Category Archives: Interpreting/Translation News

“Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New”- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

imagesAt this writing, our country is facing severe uncertainty, as we flirt with a continued government shutdown, whose repercussions will be felt around the world if America is unable to meet her financial obligations for the first time in 200 years.  It will be interesting to see how these events impact the T&I sector, which Common Sense Advisory had forecast will be at 34.7 billion dollars worldwide in 2013 for outsourced language services, half of which is in North America. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, our industry is expected to increase 29% between 2010-2020, topping Healthcare and Social Assistance at 28%, despite the fact that the latter has the gigantic and aging baby-boomer population fueling its growth.

What is the takeway from this crisis both individually as well as collectively?  That we must move towards a viable plan for fiscal responsibility so that we are not spending more than we are making.

The third quarter, at the latest, is when our small businesses, be they language services providers or otherwise, should be planning for the following year by comparing projections to actuals to see if our business strategies for the year worked.

The most important figure arguably is the net income/net loss, which is total revenues minus total expenses. If the business has been in effect for several years, this is good indicator of the trend it is taking.  For reference, according to Common Sense Advisory in 2011, 24% of language service providers (LSPs) have been in business 1 to 2 years, whereas only 4% have been in business over 30 years. Sixty nine percent have 2.5 employees and only .4% have 101-500.

Substantial digging has to be done to uncover the reason for the NI (net income).  We should look at the number of clients this year vs. other years, what clients did not give us business this year, and who our most important customers are, in terms of profit, so that we can devote more attention to them or get any money that has been left on the table. On the other hand, sometimes, we may have clients that give us a lot of work (revenue), but the cost of goods sold is too high because their work is conditioned on a very low price point or because doing business with them is expensive due to their inefficiencies and payment practices or the customer service they require. We must be realistic and drop these clients who are a liability because they are negatively affecting our all-important bottom line, despite their sales volumes or contribution to the top line.

We must also be proactive.  If you want to improve the NI, you must obviously change something.  When you work on the budget, see what new strategy may make a difference in the following year, assuming it is affordable. Some items to consider might be hiring an employee to make your recruitment, scheduling, invoicing and sales more efficient.  Other considerations could be to weigh whether additional training might make you more marketable, or if the benefits of setting aside dues to join trade associations and attend their events make it appropriate. The latter will also help to keep you abreast of changes and issues in the industry and connect you to colleagues you can collaborate with.

Make executive decisions for next year now,  that will be commensurate with a long-term wellness plan for your business rather than just starting the equivalent of a “fad diet” that will not have a lasting effect.

Let me know your thoughts as to other considerations or advice upon reviewing your year-end income statement and balance sheet.

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, 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.

Interview with Barry S. Olsen and Katharine Allen of InterpretAmerica

The interpreting  profession has really advanced into the limelight this year, to the degree that we  were  the subject of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Taniguchi vs. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd. Thus I thought it would be apropos to interview two visionary entrepreneurs in the field about their insights into the industry.

Barry Slaughter Olsen and Katharine Allen founded InterpretAmerica in 2009 with the express purpose of raising the profile of interpreting. Since 2010, InterpretAmerica has organized a yearly Summit on Interpreting, which brings together leaders from across the interpreting industry, individual interpreters, and end users of interpreting services. The 4th Summit on Interpreting will take place just outside Washington, D.C., in Reston, Virginia, on June 14-15, 2013.

1.              What trends have you identified in the interpreting industry after the first three summits?

[InterpretAmerica] More than anything else, we have seen a growing desire for information about the interpreting industry from all of its players—interpreters, professional associations, technology providers, agency owners and end users. We think this is why the research and white papers we have commissioned and published as a service to interpreting over the last three years continue to be downloaded, studied and cited.

This desire for information has dovetailed with increased awareness and acceptance amongst the diverse stakeholders in our industry. The 1st Summit marked the first time that leaders from many sectors sat in the same room and got acquainted with each other and with the complexities each interpreting sector faces. At that time, the lack of mutual awareness across sectors, and even an element of suspicion and skepticism as to the validity of the challenges other sectors face, were notable. As a profession, interpreters have been careful to qualify the kind of interpreting they do and where they do it, leading to an often incorrect assumption that interpreters never cross over from one environment to another.

At the recently-concluded 3rd Summit, that atmosphere had completely changed. There is now a marked and growing interest in improving communication and collaboration among the various sectors of the interpreting profession (e.g. conference, medical, legal, signed language, etc.). Research, including the Interpreting Marketplace Study commissioned by InterpretAmerica for the 1st Summit, has clearly proven that there is a desire to collaborate. Professional associations have realized this. In fact, The ATA recently initiated a monthly conference call with interpreting association leaders in an effort to increase communication among professional leadership.

The rapid integration of technology into most interpreting sectors is also very evident, and something that we have tried to highlight and educate about at the Summits on Interpreting. In particular, the increasing adoption of social media tools by the profession at all levels, from individual bloggers and LinkedIn accounts, to companies embracing Twitter and Facebook as powerful marketing tools and professional associations moving heavily into online options for education and networking, such as webinar training sessions. We have observed a growing awareness that as an industry, we must embrace and attempt to channel technology to our own best interests, rather than shy away from it in fear.

2.              Do you see an interest/willingness among stakeholders and the different vertical industries related to our profession to work with our sector, and are the leaders of our sector willing to work with one another and the former?

[InterpretAmerica] Absolutely! One of the most gratifying aspects of the Summits on Interpreting process has been the response of diverse stakeholders in our field. The willingness and interest are there. The 21st century so far has been marked by a trend toward collaboration. Interpreting as a whole stands to benefit greatly from the collaborative efforts of all the players in the profession and industry. One excellent example of this is the workgroups that have convened at the Summits on Interpreting for the last two years. Competition and rivalries will always exist in a free market, but the need for language services continues to expand. We believe the work undertaken by these workgroups is serving as a foundation that that entire profession and industry can build upon.

That said, one of the realizations that has come from the Summits is how much work we still have to do to educate the rest of the world about interpreting and how it fits into related industries. For example, how do we, as an industry, successfully interact with the big technology companies that provide global communication solutions to encourage them to integrate features that make simultaneous interpretation possible when using their products and do so before they go to market? The professional workgroups on advocacy and public relations held at the last two Summits have helped to define that process. We are very much looking forward to the publication of the White Paper on this year’s workgroup, One Profession, One Voice: Selling the Interpreting Profession to the Public, led by PR expert Spencer Critchley.

3.              Can we overcome the much touted fragmentation in our industry?

[InterpretAmerica] We are optimists. So, our answer is a definite “yes!” InterpretAmerica was born out of a deep frustration of how our industry’s fragmentation was holding the entire profession back. The success of the Summits on Interpreting comes from the fact that we were not alone. There is a great desire for a stronger, more cohesive frame knitting the profession together, so that each specialized sector can continue to provide the unique expertise required for the settings they tend to – be it medical, legal, conference, etc. – but from within a broader context where interpreting in general is better recognized, better paid, and has the resources necessary to produce capable and competent professionals across the board.  At each successive Summit, we see less fragmentation and more collaboration and synergy.

Furthermore, the growing trend for individual interpreters to practice across sectors is helping to bring an end to this fragmentation, as are the technological breakthroughs of the last 10 years, which have given us access to more information about interpreting than ever before. Twenty years ago, it was difficult to even find out much about the profession, much less meet actual interpreters outside of your own workplace. Web 2.0 and social media have changed all that. Specialization will always exist, and interpreters will always have their preferred work environments and areas of expertise. However, that does not mean that we cannot work together to address issues that affect us all.

4.              Interpreter training is such an important requirement to ensure competent services. Are there new viable training options for those who cannot afford the time and money that a formal degree program requires? Are there any vetted online courses being offered that you know of?

[InterpretAmerica] The development of interpreter training and education has been a focus of the Summits from the very beginning. Numerous institutions with interpreter training programs have participated in the Summits, from on-line course providers to accredited institutions of higher learning with undergraduate and graduate degrees in interpreting. We can say with certainty that the number of offerings is growing, particularly on-line training courses. We expect these only to increase in number and variety, given existing continuing education requirements set by certification schemes and professional association rules. There is currently no single organization or process for vetting these courses.

Traditional academe does not move quickly, and the creation and approval of new interpreting degrees at accredited universities and colleges take a great deal of time and effort. Even so, several new programs have been launched and there are several more in the works in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Clear paths into interpreting that pass through institutions of higher learning are one of the best ways to “professionalize” what we do, but higher education is going through radical change brought on by technological change and the new learning models it has enabled. Even so, these degree programs, particularly at the MA level, continue to be the “gold standard” for employers in many areas of interpreting. One thing is for certain, interpreting needs clear standards for training and education. It is our hope that the workgroup on the creation of a national consortium of interpreter trainers that met at this year’s Summit will provide a roadmap forward. It was facilitated by two well-recognized trainers of interpreters of both signed and spoken languages.

5.              There has been much talk about technology from OPI and VRI to devices used by individuals on the job, such as the iPad, iPhone, MP3 recorders, the Smart Pen, etc.  Have you seen any of them break out of the ranks and dominate a particular field?

[InterpretAmerica] Any technology that makes it easier and more cost effective to deliver quality interpreting services will find a solid foothold in the market. This is why over-the-phone interpreting and video relay interpreting have grown into a billion-dollar industry.

It’s interesting to note that all of the technologies you mention were designed for mass markets, not specifically for interpreters. Individual interpreters (usually the technophiles) find these new tools and then figure out how to apply them to their professional activity to increase quality, performance or productivity. Interpreting is a comparatively small industry and few if any technologies have been developed specifically with an interpreter’s needs in mind. But when you couple new platforms like the tablet computer and smart phone with the relatively low cost of developing customized “apps” there is an amazing window of opportunity for enterprising interpreters and computer programmers to finally focus on designing and producing programs that can be created to meet interpreters’ specific needs.

Tablet computers—like the iPad— have already given interpreters access to information and resources that were previously unavailable in many work environments. In conference interpreting, these devices will probably be the gateway toward a “paperless booth” for interpreters. This shift won’t come without difficulty and will require adjustments, but the interpreters that adapt to this new technology-enabled environment will remain relevant, while those who require printed documents only to do their work will see their opportunities diminish.

However, the real technology to keep an eye on as the 21st century progresses is cloud computing. Although not possible yet, “the cloud” has the potential to deliver high-quality video and multiple channel audio across multiple platforms, making simultaneously interpreted videoconferences widely available around the world. Once this becomes a reality, it will have a dramatic effect on the interpreting industry across all sectors.

6.              What topics are you considering for the 2013 InterpretAmerica Summit in Washington D.C.?

[InterpretAmerica] Anyone who has attended the Summits on Interpreting knows that we take a unique approach to programming. Each Summit allows us to take the pulse of the profession and present the most relevant and up-to-date information to a broad cross section of stakeholders. Based on feedback from this year’s Summit, it is safe to say that the various workgroups will be back and that technology and innovation will be an important component of the 4th Summit.

Attendees have made it clear that the unique mix of representatives from across the interpreting profession and industry make the Summits a valuable place for networking. So we are planning on increasing the time and opportunities provided during the Summit to network.

We will be shaking things up for the 4th Summit as well, with new presentation formats and activities.

Be sure to visit the InterpretAmerica website in the coming weeks. A sneak peak at next year’s programming includes:

  • A new forum for those most effectively promoting our profession via social media forums, including bloggers and those highly active on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • A continued focus on specific technologies impacting the field.
  • A follow up look at interpreting in conflict zones
  • Interpret-Talks – A new segment for individuals to present big ideas for the field in 10-15 minute presentations.
  • Bringing end users into the fold – from business clients to immigrant communities to the deaf
  • Heeding our history – gleaning lessons to be learned from the development of translation and interpreting field  

7.              What would you like to see five years from now as positive outcomes initiated at InterpretAmerica?

[InterpretAmerica] A more unified profession with a stronger framework for practitioners and stakeholders, and which is better recognized by the general public.

We would also like to see a much higher degree of technology literacy and advocacy among interpreters so that we can be leveraging these critical tools to best promote our profession.

Tell us how you feel about these insights and what you would like to see on the agenda at future Summits!

Interview With Prize-Winning Translator in Cuba

Dr. Lourdes Arencibia

(Please scroll down for the translation of the original Spanish into English)

Me siento muy orgullosa de presentarles una colega y compatriota que recién conocí en San Francisco durante el congreso de la FIT.  Se trata de la doctora Lourdes Arencibia Rodriguez,  ganadora del premio 2011 de dicha organización por su traducción en el género de ficción.  Lourdes viajó de Cuba a San Francisco para aceptar esta distinción y no saben cuál fue mi sorpresa y emoción cuando además de ella, otro cubano, Rodolfo Alpízar, también triunfó en dicho foro. Lamentablemente, él no pudo asistir a la ceremonia. Dos  de cinco premios me parece un logro fenomenal para nuestra  pequeña isla caribeña, cuyos ciudadanos vienen experimentando un sinfín de graves problemas desde hace muchas décadas.

Lourdes gentilmente accedió a concederme una entrevista para contarnos un poco sobre su trayectoria y la situación actual de la profesión  en Cuba. A pesar de lo cerca que está la isla de EE.UU., no estamos muy al tanto de la evolución del campo de la interpretación y la traducción allá, debido a la situación política que limita el intercambio normal entre colegas.  Ella me ha pedido que  realizáramos el diálogo en  castellano a fin de sentirse más a gusto durante nuestra plática ya que esta es su lengua materna y la que emplea en su desempeño  profesional.

A continuación, les invito a disfrutar de mi charla con Lourdes.

¿Cómo te iniciaste en el campo de la traducción?

A pesar de que por mi formación universitaria (Licenciada en Economía y Doctora en Filosofía) era de suponer que me inclinara hacia otras profesiones, para mí la traducción no es un amor tardío. Llegué a ella tan temprano como en los años 50 a través del francés. En esos años yo estudiaba en la Alianza Francesa que está en el Vedado, al lado de mi casa en la Habana,  y tomaba allí cuantos cursos de ese idioma y esa cultura ofrecían, incluidos los de alta costura , cocina y canto. Años después, fui becada para estudiar Relaciones económicas internacionales en París, de manera que cuando se creó la Facultad de Lenguas Extranjeras en la Universidad de la Habana, empecé allí a dar clases de traducción a los alumnos que cursaban la Licenciatura en lengua francesa. Luego, cuando se abrió el palacio de Convenciones en la Habana, integré el primer equipo profesional de intérpretes de conferencias, un trabajo con el cual casi le he dado la vuelta al mundo.  A partir de ahí, ya quedé vinculada a la traducción y luego incorporé el italiano, el portugués y posteriormente el inglés a mi práctica profesional hasta el día de hoy, siempre de las lenguas extranjeras al español.

¿Qué tiempo llevas ejerciendo la profesión? 

Pues como ves, más de cincuenta años consecutivos.

¿A qué tipo de traducción te dedicas mayormente? 

Al principio, hacía de todo: traducción documentaria : científico-técnica, económica, publicitaria, periodística, política…pero luego me fui inclinando  hacia la literaria y hoy día he traducido también novelas, cuentos, poesía, ensayo… Actualmente, soy más selectiva, pero si un texto me atrae o me interesa y me lo encargan traducir, lo asumo independientemente del género o la tipología en que encaje.

¿Qué especie de cliente les pide interpretación y traducción en Cuba, además del gobierno?

Los organismos regionales del sistema de las Naciones Unidas (FAO, UNESCO, CARICOM, etc) u otras personas o entidades que realizan actividades en el país o en la región con una audiencia plurilingüe.

¿Los traductores en Cuba suelen trabajar mucho para clientes en el exterior? 

Sí, siempre que se propicie, Actualmente esta actividad no está desautorizada ni mal vista por las autoridades. Sucede que existe una Empresa de Servicio de Traducción e Interpretación, que es estatal, cuyos trabajadores realizan trabajos de traducción para entidades extranjeras pero pertenecen salarial e institucionalmente a la plantilla de esa empresa. Otros traductores e intérpretes sin embargo que son trabajadores independientes, se pueden contratar libremente con clientes nacionales y extranjeros.

Cuando se envía una traducción fuera del país, el gobierno está involucrado en el proceso? 

No necesariamente. Lo hace si en el proceso participa el ESTI, que es la empresa que detallo en el punto anterior.

Cuéntanos sobre la obra que te ganó el premio en la FIT.

Yo concursé en la FIT con mi obra completa en la categoría de ficción, a partir de mi currículo de todos estos años.

¿Cómo te sientes después de recibir ese galardón?

Me siento muy comprometida a seguir  trabajando sobre todo para elevar la dignidad de la profesión para todos los traductores latinoamericanos  cuyos méritos no son, me parece, suficientemente conocidos

¿Lo esperabas? 

Cuando uno concursa, siempre sabe que por ahí hay alguien juzgándote, pero en realidad, cuando se concursa con un número tan amplio de profesionales del mundo entero, pues, bueno, ya esas son palabras mayores

¿Qué nos puedes contar de tu colega cubano, Rodolfo Alpízar Castillo, que también ganó un premio en San Francisco?

Alpízar es excelentísimo, es terminólogo y tiene algunas obras teóricas escritas. Trabaja con el portugués aunque además es escritor, poeta y ha publicado varias novelas. Su fuerte ha sido la traducción técnica y por eso presentó su candidatura en la categoría de no ficción. Hemos sido colegas de toda la vida  y le aprecio muchísimo.

¿Es difícil conseguir permiso para ir a aceptar un premio en EE.UU.? 

Hay que iniciar los trámites con cierta antelación, no te digo que sea fácil, pero no imposible. Personalmente, es la quinta vez que visito Estados Unidos, y siempre he sido tratada correctamente.

¿Qué te pareció el congreso de la FIT? 

Yo sólo pude llegar a la ceremonia de la premiación y por supuesto que me habría gustado presenciar el resto. Me parece que debemos trabajar para que los traductores de América latina tengamos mayor representatividad en la FIT. Sólo conocía a dos o tres personas, no más. Lo que más me impactó fue justamente ese desbalance que se aprecia, aún el prestigio del traductor es bastante eurocéntrico.

¿Qué proyectos tienes en el tintero en estos momentos?

Pues ahora mismo,  estoy trabajando con el Ministerio de la Investigación de España y el Instituto Cervantes, en dos proyectos cuyos directores son dos profesores de Barcelona: uno de los proyectos es el diccionario de traductores hispanoamericanos y el otro la biblioteca de traducciones hispanoamericanas (desde el siglo XVI).  También estoy traduciendo en la Habana, dos novelas de autores caribeños francófonos  y un ensayo de crítica literaria. Preparo mi conferencia de clausura del próximo Congreso de Traducción vinculado a los proyectos que te detallo arriba, que tendrá lugar en Barcelona en octubre  próximo.  Y por supuesto, sin abandonar mi curso en el Máster de Interpretación y Traducción  que imparto desde hace trece años como profesora en el Instituto de Lenguas Modernas y Traductores de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, que es una tarea por la que siento un gran cariño.  Y por el momento, eso es todo.

¿Has percibido algún adelanto en el ámbito de la traducción en los últimos años?

Por guardar relación con el ámbito de la edición y la traducción en Estados Unidos, pudiera ser de interés dar a conocer a  los lectores, editores y traductores  norteamericanos y latinos, lo siguiente. El pasado 27 de mayo, en la ciudad de Nueva York, se anunciaron y entregaron los 2011 International Latino Book Awards,  auspiciados por una organización norteamericana radicada en California que se llama Latino Literacy Now y que premia anualmente los mejores libros latinos escritos y publicados en inglés,  en español o bilingües,  traducidos o no, en distintas categorías,  por nominaciones de sus respectivas editoriales. Este año, en la categoría de Mejor Libro de Arte, se le otorgó Mención de Honor a un libro en edición bilingüe, traducido por mí en La Habana, del italiano al español y retraducido de mi español al inglés por una colega de Nueva York nombrada Beatriz Peñín. Ambos créditos figuran en el machón interior del libro.   La obra se llama: “Una colección de arte cubano”,  y su autor es un coleccionista italiano de arte que reside en Cuba llamado Claudio Marinelli.

Lo más curioso es que por primera vez que yo sepa, se reconoce también el trabajo de traducción  en una obra premiada, pues el Director ejecutivo de la Latino Literacy Now, el Sr. Jim  Sullivan,   me escribió una carta personal como traductora que dice lo siguiente:

Dear Dr. Rodríguez:  (tú sabes que muchas veces se pone el segundo apellido como si fuera el primero)

Latino Literacy Now wanted to express our respect for your translation of Mr. Claudio Marinelli’s book, Una colección de arte cubano, which was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the category of Best Art Book, bilingual.

Although the work of a translator does not always receive the recognition it deserves, it is obviously an integral part of the process. Congratulations on your fine work. Sincerely, Jim Sullivan, Executive Director Latino Literacy Now.

Lourdes, muchas gracias por compartir con nosotros.  Te deseamos todo éxito con tus proyectos y espero sigamos en contacto para que nos cuentes el desenlace de los mismos.


I am very proud to introduce you to a colleague and fellow countrywoman whom I recently met in San Francisco during the FIT Congress. She is Dr. Lourdes Arencibia Rodríguez, the winner of the 2011 FIT prize for translation in the fiction category. Lourdes traveled from Cuba to San Francisco to accept this honor and you have no idea how surprised and proud I was to learn that, in addition to her, another Cuban, Rodolfo Alpízar, also won an award in said forum. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the ceremony. Two out of five prizes is a fantastic achievement for our little Caribbean island, whose citizens have been beleaguered by many severe problems for several decades.

Lourdes kindly agreed to allow me to interview her so that she could tell us a little about her career and how the profession currently stands in Cuba. Despite how close the island is to the U.S., we are not very familiar with how interpretation and translation have evolved there because of the political situation that limits normal exchanges between colleagues. She has requested that we hold our dialogue in Spanish in order to feel more comfortable during the conversation, as that is her native language and the one she works into from a professional standpoint.

I trust you will enjoy my chat with Lourdes.

How did you start out in the field of translations?

In spite of the fact that my college education (I have a degree in Economics and a Ph.D in Philosophy) would lead you to think I would have favored other professions, translation is not a late fancy of mine. I started in that field as early as the 50s, through the French language. At that time I was studying at the Alliance Française, which is in the Vedado neighborhood close to my home in Havana, and I used to take whatever courses they offered in that language and culture, including haute couture, cooking and singing. Years later I was awarded a grant to study International Financial Relations in Paris.  When the School of Foreign Languages was created at the University of Havana, I began to teach translation to students working toward a degree in French. Later, when the Convention Hall was inaugurated in Havana, I was part of the first professional conference interpreting team, a job that has practically taken me around the world. After that, the link to translation was established and subsequently I added Italian, Portuguese and, eventually, English to my professional practice as it stands, always going from the foreign languages into Spanish.

How long have you been practicing your profession?

As you can see, it’s been over fifty consecutive years.

What type of translations do you usually do?

In the beginning I used to do everything: document translations, including scientific-technical, financial, advertising, journalism, [and] political material… but later I started to become more partial to literary works and so far I have also translated novels, stories, poetry, essays… Currently, I am more selective, but if a text is appealing or interesting to me and I am asked to translate it, I will take it on, regardless of the genre or type of work it falls under.

What sort of clients ask for interpreting and translation in Cuba, in addition to the government?

The regional organisms within the United Nations (FAO, UNESCO, CARICOM, etc.) or other individuals or entities engaged in activities in the country or region with a multilingual target audience.

Do translators in Cuba often work for clients abroad?

Yes, whenever feasible. Currently this work is not unauthorized, nor frowned upon by the authorities. There is a government agency , the Center for Translation and Interpretation (ESTI), whose employees do translation work for foreign entities, but they are part of the staff and on the payroll of said institution. Nonetheless, other translators and interpreters who are freelancers can work freely for national and foreign clients.

When a translation is sent outside of the country, is the government involved in the process?

Not necessarily. They are if ESTI is involved, which is the agency I referred to previously.

Tell us about the work that won you the prize at FIT.

I competed at FIT with my whole body of work in the fiction category, based on my CV from all these years.

How do you feel after receiving this honor?

I feel very committed to continuing to work, especially to raising the profile of the profession for all Latin American translators, whose merits, I believe, are not sufficiently acknowledged.

Were you expecting it?

When you are competing, you always know that somebody out there is judging you. But actually, when you are competing with such a large number of professionals throughout the whole world, well, that’s a pretty big deal.

What can you tell us about your Cuban colleague, Rodolfo Alpízar Castillo, who also won a prize in San Francisco?

Alpízar is excellent. He is a terminologist and has written some theoretical works. He works with Portuguese, although he is also an author, a poet and has published several novels. His strong suit has always been technical translation, which is why he competed in the non-fiction category. We have been lifelong colleagues and I am very fond of him.

Is it difficult to get permission to travel to the U.S. to accept an award?

You have to start making arrangements with some lead time. I am not saying it is easy, but it is not impossible. Personally, this is the fifth time I visit the United States and I have always been treated correctly.

What did you think of the FIT Congress?

I was only able to make it to the award ceremony and, of course, I would have liked to be there for the rest. I think we should work toward getting translators in Latin America achieve greater representation at FIT. I only knew two or three other people, no more. What impressed me the most was exactly that notable imbalance;  the prestige attached to translators is still pretty Eurocentric.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, at this time, I am working on two projects with the Spanish Ministry of Research and with the Cervantes Institute, the directors of which are two professors from Barcelona. One is the dictionary of Hispanic American translators and the other is a library of Hispanic American translations (since the 16th century). In Havana, I am also translating  two novels by French-speaking Caribbean authors and a literary critique in the form of an essay. I am preparing my closing presentation for the next Translation Congress, which has to do with the projects mentioned above, to be held in Barcelona next October. And of course, I am doing all of this without leaving behind my course in the Masters in Interpretation and Translation, which I have been teaching for thirteen years as a professor at the Institute for Modern Languages and Translation at the Complutense University of Madrid, which is an endeavor very dear to my heart. And for the time being, that is it.

Have you noticed any advances in the field of translation in the last few years?

Due to the fact that it has to do with publishing and translation in the United States, it may be of interest to inform American and Latin readers, publishers and translators of the following. Last May 27, in New York, the 2011 International Latino Book Awards were announced and awarded. They are sponsored by an American organization based in California by the name of Latino Literacy Now, and they award prizes annually to the best Latino books written and published in English, in Spanish or both, whether they are translated or not, in different categories, upon being nominated by their respective publishers. This year, a book that was published in bilingual format in the category of Best Art Book, which I translated in Havana from Italian to Spanish, and was later retranslated from my Spanish into English by a colleague in New York, named Beatriz Peñín, received an Honorable Mention. Both credits appear in the inside cover. The work is entitled A Collection of Cuban Art and its author is Claudio Marinelli, an Italian collector who lives in Cuba.

The interesting thing is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the translation aspect in a winning entry is also recognized, as the Executive Director of Latino Literacy Now, Mr. Jim Sullivan, wrote me a personal letter as translator, which reads as follows:

Dear Dr. Rodríguez:  (You know how many times they write the second last name as if it were the first)

Latino Literacy Now wanted to express our respect for your translation of Mr. Claudio Marinelli’s book, Una colección de arte cubano, which was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the category of Best Art Book, bilingual.

Although the work of a translator does not always receive the recognition it deserves, it is obviously an integral part of the process. Congratulations on your fine work. Sincerely, Jim Sullivan, Executive Director Latino Literacy Now.

Lourdes, thank so much for sharing your insights.  We wish you the best with your projects and trust we shall stay in touch so that you can let us know how they turned out.

Interpreting Journal Club Review of First Session

The first virtual chat just took place over Twitter yesterday using the hash tag #IntJC.  We discussed the merits of a personality test to determine a person’s aptitude for the interpreting profession.  For background and for the sake of efficiency, see my recent post to introduce the concept to my readers.

It was great fun and constructive!  Lasted about an hour and a half.  What did I like the most about it?  The fact that interpreters, students of interpreting and individuals interested in our field were able to get together informally from locations all over the world such as Brussels, Caracas, Paris, Bratislava, Tokyo, Barcelona, Neubrandenburg and Miami to casually discuss a topic pertinent to the profession. I think it is a great platform for all of us to expand our horizons and form networks outside of our immediate areas. I must say I was very surprised that we did not have a better representation from the U.S., but I am sure that as the momentum grows this will improve.  Everyone was responsible and diligent in taking the test and reading the literature in order to opine.

What did I find out?  That I am not as much of an oddity as I first thought after taking the test (that was somehow comforting) At least two other interpreters on the call shared my profile of INFJ. You can find out the personality implications of each type by clicking on the Kiersey personality interpretations on the same page as the test and you can see a transcript of the session here. I found the personality assessment to be valid in my case although I share the opinion that it is not indicative of whether a person can become a good interpreter. Other comments made were that the test could be helpful in getting to know interpreting students better although our host from Tokyo, felt that the test was grossly skewed towards a Western perspective. I venture to say that he is quite right.

Our next session will be held on September 24, 10 p.m. Tokyo time or 9:00 a.m. EST, and we will be discussing the effects of stress on interpreters.  To prepare and join in, please keep on checking the IntJ C Google site which will soon have all the pertinent information posted.  It is very easy to get on Twitter and either just monitor the proceedings or monitor and participate.  If anyone has any questions, do not hesitate to contact me personally and I will be glad to walk you through it.  Hope to see you there, and please leave me any suggestions for future sessions and I will be glad to pass them on.  We all want this effort to be a collective endeavor of interest to all.

The Interpreting Journal Club; Save the Date and Participate

Carl Jung

If you are serious about your profession, would like to discuss it with other colleagues from all over the world whilst having a good time in the format of a stimulating, fun conversation, please join us. Interpreters, lovers of language and students of the profession are all welcome.

What am I talking about?

A  colleague, Lionel Dersot, The Liaison Interpreter based in Tokyo, has come up with a novel idea of discussing interpreting-related topics on a regular basis over the Internet.  The first chat will be held over on Saturday, September 10, 10:00 p.m. Tokyo time, which is 11:00 a.m. EST that same day.  I know it’s during  working hours but some of us, depending on assignments, will be available. The hash tag that is being used on Twitter is #IntJC.  You can do a search there for that tag to see what kind of a buzz this has created. Another interpreting colleague, Michele Hof, The Interpreter Diaries, suggested that the topic for the first chat be a personality test based on the work of Carl Jung, which has been used as a model to study interpreting aptitudes.  I found it very much on the mark insofar as I am concerned and it explained some contradictions that I had noticed in my personality, quite well.  I am an INFJ, a rare bird from what I am reading. To find out what this is all about, take the test here.  If  after taking the test you are intrigued by the concept, visit the site Lionel has created so that you can read the actual material that will be discussed regarding the test, and see how the meeting will work. Interestingly, the study in question was also mentioned in the most recent issue of Interprenaut.

This is a great opportunity to end the summer doldrums making new acquaintances and learning something new about how our personalities influence our profession. Make a date to be there.  Drop in and let your voice be heard!

P.S.  You do not have to be a geek to participate.  Twitter is very user friendly and insofar as the material is concerned, that’s what we do, study the texts that are going to be discussed in conferences or legal proceedings (when we are lucky enough to get them) and it’s all very interesting to boot.

The Critical Jobs of the Interpreters Who Teach at the Defense Language Institute; an Interview with Tony Rosado News Article: Panetta: Language Training Critical to U.S. Interests, Security

Tony Rosado

I was grabbing a quick lunch with a colleague, Tony Rosado, recently, between sessions, at a language conference we both attended in San Franciso.  See my prior post on FIT. The conversation naturally turned to work and I asked him what he was up to. To my amazement, as I am so far removed from this sphere,  he went on to tell me that he was off to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, where he has been working for some time as a “trainer of trainers”.  He  teaches our servicemen and women foreign language skills to enhance our  national security and defend U.S. interests abroad. I honestly did not know of Uncle Sam’s interest in this initiative which I find very intelligent and commendable, in accord with an opinion that Madeleine Albright and Chuck Hagel wrote for USA Today on the subject a few months ago, especially in view of the language cuts we are constantly seeing.  To see the op-ed, click here. Coincidentally, I was just reading today about a new technological offering by Lockheed, Martin, to offer remote interpreting through a smartphone on the battlefield.

I have  asked Tony to fill us in on this interesting aspect of our profession  through a brief interview as follows:

How did you become involved with interpreting?

I went to law school and practiced law for a few years. When I was an attorney I worked with many interpreters. I have always been fascinated by words and languages, so I made a decision that forever changed my life and became an interpreter! It has been almost 30 years, and so far, so good. I believe that going to law school in Mexico City, taking the California bar, and practicing law in Mexico and the United States allowed me to learn correct legal terminology and understand both legal systems. For this reason I am convinced that it is of outmost importance to learn the right terminology in your language pair.  When I practiced law I did everything: Civil and criminal law in Mexico, and then family and immigration law in the States. As an interpreter, I have specialized in Mexican legal terminology  and American legal terminology. This works really well because it has opened the door to an extraordinary group of clients: The Mexican attorneys, companies, and government, and it also serves me well when I work for the courts, as in a good portion of the United States, the majority of the Spanish-speaking defendants come from Mexico.  This is very interesting because when I interpret for them and I use Mexican legal terminology, they understand and feel at ease.  The truth is that this is the Spanish they grew up with, the one they saw on TV and read in the papers.  It is only after they come, and find themselves talking to Spanish speakers from other countries, and after they are exposed to the “made-in-America Spanish” that they have to re-learn their vocabulary.  I always tell my colleagues who believe that Mexicans forget their Mexican Spanish when they come across the border and try to convince me that they will only understand words and “legal terminology” made-in-America, that it is only because of them, the interpreters who use those words, that they start understanding “aseguranza” and “acuerdo declaratorio”.  I feel that we are a real profession, and when we interpret for professionals, we should sound like professionals (attorneys in this case) That is why I go around the country teaching “Mexican legal Spanish and proceedings”  If other Spanish speaking professional communities were to do the same, we would be able to provide the best possible service to the attorneys, parties, and judiciary.

How and when did you start working for the Defense Language Institute?

Actually I do not work for DLI. I am a contractor and a subcontractor. It started several years ago when I began working as an interpreter for the Department of Defense, specifically the Northern Command and NORAD. That gave me the opportunity to work closely with the military. From the beginning, I fell in love with their sense of duty, dedication, and commitment. Therefore, when I was approached by a defense contractor to participate in a new and challenging program that the U.S. military was implementing, I got involved right away. It has been an incredible experience. It is very rewarding. As an interpreter, it made me increase my vocabulary, and knowledge of geography.  Military conference interpreters will know what I am talking about, but for the rest of my colleagues, let me give you an example:  As an interpreter for NORTHCOM/NORAD you have to interpret for military personnel from all different branches of the service, and from many countries.  One time I had to work a conference that required ample knowledge of naval vocabulary, as well as the capability to recognize all military ranks and their equivalents in the other branches of the military and foreign armed forces.  A captain is not the same in the army and navy, for example. Unfortunately I cannot give more detail of the type of knowledge you must have as an interpreter to be able to work these assignments, but please believe me when I tell you that it is very challenging and different from what most interpreters do every day.  Working with military interpreters, personnel, and foreign language instructors has given me the privilege to see the world through other people’s points of view. It is really great to hang out with other colleagues after a conference or a long trial, but believe me, getting together with colleagues from other countries who have witnessed first-hand the war in Afganistan, or having dinner with one of Sadaam Hussein’s interpreters during his trial, is a different experience.  To all my teaching colleagues: The sense of duty and patriotism that envelops you when you are working with our finest and bravest is the most rewarding experience you can have as a teacher.   Military interpreters are not just good interpreters, they are also brave people with a sense of duty.  In early August of this year the Taliban shot down a U.S. helicopter in Wardak killing American servicemen, among them some of the Seals who took out Bin Laden, according to the press. One of those killed was the Seals’ interpreter.  Many interpreters have lost their lives in times of war.  I do not know of any other type of interpreter who has to keep an eye on the person he is working with so he doesn’t kill him.  Military interpreting is an essential part of our national security, and we have come a long way from the end of World War II when the U.S. prosecutors arrived in Europe after the war for the Nuremberg trials without a single interpreter (They never thought about needing one). I can tell you that we are only a few years away from seeing many of these magnificent men and women join the other fields of interpretation as they retire from the military.  It was very exciting to go to InterpretAmerica in Washington D.C. earlier this year and see how other interpreters are now recognizing and embracing military interpretation as a fundamental part of our profession.

What type of courses/skills do you teach there?

Military interpreting is a type of interpretation just like conference, legal, medical, and community. Military interpreters learn the same basics as all interpreters in consecutive and simultaneous interpretation as well as sight translation. The difference is that their work is so complex, and it is executed under such difficult conditions, that they have to utilize their military training on top of the basic interpretation/translation skills and vocabulary. Can you imagine interpreting while people are shooting bullets, choppers are flying over your head, and there is an expectation that you must get it right all the time? Other interpreters complain of noisy hospitals and courtrooms!  When you train the trainers you teach interpretation to language instructors who are very capable and have mastered their language pairs.  Many of the people you work with at this level are top professionals in some scientific or technical field somewhere in the world.  One thing I find fascinating is the constant need to keep up with all the world languages, and the need to continue to add new ones. The world is definitely getting smaller in the 21st century.

Are you familiar with prior students of DLI who have gone on to pursue a career in languages?

The program is new, but I am convinced that in the future our profession will be enriched by many smart, dedicated, and capable military interpreters who will eventually enter the other areas of interpretation. They will be awesome.

What portion of your time do you typically allocate to instruction vs. interpreting/translating?

To me, the secret to be able to last in this profession without getting tired is to achieve a balance that will work for you. In my case, I try to do one-third interpreting, one-third translating, and one-third teaching.

Do you enjoy any aspect of your work more than the others?

I enjoy all aspects. But the truth is that sometimes I do enjoy one more than the others. It really depends on the project. At this time, I am very involved with teaching and the business side of the profession, and I am enjoying it very much. I also want to mention that attending professional conferences is a very important part of my motivation to keep going. I have not missed many and I plan to continue to attend.  Lately I have spent quite a bit of time teaching because I see that as the profession evolves and becomes more specialized, there is a greater need to provide the proper instruction for specialized fields.

We are like physicians who went from being the doctor for every possible illness, dentists, veterinarians, and yes, even barbers, that have evolved to become specialists in  very  specific aspects of their profession.  I am sure that is also happening to us.  Clients will more and more look not just for a plain- vanilla interpreter, but for a legal Mexican Spanish interpreter, a  Korean interpreter with experience in neurology,  a Tagalog boxing interpreter, etc.

I am also spending a good chunk of my time on the business side of the profession.  I have always looked after this part of my practice along with the interpreting and translating services portion.  Some time ago I realized that the world economy and technology would change our profession and  how we do business.  I am working on  strategies to stay competitive in the 21st. century to be ready to compete with machines, ever-changing technology, services offered by other countries at a lower fee, and an economy where one of our main sources of work: The government at all levels, is cutting expenses, reducing its budget, and there is a perception that even in the private sector quality has been sacrificed to save a buck.  Either you evolve and adapt or you will be gone like the dinosaurs.  Traditional interpretation and translation as we knew it is an endangered species destined to disappear.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the field of military interpreting. We look forward to questions and feedback via comments. Let us know if you have any stories relating to this genre, or whether you are interested in any other particular aspects of our profession that we might discuss in this forum.

FIT 2011 on Interpreting

Please send your comments before August 8 to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

It is very important that interpreters, legal professionals and educators step up to the plate to opine about the proposed amendments to the Texas Court Interpreting Program.  In an effort to create a larger pool of interpreters, it is being proposed that the passing grade for candidates sitting for the Consortium test be lowered from 70 to 60 in order to create a basic interpreting tier that would handle the work at courts that are not of record.  The standard group of interpreters with a passing grade of 70 would be deemed part of the master tier and they would be eligible to work in any court in the state. Part of the proposal is that the initial 16 hours of training be abolished.

Send your comments online to:

Comments must be in by Monday, August 8, 2011.

Please see my letter below for more details:

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