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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.

The Language of Yoga: Love



Yoga helps us to naturally create a pause in our life before we react to the ever growing stimuli that bombard us. It gradually changes our perception permanently and for the better, allowing us to align our actions with the positive, creating lifetime habits that will cause us to evolve as the universe intends.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

A Linguist Particle?


This week, physicists revealed to the world that they’ve all but confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, called the “God Particle” in layman’s terms. The discovery is said to answer the riddle of how subatomic particles were formed, and what gives them their mass. As an interpreter and translator who’s dabbled in more than one specialty within the scope of being a linguist, and in the shadow of such an exciting moment for mankind, I started exploring what makes us tick, a “Linguist Particle,” if you will.

This week, physicists revealed to the world that they’ve all but confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, called the “God Particle” in layman’s terms. The discovery is said to answer the riddle of how subatomic particles were formed, and what gives them their mass. As an interpreter and translator who’s dabbled in more than one specialty within the scope of being a linguist, and in the shadow of such an exciting moment for mankind, I started exploring what makes us tick, a “Linguist Particle,” if you will.

Discovery

Beyond the necessary trait of bilingualism and the basic role of bridging communication gaps, I pondered what traits seem to appear in the interpreters and translators I’ve encountered in my career. Commonly, I’ve noticed they have a creative streak that manifests itself in former or second careers as musicians, painters, singers, poets, lyricists, writers and graphic artists, among other right-brained qualities. As a subdivision of these, many are the entrepreneurial, business-minded people, who are very good at marketing their professional services. The academic subgroup’s passion lies in sharing knowledge and developing others. Life experience seems to be a big factor for professional success, providing not only broad knowledge but the maturity needed to excel. Hmm… maybe another line of thinking was in order. By this point it started looking like there was just too much variety to name just one common thread.

Rather than traits, I thought perhaps what was common were principles we have all agreed to abide by. Codes of ethics, standards of practice and good practice recommendations abound, and most generally have the same sort of list ranging from the fundamentals of faithful renditions to the broad-reaching implications of client relations and professional behavior. Still, with the great variety of environments, purposes and subject matters, the ways that professionals apply such guidelines can vary, albeit only slightly in some cases.

Corroboration

My next leg in the journey was to check whether the professions themselves have identified specific traits. Resources abound from a variety of sources that seek to name the ideals, what makes a good interpreter or translator. The more I looked, the more I found, but the “ah-ha” moment came when I found a study by Nancy Schweda Nicholson called Personality Characteristics of Interpreter Trainees: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)[1]. I encourage you to read it because it’s much more detailed and complex than what I seek to explore here, and it cites many other very interesting sources.

Schweda Nicholson described that the study sought to identify traits of interpreter and translator trainees. She found that the traits that could be elicited from interpreters themselves would be highly subjective, explaining that “…interpreters have often examined their own personalities and attempted to generalize based on their own personal assessments… if one asks an interpreter what he or she believes to be the perfect temperament and personality for a new trainee, the interpreter will, almost without exception, describe his or her own personality.” Because interpreter and translator training programs are often led and taught by practicing industry professionals, it makes sense that some objective data would be an excellent supplement to the anecdotal descriptions that a seasoned trainer might offer.

Conclusions

Work by Henderson (1980) cited in the study says that the “typical” interpreter is “A self-reliant, articulate extrovert, quick and intelligent, a jack of all trades and something of an actor, superficial, arrogant, liking variety and at times anxious and frustrated…” going on to say that these are only major features of a picture that is much more complex. Interesting! Schweda Nicholson concludes that “personality may definitely have an effect on that person’s comfort level in different situations as well as on processing and organizational behavior.” Fascinating, I think, because the only entrance exams I have ever heard of for training programs focus almost exclusively on skills and abilities that tend to be limited to the performance, rather than any predictors for how a trainee might fare in the professional setting. Recognizing work such as that of Schweda Nicholson might assist programs to develop the other characteristics in trainees in conjunction with the specifics of the industry.

Perhaps intuitively, I’ve always been frustrated to hear professionals kindly encourage bilinguals to become linguists without knowing much about them. Research tells us there is so much more to interpreting and translating than language skills and the right vocabulary, and although many of the ideal traits can be developed, I’m not convinced that all of them are necessarily attainable to their fullest. The information contained in the Schweda Nicholson study seems to explain why some perfectly talented bilinguals have difficulty getting into or succeeding in the interpreting and translation industries. As a profession, when linguists seek to prepare for “the next generation” of interpreters and translators, it makes sense that people considering these careers are made aware that research and experience strongly suggests that certain personality traits may be better suited for success.

In the end, perhaps there is no such thing as a “Linguist Particle,” but instead a personality profile that is much more complex and intricate, with features that are both subjective and objective. As Schweda Nicholson puts it, “…the personality profiles of interpreters can be as varied as the topics with which they work.”

***

For additional background on the Myers-Brigg topic visit: https://sites.google.com/site/interpretjc/home/archive and look for the first session of the Interpreters Journal Club twitter meeting.  Myers-Brigg was discussed and several interpreters from around the world chimed in.

Sobering News and Turbo-Charged Learnings


Dear readers:

My last post was October 22.  Since then, my life has involuntarily changed 180°. I have been diagnosed with a condition I didn’t even know existed, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which is a preliminary stage to Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Conventional medicine is telling me that left unchecked I will not be alive a year from now and that the only “cure”, with no guarantees, is a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT).  Assuming we find a donor, which is a feat and that I survive the transplant which is an inordinate ordeal, there is no assurance it will take or not come back. So you are probably asking, why is she discussing a very private matter here on what is ostensibly an interpreting/translation blog?

The reason is that there are a lot of lessons to be learned for everyone, that because of my condition and my predisposition to learning and self-development, I am being taught at lightning-like speed. I hope I am up to the challenge of learning and  I am grateful to be learning. I want to tell you what some of the more apparent lessons have been, in case they may resonate with you.

I love the work that I did.  It is exciting, fun, challenging and interesting but it was only my work, not my life.  I am not my job, despite appearances, I am a much more versatile being.  More of a spirit dressed in a body, and now I am coming to terms with the fact that the body does not last forever, while the spirit does. We need to feed the latter which is what gives sustenance to the body and we have to arrange our lives to put this in perspective through our actions.  I am not saying that I worked myself into this situation altogether but it was definitely a factor and I am sure some of my colleagues are driven people, similar to me.  You have to look deep and hard into all the activities that you invest your time into and be discriminative when you decide which you will undertake and the reason why.  The more reasons you can connect to the welfare of others and your own spiritual development, the more on track you will tend to be.

Your relationships are another corollary. In the brief time since I was diagnosed, I have seen very positive changes in the family dynamics of both my immediate and extended family. Make sure that your house is in order and that you harbor happy/peaceful thoughts about everyone who is part of your life, to the degree that you can, and only you can manage that. Negative thoughts, be they feeling sorry for yourself or disapproving of  others, harm you more than those you find at fault. It is my belief that these emotions, feelings, desires, etc., percolate from your energy body to your physical body and manifest accordingly in due time and that incubation period varies from individual to individual. As a constructive step in this regard, I have for many years been receiving daily inspirational quotes from Ralph Marston at http://greatday.com/.  Someone did me the great favor of subscribing me and I will be forever grateful. The daily email that I receive and often forward to others serves to put my day in perspective and train my mind to follow positive paths. I also subscribe to “I Quote Wisdom” and “Tiny Buddha” on Twitter, which give you bite-sized chunks of insight that likewise help to mold your thoughts along the right lines.

On a more spiritual level, I began to meditate years ago and seriously started practicing yoga about seven years ago.  This has been an incredible moral support and tool for self-development throughout the years and especially in these circumstances.  If you have ever entertained the idea; to start, it is a great investment in your health.

This all begs the question, why did this happen if she followed this advice?

I daresay I did not start the process soon enough and I needed  to learn the lessons above now, among others, and thus a method has been initiated that I can either take advantage of or try to deny.  I am going for the first alternative and I ask all of you who believe, to keep me in your prayers.

In the meantime, I will continue my usual business-related posts as time and health permit and perhaps sneak in a philosophical reflection here and there that I feel may benefit others.

The Critical Jobs of the Interpreters Who Teach at the Defense Language Institute; an Interview with Tony Rosado


Defense.gov 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.

NAJIT letter to the Texas Senate Regarding Interpreting Issue on June 16


Last month I wrote about the Senate hearing in Texas where a Mexican witness attempted to testify through a volunteer interpreter and was admonished by a senator for doing so in Spanish because he had been in the U.S. for several years.  The witness alleged that he was doing so because he had never given testimony in a legal procedure and did not feel comfortable doing so in his second language.  To compound the matter, although there are several certified Spanish<>English interpreters in Austin, a “volunteer” interpreter was used and his credentials were never questioned. In my view, although I am all for learning English if you live in the U.S.A., I also believe that proper language access should be provided in matters of import. It is too early to know if we will have a response from the senate.  Thus far, one of the associations lobbying in this matter has posted our letter on their site at http://reformimmigrationfortexas.org/1/2011/speak-english-an-open-letter-to-texas-lawmakers/

On a related event, also in Texas, I am adding my request that everyone send their comments regarding new legislation to effectively reduce the level of interpreter proficiency needed to pass the state certification.  Read below for details from a post copied from the NAJIT listserv  by colleague Gloria Keller. Under her post you can click to read the NAJIT letter to the Senate regarding the June hearing.  NAJIT  will also be responding to the new legislation referred to here.

HB 4445 (two levels of interpreters) will go into effect on September 1, 2011.

 

On June 24th, the Licensed Court Interpreter (LCI) Advisory Board met in Austin at the offices of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). On the agenda was the “discussion and possible recommendation on proposed rules at 16 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 80; Sections 80.10, 80.20, 80.22, 80.25, and 80.80 relating to changes in the Licensed Court Interpreter industry resulting from the passage of HB 4445 from the 81st Legislative session.” HB 4445’s original intent was to lower the passing rate of the interpreter exam as offered by Texas so that municipal court staff could pass and serve as interpreters, in order to save the municipal courts thousands of dollars. HB 4445 will create a two tiered system of court interpreters; “master” for those that will be allowed to interpret in courts of record and “basic” for those who can interpret in courts not of record. The meeting may be accessed at TDLR’s page: http://www.license.state.tx.us/court/lciboard.htm

 

Interpreters, who want to become a Licensed Court Interpreter in Texas, take and pass a Consortium exam. During the meeting, those interested and present recommended that the “basic” designation remain at the existing oral passing rate as recommended by the Consortium; 80% for the written and 70% for the oral. It was also suggested that the oral passing rate of the “master” designation be raised to 80%, and that “basic” interpreters eventually move up to a “master” level after a certain period. There was also a push to require a two day orientation for would-be LCIs.

 

After much discussion and despite logical viewpoints and admonitions offered by those present, to not lower the level for the “basic” designation, the LCI Advisory Board, under pressure from the Presiding Officer, Ann Moore, an attorney from McAllen, TX, overwhelmingly voted to lower the passage rate on the oral exam for the “basic” level to 60%. Only one Advisory Board member, Luis Garcia, the Chair of the Texas Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, voted against this. The “master” designation will remain at the 70% rate, and all present LCIs will be grandfathered into the “master” designation. The passing rate for the written portion of the exam will remain at 80%. There will not be any requirements that “basic” LCIs do anything to eventually move up into a “master” level. Please remember that these are only recommendations at this time.


These recommendations will be published in the July 1st issue of the Texas Register (http://www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/), where they will be available for public comment for 30 days. During that 30 day period any individual or group will be able to express their thoughts for or against these recommendations. We highly encourage anyone with an interest in the legal community, especially those representative of LEPs, to express their opinions during these 30 days. Comments would especially be helpful, from other states in which there is a multiple tier system in place for court interpreters. Please pass this on.

Open letter to the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee

Eclectic 5th of July Celebration of the English Language


I really meant to do this post yesterday, July 4th, in the U.S. but between attending a traditional parade with the family, having them over for dinner, watching the fireworks and getting ready to leave for the airport a few hours later, I had to give it up.  I thought my post had lost its relevancy and I would have to wait until next year.

At this posting, I am writing from Caracas, Venezuela where I am interpreting at depositions. Much to my surprise when I arrived, I found out that today is their equivalent of July 4th.  It is the country’s date of independence and this year they are celebrating the bicentennial. They started celebrating yesterday when Hugo Chavez returned from his cancer surgery in Cuba.  As a student of business I found in interesting that bond yields had sharp gains from speculations that he might be forced to step aside due to health reasons.

I feel like I am in a time warp and that my Independence Day deadline has been extended, so here you have it.

For a hilarious abbreviated history of the English language, click here.

When I came to this country I was 8 years old and it was a wonderful experience for me and my then three brothers, which quickly turned into four.  We came from a tropical island (Cuba) to New England, which to us was nothing else but “Davie Crockett” country where we experienced snow, and living in close proximity to the woods where my brothers and I went camping, sledding, built teepees etc. With the characteristic exuberance of youth, nothing fazed us.  We were very proud of our initial “F” grades in school before we mastered the language because we thought it stood for “Fine”. I remember going to a speech therapist to recognize the difference between a “sheet” we slept on and the product of our bowels.  It didn’t bother me to have my friends laugh with me as I diligently practiced to commit the sounds to memory.  I wanted to learn the language so badly that I spent every spare minute reading everything from fairytales to Nancy Drew to the Encyclopedia Britannica, resorting to a flashlight under the covers after lights out.

At this tender age  I learned words by reading that one does not commonly use. For years I thought thigh was pronounced like “fig” starting with a “th”. I will always remember how at the “grown-up” age of 21 when I was starting to interpret, a judge asked me to stay for a moment after a hearing to see how I was doing.  He asked me how everything was working out and I answered him very seriously that things were somewhat  “awry”, pronouncing it to rhyme with “story”.  I had always loved that word but had never had the opportunity to actually say it.  I was very chagrined when the judge was barely able to suppress a smile and told me with a twinkle in his eye, “you mean awry” and he pronounced the “ry” as in rye bread…  Live and learn. That is the name of the game.  I went from writing short stories in cursive during elementary school for extra credit, to teaching myself to type my term papers and college newspaper articles on an antique typewriter that my mother purchased in a garage sale.  This all paved the way to my doing translations later and my writing this blog now.

English is a beautiful language and we must all do our part to keep it from losing its venerable form. I read a wonderful  article I want to share with you in this regard, by a fellow blogger.

Please share your language stories with me and tell me how you see the status of the English language.  Is it going downhill?

The Wavering Fate of Language Programs and Languages in General


This is a persistent issue that the world needs to solve.  I just came back from the InterpretAmerica Summit in Washington where we heard from Dr. Kayoko Takeda talk about the fact that there is not more research being conducted on interpreting is the U.S. because there are no doctoral programs for our profession and that is where in-depth research projects are usually carried out.  Moreover, the Monterey Institute of International Studies‘s  masters in T&I are the only ones left to date in the States.  It is mind-boggling that our country is not taking the necessary steps in this direction to equip our students with professional language tools that will enable us to compete properly in the relentless process of globalization.

I just signed a petition on Linkedin launched by the AIIC group in that forum to ask the University of Westminster not to cut its conference interpreting program.  I urge any of you that can support it to sign in and do so. The University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Relations teaches some of the world’s hottest languages of the developing world such as Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Chinese.  They receive federal funding, as well they should, because we need to be able to communicate fluently with these countries, in their languages, for business and international relations to prosper.  Nonetheless, because of our economic predicament these programs are slated to receive drastic cuts that will severely hinder their ability to provide this very needed service. It is happening not only here but in countries such as Malayasia that is struggling as its language, which was the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago, is losing its dominance to English. In this regard, I have always been intrigued by the talks that our colleague, Dr. Georganne Weller, has given at professional forums regarding INALI, and the very important work they do to promote indigenous languages in Mexico. I understand there are over 200 indigenous languages in Mexico! Speaking of indigenous languages, the Cherokee Nation apparently understands this problem here and has created a private language immersion school for Cherokee, in Oklahoma, that is applying for charter status.

I will close on an interesting note which caught me by surprise.  Chinese proficiency testing is growing in Mexico, at the Confucius Institute of the Autonomous University of Yucatan. Read about it here. Perhaps a reader from Mexico might be able to shed some light on why this effort is gaining popularity there.

Everybody’s an Interpreter; Further Apropos to the Harris Outburst


I was very intrigued by the events as they unfolded at the hearing, the identity of the “mystery” interpreter, how he came to be there, his background, etc. A NAJIT colleague from Texas posted the Texas Senate Accessibility page on another forum and I started by calling the numbers there to ask whether anyone from the public-at-large had called to secure an interpreter for the hearing in question.  I spoke to  Scott, a Senate  Coordinator, at the number designated on the page to schedule interpreters. He told me that they hardly ever receive any requests for spoken language interpreters, that occasionally they receive a request for an ASL interpreter and that no one had called for this matter. I asked him what the procedure and qualifications were for hiring the former and he became very flustered and told me I would have to call the Secretary of the Senate, Patsy Spaw, who would be better able to answer my questions. I called and left a message with my question, in my capacity as director of NAJIT, asking to be called back.  That was three days ago.

In the meantime, I called RITA (Reform Immigration Texas Alliance) one of the groups that the witness, Antolin Aguirre, was affiliated with when he went to testify before the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. I inquired and was told the identity of the “interpreter” and have subsequently interviewed him.

His name is Loren Campos. He is a bilingual young man, 22 years old, born in Monterey, Mexico who entered  the U.S. illegally when he was 11 years old and has applied for permanent resident status through his sister who is a U.S. citizen by virtue of having married an American.  That application was filed in 2003, 8 years ago, and it typically takes anywhere from 10-15 years to be processed.  In the meantime, Mr. Campos is soon to graduate as a civil engineer from the University of Texas at Austin.

I asked Mr. Campos how he came to be the interpreter at the hearing and he told me that in his freshman year he came across a group called the University Leadership Initiative that was advocating for the Dream Act, proposed federal legislation to provide an 11 year pathway to citizenship for students 16 years or younger when they arrived in this country. Its mission struck a chord with him and he joined the group.  He attended this senate hearing to become informed about SB9 on behalf of the group.  While there, the coordinator for RITA, Adriana Cadena, asked if anyone would volunteer to interpret for several witnesses and Loren agreed. He told me that he is not involved with RITA, that he had never met the witness and that he was not prepped at all as to what would be discussed.  It all happened on the spur of the moment. It was the first time he had ever “translated” outside of a casual conversation. (I was not able to resist the pedantic impulse to explain the difference between a translator and an interpreter and to explain that when acting as an interpreter, one cannot answer questions on behalf of the witness, which he did).

This morning I came across a widely differing account of the event than those which we have been reading, by a Ms. Adryana Boyne. She also alleges to be an interpreter. I will let you all be the judge of that.

I asked Loren Campos whether he felt that Senator Harris’s remarks had been maligned by the press.  He told me that it was apparent to all, or I guess almost all, that the Senator was “very frustrated and upset” that some people elected to testify in Spanish.  Apparently there had been two women before Mr. Aguirre,  that he started to question in the same way but then held back. It seems that Mr. Aguirre was the straw that broke the camel’s back although two more witnesses testified in Spanish after him, also through Mr. Campos, without eliciting any comments.

The moral of the story is that as interpreters we have a long row to hoe to make our elected officials, the courts and other stakeholders aware of the value that as professionals we bring to the table as well as the duty incumbent upon certain stakeholders to provide the services of a certified interpreter.

Cindy Anthony’s Voice and Body Language Show Lies On Stand In Attempt to Protect Casey « Dr. Lillian Glass Body Language Blog


Cindy Anthony’s Voice and Body Language Show Lies On Stand In Attempt to Protect Casey « Dr. Lillian Glass Body Language Blog.

As you know, I have been following this trial with prior posts.  It’s fascinating to see that there are specialists interpreting not only what you say but also what you don’t say vocally but your body conveys silently, body language.

I wonder if anyone will expound on the language of smell which has been so talked about in this trial?

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