Category Archives: court 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:

The Ego Deals With the Realities of Life


Continuation of “Freudian Tales” posted on October 24, 2013

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Miami:

Arriving at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to Judge Rubin’s courtroom promptly at 8:15 a.m. Friday morning, Harry introduced himself to Lia, the new interpreter, originally from Madrid,  more recently from Salt Lake City, with whom he would be working the weeklong Santeria trial.  In a gesture of  bonhomie calculated to put her off guard, he offered to go first, knowing full well that the thorny terminology would not crop up until after the voir dire and opening statement, when they started taking testimony from the Olorisha priest and his Cuban clients. Harry was basically going to throw her under the  truck. He intuited she definitely  had not had time to review any of the prior proceedings in the case to create a glossary. He was just going to subtly but relentlessly point out flaws,  offering the least assistance  he could get away with, without getting called out for it. He felt all new interpreters in his court needed to undergo their trial by fire, and it was his self-designated job to preside over that event, having been there over 30 years. The torture started on schedule when the black, exotically robed cleric started to intone in thickly accented Spanish that the defendant aleyo had been advised to undergo una rogación de cabeza and given an achó to take to the bembé where it would be performed, only a day before the homicide took place. Lia, did what she could with this, translating as above, without having the slightest clue as to whether these words actually had a translation or what they even meant. Preening like a peacock, Harry shook his head ominously and whispered in a very audible tone, “aleyo means outsider, bembé is a ceremony, etc.”  Of course this only served to make her  more nervous as the proper protocol was that he write these terms down for her and she could correct the record, if needed, subsequently.  You could see that the judge, the members of the jury and some of the santeros sitting in the audience were beginning to be concerned that they might not be  fully understanding what was being said. And so the morning dragged on.  In reality things were not as bad as they seemed to Lia, but to be faced with this challenge and an adversarial colleague on her first day at work in a new city was enough to unsettle anyone. The lunch break did not make things any better, to the contrary.  When she slinked into her office, she found a rubber chicken lying on top of her computer.  She had no idea of the significance or provenance of the item  and suspected it was a joke, until the janitor stopped by to empty her wastebasket.  When he saw the chicken, his eyes widened, his gaze went from the chicken, to her and then towards the direction of the courtroom where she had been working.  He quickly blessed himself and looked at her intently, unsure as to whether he should say anything or not. This was not lost on Lia who quickly asked him what was going on, and was told that in voodoo, when someone wants to do a number on you, they grace you with a dead chicken or pigeon. It was 1:45 and she had to be back in the courtroom and in her seat,  ready to go at 2:00, so there was no time to ruminate about this latest  incident. As she slipped into her seat, the judge came out of chambers and announced that the trial would be postponed until the following work day because he had an emergency to attend to. Keeping a straight face, Lia breathed an inner sigh of relief, while Harry was chagrined that his plan for the first day had gone awry. He had been sadistically looking forward to upping the ante in the afternoon before she had a chance to regain her composure over the weekend. Shaking inside, Lia did not say anything to anyone about the chicken episode so as not to draw attention to herself. She used the rest of the afternoon to read whatever scanty information was available on her work computer about the case, then  went home to get the guest bedroom ready for her old friend that was flying in that evening, while she started tossing possibilities around in her head.

Unknown-1Madrid:

Antonio Garrido, the ex-boyfriend of Ana, the conference interpreter we met last time, is boarding a flight at Barajas, to go visit his friend Lia Quesada, who has just moved to Miami. Antonio is an ex-federal agent from the US, who moved to Madrid upon retirement and is doing odd-jobs as a detective and security guard.  He has recently learned that his old girlfriend, whom he is unilaterally trying to get back with, is screwing some German dude.  In order to dampen the affair, he has arranged for some of his underworld contacts to take a hand in the matter and he is getting out of town to put some distance between himself and the events that are planned to transpire. Ana on the other hand is glad she has not heard from Tony again in the last week and is hopeful that he might be giving up his obsession that they hook-up again.  Kirsten has been telling her that she is concerned  about the area she is living in because at times lately, she has felt she is being stalked. She is glad that although Eric is acting strange and picking arguments with her, they are still living together, so she feels “protected”. Otherwise she may have to move from Carabanchel, although the rent is cheap, but she is still not getting a stable volume of interpreting work that will allow her to move elsewhere comfortably.  She has bared her heart to her friend, telling her how much in love she is and how she is doing all that she can to make the relationship flourish in spite of the handwriting on the wall. Although she feels a twinge of remorse over her hitherto unknown role to Kirsten in this “threesome”, Ana has a pragmatic philosophy that “such is life” and if love is not there any longer, you have to be strong enough to admit it and move on. She is ready to sacrifice her long-time friend for her own satisfaction, not realizing that the basis for her own relationship with Eric does not bode well for its outcome. From his perspective, Eric believes in the “survival of the fittest”, or those who successfully adapt to new environments.  He finds Ana’s hot, Latin blood alluring and he loves leading the sophisticated urban life in a big city.  He sees Kirsten as a traditional German girl of hardy, Bavarian peasant stock, whose goal in life is to make a little money using her bilingual talents, get married and move back to Schwangau to live on a farm or to own a bed and breakfast and raise a brood of children. It was good while it lasted because she was a compatriot in a strange land when he arrived, and she took him in  and made him feel at home, but it’s time to break with the past and start a new life with someone more to his present likings.  Nonetheless, he feels guilty because he knows how much in love Kirsten is with him and how she has pinned her hopes on him.  He also knows she is alone, living in a bad neighborhood because of her financial circumstances and is reluctant to leave her in the lurch. He is trying to plan for a yet to be determined date on which he will try to make a more graceful exit and he knows Ana is getting testy. He has not yet made his intentions known to Kirsten or shown any signs, or at least so he thinks,  that he is getting ready to leave, and Ana feels he is using her.  As the Spanish so quaintly say, puede que se quede sin la soga ni la cabra. (Literally, he could “lose both the rope as well as the goat.”) He might end up without one or the other because of his indecision so he has to make his move soon and let the chips fall where they may.  But as far as today is concerned, he is tired after a long day at his clerk’s job at Deutsche Bank. He is ready for  the hearty bohnensuppe Kirsten promised him this morning, which she knows is his favorite, and whatever else the evening might bring.  There’s no sense in depriving himself or poor Kirsten when he can’t make a move yet.  Maybe when they give him a raise at DB and he can help her to move to a better area…

imagesHong Kong:

As Bo walked towards his grandmother’s apartment in Happy Valley, across from the horse track, he gingerly criss-crossed through the street market reflecting on the different culture from what he was accustomed to back in San Francisco.  Vendors were aggressively hawking their colorful wares which varied from fresh produce, to esoteric potions, to live snakes and those bottled in brine, all leaking into the street in jumbled order.  They remind him of his uncontrolled thoughts abruptly spilling into his awareness. The day had gone relatively well for him.  Although a member of the legal team was always present throughout his lengthy interviews with the prospective interpreters, and the latter were obviously bilingual, he was successful in subtly planting doubts as to the loyalty and capabilities of the linguists they were interviewing.  The case they are involved in hinges on proving alleged violations by China of World Trade Organization rules in a greenfield direct investment project by a large American electronics manufacturer.  Bo is focusing on insinuating that they are not going to get a fair shake with these subcontractors because they would not be impartial due to their ties to the government, the chief user of language services in China. Practically all interpreters are government officials who deal with the “non-Chinese world” and perform interpreting duties as a secondary part of their work, although the freelance market is beginning to open.  As a point of comparison, a day’s interpreting fee is double or more than a month’s salary for a government employee, so the interpreters being evaluated are keen on getting this assignment. Although not privy to the conversations among the Americans, the Chinese are beginning to get the impression that their suit is not faring well.  Bo heard them in the restroom, unbeknownst to them, disparagingly referring to him as a “banana”, Hong Kong slang for a Chinese that has been assimilated into Western culture and is yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Bo knows that some of the candidates being considered are members of AIIC as he is, and it has crossed his mind that they might report their suspicions about his handling of this opportunity to their association representatives, not to mention the political implications this could have by undermining his own credibility and that of his client before the WTO tribunal, but it is a calculated risk he wants to take in view of the benefits. Regardless, this does not keep him from fantasizing that he could be prosecuted in China.  He  replays snippets in his head of the recent “show trial” of his namesake, Bo Xilai.  That guy had been sent up for life, even if the transgressions were not the same. In addition, if his U.S. employers catch wind of his self-serving maneuvers, he stands to lose his best  client and ruin his reputation back home. This would be disastrous as the main reason for doing this is  that he is “upside-down” on his mortgage and cannot make ends meet with his normal income. His wife adamantly refuses to consider moving from “Snob Hill”, so he is between a rock and a hard place, which invariably brings on a now-chronic migraine headache. Hopefully, his grandmother will have some traditional Chinese medicine to get him through the next few days, although he suspects that knowing her, the advice will be to eliminate conflict in his physical body by acting ethically. What to do?  What is best for him in the long run? He would probably never be found out, it would all be over in a few months and he would get out of the financial mess he had gotten himself into when he bought that damn apartment at the height of the real-estate boom. To be continued… Be part of the creative process by sharing your opinions as the storyline concludes:

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.

Why Do I Love Interpreting? Let Me Count the Ways…


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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.

Satisfaction

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!

Three Fears Interpreters Face and How to Deal With Them


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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: 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]:

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.

A Stimulating Conversation With Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche


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.

Lessons From My Brother; Similarities Between World Class Runners and Interpreters


Galen Rupp, Alberto Salazar, Mo Farah

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!

 

Laughter Is the Best Medicine


This is the second installment of funny experiences  I have encountered throughout my interpreting career. I invite you to  laugh along with me.

My first interpreting assignment was in a Workers Compensation court.  Our fledgling company had a very good client who represented a large insurance carrier.  One day, he called in for a last minute job right after I had finished my training to start interpreting.  There was no one else available so I went, trembling in my boots.  I was 22 years old.  My backup plan in the event I needed time to think, or something went wrong, was to “accidentally” spill coffee on my lap during the proceeding.

This attorney had met me during my training when I accompanied other interpreters so he knew I was new and the guy was a prankster.  He also had a glass eye which made it difficult to maintain visual contact. In the middle of the hearing he looks at me, winks, wrinkles his bad eye shut, and putting his hand to his mouth makes believe he is putting the glass eye in his mouth and slushing it around…  I froze, my heart beating violently, waiting for opposing counsel or the judge to say something.  They never did because they knew him and realized he was just having fun with me. Thankfully, I recovered my composure before putting plan B into motion because I had a very limited professional wardrobe.

One of my favorite stories involves my brother, Alberto Salazar, who was a world-class marathoner in the eighties, when he was around 21 years old.  I happened to be visiting at my parents’ home in Boston shortly after one of his big wins there when a local Hispanic paper came to interview him.  Knowing full well that my brother spoke only “kitchen” Spanish because he left Cuba at 2 years of age,  I offered to interpret for him.  He looked at me naively and said, “Thanks but I can do this”.  Just then, my three year old son ran into the room and went to sit on his uncle’s lap.  The reporter asked him in Spanish who that was and with a big smile my brother assertively answered “Ese es mi nieto” (That is my grandson)  The woman looked at him puzzled and  said, something to the effect of “You are so young to be a grandfather….”

The following anecdote stems from Cuban culture.  It took place back in the early 90’s when George H.W. Bush was in office. Our company was called at the last minute, around lunchtime, to provide an interpreter for the President at an interview he was going to give at the Homestead Air Force Base in Florida to a Hispanic TV Station.  I had gone home to have lunch and my scheduler found me there.  There was no one else available.  Remember there were few cellphones back then.  My mother-in-law happened to be at home and insisted, like a good Cuban grandmother of her generation, that I take a sandwich with me that she quickly whipped up, lest, God forbid, I should skip lunch and feel faint. There was no time to eat it so I just stuffed it in my purse for later and set off.

I arrived at the site, was escorted to an empty office and asked to wait. The Secret Service then informed me that they would be inspecting the room with a canine explosives search unit.  I panicked from embarrassment thinking the dogs would be drawn to my purse because of the sandwich and quickly threw it into the first drawer I saw before they came  in. Happily, the dogs were so well trained that they didn’t even blink when they went by the drawer.  Even though it was food, it was not what they were looking for.  I rescued my lunch after the search and enjoyed it on my way back from the assignment.

Another gem took place in Cancun where I took a team of interpreters in the late 1980’s to work the Miss Universe Pageant.  Our Greek interpreter was  a Greek Orthodox priest, who worked as a freelancer with us for many years.  When the team took a taxi to go to the venue, the driver asked us what we were there for and we explained that we traveled around the world with the Pageant every year.  He was awestruck and said how lucky we were to actually have contact with the contestants.  Seeing Father’s clerical collar, he asked what he did specifically.  Without missing a beat, our interpreter told the taxi driver with a straight face that because of his religious credentials, his job was to physically “inspect” the contestants to certify whether they had breast implants or not.  Needless to say, the man’s jaw dropped to the floor. He shook Father’s hand vehemently, wished him luck and said to count on him if he needed an assistant in Mexico.

Have you ever been in a situation where you run into a client that you have to greet but you can’t remember his name?  I was in court once, training an interpreter, when I saw an attorney who used our services on a regular basis.  I had to say hello and introduce my companion so it was imperative I remember his name.  My brain quickly narrowed the possibilities down to two as he approached me. I picked one, smoothly said hello and introduced my companion.  I was very proud that I had made the correct choice.  He stepped into the elevator to leave the court when as the doors were closing, he glibly called out “Great to see you too Mrs. Suarez…”

That’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed the post and that you will write and share your own stories with me!

Interpreters Listen Up!


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