They are two examples of our society’s penchant for instant gratification. Language proficiency and by extension interpreting, nonetheless, are not abilities you acquire overnight. They improve exponentially as you practice, and reflect consciously or not, the experiences of a lifetime.
I came to the U.S., as a Cuban exile with my family, at the age of nine, speaking almost no English. We arrived to a completely new environment, and to what my four brothers and I naively classified as Davy Crockett country from our limited exposure to American folklore. Life in a wooded enclave where we largely fended for ourselves after school and learned to adapt to the Spartan life of New England. While my brothers were out trapping and hunting for fun, I devoted myself to self development through reading, favoring fairy tales as a form of escapism from the inevitable household chores there was no one else to do. One of my fondest memories as a kid, is of creating a tepee in bed with my covers, after “lights out”, when I would read, flashlight in hand, so as not to wake my siblings. Above all else, I wanted to speak English well to fit in, get good grades and make my parents proud of me. Imagine my discouragement when learned that the “F” grades I was so proud of did not stand for “Fine.”
After initially cutting my ties to Spanish, as many first generation exiles do, I went back to my native language by reading an eclectic mix of periodicals. They included magazines my parents’s Cuban friends would give us when they were finished reading them, some of which contained what were for me, riveting excepts of unbridled sexual passion. These came via the stories of Corín Tellado, a prolific writer of romantic novels that were very popular in Spanish-speaking countries and were definitely not permissible reading for an eleven year old at my house. Fortunately, my parents had no time to read magazines so they were unaware of this content. I remember that “tepee-time” required a dictionary to figure out what she was even writing about. That input was thankfully balanced by my mother’s classical texts from the M.A. in Spanish Literature that she went on to get in this country, which she would eagerly share with me. Another favorite, secret childhood activity that fed my avid love for reading in English, was one that I could not share with my parents either because they would have never allowed it. There was a semi-abandoned paper mill a few blocks from my house. It consisted of a warehouse dotted with mysterious, boiling, gurgling vats filled with chemicals, where printed materials were dumped and melted for recycling. Looking back, the place was an accident waiting to happen, without any type of security, but that was the least of my worries. The allure it had for me was is that it was a clandestine, eerie, half lit treasure trove of all kinds of books with adult content I would never have access to otherwise, and comic books, which became a great source of information on American pop culture for me. I would sneak in after school when the workers had left and have a field day going through the musty piles of publications messily stacked in the aisles, beckoning half-heartedly to see if I would spring them from death row.
Ka-ching in more ways than one
While in college, studying plastic arts, I had a revelation. The puritanical work ethic I had eased into in New England had a silver lining, work could be fun! My husband-to-be was writing the dissertation for his PhD. In French Lit, and to supplement his income as an Assistant Professor, he used to do conference interpreting. To me as a twenty-year-old, that simply meant he was paid to talk and seemed infinitely easier to accomplish than my career path at the time.
Fast forward thirty years. Unfortunately it was not as simple as I thought then. However, if you are able to consciously align your values, activities that you enjoy and output that is of worth to a paying segment of society, you will usually end up in the right place. I am fortunate that over the years I was able to harness my desire to work “speaking” in another language (which had never occurred to me), my interest in studying and the discipline to work hard. The universe opened the right doors for me. I audited what conferences I could, signed up for whatever workshops were available and trained hard with generous professionals who shared their time with me. As many before and after me, I did not have the option to go away to school, nor where there many programs offered back then, but I made it a point to secure the mentors and the practice needed to pursue my dream of becoming a professional interpreter.
If interpreting/translating is a field that interests you, rest assured that “where there is a will, there is a way” and opportunities have expanded nowadays that will make this career choice not be as daunting as it may have been in the past because of a lack of standardized resources. Today, we even have our own section in the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
It was only when the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac, that I was jarred awake from the fitful slumber I had fallen into shortly after we took off. I was very tired from a trial that had taken much longer than expected, leaving me precious little time to prepare for this assignment which I knew was going to be a bear. It was a very sensitive case involving alleged malfeasance by government officials in the host country, during the construction of a power plant. As if to confirm my as yet unfounded suspicions, our party was met at the jet bridge by two armed uniformed guards with a military jeep to take us to our destination. I forced my mind to stop racing despite the memories that came flooding back of when I left my homeland under similar circumstances, at the age of nine.
The colleague that had been chosen to work with me, because I refused to submit to full days by myself, especially in these circumstances, looked good on paper. He was a government interpreter seemingly with a lot of experience.
The following morning, after the advocates for both sides set the tone by arguing about everything under the sun before even starting to take testimony, we finally settled into a rigorous pace of work. That is, after the other interpreter showed up, almost an hour late. My colleague, whom I’ll call Raúl, did not exhibit any sign of camaderie whatsoever throughout the time that we worked together for several days. He was shifty-eyed, had a loud, raspy voice and a pretty thick accent but he did his job briskly and efficiently, supported by unwieldy stacks of documents that I had never laid eyes on and which he explicitly refused to share. If he wanted a break, he would just stop talking, notwithstanding the juncture that we were at, get up and amble out of the room to smoke. After his turn was over, he would settle back in his chair, a notebook on his lap and his eyes fixed sullenly on me, waiting for me to make any mistake he could report to his handlers.
While he interpreted, I took copious notes of hitherto unheard terms, and I was able to appreciate that this man had all the “required” interpreter traits. He was very fluent, focused, able to manipulate the registers, and seldom had to ask the court reporter to repeat any questions, which spoke to his good memory.
Nonetheless, it brought back to mind a long-held conviction of mine, that in order to be successful, interpreters must embody not only these “hard” skills, but also the “soft” skills that are seldom mentioned. Raúl had no intuition to speak of. He could not tell that the attorneys, even his employers, resented his unwarranted interruptions to take a break, which could happen during key testimony. He had no empathy for the witnesses, who were very nervous and would ramble on, to which he responded by brusquely shoving his open palm two inches from their face, or for me, knowing I was handicapped by not having many of the documents he was hoarding. He was not respectful to the whole group, arriving late more than once. In short, he didn’t have the people skills we need to interact successfully in society.
As an employer of interpreters, I have often had the experience of bilingual clients who are familiar with language nuances, preferring the less linguistically-talented interpreters who are personable, to the pros who don’t have the abilities to deal positively with others. Food for thought. I think it is easier to perfect language skills than emotional skills unconsciously ingrained over a lifetime.
I believe that the hierarchy and macrocosm of nature, should be reflected in its many microcosms, one of which is the interpreting profession. Accordingly, to be successful, the values exhibited at the apex must be mirrored in the other.
Today I am going to write about responsibility. In life, I feel our duty is to fulfill our potential as a human being. Correspondingly, in our work, we must strive to achieve our full latent talents for what we do. We can’t stop trying until we feel comfortable with what we have attained, likely never, and easily a lifetime. The important thing is to enjoy the moment, our status quo now, assuming you are trying to improve yourself and not resting on your laurels. But we should not live thinking of the future, of a time when you expect to have accomplished more. As the classic oldie “Turn! Turn! Turn!” says, “There is a time for every purpose.” By following that advice, you will avert frustration by comparisons, and the waste of much energy regarding something you have no control over. This energy could be employed productively in the present, not to mention the fact that we have no guarantee that the future will ever arrive.
Consequently, we must endeavor to do each assignment as well as we can, being truthful to ourselves and others regarding our effort. It will all come out in the wash anyway. Always try to do more than is expected of you, expressing the creativity and diversity of nature. As in life, on the job, tell the truth about yourself and others, no white lies. But use your judgment, if something is ultimately unimportant, but it could hurt others, be responsible, don’t bring it up.
At the end of the day, we are all interconnected although we may not realize it at a given point in time. I remember that concept being driven home in business school, talking about something as simple as a shirt sold at a department store here, where the yarn is from one place, parts are sewn in another and it’s assembled in yet a different location. In the end, people from all over the world that we’ll never know, collaborate to make many of the items we use everyday. The similarity I see to our lives is that nothing happens randomly. The world shapes our lives. Those we come into actual contact with, more so than in the example above, help to shape us. We learn life lessons from the people we least expect to, whether we are aware of it or not, at the time. That’s why, when we work with colleagues, if it’s with people we like, wonderful, enjoy it. If it is someone we dislike, or look down upon for whatever reason, do not waste the opportunity to interact with them by complaining. They have been put on your path for a reason, and it is up to you to figure out what you should learn from them. That is the importance of and why we must help to care for others. We all have a unique and valuable role to play on earth as well as in our sphere of business. If we were able to connect the dots, we would know what that purpose was not only for ourselves but for others as well. A rising awareness, in time, will help us to recognize these truths.
Yoga teaches that as we advance in consciousness, one of the signposts is that we begin to detach and to witness our actions as we are performing them, and can thus modify them for the better. It brought to mind how when you reach a certain level of proficiency in interpreting, you begin to witness your own renditions live, in both consecutive or simultaneous, and can begin to focus on improving them in real time.
In short, that is our task, to continuously attempt to make our lives the best they can be, and consequently our careers, because this will represent a boon not only for ourselves but for our environment on all levels. If you see something is wrong or off track, fix it. Don’t wait for others to intervene.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
A stimulating didactic experience
Firstly, because I am the epitome of the eternal student, I am enamored of the fact that it is such a stimulating experience that I construe as didactic. I’m constantly working on something new so I’m always learning as I study different industries and processes to formulate glossaries, or when travel is required, which is an education in and of itself. Luckily, from my research I have learned that this intellectual activity leads us to forge new synapses in our brain that among other favorable effects, fend off many symptoms of aging. I enjoy the feeling I get of being settled and prepared when I report to work, with the conviction that I have done my best to learn the subject matter. To further this feeling of calm, I always strive to arrive early with ample time to anticipate surprises. I am very punctual so this is something that dovetails with my nature. It is very important in our industry, because many people are dependent on us, from conference attendees to judges and attorneys who cannot proceed without us. I am grateful to my Dad for having instilled this trait in me and my siblings because it has always stood us in good stead. When we were children, he would drive us to church on Sundays and wait for Mom, my four brothers and I in the car, way ahead of time, while we got ready. The ritual was he would honk the horn only once, and woe to us if we were not ready to leave promptly. When I got married in Miami, “Little Havana” back then, he paid no heed to “Cuban Time”, which is always at least an hour after standard time. When we arrived at the church, naturally there was no one there. He insisted we walk down the aisle anyway because punctuality is “de rigueur”. It was only at the end of the wedding, when I walked out, that the pews had been filled. Nonetheless, I value the concept.
Interaction with other players
I take pleasure in the interaction with other players at interpreted events. Making new acquaintances, be they colleagues, employers, judges, presenters, litigants, etc.; creating bonds that will strengthen my network of relationships. We never know, when we could be of assistance to someone else, or they to us. I remember helping an American court reporter once by making a comprehensive list of dozens of proper names and addresses in Spanish, of individuals, companies and institutions mentioned during testimony that took several hours. It was not always easy to do because at the same time, I was interpreting complex testimony. This allowed her to concentrate on the record and not have to chase different witnesses during a recess or after hours, to get the spellings. She was very grateful and soon thereafter recommended me for a well-paid assignment. I am not encouraging you to help others with the expectation that they will reciprocate, but when someone does you a good turn you often naturally want to return the favor.
I like the recognition of being selected to do particular jobs based on a track record, that in turn was the result of a long- term solid endeavor to improve my output. I enjoy the satisfaction of being asked to come back, of having contributed to an effort, of having helped others to understand something that is important to them.
It’s a positive feedback loop
I appreciate feeling energized and mindful when I work and it is all engendered by the above. It’s a positive feedback loop. When we focus on constructive, favorable actions, they create the memories which are the filters for experience, the building blocks that dictate how we perceive occurrences in our life, based on how we have assimilated past events.
Please share with me what you like, or to the contrary, in a constructive way, what you don’t like about the profession. I look forward to your comments!
Regardless of your skill level and familiarity with the profession, we have all faced the following at one point or another in our career:
- Challenges to our experience/credentials
- Performance anxiety
- Objections to the interpretation
It is important to plan how to respond, in advance, so you won’t be caught off-guard and fail to put your best foot forward.
With regards to experience, have an elevator speech down pat, which is concise and to the point, for the different environments in which you work or plan to work. It should underscore any pertinent education, certifications that you hold, as well as the work record that you have in that setting. If you do not have a viable story to tell, your first priority is to research how you can acquire the needed expertise. If you are starting out, you can observe professional interpreters at work in court. You may take basic or advanced courses depending on your level. If there are none offered in your area, I would highly recommend the short 2 -3 week options at the National Center for Interpretation at the University of Arizona to get some hands-on experience. Subsequently, you can sit for examinations to gauge your proficiency, and after that, you must engage in constant practice/learning to upgrade your expertise.
Performance anxiety cannot be discounted in this job as oftentimes we are thrust into situations where we need to interpret without adequate resources to prepare and not knowing what we are stepping into. The best way to deal with this is to always be in a “learning mode” that will enable you to increase your knowledge and vocabulary in your working languages and to do your best to acquire any available materials for the job at hand. Attorneys are often hesitant to provide documents which can hurt their case if they get into the wrong hands so it is helpful to educate them as to the fact that you are an officer of the court, bound by confidentiality and that your ability to see the documents in advance, will only help their case by making the interpretation smooth and flawless, especially in the case of technical testimony. Science has proven that the brain is susceptible to persistence and dedication and that learning, especially if imbued with passion, creates new synapses in the brain, allowing you to improve your output. Furthermore, it “connects new information with what you learned in the past.”[i]
Read about a great resource to learn from elite schools, about a myriad of subjects online and for free, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/elite-education-for-the-masses/2012/11/03/c2ac8144-121b-11e2-ba83-a7a396e6b2a7_story.html.
Find out what an established interpreter has to say about fear here.
Do not take objections personally. Remember that in a legal setting, one of the roles of an attorney is to bring up to the jury any information he feels could help his case. You must not let your emotions get the upper hand, causing you to experience feelings of unfairness, anger, fear or helplessness if an objection is leveled at your interpretation. This emotional reaction takes place in your reptilian or instinctive brain which was designed for survival.
According to best selling author, Dr. Rudy Tanzi, professor of neurology at the Harvard Medical School, before these feelings get out of hand, you must STOP[ii]:
T- Take 3 deep breaths and smile
O- Observe what is going on
P- Proceed with mindfulness
If called upon, collect your thoughts and deliver your explanation to the challenge calmly, in a positive and confident manner so as not to undermine the trust the players in this scenario have in you. If you are wrong, correct the record professionally and move forward. Do not get stuck on a mistake or misunderstanding that may trigger more pre-programmed negative responses.
Keep abreast of new developments and best practices by following the opinion of interpreting industry leaders, reading literature about the profession and joining local and national trade associations where pertinent issues are regularly discussed.
Share with us if you feel there are other fears that are more common and how you deal with them.
Dr. Roseann Dueñas González is a 21st century luminary in the field of language access in the U.S. She was the founder and long-standing Director of the University of Arizona National Center for Interpretation, Testing, Research and Policy. I took the opportunity of her stepping down to ask her to share her thoughts on the status of our industry.
MCV: To give those readers not acquainted with you an idea of the influence you have had on the legal interpreting profession is the U.S., give us a brief summary of the salient points in your career.
RDG: As a linguist, I specialized in language policy, registers of English, and language proficiency testing. I was hired by the courtsin AZ in 1976 to identify defendants who truly needed an interpreter. That led to my study of courtroom English, which became the basis of my 1977 doctoral dissertation, and a lifetime of work:
- The Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts consulted my research for the implementation of the 1978 Court Interpreters Act.
- I led the development of the model, which became the Federal Court Interpreter Certification exam, (SPA<>ENG).
- In 1983, I founded the Agnese Haury Institute at the University of Arizona to provide training for court interpretation and to meet standards set by the federal testing model.
- From 2000-2012, I was the Principal Investigator for projects that resulted in the development of curricula for the major in translation and interpretation at the University of Arizona, and onsite and online education to improve the registers of Spanish teachers to teach translation and interpretation in high schools, funded by the Department of Education. That in turn brought about:
(a) The publication of Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice in 1991, in collaboration with Victoria Vasquez, J.D. and Holly Mikkelson. It is the most often cited work in law review articles and other scholarly work on court interpretation. This text provided the foundation for the profession’s stabilization, growth, and emergence as a professional field. The 2012 revision offers further refinement of interpreter practice, protocol, and ethics.
(b) The expansion of the Agnese Haury Institute for the training of interpreters in healthcare.
(c) Nationwide short courses in test preparation, and introduction to court interpretation, or advanced court interpretation, hybrid online/onsite training and testing options that will provide opportunities for interpreters seeking to better their skills.
MCV: Why were you selected in 1976 by the Pima County Superior Court to assist in identifying defendants needing an interpreter, which led to your seminal doctorate dissertation?
RDG: The court called the English Department at the University of Arizona and asked for a testing specialist. Judge Ben Birdsall wanted a systematic way to determine whether or not a defendant needed an interpreter. I explained that the language of the courtroom constituted a particular variety that was different from ordinary English, and that for this reason, I would have to devise a language test particularly for this purpose. The judge provided me access to cases, some research support, and a pilot population. That was the beginning of the rest of my life.
MCV: What is the most significant change you have observed in the U.S. interpreting profession after the revolutionary implementation of the Federal Certification Program?
RDG: To see a profession grow out of out of the federal courts’ recognition of its duty to guarantee constitutional rights and to carry out the mandate of the Court Interpreters Act (1978)—that is the transformation of a lifetime. With federal certification came the introduction of a professional language intermediary who made the courts accessible to limited and non-English speakers Because federal certification testing was founded on a valid empirical analysis of courtroom language and the complex job of the court interpreter in this setting, it set the performance criteria and standards for the entire profession. This tool has identified a cadre of extremely talented persons, thus launching the birth of a profession.
MCV: What is the best measure of the growth the Agnese Haury Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Institute for Interpretation have experienced since their inception in 1983? Approximately how many interpreters have received training?
RDG: The Agnese Haury Institute can best be measured by its influence on the growth and development of the court interpreting profession. Its commitment to sharing knowledge and experience is foremost. The Institute was created out of a willingness of master court interpreters (of which there were few in 1983) to share their knowledge and to create a continuing platform where not only linguistic and interpreting skills could be honed, but where all of the content knowledge required of a court interpreters could be presented. Approximately 2,500 interpreters have taken courses there to date.
MCV: I see the short certificate courses offered by the NCI as a robust measure to fill the tremendous need for training that we are experiencing. Do you believe that as recognition for the profession increases, and remuneration merits it, that it will create more traditional educational opportunities through conventional degree programs that are so needed to support this goal?
RDG: As I stated in the 1991 Fundamentals of Court Interpretation and reiterated 20 years later in the 2012 edition, the quality of court interpretation, the growth of the profession, and the quality of language access depends upon the establishment of an academic national infrastructure of translation and interpretation undergraduate and graduate degree programs with an emphasis on interpretation, and a focus on judicial settings. However, consider the fact that it took me 25 years from the founding of the Agnese Haury Institute to the establishment of a T & I major concentration at the University of Arizona, despite my constant efforts. Higher education has been reluctant to embrace court interpretation as a viable field of study. Obstacles include the continuing lack of recognition of interpretation versus translation as a formal field of study; recognition of the need of higher education to fulfill the need for capable interpreters for judicial, medical and other critical settings; and the tremendous workforce demands for certified interpreters. As this need becomes better known through the enforcement of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services, professional interpreters, linguists, lawyers, judges, and other professional groups will have an increasingly stronger argument to begin creating academic programs.
However, a diversity of educational paths are still needed. the Agnese Haury Institute provides a professional experience unlike the experience gained in an undergraduate or graduate program. Persons who have completed our undergraduate major in translation and interpretation often take the Institute as a capstone experience. The intensive guided practice with feedback in the three modes of interpretation (consecutive, simultaneous, and sight translation) distinguishes this experience from all others. Short courses fulfill the need for test preparation, specialized instruction such as advanced simultaneous, consecutive, and forensic transcription/translation, etc. Short courses also offer persons considering interpretation the opportunity to self- diagnose and consider the practice of court or medical interpretation and contemplate their own linguistic, interpreting, and subject matter skills and knowledge, to find the educational pathway that meets their goal.
MCV: Have you compared the learning curve and the stage of our profession in the U.S. to that of other parts of the world?
RDG: Although other countries (such as Spain) are significantly ahead in terms of educational opportunities at state funded as well as private universities and colleges, the United States court interpreting profession as a whole is light years ahead of its European and other international counterparts in terms of status of the profession, remuneration and the place of certified professional court interpreters in the justice system. This fact emanates from the rigorous standards set by the federal courts and the enforcement of same through the federal certification examination program and the commensurate remuneration policy established by the federal courts for those who have this unique capability. Although there may be many court interpreters who are doing outstanding work in the field and are not certified at the federal level, the standards set by federal certification provide an exemplar for all state and local courts as well as for other high stakes settings, such as medical.
MCV: What can interested parties do to lobby governmental and private sources to yield support for programs such as those you have spearheaded to develop language access in the U.S.?
RDG: As private citizens, as members of the court interpreting profession, and of professional interpreting and translation groups such as NAJIT and ATA, interpreters need to consider every horizon in terms of language access. The question that should always be: How does this agency, court, system, etc. meet the language access needs of its LEP population. How can I assist them to understand their language access obligation? State interpreter associations need to plug in to local colleges and universities and make it known that access is a primary aspect of their agenda, working collaboratively with universities to make language access a true part of every facet of these institutions.
What are the next goals for our industry and how can language associations help to achieve them?
As we discuss in Fundamentals, the primary goal for the profession is to strengthen its associations and continue to work towards it broader goal of “language access,” which will in turn lead to greater professionalization. NAJIT’S new concentration on policy statements and collaboration with the American Bar Association and other agencies is an excellent beginning that should be expanded. The American Bar Association (ABA) recently launched the ABA Standards for Language Access in Courts. Spurred on by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID), the Standards represent the most comprehensive document to date promoting full language access in courts nationwide. Among other things, it provides detailed guidance for court interpreter conduct and will hopefully contribute to lawyers, judges and court staff gaining a broader appreciation for the crucial role interpreters play.
Professional associations and all court interpreters should concentrate on creating uniform standards of certification among the 50 states and lobby for the establishment of an office within a federal agency to oversee state and local certification of interpreters and ensure that national interpreting telephone and video relay agencies and other providers are employing persons who have passed a rigorous certification examination in legal, or any venue in which laws are applied or where life outcomes are affected. Until there are uniform standards among states and national or international agencies providing interpreting and translation services, the profession of court interpretation will never achieve its potential. Moreover, as it comes of age, the profession must begin to promulgate professional ethical standards that provide more specific guidance for interpreters to follow and some ways of policing itself, instead of being “policed” by an outside nonprofessional agency.
Dr. Dueñas González decided to leave her position in September for health reasons and to spend time with her growing family, after many years of distinguished service. I invite your comments and ask you to join with me to wish her our best. We look forward to her continuing advice as the fruits of her labor blossom.
I have just finished reading Found in Translation, the new book which has just come out by Nataly and Jost, and is already lined up for a third printing! I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the T&I sector. Having worked in the industry for so many years and always striving to keep up with new developments, I now realize that until I read the book, I only had a miniscule idea of all the ways our profession affects global events ranging from personal issues, to business, to governmental affairs and everything in between. It is a “must read”, a very enjoyable read and it will broaden your horizons and allow you to speak authoritatively to promote what we do. Read on to learn what we discussed:
1. What new fields do you see opening up for our profession with the advent of the digital age? Have you noticed any type of interpreting that has become obsolete over the years?
NK: The digital age is helping the fields of translation and interpreting both evolve, although it’s also making things more complex. For the last few years, I’ve been interested in real-time online translation, which is somewhat of a hybrid between interpreting and translation. It occurs in real time, but is in written form.
Market data from Common Sense Advisory indicates that all types of interpreting are growing, but especially on-site interpreting. There is always a lot of buzz about video and telephone interpreting, but they are not growing as swiftly as one might expect. On-site interpreting has not become obsolete. Quite the contrary – it’s one of the fastest-growing services in the market.
As for types of interpreting that may become obsolete, some people believe that consecutive interpreting eventually will, since simultaneous is so much faster, even though some studies show that the quality of simultaneous is often inferior to, mostly due to the speed. Most of our studies show that when it comes to language services, speed trumps everything else for most applications and settings.
2. What is on your “wish list” for technological advances/devices for the profession? How close are we to any of them?
JZ: In general I think we’re on the right path with how translation technology is developing. For a long time we were stuck in the same old paradigms of translation memory and termbases, but in the last couple of years development has started to move in more interesting areas.
One area that I think is particularly interesting is a more intelligent analysis of the data in databases such as translation memories. This results in many more possible matches, also called subsegment matching. The other area that I expect great things from is a close integration of machine translation into the more traditional technology. I don’t mean the typical “pretranslation” by machine translation that is post-edited by a translator, but processes by which the data that the translator has collected can “communicate” with external machine translation data to achieve more helpful results.
On the project management side of operations, I think we will see more efficient models to allow for direct contact between the translation buyer and the translator. This in turn will challenge LSPs, or language service providers, to find creative ways to bring added value to the table.
3. How can we bring together language associations around the world to help their members leapfrog the learning curve in those places where the profession is very young or has not developed significantly?
JZ: This is an interesting question. First, we can learn what went wrong when translation technology initially entered the market 15 or 20 years ago. It was a painful experience to convince all the different stakeholders—translation buyers, language service providers, translators, and educators—of the value of those technologies. Those stakeholders who adopted the technology at the beginning—primarily translation buyers and larger language service providers—found that their needs were naturally accommodated more in the ensuing development process.
How could clearer communication have made this process go more smoothly? That’s an essential question to answer and then apply so we can do a better job at introducing new technology and helping other industries get over similar humps (for instance, perhaps some of the more technology-skeptical interpreters could learn from the translators’ experience).
Our profession is actually still underdeveloped in some ways in the U.S., where many members of the translation and interpreting industries have a non-industry-specific educational background. Many places in Europe and South America are ahead of game. I believe our emphasis should be on more accessible tertiary education in the U.S. that prepares for the actual work in the real world.
Associations can play an important role in helping to build and promote such programs.
4. After reading your book and the successful instances of translation crowdsourcing for well-known publications such as The Economist, do you think it can spread to traditional sources of income for translators?
NK: Crowdsourced translation has been a source of income for freelancers and agencies for many years now. Already, many companies pay for professional editing services and volunteer translator community management. It just isn’t a very big area, which is why so few people ever see those projects. We published a report that reviewed more than 100 different crowdsourced translation platforms, but many of those were not with name-recognizable companies. Many start-ups in the high-tech space use this method.
However, it’s important to remember that crowdsourced translation is not free. Also, saving money is not the primary motivation for using this model. Many high-tech companies do this just because their online communities begin to request it. In some cases, their users simply begin translating content without them even asking to do so. As a result, some of this activity springs up without the company’s permission or even their awareness at first, as it did in the case of the Economist.
5. Have you noticed any pronounced differences in work categories between the U.S. and other parts of the world , for interpreters and translators?
JZ: In many parts of the world outside the U.S., translators and interpreters have a stronger standing because they are seen as “real” professions. In the U.S., with its generally low level of language learning, anyone with a smattering of any second language is perceived as capable of engaging in translation and interpretation. We hope that our book can serve to change that.
6. How can we increase the number of potential interpreters in the feeder, in view of the large number of retiring baby-boomer interpreters around the world?
NK: Some educational programs for interpreters report to me that their graduates cannot find work. Other sources are telling me that there is a shortage of interpreters. Much of it depends on geography, setting, and language combinations.
For example, the U.S. has a shortage of interpreters for languages of national security. Locations that receive large refugee populations also typically struggle to find enough medical, community, and court interpreters for new arrivals. The challenge is not unique to the U.S., of course. Countries around the world face similar challenges.
The fastest way to attract more young people to the field is to improve remuneration, but that alone is not enough. The profession as a whole needs to become more developed and mature. Education and training programs are lacking for many areas of the field, especially in the United States, but we’re seeing more and more emerge each year.
7. From your experience, what advice would you give to those considering becoming interpreters and translators, who want to make it to the top as quickly as possible?
NK & JZ: We can answer this one in unison – don’t be afraid of technology! It really is your friend. Technology, training, and passion for languages are really the three key ingredients for success.
Readers, please join the conversation and tell us if you have read the book and what you think of it. We would love to share your experience!
In addition, take note to login to http://new.livestream.com/accounts/1493052/xl8book, on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 12:00 (PST), 15:00 (EDT), when our colleague, Barry Olsen, will be interviewing Nataly Kelly from Irvine Auditorium at MIIS.
Intellectual and very reasonable explanation of the fallacies that accompany blind skepticism. Read on at:
and follow with a great sequel at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/god-will-be-back-tomorrow_b_1928928.html?fb_action_ids=10151203324544040&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582
Yoga helps us to naturally create a pause in our life before we react to the ever growing stimuli that bombard us. It gradually changes our perception permanently and for the better, allowing us to align our actions with the positive, creating lifetime habits that will cause us to evolve as the universe intends.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
The Summer Olympics were quite a show. They were especially exciting for our family as my brother, Alberto Salazar, made a splash when the coaching of his two runner protégés, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, paid off, the former winning gold in both the 10K and the 5K and the latter silver in the 10K. Their hard-earned triumph caused me to reflect on how the parallels between the training for the two endeavors theoretically dovetail to a remarkable degree.
Following Your Natural Aptitudes
If you want to be good at what you do, by default you should choose to engage in something that comes easily to avoid rowing against the current. If you stand out as a sprinter you will focus on shorter running events rather than long distance races. As an interpreter, you may decide between becoming a specialist in legal terminology and working for the courts, becoming a medical interpreter, or switching gears every day interpreting at conferences on different subjects, depending on your intellectual predilections.
Selecting the Best Coach
Once you have made a choice, find the best coach you can in the area of expertise identified. You may have to work with that person for a while to ensure that he is the right individual to mentor you. Assuming that you click and your preferences are aligned, apply yourself and learn as much as you can. Remember the axiom, “no pain, no gain”, but do not be afraid to switch if you are stagnating.
Simulation of the Optimal Environment
My brother runs the “Oregon Project” for Nike which seeks to physically emulate the conditions in which top long-distance runners outside of the U.S. live, concentrating on factors such as climate, high altitude, oxygen levels, etc. Alberto’s runners live in that replicated environment. Likewise, interpreters-in-training must immerse themselves to the extent possible, in the type of settings where they plan to work so that they have a realistic outlook of what it takes to achieve the skills needed to succeed. This can be accomplished by shadowing other interpreters, going to court, medical settings or interning for a company that will allow you to attend conferences in some capacity as part of your training.
Practice; Where the Tire Hits the Road
There’s no cutting corners here. This is what will determine your success or lack thereof and there are several components to it. You must be steadfast in your exercises. You cannot expect to have satisfactory results from half-hearted attempts. You must set aside the time to train and make sure you are employing the right techniques. Watching replays is key both in the sports world as well as in the interpreting world. Thankfully, technology has advanced to a level where we can monitor the output of excellent interpreters through the internet and pick up invaluable pointers. It is also important to have the right mental attitude despite lulls in your enthusiasm, to do visualization as all athletes do, to use the right gear and have the right nutrition. For interpreters, this is analogous to using the right equipment, be it dedicated glossaries, dictionaries, computers or simultaneous interpreting paraphernalia. Otherwise, you are working at a disadvantage in comparison to colleagues that aim to be at the top of their game.
A Man Is Known By the Company He Keeps
If you wish to improve in your chosen career, lift your spirits, and remain on track, associate with positive, like-minded people who enjoy what you do. For the athlete as well as the interpreter, this means spending time with committed individuals that will support your goals be it through professional running clubs or interpreting associations that strive to develop the interests of their members through a forum that will benefit the collective in an efficient way that is difficult to attain individually.
Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
Lastly, never become complacent. Always be on the lookout to see how you might expand your skill set and help others. I am inspired by my sibling who won three consecutive New York Marathons and a Boston Marathon in the 1980s . The Rookie, as he was called, predicted and set a world record in the marathon in 1981. He followed that up, fourteen years later, with a win at the Comrades Ultramarathon (56 miles) in South Africa. Presently he devotes himself to sharing his accumulated expertise with today’s up and coming athletes, leading them to victory.
As interpreters, we have many options available to follow suit, from improving our own competence, to providing support and assistance to those colleagues interested in our help. Pitch in and become involved, there’s a lot to be said for giving vs. receiving!