Monthly Archives: February 2014
For those who may not know her, Professor Holly Mikkelson at the Monterrey School of International Studies, is a state and federally certified court interpreter, and is accredited by the American Translators Association. She has been a consultant to court interpreter regulatory and training entities such as the California Judicial Council and the National Center for State Courts, and has published extensively on court and community interpreting. She is a member of the American Translators Association, the National Association of Judiciary Translators and Interpreters, and the Conference of Interpreter Trainers. She has spoken at conferences and presented workshops throughout the country as well as internationally and was the recipient of the Alexander Gode Medal from the American Translators Asscociation in 2011, its most prestigious award, for outstanding services to the Interpreting and Translating professions. She has graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the industry with us.
How does the field of Interpreting you’ve come to know over the years compare to your understanding of what it was when you first became involved with it, in 1976?
It has been revolutionized! Although my training at the Monterey Institute had focused on conference interpreting, I started my professional career as a court interpreter because it was what was available for someone whose only working languages were Spanish and English and who wanted to stay in California. Pay was determined by each court locally, negotiating with individual interpreters. We worked trials alone, all day; even though I knew standards were different for conference interpreters, being a submissive sort I accepted the working conditions without protest.
I found out about the California Court Interpreters Association (CCIA) in about 1978 when they started holding conferences to help people prepare for the new certification exams that California was starting to give. The standards for those exams were abysmal, but over the years they were revised to better reflect the quality requirements of the actual job. The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam was developed shortly after California’s, and I took the first one without realizing what a big deal it would turn out to be (otherwise I would have been a lot more nervous!). I managed to pass that exam, though I’ve never worked in federal court.
Since I joined the CCIA, scores of new professional organizations have been founded to represent the interests of interpreters in different sectors, and I have joined just about every one except for those catering to specific regions. Thanks to the efforts of these organizations, interpreters’ working conditions have improved considerably. There has also been a proliferation of publications and training programs for interpreters, though much still remains to be done in that regard. Partly because of the civil rights movement and partly thanks to the advocacy of our professional organizations. New laws and regulations to enforce language access policies have changed the landscape in this country, and have incidentally expanded employment opportunities in our field.
Today I would say that our profession has matured tremendously, and higher standards are being imposed all over the country (again, much still remains to be done). As someone who started out doing translations on a typewriter and interpreting without the benefit of portable simultaneous equipment, I am in awe at the progress we’ve made.
What is the most significant advance you’ve seen in the profession in the last 10 years? What do you think we will see in the next five?
As I mentioned above, the proliferation of research publications and textbooks and the growing influence of professional associations such as the ATA, NAJIT and the IMIA have propelled our profession forward at a rate that is only possible with the concerted efforts of many, many colleagues. I am grateful to all of them for their sacrifice and hard work. The other area that has revolutionized our field is technology, not only with respect to the communicative interactions for which we interpret (video conferencing, etc.), but also in the applications we have available to enhance our own productivity. I have to say, though, that I’m something of a dinosaur when it comes to adopting new gadgets in my day-to-day work. I think the next five years will bring even more astounding innovations that will make our jobs easier.
Do you see any interaction in the horizon with professional associations or institutions abroad? What do you think we can teach them and what could they teach us?
I do see a lot of collaboration ahead. Court and medical interpreting are receiving more and more attention around the world, and we can teach our colleagues in other countries a lot based on the hard lessons we’ve learned (such as setting standards for exams, implementing legislation, etc.). In particular, Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Union has spurred many countries into raising the bar for ensuring language access and quality interpreting in these sectors. Some of our European colleagues have reached out to their counterparts here to learn more about how to proceed.
Here in the U.S. we can learn a lot from colleagues in countries such as Australia, Sweden, Norway and Canada that have relatively long histories in the area of public service interpreting, and from the traditional conference interpreting organizations and programs in Europe. As countries in Asia become increasingly aware of needs in foreign and indigenous languages and develop new systems to accommodate them, we can learn from their innovations as well.
The best way to keep up with what is going on in the world is to read the myriad professional journals devoted to various aspects of interpreting and to attend conferences in other countries. Even if we can’t attend in person, the proceedings of those conferences are often available on the Internet.
As an educator, what qualities, in addition to professional attributes, do you think are important for an interpreter to cultivate?
It’s hard to think of any quality that I wouldn’t characterize as a professional attribute: integrity, concern for accuracy, continuing professional development, and strong interpersonal relations are all qualities that interpreters should cultivate.
Do you have any new projects in the works that you can share with us?
My son and daughter-in-law have taken over the customer service and new product development departments of our Acebo publishing business. I’ll still be involved in everything, but I’m hoping they’ll add some fresh ideas to help the business grow in the future. He’s a federally certified court interpreter and she’s a project manager who has degrees in translation and business administration, so they have lots of relevant experience to bring to the table. They’re also digital natives, so when we finally finish the next edition of The Interpreter’s Companion (still a work in progress), we’ll have it available in formats people can use on electronic devices.
Continued from Freudian Tales II http://wp.me/p1B1SV-hm
Lia arrived at the courthouse bright and early on Monday morning, feeling much better with Antonio in tow as moral support, whom she promptly sat down on the bench behind the defendant’s family. She and Antonio had had a good time reminiscing and she had confided in him regarding what was happening at her first Santeria trial, which had not started off on the right foot. Being Cuban, he had suggested she read up on the subject and she had picked up El Monte, in a botanica on 8th street. He had told her it was the definitive book by Lydia Cabrera, a Cuban anthropologist, on Santeria rituals and folklore, and she had used it to create a glossary which significantly bolstered her confidence.
Sure enough, her weekend reading on the topic, plus what little she had been able to pull up from her work computer on the case, did the trick. Much to Harry’s chagrin, Lia sailed through the interpretation of the morning testimony without a hitch. She blithely interpreted terms he would have been hard up to come up with despite his experience.
The fireworks began in the afternoon, when the defendant’s brother, a self-styled intuitive, whose proclaimed mission was to find the true murderer of whose crimes his brother was being accused, started wheeling around regularly to face Antonio and stare him down, muttering ominously under his breath. It reached a point that Tony became incensed, informed the bailiff, and the man was reprimanded. He vehemently screamed for justice saying that the court should interrogate Tony because he could see blood on his hands, insinuating he was involved in the case, after which disruption, the judge called a recess. During the recess, Lia spoke to the bailiff off the record, explaining that she knew Antonio, who was an ex-federal agent, and had brought him to the court. She also disclosed to him that on a more disturbing note, someone had put a bloodied rubber chicken on her desk the day the trial began, which she had initially taken as a joke but was now unsure about. When court was reconvened, the judge dismissed the accusations and informed counsel for the defendant at a sidebar, that if there were any further outbursts, the “clairvoyant” would be held in contempt of court, fined and ordered to leave the premises. As to the chicken, he said an investigation would be conducted by the U.S. Marshals office.
Harry, trying to appear nonchalant, was hanging on every word, not too pleased to hear that his prank was going to be looked into. Nonetheless, he was confident they would not get to the bottom of the matter. Little did he know that during a routine inspection of court surveillance videos, he would be identified, putting the offensive fowl through the x-ray machine upon entering the courthouse, laughing with the Marshal on duty about it. Unfortunately for him, that same Marshal was part of the investigation that was ordered and would remember the incident, that would ultimately result in an official reprimand that would become a negative element of Harry’s personnel file.
Around the same time as the disruptions in the Miami court, we had left Kirsten waiting for Eric, unaware of the plans Antonio had put in motion with his underworld connections, to get rid of Eric in his absence.
On the night in question, Eric came home, and had a convivial if superficial supper with Kirsten, during which he slipped a qualude in her wine. Once she passed out, he carried her to bed, officiously propped pillows around her so she would feel protected, and quickly snuck out through the service door, to a titillating rendezvous with Ana at Calle del Espiritu Santo, a funky street that takes on an edgier feel after midnight. He figured he could be back in the early morning hours before she ever woke up from the sedative.
He did not figure that there were contract killers out to get him, who had followed him home from the bank, but had not seen his surreptitious exit. These same operatives easily jimmied the front door lock shortly after he left, stealthily came into the bedroom, and coupling a silencer to a semi-automatic, systematically and callously sprayed the figures on the bed with impunity.
On his way back to his grandmother’s, Bo came to the decision that he had embarked on a trajectory, which although not to his liking, was the only means he could envision of overcoming his problems. That is, unfairly beating out the competition in order to make the money he so desperately needed. He was aware that he was running the risk of being found out but he thought he could reasonably get away with it and the results would far outweigh that probability. In spite of his body’s answer to this response in the form of a blazing migraine and his Nai nai’s advice that he could not achieve homeostasis with this self-imposed conflict in his life, he was dead-set on his course.. He could only see what his mind and physical senses were telling him. She, on the other hand, was stressing the concepts of the Tao Te Ching. That it is not about doing what we individually think is best for us, but about making the best of our universal nature and expressing it every chance we get. “We cannot impose our wishes on Nature or the Universe, but if you work with Nature, the Tao will work for you”, she said.
He did not foresee the fact that the interpreter candidates that were being interviewed had taken matter into their own hands by informing government representatives of their suspicions. Not that these officials really cared whether Chinese interpreters were losing out on a job, but they were very interested in being able to pin any kind of irregularities on the Americans because of the sensitive nature of the accusations regarding China that they were making before the World Trade Organization, which would be significantly undermined if these allegations were proven.
Consequently, the government scheduled one of their own, privy to the situation, and who was also an interpreter, to be interviewed for the position, to evaluate how to proceed.
This is the potentially explosive scenario that Bo walked into the next day, unbeknownst to him.
As the morning developed and the questioning got under way, despite his intellectual reasoning, Bo noticed a change of consciousness automatically occurring within him, which governed the way he did his job and innocently saved him from a major misstep on both macro and micro levels.
Verse 33 of the Tao as recited by his grandmother, swirled through his head and he felt more at peace:
He who knows others is clever.
He who knows himself is wise.
He who masters others is strong.
He who masters himself is powerful.
This is my first foray, in installments, of fiction related to the interpreting field, which genre I haven’t seen before. I am very interested in learning how it was perceived by my readers and would appreciate feedback from you to judge how to proceed. At this stage in my writing, I feel it is liberating not to be constrained by facts and didactic considerations. I believe stories can help to spark ethical discussions about events that happen all the time but don’t often come to light unless there is a scandal of some sort.