Letter From the Editor

Another year is coming to a close. Yes there is still much to do, school has started for many, for those who are able the ATA Annual conference will be in full swing and the holidays are coming.

There have been quite a few changes within the NY Circle since I first became a member in 2002,  most of them for the better, some things I liked as it once was, but these things happen.

We have a great new Board with wonderful ideas that have brought a new influx of members. Meetings and events are quite varied and I urge those who have not attended in some time to try to carve out some time to listen to some wonderful presentations.

But along with changes in the industry and changes in the Circle we also have changes in our personal lives. With this in mind I would like to say thank you to the Board and the membership for my time as the Editor of the Gotham. During the past years it has been wonderful interviewing many of you and reading the great articles that have been submitted, however, due to personal events in my life, it is time I also make a change therefore I must pass the baton to another Editor.

I hope that I will still see many of you at NY Circle meetings, the ATA conferences or even “online” and once again thank you I have learned so much about our members and the industry during my tenure.

Kind regards,
Margarite Heintz Montez

Letter to the Editor

I’m writing to thank you for your remembrance of Eileen Hennessy
which I came across at your chapter’s website. It touched my heart
deeply to see how much her colleagues respected her. And it also gave me a much clearer picture of her professional associations.

I met Eileen in 1965 when I was 19 years old and an undergraduate at Stony Brook University. We both happened to be working summer jobs in the university library and we became and remained close friend ever since.

Eileen had already graduated from college and was working on a
career path that would eventually combine commercial translation
poetry, literary translation and teaching. My career path was very
different and I never had the opportunity to work with Eileen as a
colleague. I envy those who did. Except for your remembrance of her as a colleague, I would not really understand this part of her life
because work per se was not the major part of our discussions. I did
not have a clear picture of her accomplishments.

When my work took me to New York City, we would meet for dinner and talk about everything that was on our minds. Sometimes, I would stay over to Saturday so we could catch a Broadway matinee before I returned upstate. When time permitted, Eileen would come up to visit me in Albany and we’d talk a whole weekend until we were exhausted and hoarse. I especially treasured her annual Christmas visits. Last Christmas was the first time in 25+ years that she could not come because she was so ill.

Eileen was a very private person, but she told me when she received
her diagnosis and we both cheered when she went into remission for several very good years. I held my hopes that it would last much
longer but it was not to be.

When I retired, I lost my mobility and had to use walkers and
wheelchairs, I could no longer travel alone. When my younger sister
lost her husband in 2010, two local friends, on their way to Florida,
drove me to Richmond, VA to be with my sister. When it was time to return home, I asked Eileen if she would come down to accompany me back to Albany, Of course, she said, Yes!, We flew back together.

I told Eileen once that her friendship graced my life, Via your
remembrance of her, I’m very glad to find out that I’m one of many.
You see, she never talked about how she helped others,

So once again, thank you.
Julie Dominian

Change Is the New Norm. Now What?

Reprinted with gracious permission by the author Raymond Lindquist and the InterpretAmerica blog

At InterpretAmerica, we spend a lot of time monitoring the trends and changes impacting the interpreting profession, at the macro and micro levels. That means a lot of hours spent reading through multiple Google alerts, tracking the growing number of outlets reporting on language-related news, attending conferences, following academic publications and listening to our colleagues at every opportunity.

Why do we do this? Simply put, we love what we do and believe passionately in the core purpose of interpreting (and translation): to make it possible for people who do not speak the same languages to engage in meaningful, nuanced and productive communication.

Yet now is not an easy time for any profession, nor, really, for humanity in general. We all probably feel like slamming the door on anyone peddling more news of disruption and change. No one wants constant change. We need time to catch our breath, to let new things integrate and settle.

Like it or not, ignoring these changes is as futile as Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon trying to prevent the letter from Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from being delivered to Harry on his 11th birthday. From one day to the next, Harry’s world went from monochrome to multicolor, from Privet Lane to Diagon Alley.

The truth is that in less than 30 years, constant change has become the norm all around the world. The primary driver of that change is due to what we now call “the digital revolution.” Most of us are in some state of amazement, confusion, disorientation, denial, excitement or fear from how fast this change is occurring. The majority of veteran interpreters were already working professionals when the digital age started. We have experienced every flip, stretch, and transformation of what we used to think was “normal.” And it’s exhausting, even when the change ultimately brings new resources or access to more choices in our lives.

Consider just a few examples of how change is permeating absolutely every area of the way people live around the world. Katharine shared this graphic when she spoke on a remote interpreting panel at this month’s NAJIT Annual Conference. The graphic shows just a few examples of core industries that have become unrecognizable when compared to how they traditionally functioned for decades and even centuries. Uber, our new global taxi company, owns no taxis. Airbnb, the largest lodging provider in the world, owns no real estate. Netflix, the largest cinema, owns no cinemas. And Skype and Wechat, the world’s largest telephonic companies, own no landline telecommunication infrastructure.
It is truly hard to get our heads around. But what do all of these examples have in common, and how does this apply to what interpreting is undergoing?

From Brick and Mortar to the Cloud

The digital revolution is pushing professions away from brick and mortar goods and services into cloud-based services. There are still people involved, but the old ways of doing business go away and people have to adapt to new and different ways of doing the same work. When industries decouple from physical spaces and products, explosive growth usually follows. Products and services are pushed out to more people in more ways and usually become less expensive. Our old, tried and true comfortable service models can no longer handle the demand, and new models come in. Threaded throughout this process is a relentless push to eliminate any and all inefficiencies in the way business used to be done.

Most of us know that the interpreting and translation professions are and have been one of the biggest growth professions in the world for over a decade. A huge driver of that growth is the now ubiquitous access to mobile technology. Truly, the only barrier left to instantaneous, multilingual communication from anywhere to anywhere is the language barrier. We are being flipped, expanded, stretched and transformed. Even in instances when that process is for the better, it can, and does, hurt.

Interpreting workplaces are changing

One center point of change that we often overlook is change in the institutions that hire us. In general, interpreters work in a whole lot of workplaces of other professions, and these are transforming too. Whether politics or business, healthcare, education or legal settings, interpreters go where people need to communicate; they don’t come to us. These workplaces, and the people who work in them, in many cases are facing the same kind of disruptive change as we are experiencing in interpreting.

Two examples show how the practitioners we often work with are also having to adapt their traditional ways of doing business, seemingly overnight. Pay attention, because you can see that push to eliminate inefficient work processes.
Artificial intelligence and medicine
First, let’s look at medicine. The healthcare industry is one of the largest workplaces in the US and it’s arguably where the largest number of professional interpreters work. One of many ways doctors are currently facing a new reality in their own professional practice is artificial intelligence applications that are now better at diagnosing certain kinds of diseases than human beings are. Doctors are seeing their role shift as new forms of technology make some of their skill sets obsolete. Does this mean that doctors will go away? Not at all – but traditional tasks that have now been made inefficient by technology are going to the machines, and doctors will shift how they provide their core service of helping people get well.

Lawyers and e-discovery

Now let’s look at an example from the legal system. According to the American Bar Association, discovery “is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial.” The discovery process used to be limited to paper searches of actual print material. Now most recorded information linked to any given person, topic or event is digital.

Electronic or e-discovery has transformed a key legal process that once used to consist of lawyers and paralegals spending many long hours reading and researching using print materials, and getting paid well by the hour to do it. With the digital revolution, the old process is now highly inefficient, and e-discovery is rapidly becoming the norm. Did lawyers and paralegals disappear? No? But the way they do their jobs has changed. In fact, there are now entirely new categories of jobs that people are hired to do related to managing and implementing this new way of gathering and sharing key information between parties in a legal matter.

Interpreting service models are changing

One of the most obvious, and dreaded and resisted, changes that our field is grappling with is the advent of remote interpreting, especially video remote interpreting. This is a topic that we cover extensively at InterpretAmerica – and not necessarily because we think all technological change is good – but rather because we feel that we simply cannot avoid its impact. There are forces that we, as a profession, can influence, and there are forces that we cannot do anything about. As legal and medical interpreters, our job is to help the justice and medical systems fulfill their functions by providing the language bridge for non-English speaking defendants and patients. As conference interpreters, the world’s diplomacy and international collaboration cannot take place without our skill set. But, if doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians and diplomats start communicating over
ideo, mobile and chat platforms, then we have to find a way to be there too.

How people find interpreters is changing

Advances in mobile technology are not only about remote interpreting. Agencies and employers no longer find and hire interpreters in the same ways they used to. Printed letters sent through the mail, phone calls and even emailing have rapidly been replaced by online databases on professional association websites or social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Interpreters are hired through text messages and in-app notifications as much as by direct email. Increasingly, we are seeing new platforms that seek to aggregate large numbers of interpreters onto single platforms that multiple agencies can access.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Expect this push toward online platforms to encompass many core interpreting-related tasks and services, such as scheduling, billing, vetting qualifications, and white-labeling telephonic and remote interpreting services, to name a few.

The tools we work with have changed

The tools we use to hone and practice our craft have also changed. Whether in a booth or standing next to a social worker in a clinic, we now have smart phones, tablets, terminology apps, e-pens, high-quality headsets and webcams. When was the last time you bought a print dictionary? It’s much more likely you’ve got it as an app or your phone or tablet at a much reduced purchase price.

As interpreters, it is completely natural to want to keep things as they are. We fear that technology will replace us, that lower-paid interpreters from other parts of the world will replace us. We worry that our wages will go down. We fear that unqualified, uncertified out-of-state and out-of-country interpreters will be hired because they are less expensive. We worry that we will be forced to use inadequate technology that doesn’t take into account the audio and visual conditions we need to be able to reasonably do our job. Even if we are not fearful but rather eager to embrace these changes, we don’t have easy pathways to access new employers using new tools and we don’t have adequate training for interpreting over new platforms. Let’s face it, as this change comes in, all of these things are happening.

Tempting though it is to draw a line in the sand to stand behind, we need to take charge of those areas we can influence and make sure our professional livelihood is protected, and indeed, thrives. We cannot forget, that we are there to serve other people’s communication. Our clients want the best service possible, which we cannot give them if we do not find ways to keep pace as they are also adapting their ways of doing business.

We may not be able to stop the forces of change that are operating on levels we just can’t touch. But we CAN start updating and adapting so that we take forward as much of our hard fought and hard won battles to professionalize as possible.

Open-Mic Nite at Cornelia Street Café

On May 10th the New York Circle of Translators held an Open-Mic Night at the Cornelia Street Cafe in the City. This was an opportunity for locally based translators to read from some of their own works of translation, or from the works of their colleagues.

The program featured a variety of different works and everyone had an enjoyable time. Jean Campbell read some of the poems of the late Eileen Hennessey, including “My Life and Birth”, “Silence was Golden”, and “About making my home”. In addition, other translators read from a variety of different texts: a children’s book, a collection of essays, and a novel to name a few.

Laura Wolfson read from her new essay collection “For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors”. Themes that were explored (both tenderly and humorously) were how to read Proust on a crowded subway and life after a downgrade in job status due to ill-health.

Kate Deimling, the event organizer and a former Program Director of the Circle, reads an excerpt from Anne Percin’s novel translated from the French, “My Mother, the Crab and Me”. The extract highlighted a difficult mother-daughter relationship.

Stacy Smith reads an essay translated from the Japanese called “Nature: Hearbreak’s Provider and Healer” by Man Arai.

Mary Escalante read from a picture book by Thornton Cline that she had translated. It tells the story of a young boy who didn’t want to practice the violin!

NYCT Program Director, Aaron Hebenstreit, reads from Valeria Yermishova’s translation of a Russian book: “1919 – A Treat”. Yermishova is a past President of the Circle.

Paula Azevedeo read “Traces” which deals with family dynamics after a funeral.      

As usual a good time was had by all. This has become a yearly event.

Rampant Theft of Translators’ Identities Is a Major Problem

Reprinted with gracious permission from Steve Vitek from his blog, Diary of a Mad Patent Translator

It is a well known truism that eighty percent of new small businesses fail within the first three years. The failure rate depends on the type of the business, of course; with restaurants, it is said that fifty percent of them fail within the first few years.

We all notice how the names of restaurants keep changing after a while when we drive past them and we usually don’t pay much attention to such a mundane fact of life. It’s all just a part of the scenery, like cherry blossoms in the spring, a flock of geese slowly crossing the road (why don’t they fly? Is it because they have their goslings following them?), or the homeless who are sprawled most of the time in some of the downtown streets of most cities.

I am not sure what the failure rate of new small translation businesses would be, including one-person businesses. Well, I know that they sometime fail too, but I don’t know how long it takes before they bite the dust.

I have been able to survive more than three decades as a translator. But given the current dire situation, I am not sure whether I would have survived what I call the “translation industry” (2.0) had I launched my tiny enterprise three decades later, which is to say just about now.

Fortunately, I am already semi-retired and since I am no longer responsible for the wellbeing of my grown children who have left the house many years ago, I don’t need to make that much money anymore.

As if the situation for relatively new translators who are just trying to establish themselves in the translation field was not bad enough, they now have to compete, in addition with free machine translations and with very low rates being paid by the “translation industry” to many human translators, also with a rampant translators’ identity theft.

I see the evidence of this rampant translators’ identity theft almost daily in my email box, which is periodically filled with emails with attached fraudulent résumés of “translators” based on résumés of real translators that were stolen by outfits specializing in creating fake résumés.

I know that many of the résumés that I receive are from an outfit based in Gaza, or possibly somewhere else in Middle East, because I can identify several peculiarities typical for this outfit.

A telltale sign of this particular crook who is targeting my email box is that whoever puts together the fake résumés uses wrong names for the would-be translators. For example, translators into French never have a name that one would expect from a French person, a first name like Claire or Hélène, and the last name is also funny, not something that would resemble a common French name.

Or a male Japanese translator who supposedly translates from and into Japanese has a female Japanese first name and the last name does not sound Japanese either. And he is so good that in addition to Japanese, he can translate also into Chinese and Korean!

The crooks who specialize in manufacturing fake résumés based on stolen identities sometimes also make other stupid mistakes: for example, I received a résumé from a geographically confused would-be translator who supposedly translates Czech and Polish to English and lives in “Wroclaw, Czech Republic,” (although Wroclaw is in Poland.)

This to me is a clear indication that whoever is running this fraudulent enterprise is not a translator, or at least somebody who would know something about foreign languages. These people are simply ignorant crooks and fraudsters pretending to be something that they are not. They know nothing whatsoever about foreign languages.

I can’t help thinking, the funny thing is that in this respect these people are not really very different from a typical translation agency translating pretending to be able to translate “all subjects from and into every language” in our wonderful “translation industry.”

If you read my silly post today this far, you must be wondering whether I fell for a fake résumé at some point myself, and whether this might be why am I so keenly aware of this problem.

The answer is of course, yes, I did fall for it several years ago. That résumé looked so perfect and the rate was so reasonable, I simply had to give it a try! But when I received the short translation, it was garbage and I had to have it retranslated by a real translator, which means that I had to pay for it twice.

I only found out that the person who pretended to be somebody else was an imposter when I was paying the would-be translator. I paid for the garbage that I so foolishly ordered by PayPal, and because PayPal verifies identities of persons who want to have a PayPal account, I saw that this person had an Arabic name, which was not the language into which the translation was delivered, with the abundant aid of machine translation.

The best way to find a new translator is when a translator is recommended to you by another translator. The worst way to find a new translator is to trust the résumé of a very promising translator who offers a reasonable rate that somehow ended up in your mailbox.

Unless I can verify the identity of a would-be translator by going to his or her website, and unless I see that this translator went to the trouble of at least paying for a website and for an email that is attached to this website, I simply assume that the résumé that just turned up in my email box, which does not indicate a website, and which only has a free throw-away email, is a monstrous fake.

To read more of the Mad Patent Translator follow this link to his website and blog: Website: www.patenttranslators.com,
Blog: www.patenttranslator.wordpress.com


By: Luz Miranda-Valencia
Reprinted with gracious permission by the author from her blog

Working to the highest standards and cultivating talent demand a lot of effort. Creativity needed in translation to overcome language barriers and solve communication problems is only achieved through the constant practice of writing skills, skills that Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools without a professional translator can only imitate at a lower level.

For professional translators, also deadlines are crucial. In times of humanitarian crisis, translators need to be fast without losing their temper and professionalism in order to communicate clearly and effectively.

I enjoy a lot when volunteering for Translators Without Borders (TWB), for me TWB is a tool that has sharpened my outcome as a punctual and sober world translator. As a volunteer, TWB has also given me the opportunity to work with a thriving team that promotes myself as a growing world-translator able to achieve outstanding outcomes not only as a professional with more creativity, but also as a more sensitive human being.

At TWB, I can think beyond myself, which –as it is well-known- makes accomplishes all the more impressive. I see this organization as a languages gear that raises the question: ”In a crisis, isn´t information in the right language a human right?”

I am proud of being a volunteer at Translators Without Borders, because I belong to the permanent team that translates so the right language at the right time can save and restore populations in areas of crisis, establishing a culture of tolerance and peace.

December 5th was the day to celebrate International Volunteer Day and the theme for this year is `Volunteers Act First. Here. Everywhere.´

Translators without Borders (TWB) is a non-profit organization that seeks a world in which life-saving knowledge knows no language barriers.
About the author: Luz Miranda-Valencia is a translator by training (English, Spanish, German), World Languages Teacher, Proofreader, Interpreter, Consultant and editor of luzmirandaspanish.com.