Clarissa Laguardia

People often ask me why I am passionate about language accessibility. My response has evolved over the years, as has my role and level of expertise on the topic. I am one of the relatively few people who have had the privilege and opportunity to experience being an immigrant and learning English as a second language late in life.

Additionally, I worked persistently to acquire a fluency level of English sufficient to then become a translator and interpreter, helping other fellow non-English speakers. In my career, I have had the opportunity to work at an urban school district to help newcomers and limited proficient families and students. I worked at a large health system where it became further apparent that quality language services are vital. My experience is valuable and has motivated me on many levels. I can empathize with linguistic minorities and this guides my scholarly, professional, and community work.   

For over a decade, I actively attended language industry conferences and took relevant translation and interpretation courses, I learned about core fundamentals such as the code of ethics and standards of practice that credible trained professionals abide by. I learned about the types of certifications and reputable organizations that support language access. I earned prestigious certifications from the National Board of Certified Interpreters and the U.S. Department of State. I pursued a BA degree in intercultural communication from Sacramento State University and completed seminars on the theory and practice of intercultural communication from the Intercultural Research Institute in Milan, Italy. I later had the honor to serve as a Governor appointee when I was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve as Language Access Manager for the California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office. In 2011, I started a small company to provide translation and interpretation services in the Sacramento region. 

Throughout my career in the language access industry, I have observed and learned about the political and administrative fragmentation, lack of awareness, fiscal and political factors, and data gaps that influence the provision of language support services. Language services are about more than words—they are about making sense of entire cultures. I have concluded that the way we speak shapes the way we think. Culture and language go hand-in-hand. Translators and interpreters travel across cultural and linguistic borders. They must know the most basic and most sophisticated register of two or more languages. It is a superpower. This is how I know that language access cannot be taken lightly. Meaningful language access is not realized without quality. I have learned about the importance of training for those providing language services. I built this website and wrote this publication as part of my culminating project for a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration. I feel compelled to utilize all of my personal, academic, and professional experience to help advance language access in California and beyond.