Remember when you were a kid, and you’d play with anyone at the playground?
I remember when I was a kid of maybe 9 or 10 years old, my best friend was African-American. Our families would meet at the local playground after our weekly church service. One time, some other black kids came up to my friend and said, “You think you’re white, don’t you?” In my memory, that’s when I first saw color.
A year or two later, I went to school in England where I met my first friend who didn’t speak English. It didn’t really matter, as we quickly found a way to communicate by pointing to objects and saying them in our own languages, which was kind of fun! It actually never occurred to me that I had a friend who spoke a different language until I was an adult in an international studies class.
As kids, we didn’t have the “barriers” to communication or differences in color. We weren’t different, and we simply enjoyed each others’ company.
Biases and stereotypes are learned from our environment
It hit me when I grew up that there are people who are perceived to be “different”. Suddenly I was surrounded by language barriers and differences in color.
It was while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine that it occurred to me that I had sadly picked up on these artificial barriers myself. There I was serving in a whole new country alongside people of all heritages and color using an entirely different language, and it clicked: my biases were created by my environment, and they didn’t apply in Ukraine. So why bring them back home with me when they were clearly artificial?
A decision to focus on languages
One thing that struck me in my travels was the difficulty of living day-to-day without fluently speaking the local language (Russian). It was little things, like, “Which of these powders is baking powder?”, to major things, like, “Has that needle been used before?” at the doctors office (a real issue).
Upon return to the United States, war broke out in Eastern Ukraine (and my village 🙁 ). It was difficult to read about the war from afar, but even worse to hear the stories of my friends and students struggling to survive. I can’t tell you how many people contacted me to see if I could help them fill out their immigration papers or to practice English. It was then that I decided to focus on helping refugees with limited English proficiency (LEP).
Now, I am so stoked to be building this awesome organization, TinCan Translations, located in Denver, Colorado. We will be primarily focused on language access issues, and I am excited to be supported by an awesome board who are as just as dedicated to language access as I am!
Life with no barriers to communication really is possible
The board of directors and I believe that finding a way to communicate, no matter what, should be second nature. We doing this by prioritizing an open line of communication so that you can ask questions about language access without any fear. We are committed to building relationships with you and our translators, because we believe deep relationships foster open communication. We are providing access to rare languages so that you don’t have to search around for your language service needs. We are advocating for fair pay for translators, because quality translations require trained and experienced professionals who put time and money towards their profession. Finally, we are committed to social responsibility, and all of our profits go to our various community initiatives.
We are excited to have you with us for the journey to eliminate language barriers!
Danielle Kerchmar – Founding President