The NYCT would like to welcome our new members:

Gretchen Begley
Silvia Buzzallino
John Eyck
Geraldine MacDonnell, CT
Elena Mancini
Genevieve Quansah
Carmen Ring
Charlotte Whittle

We hope that all new members become actively involved in the Circle. Your fellow members are looking forward to seeing you at the different events.


The NYCT is happy to have new members joining us this year. They are:

Alicia Chiesa
Isabelle Garbani
Matthew Goldstein
Aline Gomes-Montalvon
Aaron Hebenstreit
Christina Mitrakos
Huong Nguyen
Daniel Piccinini
Sureyya Stovall
Laura Esther Wolfson

We hope that they find membership with the NYCT informative and entertaining.

Report from Jerusalem – Attending the Israel Translators Association Conference

At the ATA’s conference in Toronto in 2004, I met a translator from Israel who told me, “You know, we have one of these, too.” That was all I needed to start combining my annual visit to Israel with attendance at the Israel Translators Association conference.

The population of Israel is about 8.4 million. That’s less than the population of New Jersey. Yet each year the ITA conference draws about 350 attendees, as compared with about 1600-1800 for the ATA, which covers the entire USA and Canada. What’s going on here?

Israel is one of the world’s most internationally-connected economies. Developments in science, technology, medicine are quickly disseminated worldwide. In fact, Israel is No. 1 in terms of the percentage of its GDP spent on research and development (the US is in 10th place) . Many innovations we take for granted, such as WAZE, were originally developed there. This means that foreign countries are eager to establish a presence in Israel, hiring managers, leasing space and promoting products, while Israeli companies are doing the same worldwide. And when documents cross borders, translators find work. When I first joined the ITA, most translators, who are often immigrants to Israel, worked in language pairs other than Hebrew (Spanish, French, German, Russian <> English). Now, however, there’s plenty of work into and from Hebrew as well.

At the same time, Israelis are voracious readers. Not only have bookstores not disappeared, they are to be found on the main street of every city and even smaller towns, while the side streets are home to many used book stores, often full of browsers. At one of these, I looked for a volume of Harry Potter in Hebrew. “Harry Potter? Are you kidding? Those never last more than a day,” I was told. The Israeli translator of the Harry Potter books, Gili Bar Hillel, became an instant national celebrity, but fans were not shy about expressing their opinion on any word that they would have translated differently.

On the street outside our apartment in Jerusalem, old books mysteriously appear on a bench each morning. They range from encyclopedia volumes to books of poetry, and on this year’s visit I spied some in English, Hebrew, French German and even Greek. Passers-by leaf through them, sometimes pocketing one or two. We’ve never determined where these books come from, but they appear day after day, year after year, all efficiently “recycled” by this simple mechanism of trusting Israelis’ love of books.

The Israel Translators Association’s annual conference has one more thing going for it – it is usually held in Jerusalem, one of the world’s most fascinating cities, and a unique destination for international visitors. Over the years, thanks to that distinction and the international connections of its organizers, the conference has attracted numerous attendees and speakers who are themselves stars in the translation world. This year’s keynote speakers included André Lindenmann, President of the German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ) and the ATA’s own Jost Zetzsche, author of the Chronicle’s “GeekSpeak” column.

In recent years the conference’s organizers have provided optional tours that take visitors to some of Jerusalem’s top tourist sites. This year’s offerings included two that truly embody the special nature of the city: An evening excursion to the recently-excavated tunnels beneath the Temple Mount took us on a voyage back 2000 years to the time of King Herod, the megalomaniac master builder of his era. Walking underneath the famed Western Wall, we saw water conduits, Roman streets and massive building stones used to build the famous walls of the city. One such stone, the largest ever discovered in a structure completed by human beings without powered machinery, has an estimated weight of 570 tons!

The next day, an early morning visit to the bustling Mahane Yehuda “Shuk” or market, with its outdoor stalls, vendors shouting out the quality of their wares, and handcarts pushing through throngs of shoppers with their ubiquitous plastic shopping bags, revealed the other side of Jerusalem: A city that is bustling, thriving and filled with life, despite the fact that news reports sometimes make it seem like a conflict zone. Looking through a rack of shirts for something suitable for the gorgeous spring weather that had suddenly taken the place of cold winter drizzle, I was jostled by Arab women in hijab, Hassidic women in the wig-plus-hat combination adopted by some sects, and teenagers with headphones and miniskirts.

The modern and efficient light rai
l line running along Yafo (Jaffa) Street, for centuries the route from the Mediterranean port of Jaffa (remember Jonah and the whale?) to the Old City, was filled with soldiers in uniform (some with Uzis), mothers and babies, older women with shopping carts and men in business suits with briefcases. Jerusalem is also home to thousands of American students who, after graduating Jewish high schools, spend a “gap year” in Israeli seminaries. One evening, walking from the hotel, I encountered a trio of them bouncing a basketball, which then flew into the road with its rush hour traffic. The next evening I saw the same girls and asked them about the ball. They looked at one another in amazement and I could not resist teasing, “Whatever you do in Jerusalem, your mother gets a call within the hour.”

The night before the conference opened, international visitors were invited to dinner at the Eucalyptus Restaurant, which serves a modern interpretation of biblical cuisine. All dishes have their origins in biblical scenes and all the spices and herbs grow in the surrounding hills of Jerusalem and Judea. In fact, the meals served at the conference hotel (registration includes lunch, dinner is optional) are a feast in themselves, a far cry from the sandwich carts and quick trips to the supermarket that have become lunch fare at recent ATA conferences. And networking over a leisurely three-course meal with white tablecloths is certainly a luxury to be prized.

Sessions are presented in either Hebrew or English (and occasionally in other languages – our German guest this year gave one in German) and virtually everyone at the conference is fluent in English. In addition, this year the plenary presentations made in Hebrew were simultaneously interpreted into English by professional ITA members.

The preconference workshops covered marketing, CAT tools, transcreation and social media. The sessions over the next two days ranged from the usual legal and technical topics to some that are distinctly Israeli, such as the translation of Judaica and, unfortunately, the politics and translation of terror. My presentation this year was entitled “Patent Litigation – Understanding the Choreography”. In it I attempted to assure legal translators that this growing and lucrative field is not only for technical experts.

Last year, together with my colleague Carl Wurtzel, I presented on the translation of clinical trial documentation. In fact, Israel holds a unique position in this area. It has one of the world’s most comprehensive health care systems, with a network of clinics that stretches to each town, kibbutz and settlement in the country, and top-ranked hospitals and research centers. In addition, some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have facilities in Israel, including Teva, an Israeli company that is the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of generic drugs. This makes the country a great place to conduct such trials. And the good news for translators is that most documentation is translated (and back-translated) into/from Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian to reach all sectors of the population.

Israelis are famously argumentative, and this was illustrated to me within minutes of setting foot on Israeli soil. The passport control officer asked the purpose of my visit. I responded, in Hebrew, that I was attending the Israel Translators Association conference. He then corrected me: “Oh, you mean the Interpreters Association”; I, in turn, corrected him and explained the difference. He asked me how many languages I spoke, and then interrupted himself to discourse a bit on the Hebrew words for spoken language and written language. Behind me stretched an ever-lengthening line of exhausted travelers, but no matter. I knew I had come to a country that takes its languages seriously, and for a translator or interpreter, that’s quite a welcome.

Written by Eve Hecht

Translating the color “green” post-UNFCCC-COP21

On Earth Day 2016 — April 22, 2016 – at the United Nations in New York city, the delegates of 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be convened to a ceremony for signature of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. This agreement was negotiated and adopted last year, on Dec. 12, 2015, at Le Bourget, France, at the conclusion of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21).

UNFCCC – COP21 (The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) brought together 19,385 national delegates, 8338 observers, 2825 media representatives and many more visitors to the conference center (88,798 between Dec. 1 and 11). Together, the visitors and representatives of 195 nations and 1 regional economic integration organization gathered with the shared goal of responding and offering solutions to the threats of global warming and the predictable consequences of climate change on a planetary level.

As a reminder, global warming is understood as a phenomenon resulting from the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, in particular carbon dioxide (CO2)[US EPA]. GHGs are a consequence of burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil. As a result, fossil fuels are generically termed “dirty” sources of energy because of the emissions they produce. In turn, the term “dirty energy” contrasts with “clean sources of energy”, such as wind, sun and water, which do not burn to produce emissions that accumulate in the atmosphere creating a greenhouse effect. The threats subsumed in climate change resulting from the accumulation of GHGs, are best epitomized in Al Gore’s message: An Inconvenient Truth (Gore,2006).

At COP21, the major tenets of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change included the following:

1. Holding the increase in average global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C, which would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change [Article2 (a)]

2. Recognition of the responsibility of industrialized nations in creating the problem of global warming and climate change on a planetary level in the provisions of Article 9, calling for the scaled up support of developed countries to developing nations beyond previous obligations. In particular, a collective climate funding goal was set in the amount of USD 100 billion per year as a floor prior to 2025. More provisions for tracking and reporting were also included to ensure transparency and accountability.

3. Review of targets for reducing GHG emissions set forth in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) with provisions to ensure that targets may only be raised. The INDCs outline each of the parties’ mitigation and adaptation plans. (Articles 6 & 7).

Additionally, in the COP21 decisions outlining adoption of the Paris Agreement, non-party-(non-nation) stakeholders are explicitly invited, welcomed and included in the fight against global warming. This means that the role played by “organizations, civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other sub-national authorities” is explicitly recognized. In particular, it is further stipulated that the President of the Conference of the parties shall appoint one champion such non-party stakeholder to serve for 1 year, with terms overlapping, for each of the yearly sessions of the Conference of Parties. Thus COP21 intensifies the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), created at COP20 in 2014, which strives to coordinate the action of non-party stakeholders who have traditionally played a vital role in advising, supporting and implementing measures for mitigating and adapting to climate change arising from global warming.

Now, what’s with the color “green” in connection to COPs, non-party stakeholders, the UNFCCC, global warming and climate change? And what’s the issue in translation?

Beyond the UN alphabet soup of abbreviations and acronyms…the term “green” is associated and often replaces the term “clean” as in “green energy” and thus technically arises in reference to those sources of energy (sun, water and wind) that do not produce the GHG effect. In reality, the term “green” is often co-opted. The color green then includes reference to alternative biomass-based sources of energy; that is, energy derived from organic matter, such as wood, certain fast growing plants, algae, organic compounds found in municipal waste and agricultural residues [ETC group].

Co-opted indeed, because while biomass based-fuel, or biofuel, offers an alternative to fossil fuels –biofuels are effectively sourced very differently from fossil fuels – it is also true that such biofuel still has to be burned to become energy — just like fossil fuel. And when biofuel burns, it can actually release more CO2 than fossil fuels, such as jet fuel, Diesel fuel and pipeline natural gas, thus creating more GHG [ETC group, p. 74]. This is primarily due to the fact that so much more biomass is needed to achieve the same fossil fuel generated energy output.

So, while biomass- based fuel is undeniably “green” as the color of the plants from which it is sourced, it appears hardly “clean”, as in “free of GHG emissions”, or even “carbon-neutral” as in producing net zero carbon dioxide emissions, after factoring in the plants grown and their capacity to absorb whatever carbon dioxide they output. That is, even if such plant-based fuel could be co-opted in as carbon neutral, in a last ditch compromise, biomass fuel would deplete forests which are able to sink and sequester carbon emissions, at a much faster rate than it would ever be possible to replace them, and would compete with the use of land for sustainable agricultural purposes (i.e.; used for feeding people and livestock). [ETC Group, p. 74]

Thus, the color green appears polysemic in the conversations that unite nations in their bid to take responsibility for global warming. The good news is that the new Paris Agreement on climate change has heard the voices of many different stakeholders (including non-state), and the varying shades of green that they uphold and advocate. The Agreement includes multiple references to sustainable development including non-market sustainable development and the promotion of “mitigation compatible with sustainable development” [Art. 6(4) a] as well as “action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests” [Art. 5].

The other good news is that the opportunity to unite nations for a common purpose such as the fight against climate change, affords translators a new specialization– one where the color green and its many shades will take center stage — and where we might be thrown in to translate the full chromatic spectrum.

ETC Group (2011) Earth Grab: Geopiracy, the new biomassters, and capturing climate genes. Oxford, UK: Pambazuka Press
Gore, A. (2006) An inconvenient truth. Emmaus, PA: Rodale books.

UNFCC – Key figures of COP21 at Le Bourget
UNFCCC – Adoption of the Paris agreement
US –EPA Environmental Protection agency

Written by Francoise Hermann

Letter from the President – Valeriya Yermishova

Valeriya Yermishova_headshotThe past year had been very productive for the New York Circle of Translators. In addition to our regular monthly events, we held our first all-day literary translation workshop co-organized by Program Director Kate Deimling and Vice President Alta Price and the first symposium towards the professionalization of the translation and interpreting professions spearheaded by former President Leonard Morin and co-organized by volunteers Miosotis Vargas, Ana Lis Salotti and Administrator Louise Jennewine.

In mid-2015, the Board hired former NYCT Secretary Gigi Branch as our Webmaster. Gigi had worked on a new website for the Circle on a volunteer basis and unveiled it at last year’s Business Meeting and Mixer. She helped us migrate the website to a new, substantially cheaper hosting service this summer with a view to resolving some of its problems and worked closely with the design team to fix any bugs that came up last year.

Sadly, 2016 marks the departure of Program Director Kate Deimling, who had brought a wealth of events to the Circle. Since fall 2014, she had organized panels on subjects as diverse as machine translation, ATA certification and transcreation, relaunched the Circle’s mentoring program and found time to organize a joint mixer with the Community of Literary and Magazine Presses. Kate also executed our first speed-networking event in October. She will continue heading the mentoring program, which pairs novice translators with seasoned professionals. We cannot say enough about how grateful we are to Kate for all her energy and ideas and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

In 2015, we also learned about the elimination of NYU’s highly successful and reputable online translation certificate program, which had offered a multitude of courses, attracted students from all over the world and helped many of our members acquire the skills and subject matter knowledge necessary to take the leap into commercial translation. The Circle had written to NYU administration to express our disappointment with the termination of longtime Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting and NYCT supporter Milena Savova, who had helped us secure our current meeting space. We also expressed our concern about the elimination of another U.S. translation certificate program, as well as the simultaneous interpreting certificate program, following the 2014 closing of the University of Chicago translation studies certificate program, copying then-ATA President Caitilin Walsh on the letter. We urged NYU to retain translation and interpreting studies and to allow both new and former students to take translation courses on a one-off basis for the purpose of continuing education and specialization. We are glad that the M.S. in Translation program was retained and sincerely hope that the newly developed diploma program, which currently offers an Advanced Diploma in Digital Media Translation and Localization, will continue in the same vein.

We offer a warm welcome to our newly elected Board members, who will be available to meet members in person at the February 2nd Business Meeting and Mixer. Program Director Ana Lis Salotti, Secretary Lisa Rodriguez and Treasurer Andre Kononenko have been proactive members of the Circle and I’m already excited by everything they bring to the table. I enjoyed collaborating with and supporting our Board members in their roles in 2015 and hope to continue doing so this year. A big thanks to everyone who contributed their time to the Circle! I look forward to seeing you at our meetings.


The NYCT Gotham had a conversation with our newly elected Secretary Lisa M. Rodriguez about the industry and the NYCT. Below are the answers to some of the questions posed to her.

What do you hope to hope to accomplish during your tenure on the Board?

L.R. Most of all I would like to be helpful. I’ve been translating since 2011 and the ATA and NYCT have given me an enormous amount of help. I’d like to give back, whether that means preparing the minutes of our Board meetings, proctoring the ATA certification exam, helping at meetings and workshops or just making newcomers and others feel welcome and included in the Circle. The quality of the NYCT meetings and workshops is very high. The Literary workshop is one that certainly stands out.

What do you feel are the most pressing needs for the Circle?

L.R. The Circle needs to continue to have active meetings. The November 2015 meeting was filled to capacity. It was standing room only. The biggest issue at that time was getting enough chairs for everyone. All meetings should have that problem.

What do you feel is the most pressing issue for the industry in general?

L.R. Good professional development comes to mind. I’ve worked in two other industries, and I believe that new translators have access to excellent support from associations, professional development classes and experienced colleagues-much more than what new professionals receive in some other fields.

How did you come to the industry?

L.R. I started as a teacher. I taught in Spain for 16 years. When I returned to the States I found myself in financial services. After my job moved to the west coast, I completed the NYU program and transitioned into translating. The NYU program was very helpful. It was the perfect program for me.

What hidden talent do you have?

L.R. Well it’s not so much a talent but I am a big fan of audio books and podcasts. Right now I’m listening to an audio book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It’s the autobiography of a woman originally from Somalia. The author reads it herself which makes it quite poignant. Last week I listened to Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, a biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court Justice.