Friday, August 31, 2007

More Submissions

This has been an extremely busy week for the project!

More submissions seem to arrive each day, and I feel very blessed to be receiving stories from interpreters in so many different fields, not to mention from individuals in so many countries! Interested parties continue to inquire about the project from a host of places.

This week has kept me extremely busy reviewing submissions and corresponding with interested authors. I've also been discussing the possibility of audio submissions, and I know that a couple of contributors will be sending submissions in audio format, for potential inclusion in both the print version of the book, and potentially, an audio version. More details on that at some other time.

In recent travels, I've also been fortunate to spend time with individuals to hear their feedback about the project and their ideas for contributing, both in helping to promote the project and for actual stories.

The amount of support has so far has been truly incredible, and I look forward to discussing ideas with others on future trips. It is always a pleasure to sit down with interpreters and others in the field in person, to capture their stories and discuss the incredible impact that interpreters are having on the world.

Thanks to everyone!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Translation Ireland

I had previously mentioned and thanked John Kearns for his excellent help in spreading the word about the From Our Lips to Your Ears project.

Now, I wish to thank him for sending me a copy of the excellent journal, Translation Ireland, a special issue called "New Vistas in Translator and Interpreter Training".

The special issue has some wonderful papers related to interpreting, including:

Interpreting with Limited Training: Experiences in the Interpreting of Academic Lectures at the North-West University, South Africa by Johan Blaauw

A Skill-Based Approach to Conference Interpreting by Agnieszka Chmiel

Training Public Service Translators and Interpreters: Difficulties in an Uncharted Field by Mustapha Taibi and Anne Martin

New Challenges for Interpreting Schools by Svetlana Carsten

Translation, Localisation and Interpreting Courses in Ireland by Mary Phelan

Monday, August 27, 2007


By Carl Sandburg

There are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing- and singing- remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here tomorrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Great Week

This has been another tremendous week for the project, with stories pouring in and all kinds of great support! Here are a few updates:

  • Special thanks to Amparo Alvarez of The Wellness Community of Greater Miami for helping to spread the word throughout Florida and the rest of the nation! I've noticed several more hits on the website from Florida-based locations as a result of her efforts!
  • The program was also featured in the New Routes electronic newsletter, and on the project website, located here.
  • A radio show in a Western state has expressed an interest in featuring the From Our Lips project on an upcoming program. More to come on that soon!
  • The sample story, titled, "The Right Answer", shared here and on the project site, will be featured in an upcoming issue of a newsletter for University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Multilingual News

The From Our Lips to Your Ears project is featured in the News section of the September issue of Multilingual magazine.

Multilingual is the leading industry magazine for Web site globalization, international software development and language technology.

Published 8 times yearly, it is read by more than 15,000 people in 60 countries. Information and current news are also provided by

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

California Healthcare Interpreting Association

Special thanks to the California Healthcare Interpreting Association for sharing information about the From Our Lips to Your Ears project on the CHIA web site! Also, please see the information below for details on the next CHIA conference.


CHIA’s 2008 Annual Conference March 6-7 in Los Angeles

CHIA is pleased to announce that its Eighth Annual Education Conference has been scheduled for Thursday and Friday, March 6-7, at The California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities. The conference center is located at 1000 N. Alameda St. in downtown Los Angeles.

The Thursday-Friday booking is new for our conferences (historically held on Friday-Saturday) and allows us to take advantage of TCE’s terrific venue, which can be explored at Please make this event an early fixture on your 2008 calendar!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Association de l'industrie de la langue

Special thanks to the Language Industry Association / Association de l'industrie de la langue (AILIA) for mentioning the From Our Lips to Your Ears project in their newsletter, courtesy of Lola Bendana. You can visit the AILIA website by clicking here.

I very much look forward to receiving contributions from Canada!

Monday, August 20, 2007

How To Be An Interpreter

Several weeks ago, I stumbled across a masterpiece called, "How To Be An Interpreter." I am pleased to report that the author of this brilliant work, a fellow interpreter and blogger who goes by the name of Chameleon for purposes of confidentiality, has given me permission to share her wonderful essay here. In the interests of space, I am sharing the condensed version. The full version is available at her website, here.

Not only that, but she has kindly granted permission to publish an abbreviated version of this in the From Our Lips to Your Ears book.

This essay contains an entertaining mixture of humor, sarcasm and insight. Since the readers of this blog come from all "walks of life" in the interpreting field, I want to remind readers that the rules of engagement for interpreting depend greatly on the type of interpreting one is providing. It is obvious from the context provided that this piece refers to conference interpreting (simultaneous mode).

So, without further ado, please enjoy this essay, which, I believe not only accurately reflects many of the subtleties and difficulties of an interpreter's daily life, but truly enables non-interpreters to gain a gritty and honest, yet educated glimpse of what this work frequently entails.

How To Be An Interpreter

Develop a magpie instinct, picking up pieces of knowledge no matter how obscure, from Middle High German proverbs to solar panel technology, from condom thicknesses to mother boards.

Have a few stock quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare at your fingertips, as clients are fond of displaying their erudition (King Lear, Act One, Scene Four’s “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well” an excellent solution for the perennial brain bender “the good is the enemy of the best”) and a few innocuous “filler” phrases when you need to play for time, taking that split second to dredge up the choice piece of vocabulary from the depths of your memory (a favourite of some being “We ignore this at our peril”). Avoid Spoonerism-prone expressions, such as “shed light on”. Once the penny has dropped, you will experience a pre-emptive shudder of mental mortification every time you contemplate using it.

Be prepared for the frustration of outsiders (especially those who should know better as they depend on your services on a daily basis) assuming that anyone with the most superficial of nodding acquaintances with languages being capable of doing your job. You may have a doctorate in nuclear physics (one of my colleagues does), but you are still pigeonholed as a linguist and looked down on accordingly. Of course, they are secretly jealous that they have been excluded from such a “cushy number”. Whereas in truth even the perfectly bilingual are less likely to possess the rarefied aptitude than those brought up without such an advantage. This attitude is exacerbated by the fatuous claims printed as a marketing ploy on learning discs (“Learn Hausa in a week!”) so popular at the moment as holidaymakers contemplate alternative sunny climes.

Worse, you are a parasite, an expensive frippery, a drain on taxpayers’ money, a glorified secretary, a menial to be shunted off to a cheap hotel miles away from the venue whilst those on an equal (or greatly inferior) footing in the official hierarchy are allocated doubles in situ (the cost of hiring fleets of coaches to ferry you back and forth is somehow mysteriously omitted from the calculation, what counts is the genuflection towards economising).

Always respect the Magnus Magnusson principle (“I’ve started so I’ll finish”). If you embark on a sentence you are committed to finishing it or else you will undermine the confidence of your listeners. This is why it is never a good idea to echo the speaker when she or he says “We have a saying in Estonian that goes something like this and I’m not sure about the English equivalent…” (the advice in paragraph one notwithstanding). Waiting for a few seconds will allow you to determine whether a similar phrase does indeed exist in the target language and save you much grief. However, your voice must not waver in the meantime. Waiting just long enough without creating the impression you have lost the plot is a skill that can only be acquired with practice. Hesitation is not automatically equated with incompetence, but the line between keeping and losing your audience’s faith is fine indeed.

Judicious editing is one of the most important aptitudes at your disposal and should be nurtured accordingly. Interpretation is not a mere slavish rendition of every word, but a distillation of the message, a processed essence purified of all extraneous verbiage, a concentrate of the speaker’s intentions. Ideally every utterance should be faithfully rendered (and the true interpreter will capture the speaker’s style and delivery as well as content), but this is not always possible. In that sense, interpretation is a highly pragmatic art.

No matter how repugnant the views articulated might be to you personally, your presence is required as a conduit, a filter of concepts, a role, which does not entitle you to distort or maliciously interfere with the original message. The phrase “says the speaker” is handy in two instances: firstly as an exclamation mark to dissociate yourself with the content when the speaker has made a glaring error of substance (so that listeners are alerted to the fact that a lack of comprehension on your part is not to blame) and secondly to distance yourself from the most repellent of statements (although the latter should be used sparingly and many would argue that it is never acceptable to deploy it to voice a distaste, which is incompatible with our professional ethos).

You communicate the thoughts and thought processes of others: you are only a participant in proceedings by default or proxy, an impartial witness, an arbiter of content at a linguistic level, but not a judge. If all else fails and you really have not understood either because the acoustics were poor (the sound cuts out with monotonous regularity or the expatiating customer has an irritating habit of turning round to joke with his friend in the row behind and the mike does not pick up the words clearly) or the point genuinely went over your head, there are two fallback tactics, leaving the offending word or phrase out altogether (which can prove fatal or impossible if everything hinged on that one component – all too often the case) or bluffing with a meaningless substitute (the indispensable padding phrase again). Clarification can always be requested by the delegates themselves. They have the advantage of being in a position to ask. You don’t.

The true last resort is tactical mumbling. Speaking indistinctly won’t endear you to colleagues depending on your for relay, but mumbling the names (the problem usually arises because the individual giving the floor mangles the pronunciation so badly that only the most mentally agile, seasoned interpreter who can reel off the list of members of the body in question has a remote hope of deciphering them) or making a valiant attempt to mimic accurately the sound emanating from the chairperson’s lips at least opens the possibility that someone out there might be able to put two and two together.

Always modulate. There is nothing more dreary than hearing a bored voice drone on through the headphones. Even if the topic is accrual-based accounting systems remember it is your duty to make it sound interesting. It will warm the cockles of some little stuffed shirt’s heart. You are the speaker for the duration. If she is angry, you must convey that rage. If she speaks with passion, you must reflect that enthusiasm. Your voice is your precious instrument, your greatest asset. Flaunt it.

Resign yourself to never being able to read a newspaper again (not even in your mother tongue) without underlining interesting or unfamiliar words. Tabloids are every bit as useful as broadsheets in this respect, as you can stripmine them of vocabulary items in a different register. The printed columns are a tool, not only in terms of gathering information, but also in terms of providing you with the basic raw materials of your craft.

Do not be alarmed at the shift in perceptions that comes from being exposed to an uninterrupted stream of sound day in day out. A person’s attractiveness will be conditional on the quality of their voice. Nothing will put you off a person more than a shrill, hash or in any way grating vocalisation. Your tolerance for extraneous noise will gradually diminish the longer you are bombarded with other people’s utterances. This is an occupational disease and will sneak up on you unnoticed. It may even extend to music.

Finally, one ineluctable paradox is built into the very nature of our art. We have to process complex information instantaneously. We must have honed analytical skills. We must have a flair for communicating across cultural barriers. In order to perform our job well we must possess an innate creativity that must always be harnessed in the service of those who by definition cannot appreciate our flashes of brilliance. We might pull off a linguistic salto mortale every second sentence without the reward of applause. We might unravel the most tortuous logic with perfect clarity yet our efforts go unnoticed. The brutal truth is that if they could appreciate us they wouldn’t need us. We only ever impinge on their consciousness if something goes wrong.

If you are expecting gratitude or admiration in exchange for your intellectual fireworks, for the sheer amount of mental and emotional energy expended you will be sorely disappointed. The primary compensations are to be found in being present whilst history is made (or at least having a ringside seat whilst the swarms of journalists hang around the bar for the merest scrap of what you have heard in detail, and the more modest consolation of being able to walk away at the end of the session and leave the day’s work behind you.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The "Right" Answer

As an interpreter trainer, I've been fortunate to share many stories with fellow trainers and interpreters over the years. Recently, I was asked by a colleague for permission to write up a story that I had previously shared with her in person regarding an experience related to medical interpreting and cultural differences, for publication in a newsletter.

This turned out to be perfect timing, because I was just getting ready to publish a sample story to the From Our Lips to Your Ears project website, at the request of many individuals who wanted to see an example of a story that would be in keeping with the project mission. The sample story I will share below is now available on the project website (

Stories can be wonderful teaching tools, and I can already tell from the submissions received so far that the book will be overflowing with rich examples of this nature.

So, here is a story from the archives of my own interpreting experiences, one that I've shared many times with interpreters to demonstrate the role of culture in communication.

The “Right” Answer

As medical interpreters, we often serve as bridges, not just between languages, but between cultures. One experience in particular demonstrated this to me in a way that I will never forget.

I was interpreting during a speech therapy session. The patient was an elderly Spanish-speaking female stroke victim, most likely in her late 70’s or 80’s. Like many stroke victims, she had to put forth her utmost concentration and make a tremendous effort to pronounce each word. Her speech was slow, and many letters were difficult for her to say, but she was clearly committed to doing the very best she could. In spite of the obvious strain, her voice projected a sense of pride in what she was able to accomplish. Her determined attitude was admirable.

One speech exercise required the patient to answer basic questions about different job functions in society. For example, the therapist would ask, “Who drives the bus?” The patient knowingly replied, “The bus driver.” When asked, “Who brings you the food in a restaurant?” The patient proudly responded with the correct answer, “The waiter.” Each time, the therapist would respond with encouraging words, and the patient seemed increasingly confident in her abilities to produce the right answers, albeit with slow and painstaking attention to each syllable.

However, the patient’s steady pattern of providing the correct answers came to a halt when she was asked, "Who do you borrow a cup of sugar from?" Those of us familiar with mainstream US culture know that the answer the therapist expected to hear was, “the neighbor”, but this concept was a source of utter confusion for the patient. Instead of answering the question with the typical one-word answer, she patiently put together a question of her own. With long pauses between each word, she asked, “Why--would--I--want--to--borrow--a--cup--of—sugar…?” There was a hint of frustration in her voice. Her steady string of correct answers had suddenly come to an unexpected stop.

After interpreting the patient’s response, I explained to the provider that, in many cultures, the typical diet might not include recipes that call for a cup of sugar, and that this unit of measure may not be customary either. I also explained that the standard definition of “neighbor” in many cultures might not be likely to include the borrowing of grocery staples.

The therapist said, “Fine, we’ll just skip that question and move on.” After I interpreted this explanation to the patient, the exercise continued as before. Only now, even though she was able to provide the right answers to all of the questions being asked, it seemed to me that she was frustrated or nervous. The excitement and confidence she had experienced by being a “good student” had suddenly diminished slightly. With each question asked by the therapist, I silently hoped for concepts that would be culturally relevant, to facilitate the communication process.

We asked several questions to which the patient provided the expected answers. Then, the therapist asked a seemingly simple and straightforward question, "Who grows the food?" The correct answer, according to U.S. culture, would be, “the farmer”. I interpreted this sentence slowly and clearly, taking special care to choose the verb equivalent for “grow” that would be most closely associated with crops and farming, to eliminate confusion. The patient seemed confident that she knew the right answer to this question. Without skipping a beat, she said, in a somewhat louder voice, “The mother.”

I interpreted her answer into English, prepared to follow the interpretation by explaining to the provider that, in some places, large-scale farming might be less common, and that it might be more common for families to plant their own supply of food in a garden, usually tended to by the mother of the household. I wanted the provider to understand that the patient’s answer was correct, at least, within a different cultural framework.

But before I even had a chance to finish the explanation, the therapist interrupted and rephrased the question, “Who grows the food for a lot of people?” I felt a sense of apprehension, mixed with hope that perhaps these additional words might help the patient come up with the “right” answer to this question.

She seemed to think that this was an easy question. More confidently than ever, the patient immediately answered, “God.” Just as swiftly, I rendered her answer in English.

All three of us just sat there in silence for a few moments, although it seemed like an eternity. The provider seemed to be processing this response and trying to figure out how to proceed. The patient just stayed silent, waiting for the next question. With no words to interpret from either party, I too stayed quiet.

Finally, the provider thanked the patient, told her she had done a good job in the session, and that she looked forward to seeing her the following week.

I will never know how this experience might have impacted the therapist, or what she was thinking during those drawn-out moments of silence. It may be that she continued to use the same questions with every patient, without regard for cultural differences. Or, it may be that this moment served to enlighten her, prompting her to begin a campaign to develop more culturally relevant materials for speech therapists everywhere. I will never know.

But I do believe I know how it impacted the patient. She walked out of the office that day with a firm belief that she was making progress, and that she had ended the session by conquering the final question with what she believed to be the only logical and appropriate answer.

After all, according to her view of the world, it most definitely was the "right" answer.

(c) 2007 Nataly Kelly. All Rights Reserved.

Nataly Kelly is currently collecting anecdotes and stories about interpreting for publication in the book, "From Our Lips to Your Ears: How Interpreters Are Changing the World." To learn more, please visit the project website,

Trainers, educators, interpreters and others - if you would like to use this story for training or educational purposes, feel free to do so. If you are providing it as a handout or in another written format, please just make sure that all of the italicized text is copied in its entirety, including the copyright information and website listed above. If you would like to publish the story for broader distribution in a newsletter or other publication, please send an email to to request permission.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Interpreters Essential to Unlocking Legal Battles

A wonderful article by Ernesto Londoño just ran in today's Washington Post about the importance of interpreters in our nation's court system. Much of the article falls directly in line with the mission of the From Our Lips project - to demonstrate the value of interpreters in society.

As interpreters, we have become accustomed to reading items in the media that demonstrate a lack of understanding about the importance of our work. For this reason, it is a refreshing change to see an article of this nature.

Below, I am pasting a few key lines from the article:

The job is tougher than many think, court interpreters say, and for too long it has wrongly been perceived as a task any bilingual person can perform.

"People still believe that if you're bilingual that's sufficient for being an interpreter," said Isabel Framer, a court interpreter and chair of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

Performing the job requires the ability to interpret simultaneously for long periods of time, paying close attention to detail, emphasis and meaning. An understanding of the judicial process and a solid grasp of forensic and scientific terms -- as well as slang, which often varies from country to country -- is also crucial.

"If the interpreter is not competent, it will render everyone incompetent," Framer said. "None of the officers of the court can carry out their jobs."

I am absolutely delighted to see an article of this nature in a newspaper like the Post.

Efforts like these help the public in general to become more familiar with the reality of interpreting. Interpreters enable multicultural societies, like the United States, to function efficiently and effectively. In the case of our nation's court system, equal access to justice would simply not be possible without interpreters.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jesús Baigorri-Jalón

One of my favorite "side effects" of working on this project so far has been the surprise of encountering numerous other authors who have written books about interpreting, and who, in many cases, work (or have worked) as professional interpreters themselves.

Another author I've been exchanging emails with is Jesús Baigorri-Jalón, the author of Interpreters at the United Nations: A History, published by Ediciones de la Universidad de Salamanca and translated into English by Anne Barr, from the original in Spanish.

As a former staff interpreter at the United Nations stationed in New York, he is also the author of La interpretación de conferencias: el nacimiento de una profesión, de Paris a Nuremberg, published by Granada Comares. A version of this book was also published in French, De Paris a Nuremberg: Naissance de l'interprétation de conférences.

Jesús has also written a wonderful paper on interpreter characters in fictional literature, which may be of interest to many of you, titled, "El intérprete como personaje de ficción en la narrativa contemporánea: algunos ejemplos".

He also shared an excellent resource with me that I thought I would share with everyone here as well. It is a page devoted to the history of translation and interpreting, primarily in Latin America, from the Université de Montréal:

If you click on the bibliography organized by topic (Bibliographie thématique), and then click on 418.02 Traduction et interprétation, you will see an extensive listing of resources.

Jesús and I have discussed the fact that there are so many great stories to be shared, and so many wonderful interpreters out there who have yet to learn about the project. I am definitely pleased by the diversity of settings in which working interpreters have been submitting stories, and constantly encouraged by the prospect of contributions from interpreters of all walks of life!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Top 10 Most Difficult Words to Translate

After consulting with 1000 linguists, Today Translations came up with a list of ten words that were voted "hardest to translate".

Jurga Zilinskiene, head of Today Translations, which carried out the survey, had the following to say:

"Probably you can have a look at the dictionary and... find the meaning," she said. "But most importantly it's about cultural experiences and... cultural emphasis on words."

And if these are hard to translate, our heart goes out to simultaneous interpreters!

Here is the list:

1 ilunga [Tshiluba word for a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time; to tolerate it a second time; but never a third time. Note: Tshiluba is a Bantu language spoken in south-eastern Congo, and Zaire]

2 shlimaz [Yiddish for a chronically unlucky person]

3 radioukacz [Polish for a person who worked as a telegraphist for the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain]

4 naa [Japanese word only used in the Kansai area of Japan, to emphasise statements or agree with someone]

5 altahmam [Arabic for a kind of deep sadness]

6 gezellig [Dutch for cosy]

7 saudade [Portuguese for a certain type of longing]

8 selathirupavar [Tamil for a certain type of truancy]

9 pochemuchka [Russian for a person who asks a lot of questions]

10 klloshar [Albanian for loser]

And now, for the top 10 English words voted hardest to translate:

1 plenipotentiary

2 gobbledegook

3 serendipity

4 poppycock

5 googly

6 Spam

7 whimsy

8 bumf

9 chuffed

10 kitsch

Now, here are a few terms that have stumped many interpreters I've worked with over the years:

- Co-pay - in many countries, especially ones with national health systems, this concept does not exist, and has to be interpreted as something along the lines of, "the amount you must pay before your insurance will begin to pay."

- HMO - see above. "Health Maintenance Organizations" are corporations financed by insurance premiums subject to certain financial, geographic and professional limits.

- Escrow - An account held by the lender into which a homeowner deposits money for insurance and taxes.

- Slamming - this term is commonly used to describe an unauthorized change from one long distance carrier to another.

- Borough - One of the five administrative units of New York City. Interestingly, this term comes from Middle English burgh, city, from Old English burg, fortified town.

- Rotary - A regional term used in New England to denote what everyone else in the U.S. calls a roundabout or a traffic circle.

- Muffin - The same can be said of many other food items (donut, bagel, fudge, etc.) As is the case with many dishes, there are countries in which certain items are simply not part of the normal diet, so a description has to be used since no exact linguistic equivalent exists in many cases. These terms are more challenging for some languages than others, obviously. They frequently come up in nutritionist/dietitian appointments, especially with diabetic patients.

These are just a few - I'd love to hear from others. Feel free to email me with yours - if I get enough of them, I'll share them here in a future post.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Medical Interpreter Network of Georgia

I thought it might be nice to share this conference press release from our colleagues at the Medical Interpreter Network of Georgia (MING):


Michael Jordan-Registrar
Medical Interpreter Network of Georgia

Medical Interpreter Network of Georgia Announces Fall Forum –September 15, 2007

Atlanta, GA, August 10, 2007 – The Medical Interpreter Network of Georgia (MING) announces its Fall Forum, to be held September 15t, 2007, at Saint Joseph’s Hospital from 9am to 5pm.

Featured speaker at the event will be Cynthia E. Roat, MPH. Ms. Roat is a widely-recognized pioneer and authority in the emerging profession of healthcare interpreting. Founding member and former Co-Chair of the National Council of Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), as well as the primary developer of Bridging the Gap, the country’s most widely-offered training for healthcare interpreters, Ms. Roat will present the following two sessions: “Medical Interpreter Certification: A National Update”: and "Interpreting for Workers' Compensation Cases".

For additional information on the Fall Forum, contact or visit

ABOUT MING - MING is a statewide nonprofit organization with a mission to promote equal access to health care services for Limited English Proficient individuals by supporting professional medical interpretation, and by serving as a resource for medical interpreters throughout Georgia. MING’s vision is to foster and nurture a health care interpreting community that provides the highest quality of service by promoting strict adherence to national standards of practice and a code of ethics.

The From Our Lips to Your Ears project will have representation at this event and flyers will be distributed, courtesy of Cindy Roat. You may visit the project Calendar for more upcoming events.

Friday, August 10, 2007

General Project Updates and Frequent Visitors

Every week, I start off thinking I will scale back the number of blog posts to a more manageable number, especially given the fact that I am working on many other projects simultaneously that consume a great deal of time, but each day, it seems like there are so many updates to share, that instead of reducing the number of posts, I should be increasing them in number. There simply aren't enough hours in a day!

This week, for example, I received a tremendous amount of emails and calls with support from individuals and organizations, both in the United States and in various countries. Several of these conversations and discussions led me to update the project FAQ, and the revised version was posted on the project website earlier this week.

Some of the questions I have already answered, but merit a bit of additional attention here.

One organization posed an excellent question about whether or not it would be possible to submit a collective submission on behalf of numerous interpreters. In many cultures and organizations, it might be more appropriate to send a collective submission as opposed to having a single delegate. As long as the submission is in keeping with the project goal of demonstrating why interpreters are so important, this is not only acceptable, but a great way to ensure that numerous interpreters achieve recognition. It also provides a greater level of anonymity for those who desire not to stand out as individuals.

I've also been fortunate enough to exchange emails with many university professors, forming great relationships and learning about many of their interesting publications in the process. I hope to feature some more of them in future posts. One question asked was whether I would consider contributions from university professors, and I would be delighted to receive them. While these not might be anecdotes per se, if they are in keeping with the project goal of demonstrating why interpreters are of great value in the world, they would be received with enthusiasm and considered for the project.

Several organizations have also asked it they might submit stories about interpreting assignments they have witnessed, heard about or experienced, and these will also be welcomed, provided of course that confidentiality is observed. Ideally, the majority of submissions will be from working interpreters, but all submissions that support the project goal will be considered.

And speaking of submissions, they continue to arrive. I am fascinated by many of the stories I have been receiving. Some are quite touching, others are laugh-out-loud funny, others are of the kind that make you want to pull your hair out... quite reflective of the life of an interpreter in general, I'd say!

I also want to give a special thanks to the interpreting associations (many of whom have been featured this week) and the telephone interpreting providers who've done a great job in helping me get the word out about the project. So far, I would say that more than 50% of the people who have submitted stories heard about the project through these channels. So, we do have a nice mixture of stories so far from different and diverse perspectives.

Also, several individuals have wondered if they should submit a story even if their writing in English may not be perfect, and the answer is most definitely "YES!" Interpreters are not required to be experts at written language, which is just one of many reasons an editor is mandatory for a project like this! Also, while good grammar and spelling are appreciated, the most important thing is the essence of the story itself. Refining the writing is just part of the editing process, so if you have a wonderful story to share, please do not be overly concerned with English that isn't quite perfect - all writers, even native speakers of English, require such editing.

I want to give a special thanks (again) to Céline Graciet, whose blog continues to generate a lot of traffic to both the From Our Lips project page, and this blog. Not only that, but her blog always makes for interesting reading! One of these days, I will get around to creating a blogroll to include her blog and some other great blogs that I've stumbled across from the T&I world.

I'm also pleased to be using several tools, such as Google Analytics and ClustrMaps, that show me the locations of visitors to this site, and if they arrived at this blog through a web search, what they were searching for that led them here. It's very interesting to see the locations of visitors, and it seems like every day, there are a few new dots on various countries in the map at the bottom of this page. I also love knowing that individuals are finding out about many of the great organizations I've mentioned here through their searches. It is also interesting to compare the stats from the project site and the project blog.

For example, the image on the left is from a screen shot of the top 10 visitors for yesterday, August 9th, 2007, to the project web site. Among the top 10 are Malaysia, India and Hong Kong, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Singapore, in addition to the countries I most expected, the United States and Canada, who appear on both lists.

On the right is a screen shot of the top 10 visitors to the project blog. It's very interesting to me that the blog is attracting visitors from many different countries than the project site, and vice versa. The blog's top 10 countries for visitors include the U.K., Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Poland, Australia, France and Belgium.

The countries in the Top 10 for the blog are all places where I have more contacts of my own, so I suspect that many of my friends and colleagues are helping me to spread the word.

Also, the stats provided to me are quite interesting too when looking at the city-by-city breakdown. Each day on the project web site, the #1 location for the most visits varies. For example, this week, the top spot was occupied by cities in various parts of the world, such as London, Madrid and Ottawa.

However, for the blog, the #1 spot has been consistent -the greater Los Angeles area, where the blog appears to have quite a loyal following, with many readers returning several times in a single day! Because of these devoted fans of the blog, each day, Los Angeles nudges out frequent runner-up Paris and other cities, such as Palmyra and Warsaw, but no other U.S. city even comes close to the number of visits from L.A.-area readers!

The strange thing is that I have received story submissions so far from all of the other cities with frequent visitors, except Los Angeles! Very curious indeed! Well, a special thanks to all of you readers in the vicinity of the City of Angels for your consistent interest in this project, especially your many daily visits to the project blog... but don't be so shy! Get in touch with me and share your submissions - I am sure you have many great stories to share, and I look forward to receiving them!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Machine Translation by Google

You may have noticed the little flags that now appear at the top of the right sidebar for this blog. Essentially, what this allows readers to do is to click on the flag of choice and get a sense of what the site says in the language represented by the flag.

I wouldn't call this "translation" per se, because, while this tool does give readers some idea of what the text means in another language, it does not have the necessary quality or accuracy that I like to associate with that term.

As a longtime user of CAT (computer-aided translation) tools, such as TRADOS and others that are common in the translation field, I have always been appreciative of the great advances in Translation Memory tools, but highly skeptical of automated/machine translation. With all of the automated translation tools I've ever seen, the translations are so nonsensical that it is not even worth using the tool in the first place, as the results end up communicating information that is wildly different from the source text.

For those who have never worked in the field of translation, here is a basic but important difference:

Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) = A HUMAN translator uses software programs to partially automate certain tasks. With many programs, the source text is divided up into Translation Units, which are stored along with their various translations, so that the next time they need to be translated, previous translations can be leveraged. CAT is extremely common these days, and many professional translators are familiar with such software tools.

Machine Translation (MT) = No human is involved, and the translation is performed entirely by a computer. Instead of a meaning-for-meaning conversion, this is frequently akin to a mere substitution of words in one language for words in another. Often, this results in unusable output. In many common phrases, such as, "Cat got your tongue?", MT programs typically render the information on a word-by-word basis into the other language. Obviously, that can make for some pretty entertaining material.

Most translators and interpreters have had at least one moment of side-splitting laughter at the expense of web-based MT tools. It's often quite entertaining to enter text into the "virtual translator" into the target language, then copy and paste the translation in again to do a back-translation, and sit in anticipation of the hilarious nonsense that is often produced.

When I first heard about Google Translation, I assumed it was just another of these programs. I had an opportunity to try it out the other day, when I came across some pages that mentioned the From Our Lips project in Chinese, but having zero proficiency in written Chinese, could not understand what the page said. When I used the tool to translate the information from Chinese into English, I could see that the site owner had essentially translated the call for submissions, and that the English version I was looking at was in fact a back-translation. While the translation by Google was far from perfect, I was able to get a general sense of what the site was saying. This also enabled me to thank the site owner.

So, I decided to add the tool to this blog temporarily, to give individuals from other languages a chance to try out the tool, just as I did with the site in Chinese, and especially seeing as how the project has already generated interest from interpreters in language pairs that do not include English, but who are still planning to submit stories in English. After all, the editing process will ensure that the stories are of a professional and publishable quality.

I may decide to remove it at some point in the near future, but for now, I thought it might be interesting for readers to test out on the site. I don't believe the tool in its current format is of much (if any) help to translators and interpreters in their professional work life. However, for the average layperson surfing the web who just wants to get a sense of what a site may say, it can be useful, as it was for me recently when reading information about this project in Chinese. Needless to say, though, it's still a far cry from a professional translation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators 2007 Conference

The 5th Annual Conference for the Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators will be held in Nashville, TN from September 14-16,2007. Information is now available at This year's conference promises to be the best yet, with something for everyone! So join your colleagues and friends for a great event!

On Friday, September 14, a day devoted entirely to medical translation and interpretation, the featured guest will be Cindy Roat, a widely-recognized pioneer and authority in the emerging profession of healthcare interpreting. Founding member and former Co-Chair of the National Council of Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), as well as the primary developer of Bridging the Gap, the country’s most widely-offered training for healthcare interpreters, Ms. Roat will present the following three sessions: “From Medical to Mental Health: Adjusting Interpreting Techniques to the Mental Health Settings”; “Medical Interpreter Certification: A National and State Update”: and "Interpreting for Workers' Compensation Cases".

The highlight on Saturday will be keynote speaker Marshall Morris, first member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Translation at the University of Puerto Rico, and the developer of its Internet research course and translation internship program. His sessions will deal with editing translated texts and with translator education.

The presentation schedule for the conference can be accessed at with detailed descriptions, speaker bios and conference registration forms. Special rates are available for students. Visit the website for full details.

Flyers for the From Our Lips To Your Ears project will be available at this event. Special thanks to Cindy Roat. Visit the project Calendar for more upcoming events.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Medical Interpreters Association of Connecticut

It is with great pleasure that I am able to share some information here about the newly formed Medical Interpreters Association of Connecticut.

The Medical Interpreting Association of Connecticut (MIAC) is dedicated to fostering linguistic and cultural services for individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and for healthcare providers, for the purpose of advancing access to healthcare in an informed, equitable and respectful manner.

MIAC's principal objective is to work toward advancing healthcare services for LEP individuals that includes the following:

(a) Promote a system of healthcare that values and demands access to qualified medical/mental health spoken language interpreters and sign language interpreters.

(b) Educate healthcare providers to appropriately use interpreting services.

(c) Assist in creating a pool of linguistically and culturally competent professional medical interpreters.

(d) A process to link medical interpreters with healthcare organizations.

(e) Identify and address the unmet linguistic and cultural needs of LEP individuals.

(f) A process to assuring quality and monitoring effectiveness of interventions/programs.

(g) Policies, procedures and resources to support these components.

Here is some information about the upcoming inauguration:

The Expansion of Connecticut's Limited English Proficiency Population Highlights the Need for a Professional Medical Interpreting Association.

Hartford, CT - July 17, 2007 - Disparities in access and delivery of healthcare is strongly related to the availability of good interpreting services. Along with language, especially for those with limited English proficiency (LEP), the effectiveness of available healthcare services is closely connected to culture, ethnicity and societal customs. In response to these concerns, the Medical Interpreting Association of Connecticut (MIAC) has been created to foster linguistic and cultural understanding through education, outreach, research, policy development and increased organizational awareness of the importance of linguistic and cultural competency. The principal goal of MIAC is to improve access to healthcare services for Connecticut's LEP population in an informed, equitable and respectful manner.

MIAC will be officially introduced to the medical community and government representatives on August 13, 2007, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Hartford Hospital, Heublin Hall, 560 Hudson Street in Hartford, Connecticut. Members of the media are invited to attend. This event includes a presentation regarding the issues of medical interpreting in Connecticut as well as an expert panel discussion about the need to address language barriers in health care. For LEP individuals, language barriers often result in reduced access to health care services, misdiagnosis, poor quality of care and compromised medical outcomes.

For additional information about this event contact Adela Staines at (203) 623-9911 or

Special thanks to MIAC for not only supporting our project by sharing information about it on their official website (see left), but I am excited to share that MIAC will be making flyers for the From Our Lips project available at the inauguration.

What a great way to start this association off on the right foot, by also encouraging interpreters to support a project that promotes greater awareness of the important work all interpreters do! This event has also been added to the project calendar on the official project website.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Truth in Translation

This looked like something that might be of interest to many readers:

SEPT. 6 - 8 AT SMU

presented by the
Embrey Family Foundation

DFW International Community Alliance is proud to partner with the Embrey Family Foundation to publicize this extraordinary theatre production. This is a wonderful example of how artists can inspire change and make a difference by imagining new beginnings and new models.

"Truth in Translation" is a dramatization, told both as a play and in music, about South Africa during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), when translators (the subjects of this re-enactment) of the 11 African languages translated the testimony of the genocide perpetrators as they spoke about the crimes they committed, the testimony of the victims as they spoke about their loved ones killed, the translators' and community's experience and ultimately, the healing that results from truthful communication.

The entire presentation is extremely moving and profound. As Truth in Translation proposes: Can we forgive the past to survive the future - the role of art in perception-shifting.

When: September 6 through 8:
Evening performances begin at 8:00 p.m.
One matinee at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, September 8

Cost: FREE by reservation only.

Groups welcome.

For more information:
The Bob Hope Theatre
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX
214-206-3577, ext. 304.

Read more about it, find other performance dates and locations, and read the letter of support from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, here:

Friday, August 3, 2007

More Support!

Another exciting week for the project!

Story submissions have been coming in from around the globe, including several that are wonderfully thought-provoking, with great potential for publication.

Special thanks to our friends in Canada at Interpreters Niagara/Hamilton, a program of a larger organization funded by the provincial government called Information Niagara, which provides information services and is devoted to volunteer opportunities. As a program of Information Niagara, they provide interpretation services free of charge for victims of domestic violence to non-profit human service agencies.

They were kind enough to feature our program in their Interpreter Information newsletter for interpreters, pictured above.

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in other countries (Australia, Japan, Argentina, Turkey, China, U.K., Spain, Ireland, Israel and more), and I've discussed the worldwide interest here, but I also wanted to share that the national reach within the United States is helping tremendously too to spread the word.

I am especially happy that interpreting associations have been so supportive. In addition to getting in touch with me to share their kind words, many have taken the initiative to spread the word through their newsletters, listservs, websites and more!

Special thanks to the California Healthcare Interpreters Association for letting members know about the project. I've already begun hearing from interpreters as a result of these efforts! Check out their newly revamped website by clicking on the link above.

Also, the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS) shared the Call for Submissions as well! I've started hearing from interpreters in the Northwest as well. NOTIS has a great quarterly newsletter worth checking out called the Northwest Linguist. You may download copies of it from their website.

Nearly all major providers of telephone interpreting services have been in contact to voice their support for the project, and in an effort to help out, they have been sharing the call for submissions with thousands of interpreters through their newsletters and interpreter relations staff. As a result, I've been hearing from interpreters for languages that I don't get to deal with every day (Thai and Bulgarian, for example). I really appreciate this wonderful support that enables me to reach literally thousands upon thousands of interpreters!

Special thanks also to Lola Bendena, who kindly shared information about our project through the multi-languages email newsletter.

Thanks also to for spreading the word about the project!

It's also amazing how many interpreters have connections in the publishing world. If the response so far is any indication, I expect you may see some translations of the book into other languages shortly after publication, as well as publishers overseas who are already starting to express an interest in the project.

And, who knew that so many interpreters are also writers? I've begun to hear from many interpreters that are either published authors or shopping around manuscripts. This gives me a great chance to share information about the writing and publishing processes with them while learning about their projects.

I already had some lists in Amazon to help interpreters find books about interpreting all in a single place, but I've since updated them with additional finds. By the way, these lists are purely to help interpreters - they do not generate profits of any sort for this project. You can access them through the links in the right sidebar.

The main project website continues to receive hundreds of new hits as a result of all of this help in getting the word out, and that's exactly the goal - for interpreters in all settings to have a chance to contribute!

In fact, while it is quite a surprise, this blog itself is also beginning to see more and more traffic - not nearly as much as the main website of course, but more than what I originally could have anticipated.

I already knew our main project was receiving visitors from around the world, but I didn't expect the blog to receive so much international attention as a result of it. The site stats indicate that this blog has had visitors from several continents already. In fact, I even added a little visitor map at the bottom to show who is visiting from what locations. It doesn't track every single person, but it's fun to see the different locations of visitors who've stopped by.

The blog has now been submitted to lots of RSS and Atom feed directories such as Blogaholix, and we're starting to see more and more traffic on the main project site as a result. Searching for the project name in Google now yields nearly 1,000 results. Not bad for only a couple of weeks!

Also, I feel blessed that so many university professors and other interpreting colleagues are helping to share contacts and resources, as well as potential writers with great stories to share about interpreting.

Feel free to email me to let me know how you are helping to spread the word, and I am happy to reciprocate with a mention here if you like.

And for the single most exciting accomplishment for the week with relation to the project goal of striving toward greater appreciation of interpreters in society, I am happy to report that the Associated Press did a story on the national need for interpreters in the U.S. courts. The story was picked up by newspapers in nearly every state, not to mention many countries around the world. Both the American Translators Association and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators were quoted in this important story.

Little by little, interpreters are getting more recognition. And it's about time! I am thrilled that our project is helping to fuel this effort.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Nebraska Association of Translators and Interpreters

The Nebraska Association of Translators and Interpreters kicks off its conference at Bellevue University today.

The 4:30 pm reception will include roundtable discussions on the following topics, hosted by subject matter experts:
  • Current issues in Title VI Compliance for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Populations
  • Freelance interpreting and how to start your own business
  • Heritage speakers and the interpreting profession
  • Interpreting for corrections and law enforcement
  • Interpreting in the courts
  • Interpreting in domestic violence cases
  • Interpreting in the educational field
  • Interpreting in the medical field
  • Judicial interpreting exam for the state/consortium certification
  • Language proficiency assessment
  • Recent events in the development of medical certification
  • Topics in translation
The conference is co-sponsored by:

Nebraska Supreme Court Interpreter Program

Nebraska Office on Minority Health

NAJIT - National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators

Learn more about NATI here.

Thanks to the kindness of NATI leaders and NATI conference presenters, flyers for the From Our Lips to Your Ears project will be distributed at this event.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Like Wildfire...

This is how the news about the project seems to be spreading- like wildfire, albeit in a positive, non-destructive way, of course.

Our project got a mention on the Multilingual Computing site, and the release was picked up by ABC12 (Flint and Bay City), ABC6 (Philadelphia), the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Pasadena Star-News, the Business Press (Southern California's Business Newspaper), La Nación USA,

A blog post about the project was also picked up by a newsfeed in Finland, and was also posted to the Talk to Japan newsgroup, as well as another blog in Japan.

I was also thrilled to see that the project is showing up on a translation studies blog in China. Thanks very much to the blog owner for doing a translation of the call for submissions!

Also, the project was picked up by JuraBlogs, a site in Germany, and Vivendo e Traduzindo, a blog from Fabio M. Said, a translation colleague in Brazil.

The project was also kindly mentioned on the Twisted Tongues blog, featuring the very insightful writing of Dena and Daniel Shunra. They run the Shunra Translation firm and work between English, Hebrew, Dutch and German. If you are a reader of the ATA Chronicle, you might recognize Dena's name - she is a frequent contributor.

I was also pleased to see that the Metroplex Interpreters and Translators Association (MITA) was so kind as to share our call for submissions on their website.

Also, the call for submissions was posted at the Yahoo Group site for a community-based organization called Invisible to Invincible: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago.

I am very pleased to see the word spreading so quickly, and to so many unexpected (but much appreciated) places.