Kofi Darku: On today's episode, we have Marina Waters, President of LUNA languages. We're going to have an in depth conversation where we talk about how they're providing language access to our multilingual populations and how they're helping in the workforce as well.
Kofi Darku: Welcome back to the Skill Up Build Up Podcast, powered by the Morales Group where we are leading talent to thrive. Joining us today is Marina Waters, President of LUNA Languages. Welcome Marina.
Marina Waters: Hello Kofi. Hi Adam. How are you? Doing? Nice to be here. Thank you.
Kofi Darku: Awesome. Well, since you're from LUNA language services, I wanted to just jump right in. Please explain what is LUNA languages and how did you all start? What is, what is, what are the roots of LUNA languages?
Marina Waters: Sure LUNA is a company that provides language access to the community. Uh, we're, we're based here in Indianapolis, but we service, the state, the region, and we have clients across the country and our roots are in providing interpreting services. So that's oral interpreting and document translation services. So fun fact, there is a misconception a lot between interpreting and translating. And one thing I always liked to teach, anyone I talked to is that there's a difference. A lot of times you'll hear it misused like in a movie on the radio, but interpreting is always oral or oral exchange of language and translation is always written, written. Oh Wow.
Kofi Darku: So when someone's speaking the language, you can only be interpreting?
Marina Waters: You're interpreting, yeah. Or signing a sign language can be interpreting that's not oral. So that's learning in the moment. Yeah, learning in the moment. So the roots of our business at Luna is that we started responding to a massive wave of immigration that hit central Indiana 15 years ago. For those of you in the audience that were here, you probably remember it and people talk about growing up in a primarily white Caucasian place. And then about 15 years ago we saw sort of a wave of, of immigrants come and uh, the civil rights act, title six of the Civil Rights Act is a federal law that basically requires any recipients of federal funding to provide equal services irrespective of someone's. Well, it, there's a lot of protections. But the ones that we are interested in national origin and so that does equate to language. So we started servicing hospitals, courts, schools, the state and help them sort of just provide their services, keep their doors open to their clients and to their stakeholders. Um, that was the roots of those were the roots of our company. Since then I will say that we've serviced quite a few public companies and for a lot of different needs. But um, most recently I would say it's an area that is in interest of you is hiring, you know, in, so we're in HR or in marketing will be across the company in different ways. But at this point we're sort of through the different, all the sectors of our community. And our goal is to provide equal access using language and, and really also culture, you know, culture is an important part of that. They, yeah, to support the diversification of our communities. So that's us in a nut shell.
Adam Scholtes: So. So I did a little bit of research on it. I saw you sit on the board of Exodus and we had Cole Varga on last year on this podcast.
Marina Waters: I'm a big fan of Cole Varga.
Adam Scholtes: Yeah, it was, it was a great show. I'm, we, I'm going to ask you a question similar to what I had asked him, but why is it important to have diversity in the workplace? So if I'm an employer out there, why, why is that important to you right now?
Marina Waters: Yeah. When I talked to leadership at different companies at a lot of times I find myself making the case, you know, making the case for, um, for diversity and I am a, I'm of the mindset of looking at any kind of ecosystem. I mean, it doesn't matter if you're in nature, if you're in a organization, smaller, large diversity of any kind. We know it makes an entity stronger. We know that. Um, and within an organization, diversity of thought, diversity of experience, uh, the psychology of an organization argues that diverse background, diverse experience is going to make an organization stronger. In my mindset any organization can benefit from a more diverse, um, especially if you look at the diversity of our community now, most businesses are trying to service the community in one one way, shape or form. Right? And it might be a real estate agency, it might be I'm a retail store, it might be a company, it might be a company like Morales, you know, you're trying to service the community. If you look at the demographics of our community, we are diversifying. We are a diverse community. Um, so in the pre show we talked about how Indiana is currently the, has the eighth largest immigrant population growing. It is the eighth fastest growing that population. So there is no denying that diversity is upon us. So what an organization should want to do is, is, is habits inside match the outside, you know, and, and so I think that's the case I would make.
Adam Scholtes: Well and as a follow up to that is if you look at the current political climate that we have right now, are you guys seeing, and it sounds like maybe you were not with your stat you just gave us, but are we seeing a decrease in organizations needing your services due to the, maybe maybe the slow down of the immigrant or the refugee coming to our country or our state?
Marina Waters: So there is no denying that there's a decrease in the refugees coming in to the nation right now. So that is a for sure. In fact, I do not believe there is a decrease in the foreign born population. I have not seen that. And quite frankly, we haven't ever in the history of LUNA had a decrease in the need for our services. We have only grown, um, and, and we've grown at the same rate as our immigrant population. So that growth is exponential in our community. Just re population growth works, right? That the second generation, um, is going to be eating more than twice the size as the first. So, uh, it's like, uh, an avalanche picking up speed as, as the snowball rolls down. So, so now I haven't seen that, we haven't seen that LUNA so.
Kofi Darku: I'm really happy that that's what you've observed because to me it seems very counterproductive that at a time when we're not only as a state experiencing a surplus of jobs, needing more people to fill the jobs and the number of jobs or just continuing to grow, why would we restrict or reduce the amount of talent that we could have to fill those jobs? So for you to say, no, I still see a significant amount of foreign born. I'm like, thank goodness, let's make sure they're aware of what we're trying to do so we can expedite their connection with an opportunity because I'm trying to win this thing in terms of what is our role in trying to make sure Indiana is filling as many jobs as possible because it's very intuitive that if we help the companies to continue to do well and staffing and then meet their needs. Yeah, execute their operations, they stay, our economy wins and why not?
Marina Waters: Well, Kofi. I'm sure you see this in the past. I think that there was maybe a sentiment that was more, more discriminatory or prejudice against maybe certain cultures and, and I'm not going to say that's gone away entirely, of course not, but when companies are looking at their bottom line and needing to fill jobs and just needing to keep, keep their businesses operating at full capacity, I've seen that sentiment sort of fall away. Right? And as more and more people are rising up within organizations that are from different cultures, I mean there's going to be a natural. The solution of that. Sure. Yeah. And, and um, you know, one of our roles in terms of going in and entering into a company is actually just building confidence. How do you confidently recruit from a multilingual population? How do you confidently onboard them? How do you confidently integrate them into your culture? And so I'm not saying that's totally easy, but there are some simple tools that you can give to employers, you know, that will help them understand, you know, you can translate x, y, and Z, you can have an interpreter for these type of interactions. And then all of a sudden you have a confident, comfortable employee who feels safe, who's chemistry in their brain is not telling them to flee, you know, they can be productive, they can vary. Um, and they will become loyal, right? Because that companies made that extra effort to communicate certain things to them in their own language.
Kofi Darku: So what is LUNA doing to help our non native speakers? We have foreign born, but they don't speak English. What does Luna do to help them? And just everyday life?
Marina Waters: Yeah, that's a great question. So our doors are open. We are open 24 hours, seven days a week. So. Yep. Yep. Haven't had a day closed in 15 years. And believe me in the early days, um, got a lot of late night phone calls. But um, those phone calls go around the clock still. We just have a big coordinating staff now. But so what, what our impact, um, can be anything from helping someone, uh, translate their, uh, their personal documents. If you think of how many people come here and need a driver's license, they needed, they're um, they need to register their kids in school, they need to sign up for any kind of insurance. There's a lot of documentation that people need translated. So a lot of times we have people walking in our doors, um, you know, just trying to get documents translated in English. But then on the flip side, um, they are, uh, you know, at the schools they are registering their kids. They might be having babies, they might be in the courtroom getting married, they might be dealing with a altercation. They could be anywhere. It really, they could be buying a home, they could be signing up for a bank account, they could be onboarding for a job. So what we're trying to do is just set the playing field. Um, so just sort of anything that any of us need to do sort of get through life. Language is not going to become the barrier to do that.
Kofi Darku: Well, where can we direct people to learn more about Luna and getting contact with your team?
Marina Waters: So if you're an individual and you want to get your birth certificate translated or a, you know, a child's birth certificate for example, you just come right through our doors so you could send us an email. But, uh, we're at 91st and Meridian, a big rainbow sign, LUNA, you can't miss it. Um, or you know, our website can direct anyone to, to our services. So for an individual they can either walk right in during, you know, say seven to seven, that's usually when someone's there to or call us literally 24 hours a day. So, um, we're three, one, seven, three, four, one four, one, three, seven. So, um, our website's www.luna360.com. So that's for individuals and really, um, we will service individuals for any kind of those needs.
Adam Scholtes: So on, on the flip side of that, what about if I'm a company, I want to become more diverse, but I have all these documents in my building. How do I get everything translated? How does it, what does that look like from a company?
Marina Waters: So sometimes I'm Adam, it's like someone shows up, say at a doctor's office or at a school or could show up any place at a store and they just cannot communicate. Maybe they're deaf and they, the person that doesn't have no sign language, maybe that they speak Arabic and that could be a phone call to our office, we could have an interpreter there and like 20, 30 minutes or we just patch them into a phone interpreter within a few minutes. If it's an organization that's trying to be more strategic about diversifying, that's a different kind of conversation. And then we really go in and do some consulting Language Access planning is what we call it. Um, but we would then sort of survey and organization's needs, you know, do they have some pages on their website that they want to interpret? Do they have, are they in? I'm the one to translate. Do they, are they translating their social media posts? Are they accessible? Um,
Adam Scholtes: I didnt even think about social media post.
Marina Waters: It's one of our jobs, right? Because a lot of these, a multiethnic communities have a very active social media life. But a lot of companies aren't really making that extra effort. Um, so that's sort of some of the consulting we would do. We would look at, yeah, what are the vital documents or the documents that they need to say onboard someone or maybe they're just trying to market their services, right. Either to local folks that are non English speakers or foreign companies, foreign clients. We have real estate agents that will use our services just to help market homes in different languages and Spanish and Arabic in Burmese, in Chinese. So yeah, I mean there's a lot of, there is no, um, lack of areas that we can help promote someone's business or promote their hiring. But um, it usually it takes like a conversation and assessment of their needs and then we figure out, okay, which services make sense? Yeah. And um, you know, another big area that we help with is training. So if you think of safety training or even patient training, but safety trainings is a big one, like in logistics, biomedical. So there might be videos that they use to train employees or onboard and so we might help with subtitling those or even, you know, dubbing them voiceover work.
Adam Scholtes: So what are some of the biggest industries you guys serve on the company side?
Marina Waters: Yeah, I would say well, outside of like medical and legal, which are primarily biggest industries. Um, I would say logistics is a huge one, especially here in the Midwest, in Indiana. We have a big down in Plainfield, you know, lots of clients, their biomedical. Um, so we have, you know, like bio storage and different medical facilities here. Clinical research organizations and, and, and then other than that, you know, we're in insurance, there's, I don't know if you know this, but there's a large number of insurance companies here in Central Indiana. I think it's a law, a legal thing that allows insurance companies to be based here and thrive. So we'll be working with them because international insurance claims come in constantly.
Adam Scholtes: What about manufacturing, light manufacturing, anything like that?
Marina Waters: So, so we might do trainings for like forklifts or. Um, yeah. So if you think of like also landscaping, so there'll be a lot of people that just need us to come in and help with reviews. Um, and just, you know, annual reviews, a semiannual meetings, really setting it up. I'm the hospitality industry. That's a huge one for us. So, you know, a lot of times people think of Spanish speaking needs, but um, might be interesting for your audience to know that we have over 100 languages that we service every week, every week, every week here in Indianapolis. So there's a lot of languages represented.
Kofi Darku: These have been stellar responses. Thank you so much Marina. In fact, you are advancing to our bonus round where we have more questions for you. So, Marina, if you had to delete all but three apps off of your phone, which ones would you keep? What three apps would you keep?
Marina Waters: This is like, this is like a personal question. It, I feel like, you know, you're coming into my closet.
Kofi Darku: We didn't say the bonus round is fun.
Marina Waters: Oh, no his is important though. This is important. So I am, I am speaking of claws, I'm sort of a closeted writer, so my notes app is very important to me, so I find it's a place where I keep everything from, you know, like the simple to do is. But you know, I might have some inspiration whether it's through work or personal writing that I use. So the notes APP cannot go.
Adam Scholtes: You use the notes app for your to do's and not the reminders?
Speaker 2: Yeah, I do, I do. I, you know, I've tried them all, I've tried, I've tried them all, but I just am like sort of a purist and I stick with the notes app. Okay. So notes app and then. Oh, the podcast. Okay. So this, you guys will like this. I'm like a big podcast fan so I could not live without my podcast. What are some of your favorite podcasts?
Adam Scholtes: Right now? I'm am in love, I love the Skill Up Build Up podcast and it's fantastic.
Kofi Darku: You know what? I love that one too. It is. So I just get it. Oh, you get it? Yeah.
Marina Waters: I don't know why you just get it. It's, it feels so familiar.
Adam Scholtes: No Entre Leadership by the Dave Ramsey group. I love that.
Kofi Darku: Yeah. I love listening to sports podcast and I tend to catch up with Dan Patrick.
Marina Waters: So. All right, good. Good. So I would not delete my podcast app. and I have two, I, you do the Apple one and the stitcher. But I attended. Well I'd keep the Apple, you know, the one that came to the phone. And then my third one is I will admit I love Pinterest and it's like I go through this love hate thing with Pinterest where I, you know, like 10 years ago I was not a fan, but I love the collective consciousness. Pinterest and I'm into design and um, I love the imagery and I, I love going on there. I find it so soothing to know there's a therapeutic. There's a world of people that are curating, you know, it's like collectively curating the best of the best and whatever you want in the search engine is just amazing. And I love like, there's no chatter on it, you know, it's not like you don't have to chatter but you don't, you don't have to get to know the people at all. All you need to know is what they think is beautiful or important. We use it for a lot of work stuff. And so I, I will say I am a rising Pinterest fan. I don't talk about that much, but it's a big part of my life.
Adam Scholtes: And we heard we heard it here first. Um, worst job you ever had?
Marina Waters: Oh yeah. I came out of school. I was a psychology. I studied psychology and before I went to law school because I did that too. I worked in the psych field for a while and I think it was like one of those best slash worst jobs. But I worked the night shift at a semi independent residential facility for people with major mental illness and I was barely qualified as most people are in those type of jobs, you know.
Marina Waters: But the night shift was especially interesting. I worked the night shift because I had two other jobs, you know, during the day and the night shift, um, was really interesting because 10 people tend to, if people are awake at night at those places, there are usually like cycling and um, I'm not a huge person, you know, but I had to be trained in, you know, self defense and restriction restricting people, um, restraining people, those. So, um, I learned a lot. I learned a lot of street smarts from that job because I spent a lot of time with people who had, had some hard knocks and I built some good relationships with them. So that was the upside of it. The downside of it, it was just, I won't use, you know, language, but it was like a fill in the blank type of type of job because a low pay and, and, and a pretty intense. Yeah. Yeah. But, um, I give all the credits to people in mental health and they work hard and they need. So yeah, that was, that's, that's the best worst job I was probably all of 23. Yeah.
Kofi Darku: Marina coming with the heart answers even in the bonus round.
Marina Waters: Now what do you got for me, Kofi.
Kofi Darku: So this one's a little lighter. Do you know any other languages and what languages do you know other than English?
Marina Waters: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Before I answer I'm going to have you answer. Oh Wow. What do you know Kofi?
Kofi Darku: I know very little Spanish and, and I know even less Fantse, which uh, it's what my family speaks from Ghana and there's a few other languages where I just know a phrase or two, but.
Marina Waters: I love it. All right. What about you Adam?
Adam Scholtes: Yeah, a very little Spanish
Marina Waters: Well I hope around Morales you pick it up.
Adam Scholtes: I'm so far ahead now than I was 4 and half years ago.
Marina Waters: Yes. Good. It's important. It's important language to learn. So my family is originally from Greece. My Dad came here at age 16 alone. He immigrated to Kansas City by himself at age 16. And so I grew up. I'm actually dual citizen so I grew up, I was born here but grew up going back and forth. So I do speak Spanish. Greek. I'm not fluent. I could not interpret. I cannot interpret, but I got really good having the same conversation with my grandparents, you know, over and over again. I worked in Latin America, um, when I was a lawyer and so I, I know I call it street Spanish because I never took it formally, but I know some Spanish. And then I lived in Africa in east Africa for a year and I learned Swahili and so he leaves a pretty simple language. It's a trade language, so it's like (inaubible). Jambo means hello and goodbye. It's a great. If anyone wants to master language, I recommend Swahili because there's, yeah, because of the two to get to future and past tense, you just add like one word to the whole present tense and it's a trade language. There's so many languages in Africa that they kept it pretty simple. So, and it's, it's a language that's prevalent here, really big population and other and Kenya and Ethiopia. Eritrea, yeah. The whole, it's a, it's a language that kind of spans eastern Africa. Yeah. So I would recommend your listeners pickup some Swahili, pickup, some basic Burmese. We have over 15,000 Burmese folks here in Indiana, um, some other languages that are up and coming in case you're interested are Arabic. There are a number of languages from central Africa that, that we could look up. Um, and also I would recommend your listeners learn a few basic science for sign language because we have one of the largest American sign language. I'm not speaking using population because of our, our deaf school.
Adam Scholtes: Ill tell you what, when we had that question for her, I thought that was like, yeah, I know Spanish. I mean the, I didn't realize you lived in all those places too. That's awesome .
Marina Waters: I did some work as an international lawyer. So before I came worked for LUNA. So I, I moved here thinking that I might have a hard time finding international work and Lo and behold, you know, I work in a company where every day people walk through our doors from all corners of the earth. I've had more exposure to different cultures right here in Indianapolis than I ever did in my seven years doing international work.
Adam Scholtes: So I can say the same for this building.
Marina Waters: I bet. Yeah. here at Morales yeah, and isn't it exciting though and if you think of sort of the next generation, what their lives are going to be like in terms of, you know, the cultures that they interact, the restaurants that are going to be popping up around town, the music. Um, I, I'm really excited about how the culture is changing here across the city. I'm so excited to be part of it.
Adam Scholtes: Well, if I can real quick just a quick plug for you guys. I was at a career fair earlier this year and I think you guys think you guys were hosting it or use you were the sponsor for it and your guys interpreters were there and so it was, it was myself and like two or three of other, of our sales team, which we all know zero languages anywhere and we were having people come up who needed help and your interpreters were fantastic and I think we actually able to get a few people a job or get them at least to come in here and apply and see what we could do. So I'm just, I was super impressed by, by all, I mean it was like, I mean a person came up who is deaf, boom, somebody was there to help know Spanish at any, anything you needed. It was there. So.
Marina Waters: Thanks for saying that. I will tell you that one of the most gratifying parts of my job is providing the job. You all have this here at Morales too, but you know, providing the jobs to our interpreting force. Um, we have people that come from all over the world, they're doctors, they're nurses, they're lawyers, they're teachers, they're business owners, and they come and work for us as interpreters and their language abilities. Amazing. But they're brilliant people and their heart, their whole heart is in their work because they're able to really service, um, the folks that are needing that interpreting, they're feeling connected to their culture. Um, and a lot of times they're able to use those high level vocabulary skills that they missed because they can't get a license here. So it's really gratifying and I love hearing that feedback. Thanks Adam. And before we end, if anyone of your listeners have any questions in terms of, um, you know, not only Luna language services services, but just questions about culture, diversity and how we might be able to help. I can be reached personally, um, through our website at Lunathreesixty.com. Uh, I'm marina@Lunathreesixty.com is my email. So I look forward to hearing with anyone continuing the discussion.
Speaker 3: Yeah, there's really no area that were where they lack, where they can help you guys like, they, they serve so many different populations and I didn't realize that they serve such a strong individual population as well as the company. Right? I mean if you're an individual here and you need help, you can just walk into their facility 24 slash seven phone service and that's incredible. I like the stat to Indiana's the eighth, the eighth fastest growing state per foreign born people. I mean, think about that. If you, if you're an organization out there right now in the state of Indiana, that's, that's a, that's a big number right there.