Does the New York Circle Have a Higher Purpose?

by Leonard Morin

The new Board of the New York Circle of Translators took office as of January 1 of this year, and I am no longer president. I am happy to pass on the reins to my successors and confident they will do an excellent job. I hope that future boards will be equally strong. Of course potential weaknesses in the future will be compensated somewhat by the work of our paid administrator (currently Louise Jennewine, who continues in that role).

The hard work over the last three years by our board members, including me, Louise both as program director and administrator, and members who have volunteered has made our organization more robust and hopefully viable in the long term. But what higher purposes does all this serve to make it worthwhile? After all, we are not sacrificing our time and hard work merely for entertainment. We aim to provide something transcendental to our members and society.

I think it is fair to say that the first thing on our members’ minds is higher pay, followed by better working conditions. Third would be higher quality products and services for our clients, not only because higher pay is hard to justify without being able to guarantee high quality, but because translators and interpreters generally want to do an excellent job anyway; it gives more satisfaction to know one did the job properly and that the customer and society were well served. Continue reading…

2014 Holiday Party at Petrossian

Standards For Interpreting

What Is Happening with ISO, ASTM and Going Forward into the Future

Article based on an interview by Margarite Heintz Montez with Marjory Bancroft

Marjory Bancroft is the Director of Cross-Cultural Communications and also the World Project Leader responsible for developing the upcoming standard ISO 18841, Interpreting: General Requirements, for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The Gotham had a conversation with her regarding standardization for interpreters, which seems to be on everyone’s mind today.  Members of the NYCT will really appreciate her insight into the standardization process.  Many organizations including the ATA have been discussing certification and standardization, but so far the ATA has not developed any certification for interpreters.

International Standards

ISO recently published its first International Standard for interpreting: ISO 13611:2014, Interpreting: Guidelines for Community Interpreting. The second ISO standard, 18841, will be a stricter requirements standard that addresses all areas of interpreting; 18841 is intended to be an “umbrella” standard.

This standard which should be completed by 2017 addresses three key areas:

  • Terms and definitions
  • Requirements for interpreters
  • Requirements for Interpreting Service Providers (ISPs, including self-employed interpreters who act, in effect, as their own interpreting agencies).

After the standard is published, there might be companies who seek to create a certification program, particularly for ISPs, based on the standard,.

ISO involves input from many countries. For instance, 29 countries were involved in the development of the community interpreting standard. For the new standard, 42 national member delegations are participating, in addition to many “liaison delegations” that can’t vote but include the European Commission, European Parliament, FIT (international Federation of Interpreters) and WASLA (World Association of Sign Language Interpreters), among others.

ISO standards are strictly voluntary, so although they are international standards that technically apply to all countries, in reality only those interpreters and ISPs who choose to comply with ISO interpreting standards will do so.

ASTM International is another organization that develops international standards. However, for interpreting the ASTM involvement is primarily U.S.-based. Thus, the ASTM interpreting standard ASTM F2089: Standard Practice for Language Interpreting  is more an American standard.  However, ASTM standards in general are used in more than 100 countries, so the interpreting standard might be used in a number of countries.

ASTM standards must be revised and updated every few years. That revision just took place for F2089 and the newest version of this interpreting standard has just been published. It is a stricter standard than its previous version, which is likely to please many professional interpreters. However, this standard, like ISO’s, is voluntary.

U.S. Standards

In addition to international standards, the United States has medical and court standards as well as certification programs. The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), the National Association of Interpreters in the Judiciary (NAJIT), the federal courts and the state courts have published a code of ethics for interpreters. In addition, NCIHC and IMIA have published formal, researched standards of practice. Standards of practice are standards developed by professionals for professionals. Those published by IMIA and NCIHC have had influence in other countries.

Sign language also has both general and specialized (including educational) standards of practice published by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and they are needed.

In addition, the National Board of Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI, part of IMIA), the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), NAJIT, federal courts, many state courts and RID have all developed national or state certification for interpreters for either medical interpreters (IMIA and CCHI) or court interpreters (NAJIT, federal courts and state courts). The state of Washington has also developed a state certification for community (medical and social services) interpreters. In some ways, because it involves both a written and oral skills examination, certification implies a set of strict standards.

Finally, three U.S. entities have developed standards that address training and education programs for interpreters:

  • In 2010, the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) published its revision of Accreditation Standards for programs that educate sign language interpreters.
  • In 2011, NCIHC published National Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training Programs.
  • In 2012, IMIA published National Accreditation Standards for Medical Interpreter Education Programs.


Driving forces

International migration has been a major force in the drive for standardization.  There is an inescapable need for professional interpreters in medical, community and the legal areas.  Hospitals, government agencies and even schools have added pressure to have more qualified certified interpreters.

Alas, money is a major driving force.  Hospitals do not want to be sued for inappropriate care or negligence. To reduce risk and liability, many hospitals are engaging more qualified and certified professional interpreters.  Agencies that send interpreters to hospitals also then need more qualified and certified interpreters to send, and interpreters themselves see having more qualifications as a sign of professionalism.


Certification and Credentials

A training certificate is not certification! What would it cost interpreters to obtain real certification?  The answer varies by specialization. Each state court may have a different cost, whereas national certification for medical interpreters by CCHI or IMIA costs roughly $450.

However, credentials are credentials, whether an interpreter is just starting out or is a seasoned veteran. A certificate for attending a training program or conference is a credential. For medical, court and general interpreters, however, certification is considered the most important credential.

Certification for state courts is available in about 20 languages, but for federal courts only in Spanish. The two national medical interpreter certifications cover 7 languages. However, even taking the written test alone for court or medical interpreter certification (which an interpreter of any language pair can do) is a credential worth having.

Whether or not one can get certified, it behooves interpreters or all levels to try to attain meaningful credentials, perform their work to the best of their abilities and know about and follow the relevant standards. Doing so is one hallmark of a professional interpreter.

The Gotham Translator wishes to thank Marjory Bancroft for her time in helping us prepare this article.

About the Author
Margarite Heintz MontezMargarite Heintz Montez is a conference interpreter and editor of The Gotham Translator. She has been a long-time member of the NY Circle of Translators, the ATA and is on the Human Rights Committee of FIT.

The Circle’s New Look Online

By Gigi Branch

We should be ready to launch the new website ( by the end of the month. As you can see, the online issue of the Gotham Translator ( is now live. After more than a year of planning and developing these two sites, we extend our sincere thanks to all members for their patience throughout this lengthy process. The current Circle site, which is based on older technology, has been in desperate need of an upgrade, and for that reason, our primary goal with this undertaking was to resolve the existing technical issues that have plagued our members as well as the site’s administrators. We took the opportunity during this process to update the site in other ways.

Our New Websites
We sought to create a stronger visual brand to market our growing profession and our members’ language services and experience. Our intention with the new design of the two sites, our email template and social outlets is to present a more positive and professional image of the Circle and our members. Moreover, the fact that the responsive design can be accessed via desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone devices makes it more serviceable to both members and language service buyers. We encourage you to frequent both sites, but we first would like to give you a quick preview of each one.

The new Circle site is designed for three different types of users: potential members, buyers of language services and most importantly, our members. As was the case with the old site, all visitors have access to general information about the Circle, the events calendar, direct access to The Gotham Translator, resources for language professionals, an online directory of our members and their language services and easy contact to the Board of Directors and the Circle Administrator. Additionally, the new site, which can be easily updated, will offer comprehensive and dynamic information for all users, especially on events within the Circle community and the language service community at large. We have added more advanced searching capabilities in our member directory for those language service buyers seeking more specific language skills and services.

We are most excited about our member section. With the new member login, active members can access their accounts, set up and update the new, extensive profile format, register directly for meetings and special events, follow our community online, visit our photo gallery, download the Circle logo for personal use and eventually access audio files of our monthly meetings. All in all, we hope our new site will stimulate and strengthen communication within our Circle community.

Member Login
For the initial login, both active and inactive members should login with the e-mail address that is associated with the old site. When we are ready to launch, we will be sending out an e-mail with detailed instructions to guide members through the login process. We suggest that all members create a new username and password for the new site. After logging in, active members should be taken to their account page. We encourage you to spend time updating your profile page. Your profile information from the old site should have transferred to the new one. However, as you will see, we have added many more service and experience categories along with social media information so that you can complete your profile to your liking. Inactive members will be prompted to renew their membership for member access to the site. As I said, we will be contacting you with more specifics on the login process. If you have any questions or experience issues logging in, please contact us through the website.

The New Gotham
We are very pleased to introduce you to our first issue of the new online Gotham Translator. We will be e-mailing our members a link to each new online publication but we encourage you to visit the site as much as you like. Each issue will include articles, news and events pertinent to our industry, involving both the Circle and beyond. You will have the opportunity to comment on articles, which we hope will enrich the professional dialogue between our members. And we invite all members to consider contributing to the newsletter. Contact our Editor, Margarite, about ideas or suggestions for articles. Or share language-related news and events with the Circle community. You will find details about submissions at Publish in the Gotham.

Please be aware that a few details concerning the Gotham remain open at this time. Our Board of Directors needs to establish new advertising rates, which will be lower than those in the printed edition. If you know of anyone who might be interested in advertising in our online Gotham, please refer them to the site or contact Margarite with your ideas. We also hope to be able to add share buttons and social media icons to the new Gotham, but these details also need to be reviewed by the Board as they are a departure from the policy relating to our printed edition.

Going Online
We ask for patience as we launch both sites. Naturally, we hope that everything will go smoothly, but as is often the case with technical procedures, members may encounter bugs or glitches with either site, whether they be browser or device related. If you should experience any difficulties with either site, please let us know. Our development team is accustomed to designing websites for our industry, and they are ready to address any such issues. Finally, these sites were created for our members, so we would love to get your feedback on them!

About the Author

Gigi BranchGigi Branch is a freelance Fr > En translator who specializes in marketing and editorial translations. She has been a member of the New York Circle for the past 10 years. She also works as a Digital Content Manager and Project Coordinator.




Conference on Literary Translation

Announcing NYCT’s Mid-March Conference on Literary Translation
NYCT Program Director Kate Deimling and Vice President Alta Price are pleased to announce “Adventures in Literary Translation,” the Circle’s first-ever conference on the topic, to be held this coming March. The event will feature a two-hour session of presentations by three professional literary translators, an hour-long lunch and networking break, and a two-hour roundtable discussion with a panel of five experts discussing the topic from an editing and publishing perspective.

Presenters include: Russian > English translator Antonina Bouis; Spanish > English translator G. J. Racz; French > English translator Lee Fahnestock; German > English translator Benjamin Ross; publisher Chad Post (Open Letter Books, Three Percent); and editor Sal Robinson (Melville House, The Bridge Series).

Date: Saturday, March 14
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: the Woolworth Building (entrance at 15 Barclay St.)

NYCT Members in advance: $40
Students in advance: $30
NYCT Members onsite: $60
Students onsite: $50
Non-members in advance: $75
Non-members onsite: $100
* Students must bring valid student ID to the conference
** All registration fees include lunch

We’ll send more details and a registration link as the date approaches, so look for an NYCT email in your in-box, and please help spread the word among your colleagues, clients, students, and the broader community!

The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care

Call for Nominations for Open Board Positions

The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) is opening nominations for

the following Board positions for the term from June 6, 2015 to June 5, 2017.


  • Vice-President
  • Secretary
  • Director
  • Director
  • Director
  • Director
  • Director


Any member of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care may run for an office

on the Board. You may nominate yourself or someone else. If you nominate someone

else, prior to submission of the nomination that individual must agree to the nomination

and to serve for a term of two years.

Continue reading…

Post-Processing of Machine Translations, the New Money Maker of “the Translation Industry”

Reprinted by gracious permission of Steve Vitek, the Patenttranslator

Translators are supposed to be, almost by definition, intelligent and educated people.

After all, they must know at least two languages and many of them know more languages than just two, while so many people can barely speak one language, including quite a few heads of state.

Some translators have graduate degrees in languages, and sometime they have degrees in other subjects that generally pay much better than translating, such as law or medicine. I don’t know why would such people choose to become translators, unless they are convinced that this is something that they were born to do. In my case, at least I have a good excuse – life experience has shown me that translating or managing translations is the only thing that I can do well enough to get paid for it.

But intelligent and educated people are not necessarily terribly smart, and many translators provide a perfect example of this interesting fact.

Exhibit A: How could translation agencies get away with the monstrosity that they call “fuzzy matches”?

This is an ingenious concept that was clearly designed by brokers, namely translation agencies who sell translations originally created by other people, called translators, in order to minimize what a service broker pays to the service provider and to maximize the profit. Is the lower cost in this case going to be passed on to the customer? Do most customers even have the same software that would make it possible for them to determine the extent of these “fuzzy matches”? What do you think? I think that in most cases, they have no idea about the clever machinations in the background.

The entire concept of fuzzy matches is entirely illegitimate, deceitful and extremely dishonest, and its purpose, mentioned above, is completely transparent. Is there is a legitimate reason to give a client a discount when large portion of texts are repeated in a translation? Yes, in some cases, although it is very doubtful that for example the lawyer who created the text that is being translated gave the client a break on the price because large portions of a legal template were simply copied into a contract.

Is my accountant going to give me a discount for “fuzzy matches” based on a software package that I can force him to buy because every year, he simply copies the same template with the same words in it and only changes the numbers that I supply to him every year to prepare my tax return? If I even mentioned something like that to him, he would quite justifiably think that I have gone completely insane, not just slightly mad as some patent translators tend to do.

Even when a discount is warranted, the decision to give a discount and to what extent should be up to the actual service provider. This is not something that should be determined by a software package that is sold to gullible translators and then skillfully operated by a broker to maximize broker’s profit.

I do sometime slightly discount my translations, for example when two long, similar patents are filed by the same company, if a long description of “prior art” is simply copied in the second patent application. But whether or not I will give a discount is completely up to me, not up to a broker armed with software, or up to the whim of a customer.

We know that translations are not about words. If they were about the translation variable called words, machines equipped with nifty software packages would surely have replaced translators by now because machines can translate words much faster than humans, in almost unlimited numbers. The problem is, translations are about a different variable called “meaning”, and while the variable called “words” can be easily calculated, multiplied, or deleted and manipulated almost at will, there is no way to calculate or multiply the variable called “meaning” with a machine. You can only delete, distort and destroy meaning with a machine because machines are very good at distorting and destroying the real meaning of words that only a human being can understand. Only a human brain can determine this variable, as machines can only understand the meaning that has been pre-programmed into them by humans.

Exhibit B: Reanimation of the dead detritus left by machine translation for humans to pick over it during “post-processing” of machine translations.

After the translating community fell for the hoax of “fuzzy matches” and other atrocities brought to us courtesy of certain cats o’ nine tails and perpetrated by translation agencies on translators, Exhibit B is now presented as further evidence of a new hoax that is being perpetrated on the translating community as I am writing these words.

Will translators fall for this trick just like that they fell for the hoax of “fuzzy matches?”

It is hard to tell at this point. Agencies certainly did a good hatchet job on the translating community with certain CAT features, so convenient for the agencies. First, they promised translators that if they bought and used a predetermined CAT as instructed, instead of being able to translate a mere two or three thousand words a day, they would easily be able to translate well in excess of ten thousand words and thus double or triple their income. That sounded so good, how could translators possibly resist, even though the price of this wonderful tool was quite steep! Once credulous translators did as asked, they were hit with requests for obligatory discounts for various kinds of “matches” and other scandalous schemes designed to reduce the compensation for translators in order to increase the compensation for the brokers.

Not all translators fell for this trick. Some managed to retain their independence, even those who work mostly for translation agencies, because not every agency is built on the shylockian principle of wringing as much blood as possible from everything and anything as long as there is a buck in it. Some agencies are run by professionals who are not out to cheat translators out of their money. In fact, whether an agency requires the use of a prescribed tool along with obligatory discounts is a very good indication of what kind of translation agency it is.

But many translators certainly did fall for the trick and then came to bitterly regret what they have done once they realized that they have invitingly contributed in this manner to stagnating or decreased rates per word, while the demands for translation volume per unit of time are going through the roof.

The new scheme, relatively new since it has been aimed at the translating community already for several years, is the great, innovative tool of machine translation. We are told that editing of machine translations is just another cool tool in our tool box, a tool and a skill that translators need to acquire to be able to compete in the translation market.

Machine translation is an excellent tool and most translators are probably using it by now. I certainly use it when it is available. Because most relatively recent patent applications that I translate, whether it is from Japanese, German, French, Russian, Czech, Slovak or Polish, can be machine-translated with a few clicks on the Japan Patent Office, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Office) and EPO (European Patent Office), I automatically print out a machine translation and look at it before I start translating and while I am translating, especially during the initial stage.

Although the technical terms supplied by the machine are obviously not always reliable, machine translations do help with terminology research, and they also help me to avoid skipping a sentence or two in highly repetitive paragraphs, a common mistake of human translators that machines are unlikely to make.

But I happen to know that trying to edit machine translation would be counterproductive, as it would be even more time consuming than translating from scratch, especially with languages such as Japanese. Even more importantly, if we let a machine dictate the translation to a human being and the human being is only asked to “fix” and “clean up” the pseudo-sentences supplied by a machine that has no understanding of the real meaning of the original text, the result will be always inferior to a real translation created in the brain of a skilled and experienced translator, even if it may look like the real thing. Moreover, the result is also likely to contain a percentage of complete mistranslations flying under the radar of a person who has been turned from a real translator into a “post-processor”. This person is no longer an independent and highly skilled artisan. Instead, her job now resembles quite closely the job of a school janitor who is pushing around a vacuum cleaner, picking up garbage and sweeping the floor.

That does not seem to matter to people who are trying to sell post-editing of machine translations as an inexpensive solution to the conundrum of machine translations, namely the fact that these things are not really translations, only suggestions of sentences generated by hardware and software based on algorithms, suggestions of sentences that must be often completely retranslated because otherwise they would make no sense. And of course, sometime they make make perfect sense and be completely wrong.

None of that matters to the “translation industry” because the point of the exercise is to do away with the profession of a human translator and replace it by another profession called “post-processor”. Very high requirements are placed on the translating profession if we are talking about translations of highly complicated texts in any of the fields in which human translators are specializing at this point of development of human knowledge, knowledge that has been acquired over many centuries by human beings, requirements for post-processors would be much lower.

Unlike real translators, post-processors do not necessarily need to know that much about anything. And since just about anything can be quickly found on the Internet, even a partial knowledge of a foreign language should be acceptable (as long as the post-processor accepts a low hourly wage combined with a high minimum hourly output).

The new, very useful skill that translators are enthusiastically encouraged by a certain segment of “the translation industry” can thus be also described as the skill to dig your own grave.

I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that this time around, most translators will not fall for the new hoax of post-editing of machine translations. There are so many people on this planet who are desperate to make some money, and some can translate, or think that they can translate. These are the people who are now being trained by “the translation industry” to dig a grave in which most of the translating profession is to be laid to rest for all eternity.

I could be wrong, but I do have a feeling that the scheme is not going to work and that translating will survive as a real profession. I believe that most translators, those who specialize in translations that are too important to be left to machines and janitors pushing around vacuum cleaners and brooms, will be doing just fine for another century, or two, at least.

The real question is: Given the inherent inferiority of the resulting product, is the concept of the machine post-processing profession economically viable, and if it is economically viable, how long can such a pseudo-profession last? While post-processors may have no choice but to accept being fed peanuts for their mind-numbing drudgery, the brokers will definitely not be happy with peanuts. This question can be only answered by translators themselves. Are they going to cooperate with “the translation industry” in their own demise? They can cooperate if they think that such cooperation will make it possible for them to survive these turbulent times.

But it is also in their power to refuse to dig their own grave if they realize that they were  born to translate, not to “post-process” garbage that has been left for them by machines.