We’re highlighting the great work our translators do helping make our elections and services accessible to every member of the community. Here we sit down for a brief Q&A with Signe Chan, our Chinese language translator.
What is your background and what brought you to working in local government at King County?
My family immigrated to the United States when I was a teenager. Often times I have to interpret for my parents and elderly friends who speak limited English.
Helping people is one of my specialties; I started helping others when I was in grade school by tutoring my neighbor’s kid who was in kindergarten. I taught “English as a Second Language” and “Become a citizen” classes as a volunteer. I also worked as a Chinese translator and secretary in an over 500 member nonprofit organization.
I also attended several naturalization examinations as an interpreter. I was excited and encourage to help people become citizens of the United States, to enjoy the freedom and benefits that this country provides for ALL Americans. I shared their joy when they passed the examination.
Voting is not only a privilege and responsibility for a citizen, but it also helps shape and define our country, our state and our counties. When I was asked to work as a Chinese translator in 2010, I gladly accepted the offer.
Why did you choose to work in Language Services for King County Elections?
Working as a Chinese translator and in community engagement is my privilege and honor to serve the people in King County.
My main role working in Language Services and Community Engagement is to translate all elections materials, such as challenge letters, posters and signs, ballot measures, voters’ pamphlets and website content necessary to comply with Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act and the King County code.
My other role is to participate in outreach to historically underrepresented communities by supporting and/or attending Naturalization Ceremonies, Voter Education Fund partners and local Chinese communities’ events and activities.
Both roles give me meaningful and exciting work and helps to best utilize my professional skills in translation and management. My work will help limited-English speaking voters register to vote. As a result, my work become part of the mission of King County Elections to increase civic participation.
How does your work support the King County Elections mission of conducting fair, open and accurate elections?
Without the translation for minorities within our communities and voter engagement events, limited-English speaking voters or future voters would not be able to understand the ballot measures, and which candidates could truly represent them and make their voice heard in the decisions that impact our community.
Why is it important to do this translation and interpretation work and represent the many diverse groups and cultures within King County?
Voting is important because it helps to decide who runs the government, both at a local and national level. Voting gives citizens a voice in their government, allowing them to choose leaders and decide on issues. Without the translation and interpretation work or the ability to represent the many diverse groups and cultures within King County, there would be fewer minority voters to have their voices in the government. Their needs would not be met, their situations would not be understood, and the elections would not be fair, open and accurate. A small group of people would make decisions benefiting themselves and their interest group only. Thus, minorities would suffer and voting would not be accessible and fair to ALL.
What is the biggest challenge of your job, and what is something that you enjoy the most about it?
In every election, the translation turnaround from beginning to end is very time constrained, roughly within two to three weeks.
Our team will interview short-term temporary employees to help us with translation work in all of our languages. It can be difficult to get skillful translators for a short period of time. Another challenge is having to quickly train the temporary translators so that we can maintain consistency and accuracy with our translation work.
I enjoy being a part of the King County Elections mission to make every election a success. I also enjoy going to outreach events and activities, especially working alongside with our Voter Education Fund partners about voter education. Most of all, I enjoy working with our whole team.