WBEZ | language access http://www.wbez.org/tags/language-access Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Nail salon workers to get access to Asian language licensing exams http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 <p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise to walk into a nail salon and find mostly Asian staff. But despite a concentration of Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese professionals in the cosmetology and nail technology industries, Illinois has never offered the licensing exams in Asian languages. Now the state is looking to change that.</p><p>&ldquo;You know why I opened a cosmetology school in Chinatown?&rdquo; said Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown. &ldquo;Because I just want to let more Chinese people work legally, have good benefits, have a good salary.&rdquo;</p><p>As a small group of students sat huddled around a table in a nearby room, applying fake nail tips to plastic mannequin hands, Zheng explained that jobs in the beauty industry are popular with Asian immigrants because the schooling only takes a few months. She said that allows them to start earning money quickly. According to the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395092.htm" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, average yearly income for manicurists and pedicurists in Illinois is $26,720.</p><p>But Zheng said she&rsquo;s noticed a disturbing trend: lots of students finish school, but don&rsquo;t get licensed to practice.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people, they (are) scared (of the) English written examination,&rdquo; said Zheng, referring to the licensing exam administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scared to fail.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.idfpr.com/profs/info/NailTech.asp" target="_blank">IDFPR</a> offers the cosmetology and nail technician licensing exams in English and Spanish. Zheng said it&rsquo;s time to add Chinese, because otherwise, qualified professionals end up working illegally in nail salons, and they are not paid fair wages.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%203.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Most of the students at the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago’s North Side are native speakers of Vietnamese, Korean, or Chinese. School owner Rosemary Hyunh has crafted a bilingual curriculum to help them pass the written licensing exam in English. (WBEZ/Jian Chung Lee)" />&ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have to work harder if there&rsquo;s no rational basis for the exams to only be in English,&rdquo; said Anne Shaw, a lawyer and advocate for Chicago&rsquo;s Chinese-American community. Zheng enlisted Shaw&rsquo;s support when she started to cast around for allies to bring the issue to the state&rsquo;s attention. Shaw said the fact that the exam is already offered in Spanish shows that the state does not deem English to be an essential skill for the profession.</p><p>Shaw believes expanding language access to the licensing exams will have far-ranging, positive effects. She argued that not only would it make it easier for immigrants to earn an honest living, but that the overall state economy would benefit by easing the way for small business owners.</p><p>Still, Shaw was surprised to learn from Zheng that the licensing exams weren&rsquo;t already offered in Asian languages.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I really don&rsquo;t believe there was any intent to discriminate,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;This is one of the downsides of not having someone that&rsquo;s elected that has an Asian-American background. We have zero state legislators that are Asian-American.&rdquo;</p><p>But Shaw and Zheng found an ally in the office Governor Pat Quinn with his appointment of Theresa Mah. Mah is a longtime activist and organizer in Chicago who serves as Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s chief liaison to the Asian-American community. The IDFPR will soon offer the cosmetology licensing exam in Chinese, and plans to offer translations of the nail technician licensing exam in Korean and Vietnamese. According to <a href="http://files.nailsmag.com/Market-Research/NAILSbb12-13stats.pdf" target="_blank">Nails Magazine</a>, Illinois is among the ten states with the largest number of Vietnamese nail technicians.</p><p>But some argue that translating the licensing exams could harm the industry.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown, says many educated nail technicians work without licenses because they fear they will fail the English written exam. She is pushing to have the exam translated into Chinese. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />&ldquo;I really think it shouldn&rsquo;t be translated,&rdquo; said Rosemary Hyunh, owner of the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just going to be too many nail salons,&rdquo; she explained. Hyunh, a Vietnamese-American raised in Chicago&rsquo;s Argyle Street neighborhood, said her views are shaped by her family&rsquo;s experience in the nail industry.</p><p>Hyunh said some of her relatives immigrated two decades ago to California, where they had successful nail shops. But she said their fortunes changed once California began offering its written manicurist exam in Vietnamese in 1996.</p><p>&ldquo;It got exploded so big over there that the prices started dropping,&rdquo; said Hyunh. &ldquo;So they had to find new states to start this whole new nail industry again.&rdquo; Hyunh said her aunts and uncles fled California to start new businesses in Chicago, a relatively unsaturated market.</p><p>Could something similar happen here? Chicago <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/2009/may13_2009/may13_2009_Zoning.pdf" target="_blank">zoning laws</a> prohibit personal service establishments, including nail salons, to locate within 1000 feet of each other. But Mora Zheng says even if competition heats up, that&rsquo;s no reason not to translate the tests. She tells her students if they do their best, they&rsquo;ll be fine.</p><p>&ldquo;Prepare yourself well, (and) you don&rsquo;t need to worry about others,&rdquo; Zheng declared. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I tell my students, &lsquo;in your heart, always sunshine.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Hyunh said even though most of her students don&rsquo;t speak English as a native language, she&rsquo;s crafted a bilingual curriculum that helps them pass the licensing exams in English. She understands that translating the tests could help some immigrants get on their feet faster, but Hyunh said she won&rsquo;t be changing her teaching methods.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 Chicago, Cook County must offer ballots in a new language, but which one? http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-cook-county-must-offer-ballots-new-language-which-one-94116 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-16/forOdette.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Election officials in Cook County and the city of Chicago are rushing to comply with the latest elections-related mandate from the U.S. Department of Justice: to provide bilingual assistance to Asian Indians in time for the 2012 election.</p><p>“We need to get moving and get this process rolling,” said Kelly Bateman, Assistant Executive Director of the Chicago Board of Elections.&nbsp;“The election’s March 20, so you go back a good six weeks before the election, if not more,” added Bateman, referring to the Republican primary voting date in Illinois.</p><p>Bateman and her counterparts at the Cook County Clerk’s office have just a few weeks to translate all written materials and publicity pieces for the election. They also need to find bilingual poll workers and interpreters for election day to assist Indian immigrants who are registered voters. This assistance is currently available to Spanish-speaking and Chinese-speaking minorities, which qualify under <a href="http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/sec_203/activ_203.php">Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act</a>.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.census.gov/rdo/pdf/PrescribedFlowFor203Determinations.pdf">federal formula</a> to determine which language groups get bilingual assistance depends on the number of voting age citizens with limited English proficiency, and the portion with less than a fifth-grade education. Until this year, the U.S. Census Bureau considered the data every ten years. Going forward, the determinations will be made every five years, based on data from the <a href="http://www.census.gov/acs/www/">American Community Survey</a>.</p><p>Bateman says her office is well-versed in providing this assistance, but accommodating Indian Americans may present some different challenges. “There could be 50-plus different types of languages or dialects in the Asian Indian language,” said Bateman. “So we need to narrow it down to one language that is recognizable and understandable by the community.”</p><p>The three most common languages spoken for Indians in Cook County are Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati, but there are dozens more, including Tamil, Punjabi, and Telugu, to name a few. And they’re not all united by a common written script, as with Chinese. So Bateman and officials with the election office in Cook County are getting knee-deep into the data to learn which precincts Indian Americans live in and which languages they speak.</p><p>Bateman says even though the written materials will only be translated into one language, poll workers and interpreters can help with others.</p><p>Bateman’s office and the Cook County Clerk’s office were surprised that Indian-Americans were the next group to qualify for language assistance. Based on numbers from the 2000 population survey, they expected Korean to be the next language.</p><p>“People can see that influx of Korean-Americans. If you go to Glenview and Northbrook, and also the Niles area, a lot of Korean businesses are booming in that area,” said Sik Sohn, Executive Director of the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center. “So that’s why I think that we expected that the Korean language would be added.”</p><p>Sohn is happy for his Indian-American counterparts, but he’s disappointed that Korean-Americans did not qualify for bilingual voting assistance. Sohn wants to see the latest data, and says based on that, he might appeal.</p><p>South Asian organizers say language access will overcome an important barrier that many Indian immigrants face when voting. But Chirayu Patel said there’s a bigger obstacle. “I think there was a lack of connection in terms of my voting, how does that affect the issues that I’m facing?”</p><p>Patel registered South Asian voters on Chicago’s far North Side for the 2006 midterm elections. He said many of them cared more about politics in India than what was happening in their congressional district.</p><p>“I think the biggest thing that we did was make that connection in terms of why voting, even if it’s at the local level, why that matters in terms of addressing the issues that you have,” Patel said.</p><p>Patel says it’s great that the feds are giving Indian-Americans a better chance to voice their opinions at the polls. The question is, will they use it?</p></p> Thu, 17 Nov 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-cook-county-must-offer-ballots-new-language-which-one-94116 Asian Indians to gain election help http://www.wbez.org/story/asian-indians-gain-election-help-93829 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-07/RS4265_Election 2010_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County and Chicago election officials are on a tight deadline to meet a new requirement to offer language assistance to Asian Indians before the March primary. The Department of Justice has told the election offices that the minority group has met strict thresholds under <a href="http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/42usc/subch_ib.php#anchor_1973aa-1a">Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act</a>, according to the latest numbers from the American Community Survey.</p><p>The law requires that the offices translate all written election materials, including voter registration forms and ballots, into the language spoken by the minority group. The offices will also have to provide translation of all pre-election publicity, as well as oral assistance through hotlines on election day. The Cook County Clerk’s Office and the Chicago Board of Elections already provide similar assistance for Spanish and Chinese.</p><p>But meeting the requirement for South Asians will be a bigger challenge, because of the diversity of languages spoken by Indian-American immigrants.&nbsp;</p><p>“There could be fifty-plus different languages or dialects in the Asian Indian language,” said Kelly Bateman, Assistant Executive Director of the Chicago Board of Elections. “So we need to narrow it down to one language that is recognizable and understandable by the community.”</p><p>According to the latest data from the <a href="http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/language/data/acs/index.html">American Community Survey</a>, about 21,000 South Asians living in Cook County speak Urdu, about 18,000 speak Gujarati, and another 18,000 speak Hindi. &nbsp;Bateman says Chicago has enlisted a data survey company to identify the precincts where Indian-Americans are concentrated. With the company’s help and through partnerships with local Asian American organizations, the office will determine which language to translate the written materials to. Bateman said it’s possible that oral assistance will be provided in more than one language.</p><p>Bateman said the election office will have to move quickly on determining the language and translating materials. “The election’s March 20,” she said, referring to the Illinois primary election. “So you go back a good six weeks before the election, if not more.”</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.aaichicago.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=40&amp;Itemid=188&amp;lang=en">Asian American Institute</a>, the Indian American population in Illinois increased 52 percent between 2000 and 2010, and about one-third of Indian-American voters in Cook County have limited proficiency in English.</p></p> Mon, 07 Nov 2011 22:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/asian-indians-gain-election-help-93829