RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Inlingua School of Languages has been a fixture in downtown Ridgewood for 30 years, but it’s sure been changing with the times.
The school, whose home office is in Switzerland, offers language training as well as translating and interpreting services, according to Sandra Stern of Mahwah, its coordinator of translation services.
When Stern started working there as an English teacher 14 years ago, almost 90 percent of the translations were from a foreign language into English.
“In the last eight or nine years, it’s going the other way,” Stern said. “That’s good news because it shows that we are finally becoming more global.”
What do people bring to inlingua to be translated in a global age?
“Anything,” Stern said. “Love letters, legal documents, instruction manuals, laundry labels, genealogy papers.”
If 10 percent of a population speaks a particular foreign language, she explained, ballots must be presented in that language.
“We do a lot of Korean translation because there is such a huge population,” Stern said. “In Cliffside Park, Fort Lee, and other towns in eastern Bergen, one of our biggest clients is the board of elections.”
In other New Jersey counties, she said, inlingua translates ballots into Gujarati and Hindi, both Indian languages, and Chinese.
Perhaps the most unusual request she has fielded was for a tattoo in Chinese. The client wanted to be sure what it said before putting it on her body.
“It was something Confucius-like,” she recalled.
The school also interprets – the oral form of translating – in courtrooms, doctor offices, wedding ceremonies, legal depositions, and conversations involving foreign adoptions.
“Every day here is a new experience,” said Stern, a Miami native who minored in French in college.
The school trains its teachers in its own method of teaching languages. Lessons are given in person and over Skype.
When teaching virtually, Stern said, teachers have learned that if they wear red lipstick during the lesson, their clients can more easily follow their lip movements.
English-speaking clients learn other languages to facilitate study, business interactions, or international travel, Stern explained.
Clients who speak a foreign language - students, nannies, or employees from abroad - can take lessons English, she said. But they also can get training in accent reduction, real-life interactions, and cultural coaching.