Demystifying Sight Translation in the Healthcare Setting

by Monica Lange Reprinted with gracious permission by Translorial, the newsletter of the NCTA, and the author

Medical concept

On Saturday August 12, 2017, NCTA held another excellent continuous education workshop at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco. I arrived early at the classroom, and there she was—pretty in fuchsia. Margarita Bekker demystified not only sight translation in the healthcare setting, but healthcare interpreting as a whole. I have recently moved from Switzerland to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I am used to the conference interpreting setting for international organizations in Geneva, so this is a completely new field for me.
Margarita has an impressive resume: CoreCHI™ interpreter, educator and trainer at Stanford University Medical Center, chair of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, curriculum developer for Glendon School of Translation at York University in Toronto, Canada, interpreter of the year by CHIA in 2016—just to name a few of her numerous accomplishments.
During her lecture, she talked about the several types of medical and legal texts that an interpreter might encounter in a typical day at work—from health history forms, intake forms, patient educational materials, care instructions, informed consents, legal and health insurance documents—she covered them all.

Translate or sight translate? – That is the question!

As a conference interpreter, I have done some sight translations, or rather, sight interpretations of speeches when I was lucky enough get them at all beforehand, but the difficulties I had to deal with are not even close to those faced by interpreters working in hospitals or healthcare practices. The challenges here are different: in addition to the language and cultural barriers, there is also medical and legal terminology defining the patient’s aches, pains, fears, and insecurities.

Margarita dissected the several types of documents and their characteristics, explaining which should and which should not be sight translated and, most importantly, why. She explained proper ways for interpreters to translate “on the spot”, the differences between sight translation, written translation, and interpreting, the grammatical peculiarities of healthcare documents, the importance of understanding healthcare and legal lingo, and interpreting techniques like paraphrasing and chunking. There was also a very interesting discussion on ways for interpreters to recuse themselves to sight translate specific documents taking into account patient safety and Joint Commission directives.

After the coffee break, it was time for some “hands-on” training. Divided into groups of the same language pairs, attendees had the opportunity to sight-translate documents and unravel some of the medical interpreting mysteries. The classroom was filled with a diverse audience—from highly experienced and skilled interpreters to those exploring this new field of opportunities and professional growth—and the exercises were dynamic, fun and, at least for me, very enlightening.

The Lady with the Lamp and the importance of certification

To wrap up, Margarita gave a very enthusiastic speech about the importance of certification for medical interpreters. Just like Florence Nightingale, the pioneer in professionalizing the nursing profession for women, Margarita is also a trained nurse. With her own lamp of knowledge and a delicate Russian accent, she talked about the importance of Ms. Nightingale’s work and the power of certification.

Like many of us, I started in the translation and interpretation profession by mere happenstance—or as I like to say, fate. Some may even say it was karma! I have a degree in veterinary medicine, which—together with my lifelong passion for languages—led my way into the mysterious and fascinating world of medical translations. As years went by, and I fell in love with the profession, I looked for a formal education and became a trained professional. Certification is my next step. As mentioned by Margarita, certification elevates our profession. The more of us are certified, the more we will be perceived as a profession. Also, certification is not a one-time effort. It has to be maintained by continuous education, involvement, and – for those of us who do not like to admit it, but are somewhat lazy—it encourages us to study, to be committed to learning and becoming better professionals.

Elections- Your Vote Counts! Candidate Statements

Dear NYCT members,

It is that time of year again when we vote for our new leadership. We have an excellent slate of candidates for the Board. Please read over the candidate statements and make your voice heard by mailing in your ballots.

The New York Circle thrives because of the efforts of you, our members, and our dedicated Board of Directors.

Candidates for Secretary

    Alexia Klein

My name is Alexia Klein and I am a Brazilian translator living in New York. Although I have been a Translator for about six years, my background is in the sciences and I previously had a career as a Pharmacist.

After falling in love with translating I decided to change careers and attended the NYU SPCS Translation Program. My main specialization is the life sciences, but I also work in subtitling and literary translation while maintaining a few side projects of my own. I am a member of the ATA and have been a member of the New York Circle of Translators for two years.

I am honored to have been offered the opportunity to launch my candidacy to serve the board of the NYCT as Secretary. The NYCT is an organization that strives to foster a sense of community and belonging to members in a profession that can be unstable and challenging, while offering excellent opportunities for professional growth, mentoring and networking. I am enthusiastic to be running and eager for the opportunity to contribute more actively in this great endeavor.

As a professional, one of my areas of concern is the relationship between Translators/Interpreters and LSPs. As Secretary, I plan to bring this issue to the board, helping to create a channel for dialogue between language professionals and agencies. I look forward to being involved in the important conversation of how to improve our working conditions and to further develop and maintain a cohesive, supportive, and nurturing community; thus, helping to empower translators and interpreters in the New York area. I plan to give back to the community as much as I plan to learn from it.

    Miriam Kaplan

While I’m a rather new comer to the NYCT I have been a lover of languages all my life. I have spent a lifelong working in international trade and development. I have lived and worked on three continents and spent extended periods of times working in many countries- Guatemala, Poland, Israel & of course the USA. I ran a couple of business that were involved in international product development on the one hand, and supplying major clients in the USA and Europe like Ralph Lauren, Downton Abbey, Saks, Bloomingdales, many museums etc. Such work demands in addition to the knowledge of foreign languages, the ability and flexibility to work and understand other cultures, different regulatory environments, other modes of doing things. I have acquired a reputation of a go getter who is also a perfectionist. Naturally, translation and interpretation played a part in my career, which have recently even grown. I have joined the NYCT and found the organization to be a treasure trove of information and resources for translator and interpreter, as well as a forum of kindred spirits.

I have been a volunteer in another organization and found the experience very rewarding. I’m looking to join the board of the NYCT as a secretary to serve and give back, and hopefully to put in some of my two cents of ideas of options and direction that maybe the organization can pursue.

Candidate for Treasurer

    Christine Quiñones

My name is Christine Quiñones, and it’s my honor to be nominated for the position of Treasurer of the NYCT. I am a proud native of Brooklyn, New York, and I have been working professionally as a freelance Spanish-English translator for about four years, and an active member of the Circle since 2015. Before coming to translation, I was an office manager, accountant, and tax preparer for over twenty years, and I still do some accounting and tax work today alongside my translation work. With my ongoing practical experience overseeing financial matters, I believe I can serve in the position of Treasurer to maintain the Circle on a solid financial footing and improve our ability to serve the community of translators and interpreters in New York.

The Circle, in the two and a half years I’ve been a member, has been instrumental in keeping me connected to my fellow professionals and to furthering the recognition of translation and interpretation as a crucial component of this great city’s social and economic vitality. We’ve had a great team in place bringing the Circle out into the wider world as the voice of the local translation and interpretation community, and I want to follow in their footsteps to keep up the pace.

If I am elected, I will work with the rest of the Circle board to ensure that we make the most of the money we have, to reach out in person and through online outlets to our peers in the local translation and interpretation community who may not be aware they have a home with the Circle, and also to connect with the wider metropolitan area and bring awareness of our profession to more communities. The Circle is a great organization with a great deal of potential for growth and evolution, and I am willing, able, and eager to play a part in both. Thank you.

Candidate for Program Director

Aaron Hebenstreit

I am running for the position of Program Director of the New York Circle of Translators. Monthly meetings and special events organized by the Circle are very informative and useful, and I would be happy to do my best to bring more great programming to NYCT members. I would like to work with the other members of the Board to plan interesting events for our organization. As a practicing translator, interpreter, and educator, I hope to incorporate the various elements of the profession into the events we hold in order to provide opportunities for members to build skills and relationships, interact with colleagues and potential employers, and raise the profile of our profession.

Following undergraduate studies in engineering and graduate school in translation and interpretation, I have been working with Chinese, French, and German as a practitioner in the T&I field for about four years. I currently work as a contracted translator for the United Nations and some of its specialized agencies and as a freelance interpreter in the private sector and the New York state court system. I also teach Chinese to English translation at the NYU School of Professional Studies.

I look forward to the opportunity to serve the NYCT as Program Director for the 2018-2019 term.

To vote for your candidates please go to NYCT Election 2017 ballot or click on the link below.

New York Circle of Translators Election 2017

Please read all the candidate statements to familiarize yourself with our candidates. Please select only one (1) candidate per position. Print ballot and mail to the NYCT P.O. Box address below. You may also opt to print the ballot, fill it out, scan it, and send it as an email attachment to

All ballots must be postmarked or received via e-mail by December 15, 2017. Ballots received after this date will not be valid. Only one (1) vote per member.


The European North-South divide in translation

Reprinted with gracious permission from Translatio, the newsletter of the International Federation of Translators

It is well known that the rates of translators in the North are much higher than those of their colleagues in the South.
Our clients are also aware of this difference, which is due to the cost of living in each country; therefore, they pay different rates for the same document to have it translated from e.g. French into Swedish and from French into Greek.
We cannot offer you a rate that we accept for a translator of Scandinavian or German languages…”

This is the reply a colleague received from a French agency when she quoted a rate of 8 cents/word for French-Greek, which is an average-to-low rate in the industry. The French project manager claimed a difference in the cost of living between North and South to justify rejecting the quoted rate. Unfortunately, translation companies across Europe seem to use the North-South divide to drive rates down for specific languages, disregarding traditional rate determinants, such as language combination, type of document, field of expertise, timing, etc. The above reply is contradictory in itself, since the project manager bases his argument on languages and not the place of establishment, as if for instance all translators for German resided in Germany, and all translators for Greek resided in Greece.

The North-South divide refers to the difference in wealth between the “rich” countries in the North and the “poor” countries in the South. It is not uncom-mon for the translation industry to repeat this stereotypical-bordering-socially been a convergence between North and South in terms of economies and social indicators, albeit at different speeds at different sectors.

The recent financial crisis in a number of EU countries meant the imposition of severe austerity measures that shrunk disposable income and annihilated pur-chasing power, without freelance translators being able to adjust their rates in order to offset this loss in income, namely due to the inelastic nature of the translation industry, which is accentuated by the wave of mergers and acquisitions witnessed in recent years, and the out¬sourcing of large translation contracts based on purely economic criteria. It has also reinforced the misconception that weaker economies must mean weaker rates. The translation industry was quick to jump on the bandwagon of exploiting professionals in those hard hit countries. Trapped between the Scylla of increased financial burdens and the Charybdis of blackmailing translation agencies, faced with the psychological angst created by those conditions of financial insecurity, freelance translators in the South were left totally unprotected to fend off an attack on their livelihood and professionalism.

Apart from the fact that populism in political discourse seems to spill into the professional sphere, the above project manager also perpetuates another misconception. That he is actually the one setting the rates, and therefore his attitude stems from an ill-perceived sense of authority, of him being the employer and the freelancer being the employee.

Let’s set the record straight. A freelancer by definition sets his/her own rates, business hours and place of work. This means great flexibility in terms of work models, e.g. part-time or full-time single or multiple contract work, business owner or 100% work from home, etc. It also means that when your rates are not accepted, you can pitch your offer to the next interested client and stay clear of those who do not appreciate your service offering. As a professional and a freelancer, do not allow yourself to be conditioned that you are not in control of your work. Freelance translators need to resist this commoditization and highlight the unique properties of their services. They also need to denounce practices like the above-mentioned and show solidarity with their struggling colleagues. Next time someone attempts to play the North-South divide card, don’t just dismiss it. State your ground, defend your work, and defend your profession.
Written by Dimitra Stafilia, FIT Europe Treasurer

A new hopeful horizon for Iranian Translators and Interpreters

Reprinted with gracious permission from Translatio, the newsletter of the International Federation of Translators

Translation in Iran has an old and brilliant history, with a successful relationship with other civilizations and cultures. Many books have been translated by Iranian translators from several languages into Persian and vice versa.

The Translators and Interpreters’ Association of Tehran (TIAT) was founded to support Iranian T&I in several fields, including social security, applied and professional training, translator authentication, translation business expansion, social dignity improvement, and legal support.

In this regard, TIAT has held more than 80 workshops, meetings and seminars in different areas of translation and interpretation, including Translation & Technology workshops focusing on SDL Trados, MemoQ and Xbench, Simultaneous Interpretation, Rules and Laws for T&I focusing on the Berne Convention and contracts, Literary Translation in Eng<>Persian and French<>Persian, and Translation Business Strategies, among others. In addition, TIAT has begun to make the largest parallel corpus in Iran, with more than 180 million words using the most professional team in this field.

TIAT, as Iran’s major translation association, held the first International Translation Day Ceremony in Iran in 2015. The ceremony programme usually includes presenting the most successful literary translators, entrepreneurs, researchers and managers of the Translation industry. Moreover, TIAT has facilitated publishing new books by Iranian translators through a cooperation with publishers.

One of the most important missions of TIAT is to extend and improve translation technologies based on cloud computing, by developing online translation markets, iOS and Android applications, etc. Furthermore, TIAT believes that it is necessary for translators and interpreters to have international connections with their colleagues all over the world, which is possible through FIT membership. We expect to hold international workshops, seminars and congresses next year.
Mohammadreza Arbabi, Chairman of TIAT


The room was full for the November Meeting at NYU. Lida Barbetti Vros and Cristina Marquez Arroyo discussed how to become a better medical translator.

Lida focused on how to approach the work with a great list of Do’s & Don’ts while Cristina presented on terminology and glossaries.

This was the last meeting of the year and it was wonderful to see both new members and more seasoned members in attendance.