Category Archives: consecutive interpreting

Value of Yoga Poses to Interpreters

According to the Center for Disease Control, the leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease (24%) and cancer (23%), on account of improper breathing and faulty oxygenation that unbalances the blood so that toxins are not eliminated and the endocrine glands cease to function adequately. Interpreters in the U.S.A.  are within this population.

The chief endocrine glands are the adrenals, pineal, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, coccygeal, thymus, carotid, gonads, pancreas, liver and spleen.  Yoga exercises all of these glands, at a difference from standard western fitness regimens that affect muscle groups only. Many endocrine glands are also ductless glands, as they secrete the hormones they produce directly into the blood or lymph system so it will be circulated to the entire body. These hormones affect every physiological and psychological function of our bodies.  They control our growth, the structure of our body, height, weight and personality, determining our physical and mental activities, hence our jobs as interpreters, not to mention our personal lives.  They are the chief dynamos for brain power, vitality and youthfulness, and keep us fit to make a living and enjoy life fully. Furthermore, the manufacture and distribution of these hormones can be greatly affected by the mental state of the individuals concerned.  Since our work often causes a lot of stress because we deal in technical subjects and have to anticipate the words of specialists, among others,  in both simultaneous and consecutive modes, this stress  is bound to affect our mental state especially as we are often not able to prepare for these interventions.

Many of the poses tone up the nerve force in the spine to preserve flexibility which is often impaired when we sit in a booth all day or stand in a courtroom, or other environments  to work.  According to yoga, a man is never old if his spine is flexible.  Exercising for even 10 minutes a day helps to improve flexibility.

Much of the reference material on the effects of yoga cited herein was taken from the classic, Yoga and Long Life, by Yogi Gupta, available on Amazon Kindle.

For poses that act on specific parts of our anatomy, go here, and click on the part of your body that interests you.

Make learning these poses with a qualified teacher, one of your resolutions for the New Year.  It will be a positive life-changer!

Watch the following very short video (1:31) I put together, about The Lion Pose, which is specifically tailored for interpreters:

Food For Interpreting

ucm_300131“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is currently 1:00p.m.  We are going to break for lunch.  Please be back in your seats promptly at 2:00 p.m.  so we may continue hearing this witness’s testimony.  Remember not to discuss any details concerning the case with anyone.  This court is now in recess.”

The race is on because there is no time to walk to a neighboring restaurant, do battle with the lunch crowd, order, eat and walk back.  The only choice is to buy something from the vending machines at the courthouse, gulp it down, answer pending messages and emails, and make it back to the courtroom.

Not an optimal option but we rationalize it, buy a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, a soda and a doughnut for the late afternoon blues, which we can have with a coffee to give us some energy later.  This is a situation I daresay many interpreters encounter rather often, which may be compounded by getting home in the evening, exhausted after a long day, and pulling out a frozen meal “healthy”, or not, to save time and rest up for the following day. Especially if we have to prepare for the coming testimony.

In this short and trite but telling example, we have a listing of some of the worst foods we consume in the United States, on a regular basis:

Processed foods (sandwich) Researchers have found that the risk of heart disease is 42% higher among people who regularly eat processed meats.

Soda Nearly half of surveyed Americans drink 2+ glasses a day.  An average can contains 10 tsp. of sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup and represents many health risks in addition to an increase in obesity, in a country where more than one third of the population suffers from this condition.

Potato chips  In addition to causing you to tip the scales, the regular consumption of potato chips will cause a spike in blood pressure from the high sodium content, a rise in cholesterol due to the trans fats from deep frying and the saturated fat. Other researchers are saying that the carcinogen, acrylimide, created during the deep frying process, puts you at a risk for cancer.

Doughnuts  a compendium of trans fat, sugar and refined flour, with a high fat content and around 300 empty calories, to calm a sweet tooth and purportedly increase your energy level.

Frozen meals  do not usually contain enough calories or vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritive value by being frozen. The meals have a high sodium content that make them dangerous to health.

Many of the foods discussed here have a high sugar content.  Read this link to understand more fully the drowsiness that sugar creates and what that entails. Another substantial portion has an elevated sodium content which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. For an overview of how these  effects  are produced, read here.

As interpreters we need to be at the top of our game because we never know what the next assignment will require and our brains need to be able to swiftly collect our resources and deliver them as soon as it receives a signal to act. We cannot afford to be lethargic on the job. Moreover, we are often involved in stressful circumstances which raise our blood pressure so we must try to eliminate foods that will increase our blood pressure further. Our level of energy and state of health depend to a great extent on the food we ingest.

Read up on what comprises a healthy diet and learn how to interpret the nutrition labels on food. They are extremely helpful in formulating what we include in our meals. Strategize what you are going to eat in advance so you won’t be caught off guard by circumstances and will have other options.

Share with us any other suggestions for healthy eating in difficult circumstances.

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

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.

A Healthy Dose of Sense and Sensibility=Responsibility

responsibility-poster1I 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.”

Three Fears Interpreters Face and How to Deal With Them


Regardless of your skill level and familiarity with the profession, we have all faced the following at one point or another in our career:

  1. Challenges to our experience/credentials
  2. Performance anxiety
  3. 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:

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]:

S- Stop

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.

[i] Chopra, D. & Tanzi, R.E. (2012) Super Brain, New York, Random House, Inc. pp.44

[ii] Dave Povero (Director), Christina Morano, Director (2012) Super Brain With Dr. Rudi Tanzi, (PBS Video) Inky Dinky Worldwide, Inc. (Producer).

No Longer Just a Voice in the Wilderness

Roseann Dueñas Gonzalez

Roseann Dueñas González

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 courts in 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.

Four Issues Interpreters Are Talking About

In my review of social media and conversations I have had with interpreters in the U.S. and abroad, I find the following topics are being followed closely and I would like to submit them to your consideration for feedback

The Capita/Applied Language Solutions Situation in the UK

The latest developments are that, instigated  by Margaret Hodge, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the powerful  National Audit Office (NAO) will be investigating the matter.  A six week deadline for the investigation has been set which will come due at the end of July.  The scope of same is significant.

On Wednesday, July 18, the Justice Select Committee of the House of Commons which scrutinizes the policy, administration, and spending of the Ministry of Justice also launched a call for written evidence to examine the service provided by Applied Language Solutions and the process by which it was selected.  See an article in the Law Society Gazette dated 18 July 2012 for greater detail.

Furthermore, Gavin Wheeldon, the CEO of Applied Language Solutions, at a time of utmost upheaval during the implementation of the Interpreting Framework Agreement, has suddenly quit his position. Read the circumstances at The Manchester Evening News, Business Section.

What repercussions can this have on the rest of the industry?

The Need for Education/Standardization/Certification In the Interpreting Profession

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Translating and Interpreting sector in the U.S. is expected to grow 42% from 2010 to 2020, much faster than for all occupations, and job opportunities should be best for those who have a professional certificate.

The Glendon College at York University in Canada is one of two institutions in North America whose interpreting curriculums have been vetted by AIIC.  I contacted them to see how their programs were doing. Andrew Clifford, the coordinator for the Master of Conference Interpreting tells me they are expecting the first cohort for  interpreting in September  and although they have experienced some volatility in the existing translation programs, the trend is mostly positive as students seek out second careers during the global economic crisis because the translation industry seems to be somewhat recession-proof.

Karen Borgenheimer, a certified interpreter who teaches at the Professional Translation and Interpreting Program at Florida International University (F.I.U.) confirms that  their program has grown about 56% in the last 2 years. Most of their students are professionals who have either lost their jobs or are looking for an additional source of income given salary cuts and inflation.

F.I.U. also get many women who have left the job force to raise families and either can’t get back into their previous professions due to budget cuts or are looking for more flexible work schedules, with very few “college” age students.  This is consistent with the findings of Common Sense Advisory’s 2010 Review of the Language Services Market, indicating that this profession is not typically embarked upon by high school or college students.  It is of concern because 18.24% percent of interpreters are between the ages of 58-67, or retirement age. Only 5.29% is younger than 28[i], which is why it is very important that we reach out to high schools with programs designed to attract young people to the profession.

Michelle Hoff, a freelance conference interpreter at the European Court of Justice and an interpreter trainer at the University of La Laguna in Tenerife, Spain, reports that their interpreting programs are relatively stable, which may be a trade-off between those who have no money to attend during the economic downturn and those who want to take advantage of the hiatus to improve their skills.

It is interesting to note that ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards, has initiated the creation of a standard practice instead of a policy, to accredit an organization to give credentials to individual interpreters.  Visit their website at and become involved.3.

Interconnectivity Through Social Media; Especially YouTube, Blogs, Twitter and FB

There has been a veritable explosion of valuable national/international connections created, far too lengthy to detail, in the last two years.  Just browse for Interpreting and Translating in these forums and you will be amazed at the sheer number of colleagues participating, from which we can all learn.

Major Players Driving Change

In the U.S., in my estimation, the main forums  seeking to lead positive changes in our profession are The American Translators Association, The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators,  AIIC, InterpretAmerica, LLC, The International Federation of Translators, and  Common Sense Advisory.  If you want to make a difference, learn what these organizations do, avail yourself of their expertise and give input on how to shape our future. Only then can we be satisfied with outcomes.

What do you think?  What would you add?


[i]. Kelly, Nataly, Stewart, Robert G., Hegde, Vijayalaxmi, (2010) A Study of Interpreting in North America Commissioned by InterpretAmerica, pp. 9, © 2010 Commonsense Advisory, Inc.

Three Exotic Assignments at Venues With Different Ethnic Cultures

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I was recently interviewing to hire freelance interpreters, thankful that I was able to participate in a miniscule way to lower the high and static U.S. unemployment rate. One of the applicants took the initiative to tell me she was regularly employed as a freelancer, interpreting insurance claims for a well-known carrier that pays her an exorbitant amount of money to work throughout the state.  I was happy to hear that because I thought she might be good, if she commanded those prices, and we would be able to use her services for a normal fee during her down times.  That was before I read an article in the Economist that put this in perspective. Apparently, institutions and companies with very deep pockets do not always behave rationally.

Much to my surprise, when I tested her with a simulation of consecutive discourse similar to that used in the work she allegedly does, her performance was very poor. And I keep these tests simple to get a general idea of breadth of vocabulary, types of assignments one can do and what training candidates may benefit from.  There was no saving this baby. I tactfully informed her that she needed to improve her performance to work for us.  I did not expound, but unfortunately for her, I don’t think she will keep her current  job long. Sooner or later, someone who can tell the difference will inform the powers that be of her incompetence.

My pronouncement did not faze her. She didn’t skip a beat and blithely offered herself as a conference interpreter no less, which she deemed was more her style as in that mode, she doesn’t have to rely on memory because she  interprets simultaneously. I was mesmerized by the woman’s cheek as that skill is much more demanding than consecutive. I couldn’t resist asking her what experience she had in that field. She gamely answered that she had only done one conference, three months before—her trial by fire.  Undaunted, I asked her about payment and how it had gone. She informed me that she had been recruited by phone, sight unseen, by an agency from another state, to work in Florida.  She was only informed at the last minute that the end client was a well-known company that sells health/weight-loss products and the extent of her preparation was to visit their website the night before.  The day in question, lo and behold, her booth partner, because simultaneous interpreting is done in pairs, never showed and she ended up actually doing the conference by herself the full day. She did admit that by the afternoon her brain was fried.  I cannot but wonder about her audience’s, as interpreters, albeit experienced ones, switch off between one another every half hour to be able to maintain the integrity of the interpretation.

Our intrepid candidate went on to say that she had not yet been paid—some incredibly substandard wage—and that her employer had recently contacted her to do another conference two weeks hence.  She must have seen the incredulous look in my eyes and hastened to say she would not do it unless she was paid for the prior work by the day before the new assignment I only nodded, and asked her if she knew the subject matter for the new conference and what colleague she would be working with. She did not know and could not have cared less. Her only concern was being paid for the first assignment.

That, dear readers, is the seamy side of the current economy. It’s myopically penny-wise and pound-foolish. In one case, the insurance company is paying this  “interpreter” more than trained certified interpreters for something she cannot do properly. I assume her employer does not know either the cost for said service nor the quality he is getting. In the other, this same “interpreter” is paid peanuts to do something she most definitely cannot do. The language company that hired her is getting cheap labor to secure the bid, and the final user is wasting his money, not to mention the time of the attendees, but in this second scenario everybody thinks  he is nominally “saving” money.

This is one little example I happened to witness in my field, of  the type of practices that are keeping us in a vicious circle and that will not help us come out of our economic doldrums. And it seems to not be an isolated instance. I have been told by several familiar with this situation in our state, that many end users are foregoing their historical language providers in search of bilinguals who may be able to do the job for less. The only way to grow the economy is by adding value to our offerings doing whatever is needed to improve our skills and in tandem, encouraging the entrepreneurs in our midst to create jobs for us, which role is more important than that  of the often touted innovators according to Gallup research.  All of us working together will lead the way out of this lost decade.

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