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Our Story: Revolutionizing Language Access in the Deep South

Updated: Apr 26

When I arrived in Alabama in 2010, I quickly realized that most entities in Alabama were not providing professional language services to their clients and patients. There was a gap that needed to be filled, so after attending the Healthcare Interpreter Training program at Samford University, I started Deep South Language Services to provide interpretation and translation services throughout the state of Alabama.

However, there were several challenges to growing my business. First, it was difficult to convince providers and agencies that they should invest in professional language services to serve their clients and patients. They had been using friends, family, and unqualified staff to provide that service for years, at no cost to them. My potential customers didn’t realize that using unqualified interpreters was a liability to them, and was not allowing people with limited English proficiency to have equal access to their services.

Second, I struggled to find qualified (let alone certified) interpreters to fulfill the needs of my customers. The bilingual individuals who were available generally had no training in interpreter skills and ethics, and I was promising my customers a high quality, professional service. In fact, most interpreters did not know that it is a profession that requires training and skills. The only spoken language interpreter training program in the state, the program I attended at Samford University, was discontinued in 2012.


So, we had (and continue to have) what I call a “chicken and egg” problem. If all the agencies in the state decided to use professional services, we would not have the professional interpreters available to meet the need. If the agencies didn’t commit to using the professional interpreters, bilingual individuals would not have the incentive to seek out training and certification, and wouldn’t have enough work to make a living as an interpreter.

Over the next 10 years, we developed relationships with many agencies in Alabama and worked with them to provide high quality services. We provided our Interpreting 101 course, a basic overview of ethics and skills needed to be a professional interpreter, to provide our interpreters with basic skills. We worked with the Interpreters and Translators Association of Alabama and several other organizations to inform interpreters of training opportunities, encourage certification, and educate providers on language access. But it became clear that there was still a huge need for education for both interpreters and providers, not only in Alabama but throughout the Deep South.


In 2023, I decided to shift our focus to exclusively provide educational services, and to change our name to the Deep South Language and Culture Institute. The Institute will continue to provide our Interpreting 101 course, and we will expand our interpreter training program to provide crucial practice and skill building opportunities needed to prepare interpreters for certification.

On a parallel track, we will work with agencies to create language access plans, policies and procedures that ensure that the institution will provide quality services to limited English proficient clients. We will complement that effort with training for their staff on cultural awareness, working with interpreters, and language access.

I am excited to bring these services to you and I look forward to working with you to increase our capacity in the Deep South to serve limited English proficient communities!

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