Friday, November 30, 2007

Cultural Connector

A while back, I shared a sample story from my own experience, in order to give contributors to the From Our Lips project an idea of what types of stories might be of interest. I also encouraged trainers and educators to use the story in trainings, newsletters and other ways of reaching interpreters. I was pleased to see various individuals and organizations take me up on the offer.

In the October issue of The Cultural Connector, published by UMass Medical School's Office of Community Programs, The Right Answer was published.

This is just one of countless stories that exist regarding true-life experiences witnessed and lived by interpreters. Many more are coming in each day, and will be on their way soon in book format!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Medical Interpreter, thank you for enabling countless people to access health care services, helping to prevent public health outbreaks and improving the health and wellbeing of individuals so that they can contribute more productively to our society.

Court Interpreter, thank you for helping ensure equal access to justice for all those who are engaging with the legal system in order to help build a society that is fair and just.

Conference Interpreter, thank you for making sure that millions of people can understand the words of our political leaders and subject matter experts, enabling our governments to make decisions with key information, and to raise the levels of knowledge of our society.

Telephone Interpreter, thank you for enabling individuals to access services where they otherwise would have no ability to communicate, from filling a prescription to making a payment arrangement for a bill, you are the linguistic glue holding much of society together.

Community Interpreter, thank you for providing critical support in an array of social and public services settings, helping our native populations, refugees and immigrants alike to better understand each other, strengthening the bonds of our society.

Interpreters Everywhere, thank you for the work you do, as you impact the lives of individuals each day, helping to shape society as a whole.

Thank You.

May individuals across the globe be full of appreciation for the work of interpreters of all kinds, as they continue to help our world go 'round.

And to the American readers, Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Interpreting, a Commodity? Not a Chance.

Today, a press release went out to announce the appointment of the new President of the American Translators Association, the largest association for translators and interpreters in the United States.

It included an excellent quote:

"Our services tend to be commoditized and it is the Association's objective to demonstrate that neither translation nor interpreting is a commodity. Just as knowing how to cook doesn't make you a chef, knowing another language doesn't make you an interpreter or translator. There's a lot more to it than that."

This quote nicely echoes perfectly a recent post from this blog, which stated, "Interpreting is anything but a commodity".

It's reassuring to know that the elected representative of 10,000 interpreters and translators is leading with this exact motto. Starting off on the right foot, indeed.

And, it's nice to think that the "discount store" mentality that plagues our industry may be on its way out. Once consumers have a better understanding of the major financial and legal risks posed by inadequate T&I services, they will be better able to make purchasing decisions using the right criteria. For this to happen, client education is key. Many clients base their decisions only on price, because they simply don't know any better. Slowly but surely, the word is getting out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Deadline for Submissions Extended!

Due to popular demand and the upcoming holiday season, the deadline for submissions to the From Our Lips to Your Ears project has been extended until February 8, 2008. Hopefully, this extension will enable the many contributors who were concerned about the fast-approaching deadline to devote more time to their submissions. However, interpreters who planned to submit stories are still encouraged to submit them as soon as possible, since the editing process is well underway on many of the stories already chosen for publication.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Starting to Sink In...

My Inbox recently did a little dance.

Within just a few days, I received a host of articles singing the praises of interpreters, from newspapers across the country. And, what pleases me even more is that individual interpreters are getting some well-deserved recognition!

First, on 11/2, Josie Huang of the Portland Press-Herald in Maine wrote an excellent article about medical interpreting in Maine, in which she mentioned our interpreter colleague, Mahmad Nazir. Josie's article is especially important because she helps our profession by debunking the common myth that anyone who is bilingual can interpret. She also included a quote about the dangers of using children as interpreters, another topic very dear to my own heart, as displayed by the recent Op/Ed published in a Florida paper.

Then, on 11/5, Justin Chapura wrote an article for The State about, well, -the state- of court interpreting in South Carolina. His article profiled court interpreter Britt Hunt, who answered many questions about our work that will be of great help to prospective interpreters and the public alike. Our flagship association for judiciary settings, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, also got a nice mention. [Photo: Interpreters at NYC Criminal Court]

Also on 11/5, an article by Mark Coleman appeared in the Star-Bulletin, focusing on the work of sign language interpreter Jan Fried. An excerpt appears below:

Q: Who would hire a sign-language interpreter?

A: Wherever deaf and hard-of-hearing people want to communicate and they want to do it directly. I have interpreted everything from births to deaths.

Q: How did you do that?

A: Well, as regarding the person's last words, or the surviving member's comments to the person dying. Or the hospital personnel, the things that they're saying to the family as the person is dying. I've interpreted funerals, weddings. You pretty much name it. Political speeches. I've interpreted for the Clintons when they were here, for Al Gore. I've interpreted for several presidential candidates, here and in California.

Indeed. Fried's quote demonstrates that interpreters are often present throughout the milestones of the lives of individuals, as well as major social and political events.

Lastly, on 11/4, Georgia Probst wrote an article for the Journal-Sentinel related to the ever-growing budget for court interpreters in Wisconsin. It states:

Funding for interpreter reimbursements is currently $827,100. The budget bill increases that to $1,060,000 million in 2007-'08 and $1,125,100 in 2008-'09.

A budget of $1 million. In a single state. In a single setting.

Regardless of the setting, this plethora of praise for interpreters and recognition of our work is more than just a passing trend. It's a testament to the fact that interpreting has an extraordinarily high value, both tangible (monetary) and symbolic of our changing society- one that is constantly growing as this value is recognized by those who are observant enough to understand it.

Interpreting is anything but a commodity.

And, as societies become even more diverse and the world continues to "globalize", it will continue to be recognized - both in the marketplace and in the public - as the highly-skilled, premium service that it truly is.

Thankfully, this is part of what the From Our Lips to Your Ears project is all about.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Interpreting Is Not Mere Child's Play

Last week, an article ran in the South Florida Sun Sentinel that addressed children who provide interpreting services for their parents.

For those of us who work as professional interpreters and understand how difficult and complex our job can be, the thought of a child interpreting is a very scary one. Our reaction is probably similar to that of a neurosurgeon forced to imagine his job being performed by an 11-year-old candy striper. Frightening.

Sadly, the article did not include views from professional interpreting associations, in spite of the fact that there is no shortage of these in the United States (not to mention right in Florida). It's easy for those of us who work on these issues on a daily basis to forget that the general public still needs outreach and education -and awareness- of our profession.

For this reason, I wrote an Op/Ed that the Sun-Sentinel graciously published in its Sunday edition. Its circulation is approximately 320,000, so I am glad to know that it arrived at the doorsteps of plenty of folks who will learn a bit more about the dangers of allowing children to interpret. And, hopefully this little bit of advocacy for our field will help readers in the general public learn more about why professional interpreters are so important.

This is, after all, the focus of the From Our Lips to Your Ears project, which, thanks to the byline where the project is mentioned by name, is also reaching more than a quarter of a million people today.