MEET THE CANDIDATES

Election time is here. Below are the candidate statements for President and Vice-President

Candidate for President

Milena Savova                        

My name is Milena Savova and I am running for President. I have been a member of the Circle since 1996 and I am an Active Member of the ATA. My working languages are Bulgarian and English.

My first job after graduating from the English Department of University of Sofia, Bulgaria, was a translator and interpreter at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I left after six months to go to graduate school. But I have never quit translation and interpreting. In fact, I incorporated translation into my Ph.D. thesis. I also taught theory and practice of translation at Sofia University.

When I moved to New York in the early 1990s I thought that I was done with that part of my life until I joined the Circle. I found like-minded colleagues whose stories matched those of my free-lance colleagues in Bulgaria. I also started translating once again. I was awe-struck by the knowledge and professionalism of the Circle members.

Later in 1996, I was hired as Director of the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting at what was then the School of Continuing Education (School of Professional Studies now) of NYU and held that position until 2015.

During my tenure at NYU, we expanded our translation and interpreter certificate programs and launched a Master of Science in Translation. I made sure that the Department developed a close relationship with the Circle and we supported each other. The Circle was always my first go-to resource for hiring instructors. My team and I always encouraged our students to join it as early as possible in order to get their feet wet in the profession.

The NY Circle of Translators is a special organization reflecting the nature of our city and the Tri-State area. It may very well have the largest representation of language pairs of all ATA chapters. We also have veteran members with many years of experience alongside new ones and students.

If I were to be entrusted with the leadership post, I would make sure that every voice is heard and all members feel comfortable in our organization. We need to follow new developments in the language professions and assist our members in mastering them. I would also like us to recognize the differences among those translators/interpreters working with the commonly used languages, such as Spanish and French, and those working with languages of lesser distribution, such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, etc. We must not forget translation companies.

Should I be elected I am sure the board members would also have ideas about our future work and I would listen to them too because I believe in team work.

Candidates for Vic-President

Kate Deimling                    

I’ve been a freelance French-to-English translator for over 11 years, after obtaining a Ph.D. in French from Columbia University and working in academia. ATA-certified since 2009, I specialize in advertising and marketing, art and culture, international development, and fiction and non-fiction. Within the advertising and marketing field, I specialize in transcreation and copywriting, with a focus on luxury brands. I developed a specialty in art and museums while working as the in-house translator for ARTINFO.com and as the New York correspondent for the French art newspaper Le Journal des Arts. I have spoken on the craft of translation and the translation industry at Duke University, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and Columbia University, as well as this year’s annual ATA conference. I’ve translated five books on topics ranging from the French wine industry to Renaissance portraiture. From 2014-2015 I was program director of the New York Circle of Translators. In 2015, I founded the NYCT’s mentoring program, which I still manage today.

The NYCT has been very valuable to me throughout my career as a translator and I would like to serve on the board once again, this time as vice-president, and contribute to sustaining the organization’s growth and momentum. I hope to support the other board members in any way I can as we maintain the Circle’s program of regular activities and plan for the future. 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the New York Circle of Translators, and I would like to help the NYCT celebrate this milestone. This is a great opportunity to reflect on our organization’s achievements and to raise our profile.

Annette Vazquez     

Hello, my name is Annette Vazquez and I am translator/interpreter. I obtained my Bachelor’s degree from Montclair State University in Spanish with a concentration in Translation.

I am very honored to be asked to run for vice president of the New York Circle of Translators. Through the years I have watched the organization change in leadership to keep up with the times while also fostering camaraderie, professional development and opportunities for translators and interpreters alike. Nonetheless, the work does not stop there–we need to create awareness of the value of our profession in order to thrive and succeed in these uncertain times.

If elected I hope to collaborate alongside with the president and the board to continue the livelihood of the organization by supporting, developing and maintaining a cohesive sense of community with the members.

3 Ways Technology Is Improving the Hospital Interpreter Career Field

Reblogged with permission from e-voice, the blog of the ATA Interpreters Division,

http://www.ata-divisions.org/ID/3-ways-technology-improving-hospital-interpreter-career-field/

As healthcare facilities encounter an increasingly diverse patient population, the demand for qualified medical interpreters continues to grow. In an attempt to provide language services to all non-English speaking patients, healthcare facilities are increasingly integrating healthcare technology into their existing language access plans. Such technology includes interpreter scheduling apps, video remote interpretation, and over-the-phone interpretation.

The use of these technologies provides significant benefits not only to healthcare providers, but also the medical interpreters working with them. Here’s how:

Simplified Scheduling

Interpreter scheduling apps are now becoming common practice in hospitals and health systems. They have been shown to improve interpreter efficiency, streamline scheduling and provide access to a wider range of qualified interpreters. Likewise, such apps connect interpreters with a greater number of hospitals and health systems, expanding their professional network.

“Technology enables the interpreter to diversify talents and strengthen their pool of clientele”

For both the interpreter and the healthcare provider, interpreter scheduling apps greatly simplify the task of requesting and accepting jobs. Healthcare providers can send a request to qualified medical interpreters in the surrounding area who then receive a notification on their mobile phone with session details. If the session is desirable and compatible with the interpreter’s schedule, he or she can accept the job with the press of a button.

The session is then automatically synced with the interpreter’s calendar, eliminating the hassle of manual entry. The healthcare provider can even track the interpreter as he or she makes her way to the facility. With less time spent scheduling multiple job opportunities, interpreters can focus more energy on the challenging and rewarding aspects of their work such as culture, linguistics and continuing education.

Diversified Talents

Technology enables the interpreter to diversify talents and strengthen their pool of clientele – whether that be over-the-phone, video or on-site opportunities. By becoming an expert in all three modes of interpretation, medical interpreters learn about etiquette specific to each and become more tech savvy, particularly when well versed on the use of scheduling apps and video remote interpretation platforms.

They also reap the benefits of fine tuning skills unique to each platform:
● Video interpreters hone in on visual aspects of communication and subtle nonverbal cues that can be key in gauging patient understanding. Over-the-phone interpreters strengthen their listening skills, meticulously processing what is said in the source language then consecutively rendering it into the target language.

● On-site interpreters are frequently more exposed to sensitive situations such as mental health, informed consent and end-of-life discussions, where the complexities of the code of ethics become more acute and their commitment to impartiality and confidentiality needs to be managed more closely. When medical interpreters have the capacity to work in all three spheres of interpretation, they can extend their services to a wider range of clientele. On the other hand, they can also be more selective when it comes to accepting work opportunities, ensuring that jobs are best suited to their professional interests and needs.

Improved Work-Life Balance

Technology provides more flexibility for hospital interpreters, allowing them to work remotely, on-site or via a combination of the two. Medical interpreters working over-the-phone, over video and/or on-site can schedule their days in a way that complements life on both a personal and professional level.
A healthier work–life balance has been shown to result in better job satisfaction and performance. A recent Accenture study found that more than half of participants recognize work–life balance as a top factor in the success of their careers. Further investigation demonstrates the major role that technology plays in work–life balance. More than three fourths of employees surveyed agree that technology enables more schedule flexibility, which was linked to a healthy work–life balance by 80% of participants.

As the demand for language services in healthcare increases, technology has become an integral part of the medical interpreting profession. The impact of technology on medical interpretation not only benefits healthcare providers, but it also enables hospital interpreters to more easily manage their schedules, diversify talents and enjoy a healthier work–life balance.

David Fetterolf leads the overall strategic direction of Stratus Video’s Language Services division. David brings over 26 years of experience working for healthcare information technology and service companies. Prior to joining Stratus Video, he was president and founder of MDeverywhere, revenue cycle management software tailored to the healthcare industry. In 2011 MDeverywhere made the coveted Inc. 500/5000 fastest growing companies list. Prior to MDeverywhere, David was a division president for Datamedic, a leading provider of computer-based patient records and business management software and services for medical practices and clinics. As division president, he was responsible for strategy and financial performance, which included leading the marketing, sales, implementation, support, and manufacturing and development teams. David has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and a Master’s of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

Scouting the territory

Reprinted with gracious permission from the author from his blog

Only days after my relocation to San Jose, CA, I received an email that read: “I found your name in the ATA Directory of Translators and Interpreters. Would you be available for an assignment tomorrow in Menlo Park, CA?” I checked the place of the assignment on Google, found directions, and I read that the Facebook campus was on my way. “Available” I wrote back. A few minutes later, I learned that I had got my first gig in Silicon Valley. It was far from my base but I was on an exploratory mode, and beginning to build a resume in Silicon Valley. The Facebook campus was crowded with truly, young looking employees and tourists making sure that their selfies would permanently memorialize their visit to this campus.

I repeated these explorations three or four times till I could make better sense of the maps and the “talking lady” on my GPS, till I had a better idea of the distances, the nature of the assignments, the real people I was going to help and their needs, the demand for and hence the value of my Spanish-English skills, and other important aspects of an interpreter’s freelance business here. Regarding budgeting, for instance, I had to quickly process that the gas price here was US$ 3.80 per gallon, and that housing was almost unaffordable. I heard on a local TV news segment the story of this well-paid engineer that slept in his SUV during weekdays and would drive off town during weekends to see his family. Stories like this are common, actually. However, the drive and the heart to make innovation happen is what still attracts people to come here. Silicon Valley was quite different from my previous homestay and I was beginning to like it..

II. Beyond selfies: networking, the players, the languages

Menlo Park was too far from my base, and there was the traffic fight element. And so, for the next offer I wrote back “Unavailable, Thanks”. Actually, having taken my selfie with the Facebook famous logo, I wanted to check other tech giants nearby: Apple in Cupertino, Google in Mountain View, YouTube in San Bruno , Yahoo in Sunnyvale, Netflix in Los Gatos, and so forth. Would I ever work with them? For them? The weather in California is rarely a nuisance and one can dream big and wait for a call that never comes. I learned that my target wasn’t going to be the big tech companies based in Silicon Valley; big translation and interpreting vendors would get the contracts from say, Apple, and they would call in freelancers. Soon then, the big tech companies became part of the landscape. As I came to understand, my work was to be with the people who live in Silicon Valley, the underserved and struggling families in the doctors’ office, the lawyer-led depositions, the IEP meetings at schools or the orthopedists’ offices working with injured workers. Consecutive interpreting was the most frequently required mode and I had to change my glossaries, learn or relearn legalese and special education extensive glossaries, acquire a good and fast phone to use it as a computer, and invest in a new car.

The famous California 101 freeway isn’t as pretty as the California I 280 and it is not unusual to use both in just one trip. The traffic is busy and the fonts in the traffic signs are hard to read from a distance; only after some good time on the road one gets confident on the wheel. Errors on the way to an assignment are costly and frustrating. On the way back, it is a different story. I’d use WAZE as a navigation tool if I have some free time to ride back home to learn new, alternative routes by avoiding freeways and to learn more about my neighborhood and about my community. In the next lines, is part of what I’ve observed.

The signage for food was diverse and a feast for linguistics students: Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, Greek, Farsi and English. Only a little French, German, Russian and Italian. The street names and location names were chiefly Hispanic: San Bruno, San Felipe, and other saints. The most widely spoken variant of Spanish was then and still is Mexican Spanish. My Chilean-Venezuelan hybrid had to accommodate to Mexican Spanish and what started with words such as “aseguranza” (insurance), “troca” (bus), junta (meeting) became a process of partial dialect acquisition which is pretty on the go now. But just as there is acquisition, there is also loss. My argentinean coworker has lost (or hidden) her heavy bonaerense, partly tired of being the butt of jokes by speakers of other Spanish dialects spoken in Silicon Valley. In other instances, loss is the result of pressure from English use in schools. While English keeps going strong, the native language of many thousands of children is relegated to the home environment. Spanish or Chinese loss, for example, is evident but speakers are functional bilinguals. That English becomes the strongest language is good news for the parents with limited proficiency in English: Their kids will serve as “interpreters” for them in some environments, challenging present regulations. Putting the legality of this to rest for a moment, the little interpreters phenomenon is a fascinating linguistic issue to watch in Silicon Valley

III. Permanent education, networking and projects that never happened

With my resume showing some work done in the area, my networking also started to grow. I had met numerous colleagues on the road, with whom I would meet for coffee or lunch between assignments. I concurrently formalized my membership with Northern California Translators Association (NCTA), an ATA affiliate. As a result, my networking grew and I reconnected with my permanent education. And so I started taking workshops at NCTA on short term memory drills, budgeting, technological resources and use of social media, dialect variation, and so forth. Right there in those workshops, I had many opportunities to meet dozens of think-alike colleagues. Slowly, Silicon Valley became home and it feels like home even now.

The phone rings again: “What’s the assignment?” “Localization.” “Where?” “Cisco, Milpitas Campus.” “What time?” “Full day, two days from today. Beginning 8:00 am.” “No, Madam, I have not signed a NDA with you yet. But I will. And I am available.” So finally, a giant has called. This was a team designing a software for Latin American countries and they were starting with Chile. They wanted the exact and more frequent words for directions like “Go ahead” in Chilean Spanish. I was fascinated with the prospect but the fun wouldn’t last. There were so many layers of management in the project that I could not figure out who I was working with or working for. It was fun, though.

Another day, another call. It was a colleague. “Where?” “Intel. Santa Clara” “Assignment?” “Conference interpreting.” “Simultaneous?” “Nope, consecutive. “I am in.”, I said. I wasn’t going to miss that. Intel was co-founded in the 60’s by Robert Noyce, the inventor of the microprocessor, the tiny little device that makes our personal computers run. The meeting was cancelled, and the assignment was never fulfilled. It happens.
Then the chance to teach a course in a Spanish Translation and Interpreting Program came. I took it. Students and future interpreters were mostly Spanish heritage learners from Silicon Valley. Some of them reminded me of the kids described earlier. Now young adults, they will sacrifice evenings and one Saturday morning to get a diploma that will hopefully grant them a job in a hospital, school district or open the door for a court certification. Writing a syllabus, designing teaching and testing tasks for sight translation, consecutive and simultaneous interpreting in an audio laboratory are some of the instructors’ responsibilities in the program. It isn’t interpreting but mentoring or teaching future interpreters is a rewarding experience for an interpreter; and it is a source of income.

Conclusion

The title of this post is intentionally redundant: Interpreting Silicon Valley in its literal meaning is used here to indicate understanding the area, its economy, its geo-economics, business and technology players, its institutions, its character and the people who make Silicon Valley their home. Interpreting Silicon Valley can also mean from the linguistic viewpoint, the act of going around Silicon Valley and performing interpretations to solve people’s real language problems. In either sense, interpreting Silicon Valley is pretty much a work in progress, and will be so for years to come.
________________________________________
Dr. Juan Pino-Silva wears two hats. He is a second language educator and a translator and interpreter. He is the founder of L2slates Language Services, LLC in San Jose, CA. where he manages interpreting projects. He was the editor of e-Voice, the blog of the ATA Interpreters Division, from June to October 2018.

Is Reintegration of Translators in the Translation Process Still Possible Despite the Methods Used Now by the “Translation Industry?”

Reprinted with gracious permission of the author, Steve Vitek, from his blog

I recently read a blog post of a translator who parted ways with a translation agency that used to be one of her clients for many years. This happened after the translation agency she used to work for was acquired by a much bigger agency which started using practices that are very common in what is now called “translation industry,” practices that are intolerable to most self-respecting freelance translators.

For example, the new company introduced a translation portal through which translators had to interact with the agency to accept a job, submit invoices and keep updating their availability, so that project managers eventually stopped communicating in person with the translators working for them. The portal instead issued automated emails in which work is offered at any time of day or night to a hungry pack of an unknown number of translators who are expected to fight over available jobs as dogs would fight over bones with a few scraps of meat on them that are thrown to them.

Dogs are wonderful people, but most dogs have no self-respect when it comes to begging for food. As far as the “translation industry” is concerned, to treat translators as hungry dogs is simply an efficient method to match available warm bodies with available work.

This is the new, extremely efficient method of “placing” translation jobs with translators that the “translation industry” came up with at the beginning of this millennium. It happened to me as well many times over after about the year 2000, which is how I date the start of the era of the new “translation industry.” As a result, I gradually stopped working for most translation agencies, even though I may have been working for some of them for many years, first only for large ones, and then also for smaller agencies as they started adopting the efficient management model that treats translators as easily replaceable, virtually identical tiny cogs in a big and ruthless machinery.

From the viewpoint of the “translation industry”, the method works very well because it saves so much time to project managers, who then can take on many more projects than they would be otherwise able to do if they had to contact every translator individually, even if only by mail, rather than by telephone as used to be the case not so long ago.

But the side effect of this extremely efficient method is that most translators who consider themselves highly educated and highly experienced professionals will eventually sever all ties with translation agencies who treat them in this manner as I and the writer of the blog post mentioned above did, and the only people who will continue to jump through the ingenious hoops created by a faceless portal will be translators who for some reason can’t find work from other translation agencies (or from direct clients) who would not treat them in such a demeaning manner.

Generally speaking, the reason why people would probably not mind too much putting up with this kind of behavior is that these are translators who know that they have no other choice but working even for the worst agencies out there … because they themselves know that they are not very good.

The portals thus function as a software device that finds available translators very quickly and with the minimum effort on the part of the translation agency. But at the same time, the portal over time separates the best and most experienced translators from such an agency, while bringing in mostly new translators who lack experience, or old translators who lack self esteem, usually because they know that they are not very good.
In other words, the portal method, with numerous missives of emails launched at any time of day or night to many translators, also very efficiently destroys relationships that may have been built between translation agencies and the best translators over many years or decades.
Do the translation agencies realize that this is what is happening? I think that most of them probably do realize that, at least to some extent. But they simply don’t give a damn because efficiency is everything and the new methods are in fact very good at quickly pairing available cheap translators with available translation work.

And that is all that the “translation industry” cares about.

The methods used by modern “translation industry” clearly show that the industry does not value translators as experts providing a complicated and highly labor-intensive service that, depending on the field and the language, can be usually provided only by very few people. What the industry now values above all is the speed at which the transaction can occur, and of course, at what cost.
This why the resulting translations delivered to industry’s clients are now so often pure crap and the chances are that the resulting quality will be even much worse than it is now if the industry has its way and “post-processing of machine translation” by pitiful human beings who are no longer translators will become a new standard and a legitimate way for delivering the bulk of translations.

Is it possible for translators to regain the central role in the translation process that some of us have become accustomed to in the years and decades before the advent of the extremely efficient methods of the new “translation industry”, when translators were still used to interact on personal basis with knowledgeable and intelligent project managers in translation agencies, instead of having to try to satisfy a piece of managerial software written by people who know a lot about efficient management of easily replaceable cogs in a huge machinery, but nothing about translation, software that keeps coming at them with more demands and new requiremens designed to keep the little human cogs making the wonderful machinery of a translation agency working at maximum speed and minimum expense for greater and greater profits of the industry?

I for one believe that based on these new methods, it is not possible for translation agencies to even pick the best person for the job, or for the translators to function as specialized experts within the context of the system that has been relatively recently created by the “translation industry.”

I do think that reintegration of translators in the translation process is still possible, even in the age of disintegration of the role of translators brought to us by the management methods used by faceless “translation industry,” but only for translators who work outside of the automated system created by this industry.
And to me, working outside of the system means working mostly for direct clients, and partly also for translation agencies of the traditional type, namely those that are able to work with translators on a personal level, treat them with respect, and realize that the role played by an experienced translator is the most important element in the translation process.

The ruthless efficiency of translation portals is extremely harmful not only to the quality of translation, but ultimately also to the viability of the entire “translation industry.”

Clients are not idiots, and after a while they are likely to recognize the inferior quality resulting from these extremely efficient managerial methods and vote with their feet.

Which would then mean that these seemingly very efficient methods are in fact very inefficient because it is much harder to find new clients than to keep old ones, and clients will stay with a business only when they are happy with the results that they are paying for.

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.