largest Chinese, Spanish and Korean newspapers. The candidates who score highest on an exam administered at QC are then interviewed.
“Our translators, in addition to their linguistic skills and thorough understanding of the cultural subtleties and cross-cultural sensitivities, are deeply committed to their communities. We are very fortunate to have them,” Wu says.
At times the translators’ cultural sensitivity has led to major changes in the content of the communications. For example, the Translation Program once received a hospital’s diet manual for people with kidney stones, with the request to translate it for Chinese patients. The problem was that it was an American diet manual. “We then decided to share with the hospital what constitutes a typical Chinese diet,” says Wu. “Eventually we partnered with a hospital dietician to develop a new manual oriented to the Chinese community and helped translate materials for the outreach.
“Ever since the Asian/American Center’s inception in 1987, a large part of our mission has been helping mainstream society understand Asian American communities,” Wu continues. “Simultaneously, we help newcomers understand the norms of American culture, encouraging active participation in their new communities.”

Madhulika Khandelwal, director of the center, says, “For over a quarter of a century, the Translation Program at A/AC of Queens College has helped a wide range of not-for-profit agencies reach out to the immigrant communities of Queens/NYC. At a time when record numbers of members of diverse cultures are accessing public higher education institutions, the Translation Program represents a tangible expression of Queen College’s close ties with the diverse communities around it. In addition to the benefits the program has brought to the various language communities, it is also an excellent example of how well-conceived programs can create strong campus-community partnerships in fostering the interests of persons from diverse cultures.”
About the Asian/American Center (A/AC) at Queens College
The Asian/American Center of Queens College was founded in 1987 in response to the influx of new immigrants to the borough of Queens, the most diverse county in America. It is dedicated to
the community-oriented research of analyzing the multicultural diaspora experience of Asians in New York City, with a focus on Queens. Through its research, public forums/seminars, a resource lounge and its one-of-a-kind Translation Program, the A/AC collaborates with community groups and local institutions to foster new scholarship and promote cross-cultural communication and understanding.
Visit the A/AC website:
For more information on the Translation Program:
About Queens College
Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its nearly 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 80-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. Learn more at


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