NYCT Feb 2017 Meeting: Interpreting at the U.N. – Nahum Hahn

The February meeting was well attended. It had quite a few nonmembers, who were quite impressed by both the speaker and the NYCT. Mr. Hahn started with a day at the U.N. as an interpreter. No day is typical.

He discussed his work as a verbatim reporter, which was beneficial to his future interpreting work. It taught him all the “jargon” necessary for the work. He explained that all interpreters interpret into their mother tongue only. Most work is simultaneous.

There are six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. If say a Chinese ambassador is giving a speech in Chinese, then the interpreters in the Chinese booth will render the speech into English or French. Then the interpreters in the other booths interpret the speech into their respective languages.

A Day in the Life

Hours are 10-1 and 3-6. Interpreters work in 20 minute shifts. Sometimes they must stay late until a meeting ends. They may also be called in case of emergency meetings, even on the weekend. There is no choice on the schedule. Interpreters work 7 1\2 days per week. Interpreters work for: General Assembly, Security Council, Economic & Development.

Unfortunately, speeches are not given in advance. A point to bear in mind is that not everyone is a good speaker, many speeches are read. The speed of the speech or the rate at which a diplomat is reading can make interpreting a challenge.

Video examples of a couple of different speakers were shown to demonstrate the differences in speakers. Some are easier to interpret for than others. Tone and register is also important. Some are engaging, other speakers can make it a bit harder to stay awake. Sometimes the accent or dialect can be difficult to decipher.

There 193 member states. It has become usual for Meeting Chairmen to limit diplomats to 4 minutes – causing many to rush an entire speech into 4 minutes. This is a disservice to everyone, both interpreters, the audience and even the diplomat giving the speech.

After some anecdotes, Nahum discussed the upcoming interpreter examination. Work experience, required languages were covered.

He then took questions from the membership.

Voting News from a Sister Organization NCIHC

To all NCIHC members,

Voting for the 2017 Election for the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) is under way! All votes must be submitted before 5:00 PM Central on April 6, 2017. If you have any problems/questions, please contact:

All NYCT members who are also NCIHC members are encouraged to vote.

Translation and Translators in the News

Network of Translators Defies U.S. Travel Bans and Interrogations

Seventy volunteers who speak 25 languages have formed the new international Translation Outreach Network to publicize–and of course, translate–the stories of those traveling to the United States who are barred or detained for hours on the basis of their nationality or name. The network’s members include translators, scholars, journalists, activists and writers. They will translate stories of up to 2,000 words and help disseminate them.

Letter from the outgoing President

Written by: Valeriya Yermishova

It has been such a pleasure to serve as our chapter’s president for two years and be a part of this professional community. Prior to running for president-elect and then president, I felt that I had greatly benefited from my membership and being mentored, and wanted to give back. I met inspiring linguists at the Circle, in my translation certificate programs and during my first forays into translation agencies. I had many ideas and got to work on large events and projects with hardworking collaborators who contributed great ideas of their own. In addition to my fellow board members, I had a strong support network of former officers, volunteers and longtime members. In turn, I’ve enjoyed supporting our energetic and reliable incoming board members in 2016.

The 2016 board made an incredible and lasting contribution to our chapter. We strove to offer a varied slate of programming focused on a number of translating and interpreting specializations. Our Program Director, Ana Lis Salotti, hit the ground running by organizing professional development panels and presentations, as well as our very first literary translation open mic. Not everyone can make it to the ATA conference’s After Hours Café, so this was a great opportunity for many talented members to shine and showcase their work. Who knew that our treasurer translated Russian Silver Age poetry? In March, we brought back a favorite ATA conference speaker on transcreation. I only regret that I couldn’t attend every single event!

Our spring events also included a second annual all-day literary translation conference organized by outgoing Vice President and current Acting President Alta Price. The Professionalization Symposium was expanded into an all-day event with three concurrent afternoon sessions and lecturers from institutions all over the tri-State area. While I had been involved in the 2015 Symposium, I have to give all the credit for planning and executing last year’s event to the 2016 Symposium Committee: Administrator Louise Jennewine, Ana Lis Salotti and former president Leonard Morin. More than170 people attended! In the fall, I helped our Program Director plan a second iteration of our speed-networking event. Some of my favorite project managers attended and said they met very interesting prospective collaborators.

In addition to her regular responsibilities, Secretary Lisa Rodriguez proctored two sittings of the ATA certification exam, initiated the design and production of a new brochure and created a new record-keeping system. We took some time off in the summer, but continued to support our Webmaster, Gigi Branch-Shaw, who worked daily to address inherited website and database glitches and to find a new website designer before we settled on WP Blogsites. To date, we have been happy with their services and responsiveness. Our treasurer Andre Kononenko had the arduous task of rebuilding and maintaining our financial records and advising us. As for our Nomination Committee, volunteers Michael Bittoni and Martin Hoffman combed through member lists to identify and contact potential candidates for the election. Linkedin Moderator Soraya Riera posted interesting content and recruitment announcements in our LinkedIn group.

This winter, we are still looking for candidates for president and hope to hold our regular election for other positions later in the year. I encourage anyone who feels ready to reach out to Michael Bittoni and run for this position. We are one of the smallest and most active chapters in the country, and our vibrancy is the direct result of the work and creativity of our volunteers. We already have some exciting events planned for this spring and I encourage you to get involved!

To Distinguish or to Extinguish? What the NYCT Means to Me

By Acting President Alta L. Price

Dear Fellow NYCT Members,

Our organization is at a critical juncture. Within the next three months, we will either elect the next president or opt instead to close our local chapter.

As you’ll have read in recent e-mail announcements, 2016 was a banner year for the Circle. We held eight monthly meetings, two networking events, and two full-day professional development workshops. Three of our 2016 board members and all three special-projects managers are already hard at work preparing activities for the coming year.

As I write this, however, no one has stepped forward to run for president, and our nominating committee has been unable to locate a prospective candidate for the 2017–2018 term.

Both Valeriya and I are grateful to have served our two-year terms as president and vice president, respectively. Empowered by the trust granted us by the Circle’s board and general membership, we had the honor of building on past accomplishments, expanding membership to include new communities, and setting a solid trajectory for the Circle’s future. Our ongoing professional commitments prevent us from running for reelection, and we both feel the health of our organization stands to benefit from new leadership.


During my term as VP, aside from assisting Valeriya with her duties, I had the pleasure of working with program directors Kate Deimling and her successor, Ana Lis Salotti, to run our first two annual literary translation conferences, bringing in speakers and panelists from the fields of book and journal publishing, editing, translation, and reviewing. We also organized the inaugural open-mic night at Cornelia Street Café, and provided support to former President Leonard Morin and other past board members as they ran two annual outreach conferences at John Jay and Hunter colleges. The National Language Service Corps invited me to speak on behalf of the Circle at their local chapter meeting, helping spread the word about our outstanding association. While members working in Indo-European languages remain very active, we’ve seen an increase in members working in African languages, and a massive boost in the number of members working in Asian languages, which is exciting. Working with the entire board, we established financial guidelines and protocol for protecting the Circle’s accounts and ensuring transparency for the sake of all members. We have also begun liaising with other venues and organizations to broaden professional opportunities for our members, as well as reach new populations in need of our services.

I couldn’t have done any of this on my own. My successor will have the full support of program director Ana Lis Salotti, treasurer Andre Kononenko, secretary Lisa Rodriguez, newsletter editor Margarite Heintz-Montez, webmaster Gigi Branch, and administrator Louise Jennewine. Each of our events and initiatives is a team effort.

After much reflection, I agreed to serve as acting president through April 30, 2017, simply because I do not wish for our local chapter to go dormant or close down entirely. Because prior commitments preclude me from serving another full term, I hope to devote this time to identifying, training, and supporting our next prospective president(s). Normally, the new president would have been elected in December and started the term this month—but we all know that very few things in the world feel “normal” right now.


How much service experience did I have previously, you ask? Scant. I had volunteered as an ESL instructor, and was a member of several professional organizations in both language services and the arts, but had never held a leadership position. I didn’t even have ATA certification, nor was I a voting ATA member. When I decided to run for the NYCT board, I had recently joined the board of directors at an arts publication, but still hadn’t learned the ropes there. Becoming an active voting member of the ATA so that I could run was an easy process. I certainly didn’t assume my candidacy would result in victory, so was both exhilarated and slightly scared at the prospect of becoming the Circle’s VP.

And now, a confession: for several years I was a lapsed member. After a friend and fellow linguist introduced me to the Circle in 2004, I joined for the first time in 2005. I liked that the Circle didn’t require ATA membership, and at $50 per year it was a bargain compared to its parent association, which cost over twice that amount. I set up my directory profile, attended a few meetings, met some fellow members, skimmed the print copies of the Gotham Translator that periodically arrived in my PO box, and didn’t do much else. Over the next couple of years, my impression—due in great part to my own lack of interest and involvement—was that the Circle didn’t have much going on. And so, although the NYCT had been instrumental in helping me launch my own business, I didn’t bother to renew.

Fast-forward to FY2010–2011: I’d finished my master’s degree, was still an independent language service provider, and decided it was time to expand my reach. I decided to join the ATA because I liked what I’d seen of their magazine, and that’s when the NYCT returned to my radar. The ATA’s rates had gone up, but the Circle’s hadn’t, so I renewed my membership for the first time in over five years, and was pleasantly surprised. Over the next few years I saw that the new board was more active, and as the Circle adjusted to the times with a new website, more detailed directory, and better networking opportunities, each year it seemed more vibrant.

In 2012 A client of mine requested a translator recommendation for a language pair I didn’t cover, and I used the Circle directory to get back in touch with a member I remembered having a good conversation with at one of the meetings. I had a look at her work, touched base regarding her availability, and passed her info along. She got the gig, my client was pleased with the project, and she’s since gone on to publish the very first English translation ever of a novel from one of the former French colonies in Africa—garnering critical acclaim as well. That’s just one anecdote out of many. All this is to say that my fellow NYCT members continue to inspire and impress me with their significant contributions to our field.

Now, five years down the road, the Circle still hasn’t increased its membership fees. Organizing meetings, lining up speakers, and running workshops on a shoestring budget while still providing modest honoraria for visiting presenters is a stimulating challenge. Having been on the board, I got a behind-the-scenes view of what a bargain the NYCT is. Speaking with many of you, my fellow members, at each of our events helped give me ideas for what the Circle could do better, and ultimately underscored the vitality of what it offers.

As I look back on my stint as VP, I can also say I feel as though I’ve gained as much (if not more) from you—our experienced, talented members—than you have from me. Although it would be a real shame, I’ve made my peace with the idea that our chapter could close. It surprises me to think that one of the most populous, most international, and most diverse cities in the United States of America—not to mention the country’s publishing capital—wouldn’t have a local ATA chapter, but a lot of surprising things are taking place. During this time of major change, local engagement is more important that ever. While volunteer board work does take time and energy, the rewards are immense.

As I prepare to step down, I encourage each of you to consider what the Circle means to you and your career. If you feel that the NYCT hasn’t lived up to your hopes, consider becoming an active part in realizing those possibilities—after all, the board and organization exist for you, its members. If you feel it could or already has helped you in your important work, consider giving back to our community. Rest assured that your volunteer work for the Circle will pay off in the form of a stronger network, heightened visibility, and increased impact on our profession in all its facets.

To read more about the responsibilities of the NYCT President, go to Advise the board of your interest or submit nominations to the NYCT Administrator by writing to

I send each of you my heartfelt thanks for being an NYCT member, and for your active commitment to the future of our association. Instead of letting this key part of our local translation and interpretation ecosystem be extinguished, let’s work together to ensure it continues to distinguish our vital work in bringing together this increasingly divided world.

In solidarity,

Alta L. Price
Your outgoing VP and Acting President

January 2017 NYCT Meeting

The Board was introduced by the outgoing President, Valeriya. who proceeded to give details about the past year’s activities.

Alta, the acting President then spoke. Alta reminded all members that the Minutes of all Board Meetings are available to members. She also discussed the new brochures and membership efforts. A lively discussion ensued about ATA exams for certification with a couple of members asking questions. The role of Secretary was discussed and Alta noted how extremely helpful, Lisa, our current Secretary has been.

An urgent appeal was made to members for the post of President so that NYCT does not close.
Besides the role of President other volunteer opportunities that are available to members are submitting ideas for events and programs, submitting articles for the NYCT Gotham and there is a need for a Procter for the ATA certification exam sitting that is scheduled for Saturday, April 8th in NYC.

Ana, the program director. Thanked all for attending n being members.

She highlighted some new events for the Chapter which were the Open-Mic event at Cornelia St. Café, and a literary panel and workshop. Also in 2016 were the Second Annual Symposium at John Jay College of Justice and speed networking event. All these new programs were well attended and received rave reviews from the membership. Our standard Annual picnic and Holiday party also made the list of favorite events.

Upcoming for 2017 is a meeting featuring a U.N. interpreter and a meeting about translating Human Rights. The Open-Mic is scheduled for March and we will send out information about the Symposium at a later date.

Gigi, our webmaster discussed the website and our administrator Louise discussed more member’s issues.

Afterwards, members had an opportunity to socialize with each other at the mixer that followed.