Interview with Ms. Marisa de la Paz, Director of Multilingual Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
By Dr. Fátima Serra
I have come to know Marisa de la Paz through multiple encounters, professional and personal—we share common acquaintances. From the start I admired her ability to perform different jobs within our field very successfully and at the same time, be one of the most personable individuals one may encounter in life. Her position and background are one more example of how a career in Foreign Languages may be the right choice. I invited her to share some thoughts with us. Here is an excerpt of our exchange. She even promised to visit our campus at a later date, talk to the students and answer personally any questions they may have.
Dr. Serra: What educational background do you have?
Ms. de la Paz: I have a degree in Spanish-English Philology from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. After finishing my degree, I studied English language, literature and culture in Westminster College in London, and completed a year of International law at the Université Livre de Bruxelles. By that time, the study abroad bug was in my system; the best experience in my life was having the opportunity of studying in different countries in Europe, and in different languages. I was ready for America! I did a year of business administration at Harvard and decided to settle in Massachusetts. Like many language students my first job was teaching French and Spanish in a school of a private organization that taught foreign languages as an extracurricular activity on Saturdays. Soon after, I was co-owner and following my entrepreneurial instincts, the program developed and has offered language classes during the week and weekends to many communities: Cambridge, Nahant, Boston, Andover, Lexington, etc. Of course, after a few years running the school, I was ready to move on, and I started my present position as Director of Multilingual Services at the Department of Workforce Development in the State of Massachusetts.
Dr. Serra: What are your responsibilities?
Ms. de la Paz: The mission of the office is to provide equal access to unemployment and employment services to limited English proficiency customers throughout Massachusetts.
Dr. Serra: And how do you exactly do that?
Ms. de la Paz: There are many branches and subdivisions, but the main services are the following: Tele-interpreters; we have people on the phone ready to respond to any inquiry about employment in Massachusetts or any aspect of particular jobs in different languages. We provide 3-way calls so that the limited English speaker and the English speaker—usually an employer or prospective employer—can communicate over the phone through our interpreter; in-person interpretation at our office or in court hearings for people who have been denied employment and they have limited English, and written translation services in the 9 mandated languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Laotian, Russian and Italian. Massachusetts requires by law that vital documents from the State and Federal Government be translated into these languages. Our department makes sure that those documents and translations are extremely accurate.
Dr. Serra: What are the languages that you use more in your translation services?
Ms. de la Paz: Obviously, as in the rest of the States, Spanish is dominant, with 65% of our business conducted in Spanish with increasing demand for Portuguese and Haitian Creole. But we do have to publish all the documents in the nine above mentioned languages; knowledge in those languages is highly appreciated.
Dr. Serra: What do you like the most about your job?
Ms. de la Paz: Every day is a different day. There is no routine; there is always a new project to undertake, a new colleague in a different department to coordinate efforts with and a constant flow of new people and departments that need our different services. I can’t remember the last time I spent the whole day at my desk.
Dr. Serra: In your opinion, what aspect of your education is the one that helped you most in the pursuit of a career? You have some international law and business background, a degree in philology and knowledge of several languages.
Ms. de la Paz: I believe that all helped, but if I had to pinpoint something, it would be my knowledge of five languages and my international background. Nothing opened more doors for me than the ability to communicate with diverse populations linguistically and culturally.
Dr. Serra: Do you think that your department could be a prospective employer for our students?
Ms. de la Paz: Definitely. I would like to extend an invitation to SSC students to inquire with the department for an Internship, a practicum or gain some experience with us. We also post part-time and full time jobs periodically. I invite your students to contact me directly: email@example.com
I thanked Ms. de la Paz for her time, and as it is customary in Spain, we said good bye to each other with two kisses in the cheek and multiple reassurances that the next time we would talk over some tapas.
For all our students that would love to explore an environment where translation, human interaction, helping others and the stability of the state get together in a job, I encourage them to contact Ms de la Paz. And please, call me for the tapas.