Flare-up between SF and Chinese merchants reveals Muni’s inadequate translation services


如图所示,为改善Portola区San Bruno Avenue上的公交服务而设计的公交项目引起了混乱,激怒了广东话地区的居民。






代表该社区的主管希拉里·罗宁(Hillary Ronen)表示,在一次社区会议上粤语翻译不准确以及数月错过了扩展机会之后,旧金山市政运输局正在退步其圣布鲁诺大道改善项目的一部分。

她说:“我有一群长期的商人,对他们感到撒谎,不尊重和无视。” “我本人也很生气。”


在这种情况下,取消了39个停车位,以便为9R-San Bruno Rapid和8 / 8-AX Bayshore公交线路留出更多空间,为42,000名日常骑行者提供更多停车空间,而行人安全的改善也将为所有乘客提供帮助。

SFMTA董事会于2016年秋季批准了San Bruno改善项目,并于2017年大张旗鼓地拆除了这些空间。那为什么现在要进行除尘工作?


But translation errors and other miscommunications led to neighbors thinking an additional 39 parking spaces would be removed. The confusion was brought to light by two local Chinese-language newspapers this week, the World Journal and Sing Tao Daily.

“There is a misconception” that roughly 39 spaces will be removed now, Erica Kato, an SFMTA spokesperson said. But, she added, “that’s not true.”

There was already much confusion.

In late October, Ronen wrote a stern letter to SFMTA tasking them with restoring parking to the community. Merchants claimed the SFMTA initially communicated fewer parking spaces would be removed.

Throughout November, Ronen tried to smooth things over between SFMTA and the San Bruno merchants. But at a planned Nov. 21 community meeting at the Portola Branch Library, things went awry.

SFMTA had no official translation staff present. The transportation project’s manager spoke some Cantonese, but only sparingly, people who attended the community meeting told the San Francisco Examiner.

In the end, Ronen’s legislative aide Jennifer Li ended up playing translator. That also proved problematic, considering Li was trying to serve a role as a neutral party between the community and the transportation agency.

“They had no interpreters,” Li said. “It does put me in a thorny position. I had to say, ‘by the way, I’m not SFMTA. By the way, I’m not SFMTA.’ I had to say it like five times. I had to say, ‘This is not what Supervisor Ronen believes.’”

Hazel Lee, president of the Shanghai Association, which represents the merchants, said the meeting was “disrespectful.”

“They’re angry,” Lee said of the merchants. No written materials were provided in Chinese, even though many of the merchants only speak Cantonese.

“At least with paper we could translate, but even in English we don’t [sic] receive a letter,” she said.

Federal guidelines dictate SFMTA must employ strategies to engage minority, low-income and “limited english proficient” populations in its planning and programming because the agency receives federal funds, according to SFMTA documents.

That means, according to SFMTA, they must “ensure meaningful access to transit-related programs and activities by persons with limited-English proficiency.”

The agency does employ translation staff, SFMTA confirmed. It is unclear why such staff were not deployed at the November meeting.

But SFMTA is missing out on many simple ways to engage monolingual Chinese communities, said Queena Chen, co-chair of the Chinatown Transportation Research and Improvement Project, a longstanding advocacy group.

“They do such great work, but they have a hard time explaining their logic,” Chen said.

Chen was quick to point to how many robust avenues English-speakers have to be notified of late buses and trains, for instance: There are live updates on Twitter, outreach on Facebook, and digital alerts of myriad types in English.

But San Francisco’s Chinese community primarily uses the mobile phone-app WeChat to communicate with relatives back in China, and with each other in The City. SFMTA has no Chinese-language WeChat presence.

The Chinese community also uses QR codes frequently, which are elaborate patterns much like a barcode that can be scanned with a cell phone camera to open a website. If SFMTA used such codes on Muni buses, she said, Chinese seniors may better learn about transit projects.

“It’s an extra step in reaching out to the Chinese community” that SFMTA hasn’t taken, Chen said. “It’s these little issues that add up and lead the community to stop trusting government agencies.”

Even SFMTA’s use of a non-translator at a community meeting was problematic, she said, because “a full translator is able to use more technical terms for people to understand.”

Chen said that even she, as an American-born Chinese person, only has “elementary school level” Cantonese proficiency; for monolingual communities, that’s not good enough to explain complex projects.

Ronen said after she deals with the still-growing rift between San Bruno merchants and SFMTA, she will consider addressing translation concerns for the agency citywide.

In the meantime, SFMTA has restored six parking spaces along San Bruno that were previously removed, the agency said.