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Bill pulled after high costs questioned

Thursday, Mar 16, 2017

* From the synopsis of HB 695

Provides that within one-year after the effective date of this amendatory Act, the Legislative Information System shall create a Spanish-language version of its website to provide legislative information. Specifies the legislative information to be placed on the Spanish-language website, and allows for the placement of additional unspecified information.

* The bill came up for a floor vote yesterday

“There is a segment, especially in my district, that are Spanish speaking and that follow the General Assembly and as a state representative, I want to commit to continue to have this bill and make sure we provide the best possible constituent services,” [sponsoring Rep. Silvana Tabares, D-Chicago] said.

Tabares estimated the cost of the translation, if initial software could not do it alone, at between $60,000 and $100,000 to pay for another website or software company. But she added that if a third party was needed to add Spanish to the site, it would have an estimated cost of between $800,000 to $1.5 million.

That estimate prompted House Republicans to offer up free options, such as Google Translate. It also had [Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego] holding up his own tablet to Democrats to show that he translated the website for free using Google.

“Why are we against a great free bipartisan solution?” State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said before the bill was pulled. “We should have a Kumbaya and have a beer afterwards. Let’s pull this bill out of the record, let’s amend it. Let’s do something that’s free and help people who speak every language.”

The bill is now on Postponed Consideration.

The problem with any translating software (free or paid) is whether it can pick up nuances. Statutes are usually written in precise ways. Things can literally be lost or misconstrued in translation.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    No matter how good the translation, one language should be the controlling version. In Illinois that would be English.

    When I worked in Saudi Arabia, the Arabic language contract controlled. Their country, their rules.

  2. - Bothanspy - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    This last paragraph is important. I was an SPSA for an agency and helped oversee this for our org. The Google translate was generally fine for schedules, directions etc. When translating legal statutes, it, came up short. For us, the legal language spelled out appeal rights and approval and denial legal citations. Ambiguity or translation errors here make it easy for the agency to lose cases on appeal. So in the end, you are going to need someone to validate all of the language translation anyway.
    Another thing to realize is that Google translate is not static. It is an algorithm that is improved and refined. So how something is translated today is not necessarily how it will appear tomorrow. It is difficult to maintain a legal history.

  3. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:13 am:

    The idea that Batinick and Wheeler seriously offered Google Translate as an option does not speak well to their intelligence. It’s embarrassing, frankly, but have either of them flipped through the bills or statutes on the ILGA site?

  4. - swIFT taylor - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    To the last point on the post: during debate the sponsor was asked directly if her bill would mean that all text of all bills would be translated as well and she said no.

  5. - m - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    =Things can literally be lost or misconstrued in translation.=

    Yes, but the same thing happens with human translators. Not every word translates directly. And most native english speakers (including many leg staffers) have a hard time understanding bill text.

    Just translating the synopsis would be far better, and I would assume google could handle that just fine (plain english and all). Could be problematic for bills that have been shelled and amended, but that’s another issue for native english speakers as well. The synopsis should represent the bill in current form, not as filed (except that no one actually wants that level of transparency).

  6. - Nick Name - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    “Statutes are usually written in precise ways.”

    If only.

  7. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    Students of the classics know how agonizing it can be to translate not only words but intent. Visit a visit the King James Bible.

  8. - Swift - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:21 am:

    Looks like the bill initially limits the Spanish language to certain segments of the website and does not include bill language, public acts, or statutes.

  9. - Downstate - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    Could the Spanish translation (done by human or computer) then be used in court to argue that the statute was not the same as the English one? Hence, the citizen could chose to follow the translation of their choice?

  10. - SAP - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    Rep. Hernandez tried this a few years ago for all forms used by any state agency and the cost estimates ran into the millions for some agencies. Well-intentioned idea, but crazy complicated and crazy expensive.

  11. - swIFT taylor - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    Its this easy! Did it in 2 minutes for free.


    Traditional chinese:

  12. - GV - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    I used Google Translate to translate the synopsis of a property tax bill that Rep. Batinick introduced from English to Spanish and back to English.

    Translated Version:

    Modifies the Tax Code on Property. Provides that, as of fiscal year 2017, the Property Tax Extension Limitation Act applies to all tax districts, including rule of origin units. Provides that, as of the tax year 2017, the extension limitation under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Act is 0% or the voter-approved rate of increase. Preempts the start rule. Modifies the Law of Mandates of the State to demand its implementation without reimbursement. Cash immediately.


    Amends the Property Tax Code. Provides that, beginning with the 2017 levy year, the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law applies to all taxing districts, including home rule units. Provides that, beginning with the 2017 levy year, the extension limitation under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law is 0% or the rate of increase approved by the voters. Preempts home rule. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement. Effective immediately.

  13. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:42 am:

    Every day, all over the country, citizens, lawmakers, lawyers and judges disagree on the meanings of statutes written in English.

    You think GA members are going to agree on a Spanish translation?

  14. - Gooner - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:45 am:

    I’m not one of those ranting “ENGLISH ONLY” people, but as to this, I would prefer to see English only.

    As others have referenced, the question is whether there would be a precise translation.

    There could be a disclaimer on the Spanish version stating that the English version controls, but then you really are doing a disservice to Spanish-speaking people by offering something that may not be accurate.

    I have family members who routinely speak a foreign language. It is a wonderful aspect of American culture.

    However, when it comes to official documents and official records, it really should be in one language.

  15. - Saluki - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:49 am:

    Why not add Japanese, French, Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, and Portuguese while we are at it. Maybe throw in the other 7000 languages around the world too!

  16. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:50 am:

    Our broke state should not just stop at paying 7 figures to translate everything into Spanish. There are probably at least two dozen languages we should translate every bill into.

    Why should the Spanish speakers get special treatment?

  17. - CG - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:57 am:

    We live in America, English folks.

  18. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:59 am:

    What would it cost to get a translator to make sense of the governor and his GOMB crew?

    The proposed budget is balanced, but he needs unilateral power to repeal laws to cut $7 billion to make the proposed balanced budget balanced, but they can’t identify a dime of what could be cut from the proposed balanced budget to make the proposed balanced budget balanced.

    If not a translator, a cryptographer, maybe? Or a psychiatrist?

  19. - bothanspy - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    –I used Google Translate to translate the synopsis of a property tax bill that Rep. Batinick introduced from English to Spanish and back to English.—

    GV’s exercise is exactly why the Google service will not work. While the translation is generally close, close doesn’t really cut it for legal language. Home rule units =/= rule of origin units. Effective immediately =/= cash immediately :)
    Its a great idea to save money, though. There is no reason to start with the Google translated version and edit it from there. Surely, than can save money instead of starting from scratch.

  20. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:19 am:

    While I wish that I had taken Spanish in high school, My German immigrant grandfather refused to teach his sons German. “We speak English in America.” And that was that.
    While I am not anti-immigrant, I don’t understand why we have to label everything in Spanish.
    Take the money for this and hire more Spanish to English teachers: assimilate these people, don’t make special rules….

  21. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:21 am:

    I’m OK with some sort of translation if they can control the costs and it is for convenience only. Any legal challenges, etc. would have to be based upon the English text which would control.

  22. - Downstate - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:48 am:

    “Any legal challenges, etc. would have to be based upon the English text which would control.”

    Exactly! If that’s the case, then the exactness of the translation is not as important.

  23. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:55 am:

    Downstate Commissioner,

    My Prussian great-grandfather had a similar rule. He left Prussia for good reasons.

  24. - A guy - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:47 pm:

    These bills all have a summary. Maybe just translate the summary in Spanish. For nuance, the Latino people will have to do what everyone else does; hire a lawyer or a lobbyist or both.

  25. - Huh? - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:56 pm:

    I am sure a good lawyer could make a civil rights case out of this issue.

  26. - Iamthepita - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:41 pm:

    If the Deaf, DeafBlind and the Hard of Hearing popular has access to services in language translation (e.g. American Sign Language Interpreter Services), why shouldn’t any other language be deprived from information in the language that they understand best?

  27. - NorthsideNoMore - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:36 pm:

    Captain you couldn’t be more wrong… Why does broke Illinois need to spend more money we don’t have? Some folks are ready spend big bucks when the simple solution is right in front of us…Google translates dozens of languages…. this internet thingy is pretty cool more people of all languages should try it.

  28. - IllinoisBoi - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:45 pm:

    Not sure how relevant this is, but it’s interesting:

    ‘English is Illinois’s official language. Illinois was one of the first states in America to pass an official language law, though its first official language was not English but “American”. In 1923, Representative Washington J. McCormick of Montana had failed to pass a bill in the United States Congress declaring “American” to be the official language of the United States. Following the bill’s failure, Senator Frank Ryan introduced a similar bill to the Illinois General Assembly. The bill passed with the support of Irish and Jewish politicians in Chicago, who, by rejecting the term “English”, wanted to show their opposition to British policies in Ireland and Palestine, respectively. In 1969, another act of the General Assembly replaced “American” with “English.”‘

  29. - Veil of Ignorance - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 6:03 pm:

    Fyi google translate without human review will lead to pretty inaccurate translations.

  30. - 1: - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 6:03 am:

    I am really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into
    any browser compatibility issues? A number of my
    blog visitors have complained about my site not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari.
    Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?

  31. - 1: - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 6:14 am:

    If you would like to take a great deal from this article then you have to apply these methods to your won blog.

  32. - 1: - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 6:18 am:

    Fabulous, what a website it is! This webpage provides useful data to us, keep it up.

  33. - Late to the Party - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 7:55 am:

    In Illinois the official language is English. this is by state law. Why create web sites or forms or anything else in another language?

    Spanish? OK German? sure. Navajo? Why not. Icelandic? welcome to the party.

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