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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.

Profile of a Talented Interpreter and Administrator at S.D.N.Y.

Nancy Festinger

I am trying to create an awareness in our community about various players in our profession that stand out, whose work differs in some sense from the type of assignments I normally engage in, working for private attorneys, the courts and at conferences for multinational companies. In my world, that is the status quo.

I had heard about Nancy Festinger, the legendary chief interpreter at the Southern District of New York for years through several colleagues in NYC, but I had never had the opportunity to meet her. For those who are not familiar with it, the Southern District is one of the most influential and active federal district courts in the United States, largely because of its jurisdiction over New York’s major financial centers.

Nancy and I finally coincided in Scottsdale, AZ at the NAJIT annual conference a few short years ago.  She was the then editor of Proteus, the NAJIT newsletter. We hit it off at the event and she asked me if I would be interested in writing a regular column for Proteus. It was a great opportunity for me because Nancy is a gifted writer and I learned a lot from having her edit my articles.

When I conceived the idea of writing profiles/interviews of colleagues for my blog, I immediately thought of her because her job is unique. She is in contact with very varied circumstances and interpreters.

Here is her story.

How did you become involved with interpreting?

I became interested in interpreting, as so many of us did, by chance—although any language-oriented person will gravitate toward areas in which linguistic knowledge can be applied.

From a young age, I was fascinated by language, probably because of the many languages in my family history. My grandparents, all of whom had been born in Russia and emigrated to the U.S. at different ages, spoke with heavy accents, in splintered syntax. One grandfather had spoken four or five different languages in his line of work. My mother’s first language was French, though she stopped speaking it at the age of 11. All this was intriguing. I was a bookish kid who loved reading and playing word games. I still remember my amazement at a little pink book I found in the library called You Can Write Chinese. What a great title!

After college, all I knew was that I wanted to work with language. I felt most drawn to literary translation because I knew it would teach me about writing. (A traditional MFA program held no attraction.) I had a thirst for “real life,” so I worked for a few years, then decided to go to Spain for a year. When I came back to NY, I got a contract to translate a book of oral history, which I had read while I was there. While I was working on the translation, I picked up a continuing education catalog from a local college, and saw a class titled “Court Interpreting: An Alternative Career for the Bilingual Individual.”  It piqued my interest, and I signed up. (Lucky for me, since it was the first and only time the course was ever offered.)  I especially liked the word “alternative” since I had been to an alternative college in the 1970s, a time when so many of us were questioning conventional career choices.

In class we had a great student-teacher ratio: five students to two teachers, one of whom was a staff interpreter in state court (David Fellmeth) and the other a freelance interpreter in federal court (Dena Kohn), who shortly thereafter became head of the SDNY interpreters unit.  During our court visit, I was surprised to see the interpreter sitting right next to the defendant! Thanks to the teachers’ encouragement, at the end of the semester, I trotted off to state court to see if they needed summer per diems. Of course I didn’t really interpret yet, I just had some basic notions, a little practice, and high motivation. These were the days before interpreter exams for state court. Street crime was rampant and Spanish interpreters were in demand. I talked to someone for five minutes and was told to come in the following day and report to the interpreters’ room, an L-shaped corridor behind the court security officers’ desk. About 15 interpreters were crammed in there, a combination of staff and per diem. One day turned into a whole year; I learned everything that year– and took the federal certification exam the following year.  My former teachers were the ones who got me involved in CITA, which later became NAJIT. I started out licking envelopes and somehow 25 years went by, there was always something to do!

How did you ultimately get hired as the chief interpreter for the Southern District of NY?

One thing followed another. After becoming federally certified in 1982, I spent 8 years freelancing, sometimes traveling to trials in other districts, but mostly working in the two federal courts in NYC.  In 1990, the SDNY expanded its staff from 2 to 5, and I applied for a full time position. When they offered me the job, I hesitated for a few days, because I wanted to retain the freedom to do books. I’d worked on other book translations during this period, but every time I did, I ended up losing money.  I had no sick days, no vacation days…Finally, I concluded that working full-time would be the best decision. In 1993, our then-chief (Patricia Michelsen) moved to Virginia, the supervisory position opened, and I applied for it. We are now six staff interpreters with two administrative assistants and a large pool of contract interpreters. I enjoy it tremendously, wear a lot of different hats, and still interpret as much as I can. You have to stay active or you lose your skills. The administrative part—coordinating scheduling and billing for contractors— while necessary, is not as exciting.

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

I’d have to say the variety, which makes it a creative problem to keep actively engaged on all fronts. Having a dependable and talented team around me has enabled me to do a lot of different things. I get to know interpreters of many languages; orienting and coaching newcomers to the field; providing support to interpreters and observing them in action; interacting with courthouse personnel on every level; reading the growing literature in the field; talking directly to judges about interpreter protocol; advisory committee work; special projects such as creating our website or database glossary; working in myriad ways with NAJIT on professional issues;  preparing workshop or conference material; plus the everyday interpreting and translating assignments. I still enjoy interpreting legal arguments and translating letters to the judge, for example. Then there is the challenge of staying organized, so that all the information on hand is well classified and easy to access for the staff, the community of freelancers, researchers, the bench and bar, and the public.

What has been the most demanding assignment of your career?

Here I’d have to say a recent effort to identify Songhai interpreters for a major trial. My office spent the better part of a year tracking down leads, talking to people nationally and internationally. The best candidates we could find  had good command of both English and Songhai but no interpreting experience, so we had to figure out a way to train them. We hoped they would have what it took, but there were no guarantees. Watching candidates build up their skills, from first hesitant stabs to smooth simultaneous, was a real thrill. My staff and I designed and implemented the training program. Convincing the court of the need to do this was another matter.

What are the challenges our profession is facing and how can we strive to meet them?

I think we have the same challenges now as we’ve always had—how to attract high-quality people to the field, especially in languages not frequently needed by the court system. Most courts need interpreters who will continue to provide professional service for decades.  Time marches on and court cases only become more complex linguistically. In languages of lesser diffusion, the Catch-22 is you need highly skilled people on an occasional basis, so there is no incentive for those who interpret languages of lesser diffusion to get training– even if the training were more readily available. The challenge for courthouses is to find ways to provide court-sponsored training for freelancers. We need to develop talent where it exists, create attractive career paths so that people of ability are attracted to the field and can remain in it, and then encourage interpreters to keep honing their skills. How can we strive to meet these challenges? I think NAJIT and other associations are going a long way toward building a corps of committed professionals, and issuing persuasive position papers on professional issues. The court entities who use interpreter services have an obligation to create good working conditions, decent pay, and sufficient, effective support. That seems like a no-brainer, but it takes a huge public relations effort to get that message across to the powers that be.

Administratively, we have a whole other cohort of challenges, having to do with efficient scheduling, trend tracking, and streamlining bureaucratic paperwork.

Tell us how you went about creating the court-sponsored training for Russian, Fuzhou and Arabic interpreters in your court. Has that initiative continued to be developed?

In my experience, most court administrators don’t get involved in the nitty gritty of what interpreters do or what their departments  need. We are a niche unit within the courthouse, because no one else can do what we do, and most people don’t understand the details.  We are like a boutique business. My theory for getting things done in this environment is to take initiative, prepare a convincing report, and try to make it easy for higher-ups to rubber-stamp what I propose. While it is hard to predict what languages will be needed in the future, I looked at usage statistics and saw a need to reinforce our roster in our district’s most-requested languages after Spanish. I thought we needed to have language-specific training, one language at a time. When the first seminar was successful, it was easy to build on it and do the same thing with other languages. We on the staff did all the teaching in English, we got guest speakers from different court units, we hired expert interpreters to coach and supervise practice sessions, and we gave attendees lots of study material to take home. We tested interpreters before and after in short samples of simultaneous, and noted the difference. It was an awful lot of work, but it paid off.  Many of the interpreters who attended those seminars continue to work with us a decade later. The relatively small investment by the court ($5,000) paid off in spades. After these 3 languages, I didn’t continue because there was no other language whose usage statistics warranted a training program.

If you could implement one change in the interpreting dept of the SDNY, what would that be and why?

I would have the court reimburse conference registration fees for staff interpreters, or contribute to travel costs to attend conferences.  Every professional conference we attend is out of our own pockets, when the court has a vested interest in our continuing education.

Tell us about the most funny or satisfying assignment you ever did.

Actually, it wasn’t an assignment except in the sense that I gave it to myself, but it’s had a great effect on the esprit de corps. It turned out to be the best public relations plug for interpreters I ever could have come up with!  To counteract the intense seriousness with which people take their jobs, I decided I needed some comic relief, so I put together a musical comedy revue. It’s been going on now for 17 years. (We did it one year at the NAJIT conference in NY.) The Courthouse Follies started as an interpreters’ show and then spread to the whole courthouse. We make fun of everyone: politicians, judges, attorneys, ourselves. The material emerges from a collaborative process–for the past 10 years my co-writer has been a federal defender, and we also have material submitted by one of our judges. The rehearsals—always difficult because frequently half the cast can’t make it—have to be coordinated and directed, and for lack of anyone else, I do that, too. We hire a pianist, and whoever is willing (including judges and attorneys) can be in the cast, usually about 25 people. It’s expanded to have costumes, dancing, whatever we can think of. Everyone contributes ideas. A lot of improvisation happens on the night of the show. Crazy lot of work to pull it together, but once we’re in front of an audience, it all pays off.  It’s very satisfying because I get to see all these otherwise serious people guffawing at human foibles and the legal system itself. It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy for an interpreter.

Can you give us an example?

Well, you know the song New York, New York from the musical On the Town?

Imagine watching court employees in a chorus line, singing these lyrics:

SDNY, it’s a helluva court

The trials are long and the tempers are short;

We get to keep all the drugs they import

SDNY, it’s a helluva court!

FIT 2011 on Interpreting

Second North American Summit on Interpreting, June 17-18, 2011

Technology Panel

InterpretAmerica succeeded in sustaining the momentum of their first summit last year, at their second just ended in Washington, D.C. yesterday.  The conference was well attended by just under 200 active, well known interpreters from many fields including medical, ASL, conference and legal.  NAJIT had a strong showing with Rob Cruz, Chair, Robin Lanier, Executive Director, and myself from the board present.  In addition, we ran into many NAJIT colleagues that were also present:  Jaime de Castellvi, Giovanna Lester, Tony Rosado, Melinda Gonzalez Hibner, Cristina Helmerichs, Rosa Wallach, Marjory Bancroft  and Lisset Samananiego, to name a few.  Moreover, there were many OTS (Other Than Spanish) interpreters there whose language combination included Turkish, Mandarin Chinese, Romanian, Ukranian, Korean, Farsi, Portuguese and others. The audience was attentive and involved as current topics having a bearing on our profession such as technology and professional identity were discussed. The keynote speaker was Nataly Kelly, the Chief Research Officer at Common Sense  Advisory  whose basic message is that technology is influencing  our work and that we must embrace it or be left behind.  In keeping with the topic at hand, many of the attendees swiftly tweeted snippets from her discourse and that of other speakers throughout the conference. If  you look soon at, you may still find them under the hash tag #InterpAmSummit. Nataly stated that the main drivers behind technology were speed, access and availability followed by quality, and not lower prices, as we might think. Innovation has been partly driven by need in times of catastrophes and many solutions are coming in from outside of our field. You can read about her interview of  Ray Kursweil on the subject here. Other recent mentions of technology which I found, that dovetail these discussions  are a new API  we can download to Skype in other languages and an invention that sounds a little fishy!

The other overarching topic that was debated was that of the interpreter’s professional identity. After a moderated exchange regarding independent contractor status vs. employee status in the OPI industry, which was not relevant to many of the attendees, the forum was divided into several groups that discussed different angles of our work. This session was very relevant. The groups talked about  Legal interpreting and Advocacy roles, which session was ably moderated by Robin Lanier, Education/Training, Professional Associations, Technology,  and Certification/Credentialing.  Our own Marjorie Bancroft will be writing a white paper based on the results of these discussions which were provided to her by a scribe from each group and which will be posted on the InterpretAmerica site at the end of the summer.  Some of the findings were made known briefly at the end of the hour and a half exchange of ideas. There was one finding in particular I thought very interesting  and it is that interpreters from all fields want to have one organization to represent them and that meets all their needs. That issue has been top-of-mind for the new NAJIT board as we start our mandate and we will be rolling out our suggestions to both members and prospective members in the near future.  As the premier organization for interpreters, and one that has built a solid brand after an effort spanning many years, we feel that that is our role to do so and we want to frame our mission to encompass that need.  In order to do this properly, we need the input and assistance of our members so that this is considered professionally, efficiently and democratically.

There were several technology vendors who brought their wares to the Summit in D.C.  It was a good opportunity for our colleagues that are not familiar with conference interpreting to test drive the experience of interpreting in a booth with all the latest bells and whistles. There is also a revolutionary new product called the Digi-Wave by Williams Sound to deliver simultaneous  interpreting without need of a booth that all should look into. It’s a big improvement over the old Whisper Sound guide system.  NAJIT is having conversations with a dealer to get preferred pricing for our members. Similarly, we were able to see how OPI (Over the Phone Interpreting) software and VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) works. We were gently warned that technology is here to stay so we cannot postpone familiarizing ourselves with it so as to influence its development. Technology will not replace interpreters.  The interpreters who embrace it will displace those who don’t. As Barry Olsen reminded us, Wayne Gretsky, the hockey star, says “a good hockey player plays where the puck is, a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be”.

Lastly we heard from Dr. Kayoko Takeda, an associate professor at the MIIS Graduate School who is an author as well as a  conference and legal interpreter.  She  talked about her research interests in interpretation and her own experience with the evolution of  technology in the corporate workplace as distinct from criminal court proceedings. An attendee asked her whom we could turn to, to conduct research in our field. She informed us that the possibilities are very limited due to the lack of doctoral programs  in Translation and Interpretation, which are the natural venues for this work. I was heartened to hear from a colleague at the conference, Andrew Clifford, from the School of Translation at Glendon College in Toronto, Canada, that they are planning on offering an MA in T & I by 2013.  Dr. Takeda went on to say that when a profession is tied to degrees and research, its status grows.  I couldn’t agree more and I am curious to see what the findings  of the group that discussed Certification and Education were.

Next year, the summit will be held in Monterey CA.  June 15-16. The organizers emphasized the value of the feedback from attendees in the evaluation form collected at the end of the conference as that is what will determine the issues to be discussed next year. Everyone was very conscientious in complying with the request to be specific so I look forward to continuing the lively debate next year with one more year of experience under our belt in this time of flux for our profession.

Inspect analyst talks flies at Anthony trial – WPEC 12 West Palm Beach

Inspect analyst talks flies at Anthony trial – WPEC 12 West Palm Beach.

I am posting an article on this part of the testimony offered in the current Anthony murder trial, arguably a media frenzy event, because coincidentally, although interpreting services are not being offered, the testimony relates directly to one of the workshops offered at the NAJIT annual meeting  a month ago, entitled “Let’s talk about death. Understanding the language of medico-legal investigations” by Laura Cahue, Ph.D. Below is an email Laura sent out yesterday to those of us who attended her session in Long Beach in May, commenting on the testimony in the article referenced:

Been watching the Anthony trial-the expert witnesses providing forensic testimonies.  This caught my attention, see what you think.  Next year, we can go over this case and the entomological and anthropological forensic evidence—with good interpreting solutions that preserve the scientific jargon register.  



Neal Haskell, an expert in forensic entomology from St. Joseph’s College in Indiana, confirmed that the presence of flies – both adult and larvae – in materials that had been in the car were indicative of human decomposition.


The source of the decompositional fluids that attracted the bugs probably would have been in the car for several days, he said.  The flies were found among trash and paper towels that had been inside the trunk of the car.  Haskell said the evidence is “absolutely” consistent with a body being left inside the trunk – but that the body had not been in the trunk for very long. He said he thought the little girl’s body had been in the trunk for three to five days.  He added that the insect evidence at the scene where Caylee Marie’s body was found indicated that the body “had been out there many, many months.”


Please read the handout in the NAJIT Conference book, to better understand.  AND I ask this question:  If we can use pig models (that is, use pigs to study entomological processes during decomposition, can we assert that the presence of flies (or any other insect species, for that matter) is ABSOLUTELY due to the presence of a HUMAN decomposing body?  While Haskell does not say this, he does suggest it and misleads the jury by not clarifying that these insects are attracted by mammalian flesh decomposition (in fact, many also colonize reptilians and icthyofauna-fish).  If you can’t really conceptualize this, think of road kill.


In Entomology & Death – A Procedural Guide, edited by E. Paul Catts and Neal H. Haskell, Wayne Lord (Chapter 2-page 9) writes:


Human corpses, whether they have been produced naturally or as the result of foul play, are processed by insect decomposers in the same manner as any other piece of carrion.  Forensic entotomology, therefore, is based on the analysis of the insects and other invertebrates which sequentially colonize a corpse as decomposition progresses….”


I am surprised the defense did not make him clarify this on cross, and only asked about “could this have been due to the trash in the car”?  Haskell could have then clarified that the species of flies are only attracted to decomposing flesh-not rotting food, as you would be likely to find in trash.  A cooked, rotting burger will attract flies, but are they the same species as those that feed on decomposing flesh?



 Who would have thought we would be seeing a practical application of the concepts we learned, in such a short time? I will definitely attend her sequel workshop, already announced, at next year’s meeting.

Lady Gaga to Learn Sign Language? – PopCrush

Lady Gaga to Learn Sign Language? – PopCrush. ASL interpreters have a new icon in their corner!

NAJIT, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators  incorporated an ASL track to their recent annual conference in May held in Long Beach, CA.  It was the first time the association included this subspecialty among the workshops offered and it was very well received.  We expect to see more at next year’s conference in Boston.

Cambodian language test a failure, interpreter tells court

Cambodian language test a failure, interpreter tells court. Further to my post of a few days ago, we see that our Canadian colleagues are encountering many of the types of issues that we are trying to  cure with our own State Consortium tests in the U.S. to confer accreditation on OTS (other than Spanish) interpreters.

NAJIT, the National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators sponsored a “Train the Trainer” course targeting Khmer and Punjabi interpreters in San Francisco in February.

Murder charges dropped against illegal alien—translator botched Miranda rights – National Immigration Reform |

Murder charges dropped against illegal alien—translator botched Miranda rights – National Immigration Reform |

It would be interesting to learn whether the interpreter in question is a certified interpreter, which is hard to believe, as this is an issue that should have been covered in training.  If it is a self-proclaimed “translator”  then this really underscores the case for using certified interpreters and divulging this type of  news so that courts and government agencies are aware of the repercussions when non-professionals are used.

NAJIT ,The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, is in the process of  finishing an excellent educational presentation in this regard geared towards attorneys and judges. It will be available for members on the association’s website in the not too distant future.

The Interpreting Profession is Evolving Rapidly

NAJIT workshop

Rob Cruz at NAJIT workshop

I have just come back from my first language-related congress for the year. The NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators) annual conference held in Long Beach, CA in mid-May where I was elected to the board of directors and appointed Co-Chair of the Bench and Bar Committee.  This committee  interacts with attorneys and judges to educate them about the interpreting profession.  There are many initiatives being promulgated by this  association to reach that goal such as a PowerPoint presentation with Talking Points that will shortly be uploaded to the members section of the NAJIT website. This presentation is a didactic tool that succinctly explains what events led up to the Court Interpreters Act of 1978 and what the legal precedents are, regarding language services, that support constitutional due process and ensure the legal rights of LEP individuals in this country. In addition, NAJIT is participating, as an advisor, in a project by the American Bar Association to create national standards for language access to state courts.  I just finished writing an article in more detail about this and giving an overview of said annual conference, which will be published in the ATA (American Translators Association) Chronicle in July or August.

In three weeks I will be attending the 2nd. InterpretAmerica Forum in Washington, D.C. that will be bringing together many constituents from the interpreting world to discuss topics to promote the growth of the industry  through best practices, focusing to a great extent on technology.  I attended the first version of this forum last year and was very favorably impressed.  I urge all colleagues that are able to go, to attend this thoughtful and very well organized event.  They are almost sold out so contact them right away at

In the beginning of August I shall be traveling to the F.I.T. (Federation Internationale de Traducteurs) Congress in San Francisco which is being hosted by ATA and lastly in October, I will travel to Boston where the ATA Conference will be held.  I have submitted abstracts of papers I hope to present there and am waiting to hear if they have been accepted….

I will be blogging about all of these impactful events for our industry.

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