The NYCT is happy to have new members joining us this year. They are:

Alicia Chiesa
Isabelle Garbani
Matthew Goldstein
Aline Gomes-Montalvon
Aaron Hebenstreit
Christina Mitrakos
Huong Nguyen
Daniel Piccinini
Sureyya Stovall
Laura Esther Wolfson

We hope that they find membership with the NYCT informative and entertaining.

Professionalism and Professionalization

On June 2 of last year, the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), the Association of Language Interpreters of Greater New York (ALIGNY), and the New York Circle of Translators (NYCT) held a forum under the title, “Translation and Interpreting: from Bilingualism to Professionalism.” The response to the symposium, in which I had the pleasure to take part, was far more enthusiastic than we had anticipated. More than twice as many people attempted to sign up than we were able to accommodate. I think that this initial response, in addition to the follow-up feedback from the audience and presenters, speaks to the dramatically growing momentum for raising standards in our professions of interpreting and translating.

One of the presenters, Eric Candle of the IMIA, discussed the national medical interpreter training and certification, which has progressively become more lengthy and rigorous. Similarly, court interpreter certification in New York State and elsewhere has advanced by leaps and bounds since its beginnings in the 1970s and ’80s. The ATA translator certification exam has improved and gained acceptance as a universal standard. An ATA interpreter certification exam is in the works. Translator and interpreter training programs are popping up at an unprecedented rate.

Professor María Cornelio spoke on the Spanish Major Concentration in Translation and Interpretation at Hunter College which she directs. María Barros, of the Spanish Translation Service at the UN, discussed the question of whether the translation practice at the UN could serve as a model for the industry. Jean Campbell, of the Sherman & Sterling law firm, presented on professional standards in legal translation. In conclusion, I moderated a panel composed of Prof. María Cornelio, María Barros, Jean Campbell, Eric Candle, Ricardo Fernández (staff court interpreter at Manhattan Criminal Court), and Lionel Bajaña (supervisory interpreter at Bronx Criminal Court).

Despite the undeniable gains in professionalization, I think it is clear that much more work needs to be done and that we cannot be complacent. One challenge is the lack of resources to train and remunerate translators and interpreters. If the standard for translators is written translations that are nearly 100 percent accurate and read as if originally written in the target language, then this implies an extremely high level of prior education and experience. Likewise, if the standard for legal interpreting is that the limited English proficient (LEP) individual must understand the English-language proceedings in his or her own language as well as a native English speaker would, then the interpreter’s level of prior education and experience must be extremely high.

There are, of course, many thoroughly professional practicing translators and interpreters, but the onerous weight on their backs caused by scarce educational opportunities, inadequate remuneration, and unacceptable working conditions are bad for everyone. If translators and interpreters are to exercise the same level of competence as good doctors, lawyers, or accountants do, more money will need to be invested in their education and salaries. If linguists are not well remunerated, it is impossible to justify an investment in this career path—and then all of society will suffer.

Primary and secondary education programs need to offer better curricula in language training. Higher education also is an obvious essential in the training of translators and interpreters. But higher education is exorbitant in this country and our industry will not be able to tackle this larger problem on its own. Needless to say, bad translation and bad interpreting can lead to unspeakable calamity; in diplomatic catastrophes, wrongful convictions, medical malpractice, catastrophic financial loss, or in any other matter where miscommunication arises between people who speak different languages. For instance, some have attributed the bombing of Hiroshima and, separately, the escalation of the arms race in the 1950s to misinterpretations.

Another challenge that at least some of us face is that our work and training will not always be exposing us to every type of document we will translate or every type of proceeding we interpret in our subsequent career. There is always plenty of potential for something new that at times will make photocopy translation or interpreting (which is the aspired standard of perfection in legal translation and interpreting) an illusory goal. This especially applies to languages of lesser diffusion, such as Wolof, Tibetan, or Kaqchikel, to name a few of thousands. These translators and interpreters may find that their ability to accumulate preparatory training and experience is more limited due to the lesser availability of training and assignments. Yet I would submit that, as monumental as the task is of effectively providing language services, we are obligated to invest our energies in it. Too much is at stake not to: life, safety, and liberty, in addition to the potential for catastrophic financial loss.

Your reading this article is a sign that you are interested in change. I think the place to start a movement towards full professionalization is within and among our professional organizations: the New York Circle of Translators, the International Medical Interpreters Association, the Association of Language Interpreters of Greater New York, the American Translators Association, or the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, among others nationally and internationally. Your contributions and creativity to come up with solutions and implement them are sorely needed. We can continue to hold fora, such as the symposium, to educate ourselves, our clients, and society at large. In fact, the consensus among the organizers after last year’s event was that it would be very useful to make the forum an ongoing annual event.

Yet I think it bears emphasis that educating the general public is crucially important since the public will have to invest in our services in order for us to progress. This would necessarily include recognizing and remunerating the many outstanding professionals already practicing in line with the value of the service they are providing. If the highest standards currently being practiced are to become the rule rather than the exception, the public has to understand that better medical translations, better diplomatic interpreting, and better social services translation and interpreting will make us all more prosperous. If a legal interpreter breaches his or her confidentiality requirement, unduly steps into the role of lawyer, or omits content from his or her rendering of a proceeding, the potentially negative consequences are incalculable. We will also have to educate government officials who are in a position to implement far-reaching changes.

In short, more rigorous and affordable training and better remuneration are indispensable to continued professionalism and further professionalization of our industry and the rendering of service that our clients need and deserve.

Written by Leonard Morin
Leonard MorinLeonard Morin is a staff interpreter at Manhattan Criminal Court. He previously practiced as a full-time translator (since 2004) and interpreter (since 2006). Leonard interprets Spanish and Dutch and translates chiefly legal and cartography-related documents from Dutch, Spanish, and German into English. He earned a propedeuse degree in law in the Netherlands and graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Latin American Studies. Leonard has earned translation and interpreting certificates and won academic prizes for his Spanish and German. He previously served as president of the New York Circle of Translators.

GALA – the Globalization and Localization Association, Who are they? How do they Impact Translators?

So many factors impact our work as translators and interpreters. Small things like spotty internet connection to larger issues such as political mandates regarding language access, but what about the myriad of organizations and associations that deals with our industry. Below follows an interview with Allison Ferch, Director of Communications and Engagement, of the Globalization and Localization Association or GALA for short.

Could you explain the role of GALA in the translation and localization industry?

GALA is a trade association for the translation and localization industry. As a non-profit membership organization we offer a non-biased platform for information-sharing, collaboration, training, and professional development. We actively promote translation, localization, and interpreting as essential elements of global business and our outreach educates the general business community about the enormous benefits that the language enterprise brings to global business. In a nutshell, our role is to elevate the translation and localization industry, both in terms of internal maturity and sophistication, as well as how it is perceived by the global business community.

Has GALA achieved its’ original goals? What is GALA doing to meet its’ original purpose or has GALA increased the roles and agenda it had established upon inception?

GALA’s mission and vision have evolved since its inception. The association was originally formed by a group of language service provider (LSP) companies in order to address the unique needs of LSPs. Through a series of changes to the bylaws that happened gradually over a period of 10 years, GALA has now expanded its membership and its goals to meet the needs of all localization professionals, whether they work for vendor companies like LSPs or for enterprises in different sectors. GALA’S current mission is to support our members and the language industry by creating communities, championing standards, sharing knowledge, and advancing technology. Our vision is to be the voice for the language industry and the resource for the language enterprise.

GALA is primarily for agencies and large companies, but these employ translators who need to know what is trending in the industry.

-What have you heard from agencies or large companies about the industry?

-Technology is definitely a popular topic among professionals whether they’re on the buy-side or the vendor side of the industry. Machine translation (and post editing), audiovisual translation and subtitling, and video-remote interpreting will all be featured at our upcoming annual conference. Business owners continue to investigate new business models as alternatives to the per-word pricing model, and we also hear discussion about the “disintermediation” of the industry whereby clients request direct access to linguists and resources like translation memories. Finally, we hear of changing project lifecycles with an emphasis on smaller projects with faster turnaround times – often driven by Agile software development cycles.

-What types of changes are being implemented?

-Many translation and localization agencies are working on specialization, either in the sectors they serve or the type of services they offer. As they move into more consultative roles, they are able to move away from the price-per-word model. We see more emphasis on data-driven decisions from the client side as they seek to justify investments in language services and prove ROI to their upper management. And we see adaptations in project management to cope with the demands of Agile development with its smaller word counts and faster turn-around times.

GALA serves an international membership, however how does GALA interact with members on the local level?

In the past, GALA’s tagline was “Communicate locally, succeed globally” and though we no longer use that in marketing materials, we do still believe it. In spite of having member companies in more than 50 countries, we do interact with members regionally and locally. Our Partner Program is one way that we do this. Through a series of partnerships with regional associations, we extend our reach and are able to get involved in events and programs that otherwise would not be accessible to us and our members. We also co-organize local networking events in cities around the world. These events are always open to all industry professionals and provide a fun and easy way for people to connect with their peers. Finally, we encourage and support the development of local or regional user groups such as the Seattle Localization Group (SLUG) which plans quarterly meet-ups with speakers and networking.

Report from Jerusalem – Attending the Israel Translators Association Conference

At the ATA’s conference in Toronto in 2004, I met a translator from Israel who told me, “You know, we have one of these, too.” That was all I needed to start combining my annual visit to Israel with attendance at the Israel Translators Association conference.

The population of Israel is about 8.4 million. That’s less than the population of New Jersey. Yet each year the ITA conference draws about 350 attendees, as compared with about 1600-1800 for the ATA, which covers the entire USA and Canada. What’s going on here?

Israel is one of the world’s most internationally-connected economies. Developments in science, technology, medicine are quickly disseminated worldwide. In fact, Israel is No. 1 in terms of the percentage of its GDP spent on research and development (the US is in 10th place) . Many innovations we take for granted, such as WAZE, were originally developed there. This means that foreign countries are eager to establish a presence in Israel, hiring managers, leasing space and promoting products, while Israeli companies are doing the same worldwide. And when documents cross borders, translators find work. When I first joined the ITA, most translators, who are often immigrants to Israel, worked in language pairs other than Hebrew (Spanish, French, German, Russian <> English). Now, however, there’s plenty of work into and from Hebrew as well.

At the same time, Israelis are voracious readers. Not only have bookstores not disappeared, they are to be found on the main street of every city and even smaller towns, while the side streets are home to many used book stores, often full of browsers. At one of these, I looked for a volume of Harry Potter in Hebrew. “Harry Potter? Are you kidding? Those never last more than a day,” I was told. The Israeli translator of the Harry Potter books, Gili Bar Hillel, became an instant national celebrity, but fans were not shy about expressing their opinion on any word that they would have translated differently.

On the street outside our apartment in Jerusalem, old books mysteriously appear on a bench each morning. They range from encyclopedia volumes to books of poetry, and on this year’s visit I spied some in English, Hebrew, French German and even Greek. Passers-by leaf through them, sometimes pocketing one or two. We’ve never determined where these books come from, but they appear day after day, year after year, all efficiently “recycled” by this simple mechanism of trusting Israelis’ love of books.

The Israel Translators Association’s annual conference has one more thing going for it – it is usually held in Jerusalem, one of the world’s most fascinating cities, and a unique destination for international visitors. Over the years, thanks to that distinction and the international connections of its organizers, the conference has attracted numerous attendees and speakers who are themselves stars in the translation world. This year’s keynote speakers included André Lindenmann, President of the German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ) and the ATA’s own Jost Zetzsche, author of the Chronicle’s “GeekSpeak” column.

In recent years the conference’s organizers have provided optional tours that take visitors to some of Jerusalem’s top tourist sites. This year’s offerings included two that truly embody the special nature of the city: An evening excursion to the recently-excavated tunnels beneath the Temple Mount took us on a voyage back 2000 years to the time of King Herod, the megalomaniac master builder of his era. Walking underneath the famed Western Wall, we saw water conduits, Roman streets and massive building stones used to build the famous walls of the city. One such stone, the largest ever discovered in a structure completed by human beings without powered machinery, has an estimated weight of 570 tons!

The next day, an early morning visit to the bustling Mahane Yehuda “Shuk” or market, with its outdoor stalls, vendors shouting out the quality of their wares, and handcarts pushing through throngs of shoppers with their ubiquitous plastic shopping bags, revealed the other side of Jerusalem: A city that is bustling, thriving and filled with life, despite the fact that news reports sometimes make it seem like a conflict zone. Looking through a rack of shirts for something suitable for the gorgeous spring weather that had suddenly taken the place of cold winter drizzle, I was jostled by Arab women in hijab, Hassidic women in the wig-plus-hat combination adopted by some sects, and teenagers with headphones and miniskirts.

The modern and efficient light rai
l line running along Yafo (Jaffa) Street, for centuries the route from the Mediterranean port of Jaffa (remember Jonah and the whale?) to the Old City, was filled with soldiers in uniform (some with Uzis), mothers and babies, older women with shopping carts and men in business suits with briefcases. Jerusalem is also home to thousands of American students who, after graduating Jewish high schools, spend a “gap year” in Israeli seminaries. One evening, walking from the hotel, I encountered a trio of them bouncing a basketball, which then flew into the road with its rush hour traffic. The next evening I saw the same girls and asked them about the ball. They looked at one another in amazement and I could not resist teasing, “Whatever you do in Jerusalem, your mother gets a call within the hour.”

The night before the conference opened, international visitors were invited to dinner at the Eucalyptus Restaurant, which serves a modern interpretation of biblical cuisine. All dishes have their origins in biblical scenes and all the spices and herbs grow in the surrounding hills of Jerusalem and Judea. In fact, the meals served at the conference hotel (registration includes lunch, dinner is optional) are a feast in themselves, a far cry from the sandwich carts and quick trips to the supermarket that have become lunch fare at recent ATA conferences. And networking over a leisurely three-course meal with white tablecloths is certainly a luxury to be prized.

Sessions are presented in either Hebrew or English (and occasionally in other languages – our German guest this year gave one in German) and virtually everyone at the conference is fluent in English. In addition, this year the plenary presentations made in Hebrew were simultaneously interpreted into English by professional ITA members.

The preconference workshops covered marketing, CAT tools, transcreation and social media. The sessions over the next two days ranged from the usual legal and technical topics to some that are distinctly Israeli, such as the translation of Judaica and, unfortunately, the politics and translation of terror. My presentation this year was entitled “Patent Litigation – Understanding the Choreography”. In it I attempted to assure legal translators that this growing and lucrative field is not only for technical experts.

Last year, together with my colleague Carl Wurtzel, I presented on the translation of clinical trial documentation. In fact, Israel holds a unique position in this area. It has one of the world’s most comprehensive health care systems, with a network of clinics that stretches to each town, kibbutz and settlement in the country, and top-ranked hospitals and research centers. In addition, some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have facilities in Israel, including Teva, an Israeli company that is the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of generic drugs. This makes the country a great place to conduct such trials. And the good news for translators is that most documentation is translated (and back-translated) into/from Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian to reach all sectors of the population.

Israelis are famously argumentative, and this was illustrated to me within minutes of setting foot on Israeli soil. The passport control officer asked the purpose of my visit. I responded, in Hebrew, that I was attending the Israel Translators Association conference. He then corrected me: “Oh, you mean the Interpreters Association”; I, in turn, corrected him and explained the difference. He asked me how many languages I spoke, and then interrupted himself to discourse a bit on the Hebrew words for spoken language and written language. Behind me stretched an ever-lengthening line of exhausted travelers, but no matter. I knew I had come to a country that takes its languages seriously, and for a translator or interpreter, that’s quite a welcome.

Written by Eve Hecht

Translating the color “green” post-UNFCCC-COP21

On Earth Day 2016 — April 22, 2016 – at the United Nations in New York city, the delegates of 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be convened to a ceremony for signature of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. This agreement was negotiated and adopted last year, on Dec. 12, 2015, at Le Bourget, France, at the conclusion of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21).

UNFCCC – COP21 (The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) brought together 19,385 national delegates, 8338 observers, 2825 media representatives and many more visitors to the conference center (88,798 between Dec. 1 and 11). Together, the visitors and representatives of 195 nations and 1 regional economic integration organization gathered with the shared goal of responding and offering solutions to the threats of global warming and the predictable consequences of climate change on a planetary level.

As a reminder, global warming is understood as a phenomenon resulting from the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, in particular carbon dioxide (CO2)[US EPA]. GHGs are a consequence of burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil. As a result, fossil fuels are generically termed “dirty” sources of energy because of the emissions they produce. In turn, the term “dirty energy” contrasts with “clean sources of energy”, such as wind, sun and water, which do not burn to produce emissions that accumulate in the atmosphere creating a greenhouse effect. The threats subsumed in climate change resulting from the accumulation of GHGs, are best epitomized in Al Gore’s message: An Inconvenient Truth (Gore,2006).

At COP21, the major tenets of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change included the following:

1. Holding the increase in average global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C, which would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change [Article2 (a)]

2. Recognition of the responsibility of industrialized nations in creating the problem of global warming and climate change on a planetary level in the provisions of Article 9, calling for the scaled up support of developed countries to developing nations beyond previous obligations. In particular, a collective climate funding goal was set in the amount of USD 100 billion per year as a floor prior to 2025. More provisions for tracking and reporting were also included to ensure transparency and accountability.

3. Review of targets for reducing GHG emissions set forth in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) with provisions to ensure that targets may only be raised. The INDCs outline each of the parties’ mitigation and adaptation plans. (Articles 6 & 7).

Additionally, in the COP21 decisions outlining adoption of the Paris Agreement, non-party-(non-nation) stakeholders are explicitly invited, welcomed and included in the fight against global warming. This means that the role played by “organizations, civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other sub-national authorities” is explicitly recognized. In particular, it is further stipulated that the President of the Conference of the parties shall appoint one champion such non-party stakeholder to serve for 1 year, with terms overlapping, for each of the yearly sessions of the Conference of Parties. Thus COP21 intensifies the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), created at COP20 in 2014, which strives to coordinate the action of non-party stakeholders who have traditionally played a vital role in advising, supporting and implementing measures for mitigating and adapting to climate change arising from global warming.

Now, what’s with the color “green” in connection to COPs, non-party stakeholders, the UNFCCC, global warming and climate change? And what’s the issue in translation?

Beyond the UN alphabet soup of abbreviations and acronyms…the term “green” is associated and often replaces the term “clean” as in “green energy” and thus technically arises in reference to those sources of energy (sun, water and wind) that do not produce the GHG effect. In reality, the term “green” is often co-opted. The color green then includes reference to alternative biomass-based sources of energy; that is, energy derived from organic matter, such as wood, certain fast growing plants, algae, organic compounds found in municipal waste and agricultural residues [ETC group].

Co-opted indeed, because while biomass based-fuel, or biofuel, offers an alternative to fossil fuels –biofuels are effectively sourced very differently from fossil fuels – it is also true that such biofuel still has to be burned to become energy — just like fossil fuel. And when biofuel burns, it can actually release more CO2 than fossil fuels, such as jet fuel, Diesel fuel and pipeline natural gas, thus creating more GHG [ETC group, p. 74]. This is primarily due to the fact that so much more biomass is needed to achieve the same fossil fuel generated energy output.

So, while biomass- based fuel is undeniably “green” as the color of the plants from which it is sourced, it appears hardly “clean”, as in “free of GHG emissions”, or even “carbon-neutral” as in producing net zero carbon dioxide emissions, after factoring in the plants grown and their capacity to absorb whatever carbon dioxide they output. That is, even if such plant-based fuel could be co-opted in as carbon neutral, in a last ditch compromise, biomass fuel would deplete forests which are able to sink and sequester carbon emissions, at a much faster rate than it would ever be possible to replace them, and would compete with the use of land for sustainable agricultural purposes (i.e.; used for feeding people and livestock). [ETC Group, p. 74]

Thus, the color green appears polysemic in the conversations that unite nations in their bid to take responsibility for global warming. The good news is that the new Paris Agreement on climate change has heard the voices of many different stakeholders (including non-state), and the varying shades of green that they uphold and advocate. The Agreement includes multiple references to sustainable development including non-market sustainable development and the promotion of “mitigation compatible with sustainable development” [Art. 6(4) a] as well as “action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests” [Art. 5].

The other good news is that the opportunity to unite nations for a common purpose such as the fight against climate change, affords translators a new specialization– one where the color green and its many shades will take center stage — and where we might be thrown in to translate the full chromatic spectrum.

ETC Group (2011) Earth Grab: Geopiracy, the new biomassters, and capturing climate genes. Oxford, UK: Pambazuka Press
Gore, A. (2006) An inconvenient truth. Emmaus, PA: Rodale books.

UNFCC – Key figures of COP21 at Le Bourget
UNFCCC – Adoption of the Paris agreement
US –EPA Environmental Protection agency

Written by Francoise Hermann

RECAP: March Meeting

The March meeting which featured Gabriela Lemoine, the CEO of Hispano Language Advisory, was well attended.

Ms. Lemoine gave a presentation on Transcreation and Translation for Marketing. This was the same presentation that she gave at last year’s ATA conference which was so well received that it was scheduled twice. NYCT members who missed the conference were fortunate to be able to catch her presentation at the meeting.

The presentation started with a look at four videos of the same advertiser in different countries. Besides the language changes there were other subtle and not so subtle differences in the various commercial spots. Ms. Lemoine explained why the spots were tweaked and how they were all successful in their respective countries while still retaining the same branding.

Examples were discussed from companies such as McDonald’s Coca-Cola and Puma. A breakfast commercial from McDonald’s was shown that while a hit here in the United States would have no meaning in some Latin American countries simply because the breakfast foods presented in the commercial were not typical breakfast foods for the countries discussed. Simple things can make a significant impact or not.

There were some campaigns that worked well, some that didn’t work at all and others that were able to be adapted and fixed midstream and turned into a successful campaign.


Ms. Lemoine reminded the audience that the purpose of marketing copy is to persuade or to sell. It must get the viewer to have a reaction and make a move. The source text must equal the target cultural response.

All translators working in transcreation should be excellent writers in the target language. Being a translator is not enough; the culture of the target audience needs to be understood inside and out. A background in marketing is helpful but not having one does not impede a translator from specializing in the field.

She then touched upon ISO standards and took questions from the audience about pay scales, obtaining work in the specialization and working with either direct clients or agencies.