I often would accompany my mother whenever she needed to visit a government health insurance office. She didn’t feel comfortable in her English and needed me to clarify her words. However, as I grew older, I had more responsibilities in school and work. It became increasingly hard to find the time to go with her. Sometimes she wouldn’t even go because she didn’t feel confident in going by herself and speaking in a language that wasn’t her primary.

What we didn’t know is that it is a State and Federal law for the government to provide free language interpretive services and translation to non-English and Limited English Proficient individuals. What this means is that government agencies are required to provide services in the language that an individual is able to completely comprehend.

The first step is to print out an “I Speak Card”. These cards are offered in a variety of languages and are easy to fill out. Asian languages include: Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Mien, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. To use these cards you just need to print and cut along the border lines, glue or paste the two sides back to back, and laminate the card, too, if you want it to be more durable. The cards have space you can write the individual’s name, and can be used in accessing numerous government programs and services such as housing programs, home care services, cash aid, Calfresh, and the list goes on. There are so many useful tools that provide help to people who may need it. “I Speak Cards” are just one of these tools that I believe can be widely utilized if more people knew about it!

I will definitely be printing out one for my mom!

Written by APIFM Intern, Leon Foster

Leon Foster is a Cambodian American senior undergraduate student majoring in public health at California State University, Los Angeles. He grew up in Long Beach in a mixed household. Leon plans to attend graduate school in the near future for Environmental Health.

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