Offscript: It starts with us taking the first step

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A Winters Express opinion column

I have a firm conviction that actions speak louder than words.

Since stepping into my editorship at the Express, I have had a strong desire to include more coverage of things that are important to the Spanish-speaking community. From city and education news, to county and nonprofit-related offerings, things do not always go out as quickly as I would like them to. I also want to know more about what is important to our Hispanic community members. What are the things that “make Winters, Winters” to them?

Two of my goals are to get information out more timely in Spanish and to try and find someone who would be willing to contribute a regular opinion piece focusing on topics, issues and experiences that are important in our community.

One of the biggest challenges comes in making sure I am able to translate things on the fly. I can read in Spanish and understand it, but I had a challenge understanding when people spoke. I decided to begin Spanish lessons on Duolingo last fall. I’ve benefited from the lessons and have gotten a much better understanding when being spoken to, but I still struggle in speaking Spanish without getting hung up on the translation.

Something I realized recently is there are a lot of things that get lost in translation. And in a community where a little over half of the population is potentially Spanish-speaking, we’re faced with a big problem.

According to the Winters Joint Unified School District’s annual report for the 2021-22 school year, of the 2,148 students enrolled last year. 1,173 identified as Hispanic or Latino. This is in line with the 2022 Census data published on July 1, 2022, which estimated that 52.4 percent of the population identified as Hispanic or Latino.

From sitting on a variety of committees and nonprofits, and from talking to city officials and community leaders, there is a big desire to reach out and get information out to Spanish speakers. No one disagrees that there is great importance in making sure the details are communicated.

It seems a hold-up is in the “how” and “who” will translate it. Winters JUSD and the City of Winters have made efforts to ensure surveys are in both Spanish and English. Many of the school district’s presentations are also provided in both languages, or a translator is brought in to translate.

But, it still seems that things are not quite working. It’s not just important that information is translated, but there is equal importance in giving and providing opportunities for local Spanish speakers to tell us their needs, thoughts and opinions. We, as a community, need to give an empathetic ear and space to listen so decisions that impact the community, can be made to truly address everyone as best as possible.

The pandemic further isolated and widened the gap. But these are issues that predate the pandemic. Our community feels a bit disjointed when it comes to communicating with the “whole” of the community.

I strongly believe there would be great value if community leaders met to work out strategies on how we can better communicate with each other. And I don’t mean just the local nonprofits, City and school district, but leaders in our Hispanic community who do the work to try and help spread information.

We need to stop thinking of just finding “someone to translate” the words. We need to create a plan, together, so that we are effectively and clearly communicating information across multiple sources of information (digital, text and newspaper to name a few) in a timely manner to increase the impact they have on our community.

Maybe it starts with a small group having a discussion. Since I’m stirring the pot, I volunteer to help make that first step. Please reach out to me and let me know if you’d like to be a part of this conversation. I’ve been told I can run a decent meeting. I’ll even bring cookies.

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