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square bulletTranslation vs. Culturally Informed Foundations of TIC: Challenges and Learnings

December 6, 2018

From Tori Lopez and Lucrecia Suarez

We were recently invited to present the Foundations of Trauma Informed Care training to a Latinx group in Benton County. We are here sharing our thoughts about our process, challenges, and learning with the hope to open a dialogue about how we can continue to make trauma informed care (TIC) accountable to all our diverse communities.

Defining the Purpose and Knowing the Audience

The first challenge started on the first phone call with the organizers. They explained that they were looking for a training about TIC because their Latinx community had experienced difficult traumatic events and needed some support. We searched for clarification as to whether they were looking for a trauma specific group intervention versus TIC. After some talk, they agreed that it would be best to start with Foundations of TIC, and after that define if the community needed other supports. They explained that they were thinking of inviting Latinx connected to the areas of schools and health as well as the general Latinx community. They said, “Some community leaders may come.”

After this conversation and based on our experience, we speculated that those interested in coming to Foundations of TIC training in Spanish would be first and second generation Latinx immigrants (they may learn better in their native language) who are interested in learning about trauma and how to heal trauma, who work at or are connected to schools and clinics, who may have high ACE scores, including intergenerational traumas, and who are currently the survivors of social oppression, injustices, and inequalities.

Another aspect of our audience that we thought we needed to be mindful of is the fact that we were presenting in an area of Oregon that is more rural. This area may present different challenges then if the training was held in the metro area, as culturally informed and linguistically specific services may be more difficult to find.

As you can see, we wanted to make sure we had as much information about who would be attending as possible so we could really adjust the information to their needs. We then started the process of planning the training having this audience in mind.

First Step, Healing Before Trauma

We started reviewing our previously created Foundations of TIC training materials that we had in English or Spanish.  We discussed that even though typically the Foundations of TIC training doesn’t start with the topic of Resilience, we wanted to start the training with understanding resilience even before explaining trauma and trauma informed care. We thought that if we start the training with the message that “podemos sanar el impacto de traumas” (we can heal from the impact of traumas), we were opening a space of hope and more curiosity to what is trauma, its impacts, and to understanding why TIC was asking organizations to become healing organizations. We believe now that this helped our audience (the makeup of the audience was what we thought it would be), to minimize retraumatization during the time of learning about trauma and TIC.

Both of us in past trainings  have utilized videos as a form of teaching to visual/auditory learners. Tori Lopez  found a great video that is a TED Talk by Fritz Thompson about resilience. Mr. Thompson is a Mexican man who went from being a quadriplegic to a triathlete. This video was very impactful and went well with our plan for the training.

Language Carries the Culture

One challenge we found in preparing for this training was making certain the information we provided wasn’t just simply translated into Spanish, but instead making the terms of TIC make cultural sense to our audience. Beyond the significant amount of time, much more than we expected, invested in translation, we had significant challenges preparing the information in a manner that met the cultural and linguistic need of the participants. Everyone who speaks more than one language has directly experienced the moment in which we find that there are terms and information that doesn’t translate. This is the moment in which we are aware of cultural values, expression, and idiosyncrasy that makes the process of translating an art of bringing the culture alive in the chosen words. We have two examples. The first one was the word “resilience.” Even though resilience translates to the exact word and meaning in Spanish, it is not a common word. So, we chose to introduce the “resiliencia” word and consistently use the expression “hechar pa’ lante” (moving forward) alternatively, so our audience could easily make cultural sense of it. Because of this, we chose to use this phrase and not the word “resiliencia” in the invitation flyer.

Another example is the TIC use of the words “hot spots.” Translating this term directly into Spanish was problematic, because it would literally be translated into “puntos calientes.” However, this usage could prove to be problematic because the term “caliente” can also be used to express feelings of “sexual attraction” so to speak. So we had to find a term that would work best. We settled on “puntos o situaciones delicado/as” or “delicate spots.”

From Person to Organization

Knowing the Latinx audience and our cultural value of familia, we knew that they were interested in learning how to heal their families. Based on this we prepared our reflective activities about how to build a trauma informed/resilient organization. We asked the audience to always reflect on how to build them at a personal, family, and organizational level. This was well accepted as described by their reflections in their training feedback forms.

I May not Look or Sound Like it, but I am Latina: Facilitator’s Challenge

A significant challenge Tori felt was pressure of presenting this material in a language that isn’t her native language. Tori is bi-racial, identifying as half white, and half Mexican American. Her Latino heritage is on her father’s side, and she did have the privilege of growing up with that part of her cultural heritage. Therefore, she was very mindful of how this may be interpreted by the participants. As a way to mitigate that, Tori made a point in her introduction to talk about the fact that Spanish is not her native language and that her accent would not be authentically Latino. Although Tori feels very confident in conversing and socializing in Spanish, to present on such a technical topic was challenging. In addition to the language challenge, Tori acknowledged, despite having Latino heritage, people commonly read Tori as fully white, being that she’s “light skinned.” There was the worry that folks would feel that Tori lacked the cultural understanding of the participants community. Acknowledging these challenges to the audience made her stay more conscious, present, and integrated with the audience.

And Now What?

Lastly, is the challenge of leaving this community with even more questions and needs. It was expressed to us that this was one of the first times this type of training was made available in Spanish and as a result opened up even more desire for support for this community. It feels a bit challenging that we left knowing folks may go back to agencies that may not fully embrace TIC concepts, which may leave them feeling isolated. Particularly as people of color, we often find ourselves working in agencies that retraumatize both employees and service users because it has not adopted TIC policies, procedures, and practices that can lead to more inclusiveness, rather than requiring people of color to assimilate to dominant culture norms. The hope from this challenge is the movement of TIC will continue to grow and TIO can continue supporting facilitators of color to bring TIC to communities throughout Oregon and beyond.

Our Commitment, Our Contribution

We both agreed to do this training because this is not the typical format of a TIC training, or other trainings for that matter. Often when trainings consist of folks that may not speak English as their first language, those trainings may offer interpreting services. It is lovely that we are able to offer the full training in the native language of the participants. We feel by providing this training and now having the material translated it paves the way for Trauma Informed Oregon to offer it to other communities and hopefully encourage other trainers to deliver TIC in a manner decentering whiteness, even if the training itself is done in English.