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:,


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

Planning and Productivity

Reprinted with gracious permission by the author from her blog “Translation Tidbits”

Productivity means time, money, doing more with fewer resources and in less time, performance, efficiency, etc. The list is long.

For those who work in a home office, productivity can be a challenge, as the dishes in the kitchen, the laundry, and other chores scream your name through the house, calling you to do things other than your work (in the professional sense of things).

Taking care of the house is and takes work, but I’m talking about paid work. That kind without which you wouldn’t even have a house. Home office loneliness can also interfere with productivity. You may end up diving into social networks, creating work delays. Each person has different productivity challenges and ways to overcome them. There is no single recipe for dealing with this.

For me, two methods have proven effective. I use them together, and they have helped me plan better and produce more. Notice I said plan and produce, for one depends on the other.

Planning is important to identify the tasks to be done, set priorities and allocate sufficient time for each of them to be executed. One of the things I noticed when looking back and seeing how long I was taking to do each of my tasks was I that I was allocating too much time for each of them. I researched what could help me with that and found out about Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law taught me how to plan my day

Published by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an article in The Economist, in 1955, and based on his extensive experience in the British civil service, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. That means that if I allocate 60 minutes for lunch, I will use all this time for lunch. However, if I allocate 30 minutes for lunch, it will not only be possible to eat in 30 minutes, but I will have another 30 minutes to perform another task on my to-do list.

Cyril Parkinson suggests identifying all the tasks to be performed in your work day, set priorities, plan the day backward, allocating the necessary time to each of them and then get to work. This has helped me a lot because I start planning my day based on the time that I must be done with it, so nothing is left behind and everything is done in order of priority. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that this plan has a specific order to be followed: first, do what you have to do and then, do what you want to do. Once I had solved my planning issues, it was time to see how I could improve my productivity, that is, how much work I could get done per hour.

The Pomodoro Technique taught me to do more in less time

I didn’t have to analyze things extensively to identify the problem. I was getting distracted and losing focus far too easily. Be it because of things around the house or because of things on the internet. To help me focus on work without forgetting to rest the mind, I chose the Pomodoro Technique, and it has been amazing.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 80s. The technique consists of using a timer to divide work into periods of 25 minutes, separated by brief intervals of five minutes. The name comes from the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), as a reference to the popular kitchen timer in the form of a tomato. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can increase mental awareness.

My husband is a Chef, so it goes without saying that I do not lack kitchen timers at my house, but you can use the phone’s stopwatch or those used in sports. I prefer the kitchen timer because I’m afraid of using the phone and end up getting distracted by all those app notifications that appear on the screen.

The technique, as already explained, works very simply. You program the timer for 25 minutes and focus on work. During those 25 minutes, work is the boss. When the 25 minutes are up, you program the timer for five minutes. These five minutes can be used to go to the bathroom, drink some water or have a cup of coffee, listen to music, stretch, meditate, etc. I suggest avoiding checking out the internet or taking a peek at what’s going on TV because I’m afraid of ignoring the timer when the five minutes are up. The important thing is to use this break to rest your mind, hydrate or just relax a little bit.

Break is over? Reprogram the timer for another 25 minutes. And keep on going from there: 25 – 5 – 25 – 5 – 25 – 5, until you get to the end of your work day. With this method, I could not just focus on what was really needed but could also identify my real hourly productivity potential. Which means that I started having enough time to include more things into my day and not leave anything for tomorrow.

Written by Melissa Harkin, English to BR Portuguese, BR Portuguese to English and Spanish into English and Portuguese technical translator, 15+ years of experience, member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and the Brazilian Translators Association (Abrates), specializing in legal and environmental content. Bachelor of Laws, MBA in Strategic Management, Certificate in Translation and Subtitling, Certificate in Sustainability, and several years of experience in other markets (Oil & Gas, Aviation, Pharmaceutical, HR, Construction, Energy, and Environmental), before working full-time in translation.

More of Melissa’s posts can be seen at: ( Melissa often posts in both Portuguese and English.

Eileen Hennessy—A personal encounter of the favorable kind 1937 – March 17, 2018

Photograph by John Sarsgard 2010

Eileen is an unforgettable colleague. Working as a full-time, free-lance translator since 1972, she mentored younger translators while serving as a model for success. At one point she shared an office in Rockefeller Center, stayed at a women’s hotel in New York City during the work week and passed the weekends on Long Island with her mother. She always dressed well, but of course, this was not what you noticed.

Here are recollections of Ms. Hennessy indicative of the great diversity of activities she pursued:

Close to 30 years ago we met when she provided translations for the law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP. Teaching at New York University since 1985, she was known for her brilliant courses on legal translation from French. With a quiet demeanor, her thought was lucid and effective. And joyful. In a translation assignment fictionalized for confidentiality, a company name became Chatquidort, S.A. or Sleepingcat, Inc. Eileen could be described as “old school”, yet she never failed to connect with her students over several decades. Her notion of “professorial safety” involved the pedagogically sound principles of gradual presentation and overlapping repetition, particularly for complex legal texts. She was a master of the comparative law approach, with a keen interest in penetrating the veil of legal procedure. [Jean Campbell]

While always appearing conservatively dressed and even a bit “buttoned up”, Eileen was actually someone who, in response to the word “Let’s” would enthusiastically answer, “Go!”. I had attended the Israel Translators Association conferences for a few years when, in 2008, I suggested to Eileen and another NYU instructor that they come and present – an excuse to visit a beautiful country, and a nice line on the CV. To my surprise, both accepted, and Eileen and I presented a talk on legal translation together. We had a fascinating day touring the Old City of Jerusalem and came back to dinner at our apartment there. I believe that is how I will remember her, because it was a rare intimate setting for someone whose private and public personas were so separate. My primary meetings with Eileen were at the thrice-yearly open houses for potential students in the NYU Translation Studies program, over some 15 years. Each of us would speak a bit about “What it’s like to be a translator”, including how we started out in the profession. Eileen provided an invaluable perspective going back to the days not only before the internet but to the times when an educated, literate and creative woman often limited her aspirations to a job as a secretary at a prestigious firm. But she took that and turned it into a career, or several careers, including translator, poet, author and educator. She embodied the verse “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar”. [Eve Hecht]

I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to contact Eileen to have dinner when I found out about her passing. She emailed me in January that she was looking forward to it. We used to dine a couple of times a year. Eileen did not talk much but her eyes said a lot. She was an intent and active listener and a keen observer. We discussed translation, our program and outside interests and sought the humor in everything.

Eileen was the last remaining instructor of the initial group that founded the NYU translation program. She started teaching in 1985. She had a keen interest in the progress of the program and in its success. The early 2000s were transformational for the program as we transitioned to online delivery and we knew she was “old school”. Eileen faced a challenge. None of us wanted to lose her as an instructor. She was slight of build but strong. She would grab her laptop, go to the office of distance learning and sit with the trainers until she mastered online instruction. I don’t think she installed TRADOS but she never let NYU down. Once we had a Master’s thesis defense online, in live synchronous mode. Eileen was a reviewer. The topic was in the field of French to English legal translation and there was an issue with the student’s terminology. All of a sudden, Eileen started explaining differences between the French and American legal systems, hence terminologies, with detail and authority that I had never heard before. It was an Eileen never before encountered, speaking with the unchallengeable voice of a true expert. If she could read this she would probably say “Eh!” with her characteristic smile. [Milena Savova]

With her long silver hair piled on top of her head, sparkling eyes, direct smile, and restrained elegance, Eileen Hennessy was a woman who quietly blazed trails for others. At every information session for the NYU translation certificate program Eileen told prospective students how she broke into the profession. Back in the day, she was known in the man’s world of the corporate office as “the girl” who knew languages. Any document that arrived in a language other than English was routed to her desk. Eileen was a gifted linguist and hard worker. She transformed herself from “the girl” with languages to a self-made translator and earned the highest credentials and certifications available in multiple languages.

As one of her translation students, the most important lessons I learned from Eileen were taught by example and subtlety. She created a culture in which no student should ever bluff, but be honest and aware of uncertainties, and reach out to collaborate with colleagues to come up with the best possible solutions to bedeviling translation problems. Eileen’s French to English Legal II course was in essence a course in comparative legal systems. She taught new translators that the craft was not cookie-cutter replacement of one word with another, but research and understanding of different societies and different legal systems. That knowledge base then had to be added to an understanding of the American legal system in order to translate the legal transactions of one society into the language of another. Eileen never “winged it.” She came prepared to every class and generously shared her toolkits and lifetime of experience with her students to make them the best professional translators they could be. It impressed me that Eileen rented a separate office space to do her translation work. She told me that she needed that physical division of the spheres of her life so work did not obliterate what else she enjoyed in life, and conversely, so life’s challenges did not obscure the need to go to work. Eileen was an intensely private person. I did not know she was a poet. Saddened by her death, I also feel fortunate that she has left writings that promise a glimpse of the Eileen I did not know. [Alison Dundy]

In April 2015, when I was translation and interpreting studies coordinator at NYU-SPS, I organized a panel discussion entitled “Machine Translation, CAT Tools and the Shifting Landscape of the Translation Industry.” Aside from machine translation specialists, and our resident CAT specialist and soothsayer, Jon Ritzdorf, I asked Eileen Hennessy to speak about the changes she had experienced during her long and distinguished career. Towards the end of the event, Jon stood up and with uncharacteristic gravitas said about Eileen to the more than 70 attendees: “There will never be another generation of translators like yours… once you’re gone, no one will care about quality like you did.” Eileen beamed, and her eyes sparkled after Jon gave her this much-deserved recognition. Now that his premonition has come to pass, I too can sadly report that the hole Eileen’s passing left in our community is massive, aching, and totally unfillable. [Steven Gendell]

I thought I would share what I am guessing are two little-known facts about Eileen. In the late 1980s, when we were both teaching in the NYU translation program, Eileen and I used to meet for dinner. At my apartment on the Upper West Side after one of those dinners, Eileen’s gaze fell on a lighter I had brought as a souvenir from Cognac, France. “That’s my family coat of arms!” she exclaimed. I had never made the connection between Eileen and the famed Hennessy cognac house but at that moment, it all became clear!

Here is another thing: Eileen passed the United Nations translation exam in 1979 but when it came time to accept the job, she turned it down. She wanted the variety she thought the private sector would give her, and time for her own writing. I remember that she felt very strongly about it. How right she was to be true to herself. The many books she translated and her published poetry bear testament to that. I met Eileen as a colleague but now remember her as a supportive and fun-loving friend. Eileen was someone who always built you up and made you feel she was on your side – and she laughed at everyone’s jokes (even if they weren’t funny). Kind, likeable, and unassuming, with a great love of many languages – that was Eileen. Hard to believe she is no longer with us. [Laurie Treuhaft]

Eileen modeled the qualities of honor, dignity, professionalism, ethical imperative, and more importantly high-expectations. As a student in three of Eileen’s master’s in French into English translation courses, I knew I could always count on honest feedback, and that as one of her students I was held to a ‘higher’ standard – it was Eileen’s standard. In her fair assessments of my – and all her students – work, I knew if I did not put the extra effort into an assignment I would pay dearly for it. Eileen was also very humble and approachable. On as many occasions as I was able, I would reach out to meet up when I was in New York City. We had several excellent meals together and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her on those trips. Eileen will truly be missed by NYU MS in French into English translation students! [Chris Queen]

Generally active in the profession, Ms. Hennessy participated in panels at the New York Circle of Translators. She was certified by the American Translators Association in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish into English.

Diminutive in size, she was grand in stature.

Her academic qualifications included M.F.A., Creative Writing, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, February 2008; M.A., English/Creative Writing, New York University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, May 1985 and B.A., Philosophy/Psychology/Religion, St. John’s University, NY, June 1958.

Her work was widely published in translation journals. Among books she translated are Braque by Raymond Cogniat, Edvard Munch, XIX Century Drawings and Watercolors, Turner and Odilon Redon, all by Jean Selz, The Nun by Denis Diderot, The French Pocket Cookbook by Ginette Mathiot, A History of the Comic Strip by Pierre Couperie, The Flower Mat by Shugoro Yamamoto, Vasarely by Gaston Diehl, Modigliani by Amadeo Modigliani, Maillol by Denis Chevalier, The Esthetics of the Middle Ages by Edgar de Brayne, as well as A History of Technology and Invention, 2 volumes, edited by Maurice Daumas.

Her volumes of poetry include This Country of Gale-force Winds (2011) and Places Where We Have Lived Forever (2015). Her poems have also appeared in Like a Musical Instrument, edited by Larry Fagin (2014), VIVA LA DIFFERENCE (2010), Whiskey Island Magazine #46 (2003) and By the Light of the Moon (2015), as well as Stickman Review, Crack the Spine, Forge, Artful Dodge, Cream City Review, Sanskrit, The Literary Review, The Paris Review, Western Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, The New York Quarterly and Smartish Place.

Her work is her legacy, vivid for her readers, her students and those fortunate to have mingled in her circles. Can we say her poem below is prescient?


About making my home
smaller and clearer:
I am past caring for your
I’m rediscovering my secrets,
changing my views on pissers
in the streets. Have stopped
dressing for your
history, being a victim
of your benevolence.
Now that I’ve drawn a final
line under my vanishing act,
I bequeath to you the chance
to fold my clothes left
hanging on the line.

posted by Vending Machine Press in Poems, 2016 Eileen B. Hennessy