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Addressing the Growing Language Needs of our Community

As our community grows, you’ll notice that we get a lot of requests for letters in different languages. As of April 30, 2022 currently has requests for 365 letters in 15 different languages ranging from Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese, just to name a few. In the cycle ending April 30, 2022, LAI volunteers completed the following:

​Alternate Languages

​Letters Requested

Letters Completed

USA

281

264 or 94%

Canada

84

54 or 64%

Total

365

318 or 87%

In the United States, the 17 letters not completed were for Haitian Creole, Russian, Spanish, and Tagalog (language of the Philippines) speaking Seniors. In Canada, the 30 letters not completed were for French, German, Italian, Mandarin, and Portuguese speaking Seniors. In the prior two-week cycle ending April 16, 2022, 75 letters were not completed with the majority being requested in either Spanish or Mandarin. And in the two-week cycle ending April 2, 2022, there was 88 letters not completed with the majority again being in either Spanish or Mandarin. What can we as volunteers do to help LAI accommodate the requests it receives for letters written in alternate languages? Like many of you, we took a foreign language in high school and/or college or had family members that sometimes spoke another language around us, but that was a LONG TIME AGO, and we barely have a memory of what we learned. We may remember a phrase or two but writing a letter, well that’s downright crazy!

 

Some of you might also have friends or family that speak a second language. They may be unable to join the LAI community at this time, but they may be willing to help you by generating ideas and assisting with editing.


If you fall into one of these categories, you may be able to help us meet our alternate language needs!

 

Here are some ideas that have worked for us:

  • Seeing a need for letters written in Hindi, Paula asked a friend of hers who speaks Hindi, to take a moment and write one letter for her. Once completed, Paula signed up for that letter on the spreadsheet and sent it off to the facility.

  • Paula took Spanish in college, but her Spanish language skills are rusty. Not letting that deter her, she wrote a very simple card in English and put it through the free Google Translate tool available on the Internet. She then emailed the Spanish text to a friend who speaks Spanish and asked her to edit it. When that was completed, Paula was able to copy the results into a nice card and mail it to a Senior. Remember that Google Translate often produces translations that contains significant grammatical errors so it’s great if you can have a native speaker proofread your text before you mail your card.

  • Wanting to write in German, Barb searched the internet for inspiration and found German greeting cards, German cartoons, poems, and even some jokes in German. With a little bit of copying and pasting, and with the help of Google Translate, Barb was able to produce a card in German including a hand-written note. In addition, she bought a Word Search book in German from Amazon. That way, even if her German isn’t that good, the Senior gets a card with a poem, cartoon or joke, a hand-written note, and a word search in their language. Here’s a sample of her Easter cards.

After putting a request on Facebook asking for your ideas on how we can address these language requests, many of you responded with wonderful ideas. Here’s what you had to say:

  • Find dual immersion schools in your area and invite the students to either join Letters Against Isolation (LAI) or have them write letters for you and you can sign up to send them out.

  • Recruit college students who are studying the requested languages to join LAI and write letters in their language of study.

  • Reach out to your local ethnic community groups or cultural associations through their websites, or by using Facebook, Meetup or other social networking sites and invite members to either join LAI or have them write letters for you so you can send them out.

We hope that you feel inspired to write a letter in a different language or have someone else do it for you. If you have any questions or would like to pass along other suggestions or comments, feel free to contact Paula Berman at Paula.brmn.lai@gmail.com.

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