Featured Interpreter: María (Mila) Baker CMI, CHI™ Spanish, M.A. in Spanish and TESOL

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

I have been an interpreter for approximately 5 years. I had just moved to Huntsville, AL, where I currently live. I had finished my Masters degree, and had been doing some translation work for private clients while in college. I figured I would continue to do that, so I looked up language service agencies in Huntsville and emailed them my resume. One of these agencies contacted me back 20 minutes later, to ask me if I was interested in becoming a medical interpreter. I said yes… and the rest is history.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

I first started interpreting in outpatient settings. My first assignment involved pediatric oncology.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

I try to find out as much as I can about the appointment. Normally the first thing I do is look up the address and find the best way to get there. Knowing what type of clinic or facility I will be working in (for example, a neurologist’s office), I think about three things: symptoms (what kinds of complaints patients might have), diagnoses, and medication. Based on this, I can review key terminology, and even carry it in my notebook for a quick glance. The last thing I do is pick what clothes to wear. I think how we present ourselves still has an influence in how seriously we are taken as professionals, although some think it shouldn’t.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

I’ve had many interesting appointments, but I will never forget going to a urologist with a male patient. It turns out he was there for a consultation about sexual dysfunction! This was something I knew very little about at the time, and I also feared the patient might be uncomfortable having a female interpreter. Fortunately, the patient had a really good attitude, and trusted that I was a professional. That appointment really made me think about gender roles in various cultures, and how we need to be sensitive and professional in these cases.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

The saddest experiences I’ve had were generally end-of-life cases. I understand why that area of work is not for any interpreter, and we must be very self-aware and know our own limitations. In the end, I come out stronger and better as a professional, but it is always sad.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

I use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They all serve different purposes. I follow groups for interpreters and translators on Facebook. On these groups, people share articles of interest, but more importantly, they ask questions. I help answer them when I can, but I mostly learn from other answers. I keep LinkedIn updated for possible clients and fellow interpreters and translators. I also look at the job postings, not necessarily because I’m looking for a job, but I like to stay in touch with the job market (Indeed is another good platform for that). I like to follow professional organizations from all over the country, such as CCHI or ATA on Twitter. I find out about conferences and other events, as well as opportunities for professional development. I also like to follow translators like Xosé Castro and Jeromobot because they are very good at marketing themselves and their work, and I think I can learn from them.

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in your target language? Can you recommend something to our readers?

I may be biased here because it is where I come from, but I think everyone should read some storytellers from Argentina, such as Jorge Luis Borges, or Horacio Quiroga. If you are into poetry, I think Mario Benedetti (from Uruguay) is a must.

Q: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming interpreter?

Get involved in the industry. Join professional organizations and be as active as you can. You can make some important connections that way, and more importantly, advocate for our profession to get the recognition it deserves, and for professional interpreters and translators to be valued and appreciated. I am part of at least one regional and one national organization, and they are very enriching experiences.

Q: How did you prepare for your certification exams? What was the most difficult? What are the differences between CCHI and NBCMI certification exams and preparation? Can you share resources that helped you prepare? 

There isn’t much we can share about the exams themselves (the content is confidential), but the single best resource, generally speaking, is the candidate handbook, which is available for both exams. I didn’t take any classes specifically to prepare, but I know there are some available. Both exams have a theoretical component: we have to study anatomy and physiology, and especially ethical principles and standards of practice. Both exams are heavy on ethical content.
But there is also a practical component, having to do with interpreting (and translation!) skills. You can study the protocols and procedures on a theoretical basis, but then you just have to PRACTICE. When it comes to skills, both exams require good consecutive interpreting skills, including note-taking. I practiced taking notes and interpreting while watching the news, or shows that I enjoyed. I even took notes while talking to my husband! It’s all about taking advantage of every opportunity: if you’re going to watch TV or talk to people anyway, you might as well use those situations to get better. I also used these opportunities to practice simultaneous interpreting, which constitutes one of the differences between these exams: so far, the NBCMI exam does not include a simultaneous interpreting component, while CCHI does. It is important to understand the differences between these two modes, and when to use each. Other than that, my preparation was rather similar, as the exams have more similarities than they have differences.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why? 

I try to take advantage of every resource available. If I don’t find the topic engaging, I try to find something else to read or another webinar to watch. I have also been attending the conference held by the Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators (TAPIT) for several years, and I recommend it to anyone in the Southeast and beyond. I also like to attend big scale conferences like the IMIA or ATA Conferences, because they are generally an occasion where interpreters, healthcare providers, and agencies meet, so there are many perspectives to hear.  And of course I learn a lot from attending and organizing our conference with the Interpreters and Translators Association of Alabama!

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

I think we don’t talk enough about quality control or quality assurance for interpreters. The topic is raised for translation, but not for interpreters, and it is quite complex, as it is not easy to measure, and it is not only in the results, which are typically not durable. In case of translation, you have a document to review. When we interpret, our words are gone as soon as they’re spoken, unless they’re recorded. It is necessary to talk to interpreters about how to monitor our own performance at all stages of the assignment.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

There are many things I would like to see changed. I would like agencies to treat interpreters fairly (they don’t always do), I’d like interpreter rates to have a legal minimum established, although I know it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. I would also like certification (in any setting, for translators and interpreters) to be a requirement. The law is not clear enough about what “qualified” means, and that opens the door to many people without enough education to act as interpreters and translators.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

I think the most important thing is humility, in two senses. One is cultural humility. We have to be sensitive to cultural differences but we are not anthropologists. I don’t believe interpreters should try to “explain” other cultures, as within each cultural group there is also a great deal of individual variation. We can merely point out possible cultural differences, be aware of their existence, and help healthcare providers be sensitive to them.
We also need the humility to stick to our role as interpreters. We may have other ways in which we think we can help, often with the best intentions, but they are not part of our role. The main way we help LEP patients is by putting them on equal footing with English-speaking patients. We must monitor our will to intervene or put the spotlight on ourselves. Things go smooth when each party does what they’re trained to do, and nothing else.
You can find Maria on Twitter and LinkedIn

Happy Birthday to the Nation of Nations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 4th of July, we remember some quotes by famous Americans about our beautiful land of immigrants.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
―Emma Lazarus, writer and translator

 

“America has always been a symbol of hope, tolerance and diversity —and these are values we must work very hard to uphold”.

―Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani Yoghurt

 

“Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.”

―Tim Cook, CEO

 

“As you know, I’m an immigrant. I came over here as an immigrant, and what gave me the opportunities, what made me to be here today, is the open arms of Americans. I have been received. I have been adopted by America.”

―Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and politician

 

“Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”
―John F. Kennedy

 

“I am the grandson of immigrants from Japan who went to America, boldly going to a strange new world, seeking new opportunities. My mother was born in Sacramento, California. My father was a San Franciscan. They met and married in Los Angeles, and I was born there.”

―George Takei, actor

 

“I arrived in the U.S.A. in 1935, to San Francisco. I got the boat from China, and I didn’t even speak English. I could read a little, perhaps write a little, but that was all. It was a 17-day journey, and I learnt to speak English from the stewards.”

―I. M. Pei, one of top America’s architects

 

“I call myself Zimerican. I was born in the Midwest to Zimbabwean parents. My father was a professor at Grinnell College in Iowa.”

―Danai Gurira, actress


“I came here to the US at age 6 with my family from the Soviet Union which was at that time the greatest enemy the US had, maybe it still is. It was a dire period, the cold war, as some people remember it. And even then the US had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees. This country was brave and welcoming and I wouldn’t be where I am today or have any kind of the life that I have today if this was not a brave country that really stood out and spoke for liberty.”

―Sergey Brin, founder of Google

 

“I came to America because of the great, great freedom which I heard existed in this country.”
―Albert Einstein

 

“I come from a part of New York that was almost entirely immigrants. I was born in America, but all of my friends’ parents, everybody’s parents, including my own, had come to America from Europe. ―Christopher Walken, actor

 

“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

―George Washington

 

“I have an immigrant mentality, which is that the job can be taken away at any time, so make sure you earn it every day…immigrants come here they have no safety net-zero. I landed here with $500 in my pocket. I had no one here to pay for me.”

―Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

 

“I liked the America of Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – it was all a dream, of course, but a very alluring dream for a young man from China.”
―I. M. Pei, one of top America’s architects

 

“I was born in Europe… and I’ve traveled all over the world. I can tell you that there is no place, no country, that is more compassionate, more generous, more accepting, and more welcoming than the United States of America.”

―Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and politician

 

“My folks came to U.S. as immigrants, aliens, and became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen, went to Hollywood and became an alien.

―Leonard Nimoy, actor

 

“My mother was an activist, so was my father. They came from a generation of young Somalis who were actively involved in getting independence for Somalia in 1960. So I remember when I was five how busy our house was. People would come in the middle of the night, meetings after meetings, and protests and all that. I grew up in the midst of all of that. And she instilled that in me. The fact that nobody can take your self-worth unless you give your consent. I am the face of a refugee. I was once a refugee. I was with my family in exile.”

―Iman, fashion model

 

“One more thing I would say with regard to immigration generally: There exists on the subject a fatal miscomprehension. Unemployment is not decreased by restricting immigration. For unemployment depends on faulty distribution of work among those capable of work. Immigration increases consumption as much as it does demand on labor.”

―Albert Einstein

 

“On my father’s side, I’m descended from immigrants, one of whom was a Syrian refugee from the Armenian genocide, and my mother was an immigrant from Germany whose visa had expired and, for a year and change, was undocumented here in the U.S.

―Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit

 

“Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”
―Robert F. Kennedy

 

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
―Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

“The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources–because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.”
―Lyndon B. Johnson

 

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”
― George Washington

 

“The truth is, immigrants tend to be more American than people born here.”

―Chuck Palahniuk, writer

 

“To this day, my father worships JFK and LBJ for what they did to have the laws changed so that his family could come. I was 12 when I came, and I remember thinking it’s truly a different world. You know, you go from bicycles to cars, from shopping in the village market to supermarkets and from Chinese to English. We did not know the alphabet. So we started from step one, and it was a culture shock on top of a language barrier. We were each given an English name, hence — I’m David. And my father did it very simply, Dae He is D-A-E, and he just thought David was the closest thing. My training has been entirely American, while culturally I am a large part Chinese.”

―David Ho, scientist, heavily influenced the understanding, investigation and treatment of HIV/AIDS worldwide

 

“We came to America, either ourselves or in the persons of our ancestors, to better the ideals of men, to make them see finer things than they had seen before, to get rid of the things that divide and to make sure of the things that unite.”
―Woodrow Wilson

 

“We showed up here with the equivalent of $50 and a piano. We came halfway around the world without money, without a set job, no place to live and couldn’t even speak the language. What saved us was my father being a musician and slowly meeting other musicians and gigging on weekends, everything from weddings to you name it to make money.”

―Eddie Van Halen, one of the most well known hard rock musicians

 

“When [my family] came from England during the war, people said, “You are welcome here. What can we do to help?” I am a beneficiary of the American people’s generosity, and I hope we can have comprehensive immigration legislation that allows this country to continue to be enriched by those who were not born here.”
―Madeleine Albright

 

“When you get to know a lot of people, you make a great discovery. You find that no one group has a monopoly on looks, brains, goodness or anything else. It takes all the people – black and white, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant, recent immigrants and Mayflower descendants – to make up America.”

―Judy Garland

 

“You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is ‘illegal’. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”

―Elie Wiesel, the writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor

 

Michigan Supreme Court: July 31, 2018, Court Interpreter Written English Exam

Notice from Michigan Supreme Court:

All uncertified interpreters are required to take and pass a written exam before they may take the oral proficiency exam. The 135 multiple-choice questions are designed to measure basic, general English language proficiency, and court and ethics knowledge. This helps to predict whether candidates are ready for the oral exam. Candidates for all languages take the written exam at the same time. At this time, there is no fee to take the written exam.

The next written exam will be given at the Hall of Justice in Lansing on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. Approximately two weeks before the exam, you will receive your registration confirmation, the scheduled time of the written exam, and travel information and parking directions. This information will be sent to you by email.

The application deadline is June 29, 2018. Your application must be postmarked or faxed no later than June 29, and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

The following links may be helpful in preparing for the exams:

Overview of the written exam, sample questions, and resources (exam registration form is found on page 19)

Code of Professional Conduct for Foreign Language Court Interpreters in Michigan Courts 

Links to videos that demonstrate interpreting and how to handle some situations (right side of page – Video Clips)

Michigan’s Courts Learning Center for information about the court system

National Center for State Courts (NCSC)

If you require special accommodation due to a disability, you must request the accommodation in advance. In order to do that, please contact Denice Purves at languageaccess@courts.mi.gov

Please note: No person will be allowed to take the same written exam version more than once within a

12-month period.

How to Overcome Test Anxiety: Tips for Interpreters

When interpreters prepare for interpreting exams, we practice interpreting. But what are we doing to practice controlling our test anxiety? As someone who’s taken many interpreting exams (and didn’t pass them all) and prepared many interpreters for exams, there are a few things I’ve learned about managing test anxiety. Test anxiety can affect your performance in an exam to the extent that you fail, so it’s worth considering.

Anxiety can come in the form of fear, no matter what the stakes may be. When I took my healthcare certification exam, as a seasoned healthcare interpreter I was sure I’d pass. But there was that lingering thought: What if I actually fail? What if I’m exposed as a fraud and I realize I’m not actually competent to do the work I’ve been doing for the last decade? When I took my court certification exam for the second time, I just wanted to get it over with and couldn’t bear the thought of failing again. When I took my grad school exit exams, the weight of knowing that I wouldn’t graduate if I didn’t pass felt physically crushing at times. Sound familiar? I’ve got some tips to get you through it.

Practice: When you sit down to do your interpreting practice, take the opportunity to practice your anxiety management as well. As much as possible, practice in a setting that is like the testing environment. Somewhere where you’re not too comfortable. In grad school, this was easy for me because I practiced in the interpreting lab, which was the very space I knew I’d be taking my exams. But in addition to the physical testing environment, I also made an effort to get into the mindset of exam day, and I’d go through all the things I might be feeling.

When I was preparing for my court and healthcare certification exam, I didn’t have the advantage of practicing in the actual physical space where I’d be taking the test. But you can do some things to emulate the environment, like sitting up straight at a table, timing yourself and recording yourself, making sure that you are doing your practice without stopping. That means no stopping and starting 30 seconds into the practice, five thousand times, whenever you feel you’ve messed up! Yes, practicing the same small part over and over can be a helpful part of practice, but your practice should include simulating the test, which means doing the interpretation from beginning to end in just one go.

Before you begin your practice, take a deep breath. Engage in something that works to calm yourself. Whatever it is, do it every day, every time you practice, well BEFORE the day of your exam. That way, when exam time comes, you’ll already have trained yourself to calm your nerves.

Noting things: Not taking actual notes, but just making mental notes to yourself about what’s happening when you feel anxious, in an objective way. I have a lot of trouble falling for that “hook” – that thought that yanks me into a downward spiral of panic. For example, when I start thinking “ohnothistestisimpossible and Idon’tthinkIcandoit and Ican’tdoanythingright and Ican’tcontrolmybreathing and nowmymouthisdryandmyheartisracing and everyonewillbedisappointedinmewhenIfail and they’reallgoingtolaughatme, I need a figurative hammer to smash that downward spiral. Simply stating in my mind what is happening does the trick for me. So instead of falling for that hook, I simply tell myself, “Now I’m taking a test.” That’s it. And it breaks that cycle so I can focus on the task at hand.

Self-compassion: Having a positive mantra can be helpful. When I’m trying to find some positive aspect of a difficult situation, mine has been, “I’m learning so much.” I use it a lot since I always seem to be learning so much, stumbling up some kind of steep learning curve. But self-compassion isn’t necessarily positive self-talk. Self-compassion is simply recognizing what you’re feeling in any given moment, and that it’s okay. When I feel my heart begin to race as I sit down in front of that mic, I can simply tell myself, “Right now I’m having a moment of anxiety.” This has been more helpful to me than resisting the anxiety, which seems to intensify it. Leave room for some positive self-talk, but also leave some room for, “This is really difficult,” and even, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

Practicing on the day of the exam: I’ve recommended in past posts to not practice the day of the exam, and that’s something that works for me. I don’t want anything undermining my confidence on exam day. On the other hand, I’ve heard other trainers recommend that you practice with something that is easy for you on exam day. Surely this is to boost your confidence. If that’s the case, I’d practice with something you know is easy for you because you’ve practiced with it before.

When I took my healthcare and court certification exams, I didn’t practice on exam day. When I took my exams for grad school, I did shadowing on my exams days (there were four), just to have the feel for listening and speaking at the same time. I also had the habit of shadowing every day before I began my practice, so that worked for me.

Practicing interpreting is a necessary part of what we do to get better. When we have the skills to confront our anxiety, we can overcome it on exam day.

By Liz Essary

This article first appeared on www.atanet.org

IEO prepares interpreters for court certification exam, as well as NBCMI and CCHI certification exam.

How Public Speaking Skills can Help Interpreters

Besides being an interpreter and a translator for over 20 years, I have also taught public speaking courses and presented at interpreters’ symposiums and other professional meetings.

Speaking in public requires a high level of involvement with the subject matter and the preparation of the adequate delivery, depending on the objective and the occasion.

Communication facilitated by interpreters is a dynamic process, not a mechanic one.  Interpreters aim at transferring the “meaning.”  Since it occurs in a group context, the opportunity of a connection is automatically established.

Interpreters can greatly benefit from speech making skills and strategies on how to manage their nervousness in public.

As interpreters, we face many situations; we meet a variety of people with different backgrounds and understanding of the language exchange.  This may occur before the actual interpreting session and once assignments have been completed.  We represent an agency or ourselves.  Whether functioning as a medium of communication or as cultural brokers, we are in a position to enhance our professional image and degree of effectiveness through the acquisition of speech building skills.

Here are some of the skills interpreters can benefit from:

  1. Focusing on the purpose of the meeting – this step helps with staying on track
  2. Organizing the ideas/concepts in a logical manner
  3. Varying the tone and pace to keep the attention going
  4. Providing visuals, if necessary or helpful – this step strengthens the retention degree of the information.
  5. Interacting and involving others in the conversation – this step helps in making sure everyone is on the same page
  6. Complying with time limitations
  7. Displaying confidence by concentrating on our objective
  8. Communicating in an ethical manner – interpreters have a powerful profession and can, therefore, exercise an influence

This is a work in progress.  There is always something new to learn and abilities to refine.  Of course, there is also the element of nervousness that we want to get under control. These skills enhance the degree of credibility and a trust-developing connection.  The end result is a more gratifying experience for the interpreter and a lasting memory in the minds of the people encountered.

How can we reach a level of comfort? We can start by allowing a degree of tension that can energize us.  We can also draw inspiration from previous encounters. Experience makes us stronger.  By adopting a process of visualization, we can envision the encounter to be a gratifying learning opportunity.

Will my voice tremble? Will all eyes and ears heavily concentrate on me? What if I forget something? What if they ask me a challenging question? Most of us have heard one or more of these little voices inside our heads before walking into an unknown scenario.

There are also techniques we can adopt to decrease the level of tension:

  1. Write down your fears. Then, look back at the list and scratch out, one by one, the fears that will not likely produce a catastrophe or another terribly embarrassing moment.
  2. Mentally practice the answers to inquiries you can anticipate.
  3. Utilize relaxing techniques: prayer, breathing exercises, muscular or mental relaxation are some examples.
  4. Have on speed-dial someone who can give you a word of encouragement.
  5. Focus on the moment as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  6. Engage in opportunities to talk and share with other interpreters.  This is one of the most effective ways to realize we have similar concerns and that we can draw strength from one another.

I like the approach to nervousness that comes from cognitive therapy, which allows us to transform a negative thought into a positive and constructive one.

According to the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy (2009), cognitive therapy is a short-term form of remedy to treat a variety of psychological and psychiatric conditions.  We can identify distortions or perceptions resulting into negative thought patterns; then we can work on changing our gloomy thoughts into optimistic ones. Anderson (2014) points out that we can visualize the best part of the day, or encounter, and be thankful of the event.

How can I apply cognitive therapy to intimidating scenarios?  I build a mindset that allows me to focus on the positive side of the experience. I know I am capable to doing a good job and answer potential questions.  I continue to engage in opportunities for professional development; so I have acquired knowledge and confidence.  The encounter will go well.  I will research the areas I discover I know less about.  I will be even more prepared the next time around.

If you tend to be a perfectionist, and I will personally welcome you to the club, remember that we are the ones who tend to be more conscious of our movements and register correctness.  A less than perfect exchange is not the end of the world (I am not referring to the interpreting session per se, of course).  A slightly disappointing event can still help us put things in perspective and accept the frustrating moment as part of life, yet with a possibility of an even better outcome the time around.

 

By Rita Pavone

This blog first appeared on www.najit.org

 

Join our webinar on Public Speaking Skills for Interpreters by Rita Pavone on May 22.

If you can’t make it, the video recording will be available after.

Featured Interpreter: Robin Byers-Pierce, CSC, BEI IV, Court-Certified, VRI Manager at Bromberg

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

A: I started interpreting in 1975. For a simple reason: The Rehab Act of 1975 was passed requiring interpreters for certain situations, and the government realized they did not have many. A federal grant was given to several universities around the country to establish interpreter training programs. NITC, National Interpreter Training Consortium, was founded and offered scholarships to people who were interested in going into the field of interpreting. Pre-existing ASL skills were not required but preferred for the first few rounds of awards. I was accepted into the program and started school for the spring semester.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

A: I have generally worked as a community interpreter. One of my first jobs was interpreters for a Skills Training Center that taught auto mechanics and carpentry skills.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

A: This depends on the job. For medical and legal, I review relevant terminology. Often we go in without any information, but I try to obtain as much as I can before the appointment. Agencies can often provide some background information.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

A: My favorite all time job was interpreting for Tommy Chong (Canadian American comedian). He made fun of me and made a prop of me plus had me teach the whole audience a bad word. Actually, he kept repeating it and instructed the audience to follow along. I was quite amused and entertained.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

A: Hands down, interpreting for a mother in childbirth and the baby was stillborn.

Q: Who is your role model and why?

My two role models are Reuben Pois and Annette Long. From my grandfather, I learned how to sign, and his great sense of humor shaped me. My mother taught me so much. Her wisdom and kindness shaped me into who I am now. She also taught me how to be an interpreter, and for all of that, I cannot begin to express my thanks. I did send her a thank you card later in my life for my birthday every year for not killing me when I was a teenager. Her self-control was admirable.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

A: I do use Facebook, but mostly it is a mode for me to contact colleagues and stay in touch with family and friends.

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in or about ASL? Can you recommend something to our readers?

A: My favorite book is Seeing Voices by Dr. Oliver Sacks. The book is divided into two sections, and for anyone working with the Deaf community, the first part of the book is a must. Although there are many newer studies, The Signs of Language by Edward Klima and Ursula Bellugi are still my favorites.

Q: Which stereotype about Deaf culture would you like to eliminate? What are your favorite things about Deaf culture or ASL language?

A: I would eliminate the stereotype that all people with hearing are the same. Just as with the general community, there are nice people and not so nice people.

I love the visual-spatial nature of the language. An event can be relayed with clarity in ASL that no spoken language can convey.

Q: What advice would you give to an up and coming interpreter?

A: Knowing the community you serve is primary. Don’t expect to save the world – you are “The Equalizer”, you make the world the same for hearing people or English speakers as it is for Deaf people or non-English speakers.

Q: How did you prepare for your certification exam? What was the most difficult? Can you share resources that helped you?

A: RID and the BEI offer materials to study. I highly suggest interpreters obtain and know the material. The Code of Ethics and the Canons of Ethical Behavior of all fields are similar, and knowing the correct ethical decision is crucial.

Practice interpreting television and radio. Professional speakers are trained to be clear and very fast. If you are comfortable with this rapid pace, when you go in for your test – it will seem slow.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why?

A: I consider myself a learn-a-holic. I am always seeking ways to enhance my interpreting skills which include adding vocabulary and an understanding of a variety of fields. All of the above is how I do professional development.

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

A: One thing I like about the IEO and the webinar series is that they are for interpreters who already have the basic knowledge. Conferences are so often providing training for those at an entry level that it is hard to find something of interest to us vets.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

A: I love the field that I have chosen. Though I love road trips, the daily grind of 100-500 miles a day was tedious and environmentally unsound. VRI solved this problem, and as the platforms improve their stability, it gets better every day.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

A: Be thick-skinned. People will take their frustrations out on you. Know the difference between critique, which will help make you better, and someone who is taking their frustration out on you. Learn something every place you go.

 

Robin on LinkedIn.

Featured interpreter: Karla R. (Shetter) Grathler, CMI – Spanish, Farmworker Health Program Coordinator at Shawnee Health Service

8-hour long interpreting for labor had me as exhausted as future mom to be

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

A: I have been an interpreter in the U.S since 2007. I started in the field when a local language services agency was hiring medical interpreters.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

A: My first interpreting job was our local hospital in Carbondale, IL

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

A: Better hourly rates for full-time medical interpreters. It seems like the high pay rates are mostly for freelance interpreters in big cities. To require National Certification to perform as Medical Interpreters. I see many bilingual individual who perform either as freelancer or as part of the interpreters’ staff who have not even taken the minimum 40-hr training. To me, this poses a legal danger for organizations and may cause more harm than benefits to the patients due to the risk of miscommunication leading to misdiagnosis and wrong medical treatment.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

A: Funniest: At the end of a very long and stressful day, I was interpreting for a medical visit and instead of interpreting into the opposite language, I was repeating what the patient said in Spanish and what the doctor said in English. Both of them looked at me puzzled and then we all started to laugh. I deeply apologized and brought my brain back to the right path..lol!!

Interpreting for a delivery: Interpreting for a pregnant patient who was in labor during my whole shift. I ended up as exhausted as the brave mom-to-be. It was exhausting to interpret statements conveying feelings of pain and discomfort for 8 hours straight.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

A: To interpret for when a doctor had to give tragic news to a mom. Her baby did not make after a horrible car accident.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

A: I try to have a good night sleep as much as I can. I keep myself hydrated during the day. Learn about the reason for the medical visit and review possible terminology.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

A: I use LinkedIn. I think it is good way to network with other professionals. I am a member of the IMIA as well. I love the articles posted on the IEO site. I share most of the articles with my interpreter staff at our monthly meetings.

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in your native language? Can you recommend something to our readers?

A: I am reading “El Filtro Burbuja: Cómo la Red decide lo que leemos y lo que pensamos”. Escrito por Eli Pariser. Very interesting narration and viewpoint of how media feeds the people exactly what they (the people) want to hear. The way we are exposed to information, news etc. is mostly according to our likes and preferences. We tend to limit ourselves nowadays and we are not opened to go beyond our likes and preferences.

Q: What advice would you give to an up and coming interpreter?

A: I would advise anyone who wants to become an interpreter to expose him/herself to different cultures related to the language pair he/she will be interpreting in. It is important to be fluent in the used languages, but also to be familiar and understand the cultural differences. Another important advice would be to build a terminology list of colloquial terms in both languages, this way when speakers utilize those kind of terms, the interpreter will be ready to convey accurate interpretation and perform his/her conduit role fully.

Q: Which stereotype about your native culture would you like to eliminate? What are your favorite things about your native culture or language?

A: I am originally from Lima, Peru. Something I have been asked before is if Peruvians have seen tall buildings, if we use technology, do we have cars, other than llamas, LOL!! I explain that Peru as many other countries has both rural and urban areas. I tell them llamas are mostly in the highland and they are used as pack animals and for their wool.

My favorite thing is the beauty of our geography in the three main regions. The coastal region bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the highlands located in the Andean heights and the Amazon Jungle. And I love my Spanish language. It sounds so beautiful to me. If you asks people from other South American countries, they would say that Peruvians speak like if they are singing.

Q: Who is your role model and why?

A: My role model is my mom for sure. A woman who did not have the opportunity to even finish middle school but when she became a mom she sacrificed everything she had to create opportunities for her daughters. All of us have college degrees and each of us are contributing to our communities in different ways. I feel that is the legacy my mom wanted to leave for us.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why?

A: I am constantly reviewing my medical terminology. I make sure I write down and find the correct equivalent in the target language to be prepared for the next time I come across the terminology. I attend as many webinars as I can. I maintain contact with other interpreters through IMIA and Proz.com

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

A: More medical interpreting education on mental health. Interpreting for counseling scenarios to me is a different ball game. The interpreter is constantly interpreting messages that convey feelings and emotions for almost an hour non-stop. I wish there were more resources to help prepare for interpreting situations like those.

Q: How did you prepare for the certification exam? What was the most difficult? Can you share resources that helped you?

A: I studied as much medical terminology as I could. I had someone reading 3 to 4 sentence statements out loud for me and then I would interpret.

I also recorded statements in both English and Spanish, then I played those so I could interpret.

Resources I used were: Medline Plus, Proz.com, IMIA, a voice recorder.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

A: The most important is to love what you do. To have a heart for service. We have such a big responsibility to make sure what the two parties that speak different languages are communicating with accuracy and completeness, so the outcome they are looking for is positive and effective.

 

Featured Interpreter: Caroline Croskery, English/Farsi

“Interpreter! INTERPRET!!!” he shouted

With this interview we are starting a new rubric Featured Interpreter. The goal of it is to advocate the importance of our profession, share useful tips and experiences and highlight some of the best professionals in the field.

Caroline Croskery has been speaking Persian for many years. She was born in the United States and moved to Iran at the age of twenty-one. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Iranian Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she graduated Cum Laude. For many years, she has been active in four fields of specialization: language teaching, translation, interpretation and voice-over acting.

During her thirteen years living in Iran, she taught English, translated, and dubbed Iranian feature films into English. After returning to live in the United States, she began a career as a court interpreter in 1998 and is currently a Missouri State Registered Farsi court and medical interpreter.

Q: Caroline, how long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

A: I began as a court interpreter for LA County Superior Courts in 1998 after becoming a State of California Registered Farsi Interpreter through the Judicial Council of California. In 2016 I became a Missouri State Registered Farsi Interpreter. I am a court interpreter, a medical interpreter, as well as a literary translator. I translate bestselling novels from Persian (Farsi) into English and have thirteen books on Amazon.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

A: My first day on the job is a day I remember well. I had taken a language exam and gone through an orientation that dealt with ethics and overall dos and don’ts of interpreting in the courtroom. But I arrived on the job with no actual experience. I remember not being sure about what to do.

The court proceedings began and I was standing there next to the defendant waiting for something to happen. I guess I thought that things would stop and I would have the opportunity to consecutively interpret what had been said.

Then the judge shouted something that jolted me into action like a race-horse out of the gate.

“Interpreter! INTERPRET!!!” he shouted. And I was off! My career in simultaneous court interpreting began with a jolt!

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

A: I was called to interpret for senior citizen who was a serial jay-walker. This time, she was certain that she was going to be put away for life. She was so frightened of the judge that it was all I could do to assuage her fears and assure her that the judge would deal with her fairly. I informed her that talking to the judge was her only good option. She finally gulped down her reticence and together, we walked into the courtroom.

The judge knew this lady. He had seen her there many times before. This time, his tactic was to perform a little drama and hopefully scare her out of repeat offending!

Putting on very serious airs, the judge announced in a deep, scary voice, “You’re back! I see that you have violated the law again.”

“Yes, sir,” she answered, shaking with suspense.

Drawing out the weighty words, the judge interrogated her, “And what did you do?”

Bypassing the interpreter, she blurted out her confession, “Johnny Walker! Johnny Walker!”

Everybody in the courtroom smiled. The judge talked with her in length about the danger she was creating, not only primarily for herself, but for the oncoming cars and traffic as well. She was fined, and hopefully learned her lesson.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

A: Most certainly the saddest experience I have ever had on the job was a case involving both murder and grave mental illness. The saddest part for me, is knowing that this might have been avoided if the perpetrator had been under psychiatric care to begin with.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

A: Two things come to mind. New interpreters need mentoring, as I did. Perhaps a requirement for new interpreters to spend 20 hours in an actual courtroom before their first day on the job. They could be given an on the job orientation packet to accomplish, to acquaint them with various courtroom roles and procedures. Necessary forms could be translated for court use, which would also acquaint them with the specific vocabulary used in that courtroom.

Secondly, I believe that ALL interpreters should have state qualification in order to enter the job force. We have too many people entering the field of interpreting who are not qualified and cannot pass the state exams.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

A: Simultaneous interpreting involves levels of skills. Knowing two languages at native level is not sufficient to be a good interpreter. The other skill is a more mechanical skill: the ability to listen while speaking. A simultaneous interpreter must listen at the same time he or she is speaking.

To warm up before an assignment, while driving in the car, I switch on an English talk radio station. English is my mother tongue. I practice simply repeating aloud, the exact words I hear on the radio. I do this for about fifteen minutes. Then I switch to a Farsi talk radio station. I do the same thing. Then I begin interpreting what I hear in Farsi, into English. Finally, I switch back to the English talk radio station, and interpret what I hear in English, into Farsi.

The mechanical aspect of listening to language while speaking gets more and more automatic the more you practice. But there is still a third element, and that is the supervisory role the brain must have over this whole mechanical procedure, so that you are listening not only for the words and sentences, but that you are also hearing what is being said – you are comprehending what is being said. An alarm can go off in your mind when something goes awry, something doesn’t make sense, etc.

Q: Are you certified? If yes, how did you prepare for the exam? What was the most difficult? Can you share resources that helped you?

A: There is currently no “certification” for the Farsi language, although I was tested in both English and Farsi in order to become what they call State “Registered” Farsi Interpreter. The written exam was in English. But I had oral examinations in both English and Farsi.

One preparation resource that I enjoy greatly is called The Interpreter’s Gym by Steven Sanford of Boston, MA. This is a free tool that you can find on Sound Cloud.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

A: It is most important to be conscientious, diligent and have a good attitude for success as an interpreter. An interpreter must have boundless energy, a sharp mind and a caring heart. An interpreter has no ego; the interpreter isn’t a character in this movie at all. The interpreter is a facilitator of communication for parties that would otherwise not be able to communicate. An interpreter can never pass judgement into the work. Whatever fly might fall into the ointment, an interpreter’s job is to bring the issue to the attention of the judge for the judge to decide. An interpreter must love language to the point of never allowing a day to go by without learning something new.

You can contact Caroline via email

 

Types of People You’ll Meet at Interpreters & Translators Conferences and How to Network with Them

One of our favorite things about attending a conference is to meet fellow linguists. They come from all over the globe, speak many different languages, and have unique personalities. Their reasons for being at the conference vary as well.

Check out the list below of the different types of attendees you may encounter at a conference. Have you met/can you relate to any of them?

1) The Professional

Business Working GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Nobody knows conferences better than the professional interpreter and translator. After all, they’ve been going to conferences for years. They may even be a part of a committee or two. A conference not only allows them to satisfy their continuing education requirements, but they’ll also be able to catch up with colleagues and friends and get updated on the industry.

How to: Talk about the industry innovations, or ask them about some tips for certification exams.

 

2) The Social Butterfly

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What better way to put your charisma on display than at a conference full of people? The social butterfly knows this better than anyone. They’re a networking machine with a gregarious personality that helps them make contacts, acquire leads, and close deals. Warm and friendly, the social butterfly makes great impression and is hard to forget. They are the ultimate schmoozer.

How to: Networking with them is easy. Just catch their glance, smile, and enjoy, as the social butterfly will initiate introductions and communication. Unless they are stopped on the way to you by admirers and multiple buddies.

 

3) The Learner

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Conferences are an information sponge’s dream, and rightfully so! With so many presentations on a wide range of topics, there is plenty to learn. You’ll be able to spot the learner quite easily. Running from session to session so as not to be late for one, the learner can be seen holding coffee in one hand and a smartphone, notebook, and pen in the other. The learner is a note-taking pro and is never afraid to ask questions.

How to: Ask them what they think about the workshop you both attended. You are likely learn something new from them!

 

4) The Networking Introvert 

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If it was up to them, they’d have stayed at home with their cat. But don’t let this mislead you. They knew fully well what they are getting into, and they would love to connect and chat with you, but are somewhat dreading to start. Especially, if they are new to the event or the industry. Everyone looks like they know each other; everything seems connected and buzzing with joy of recognition. The horror!

How to: Even if they seem disengaged, or occupied browsing their phone, don’t hesitate to approach them with a friendly introduction. A simple “Hi! My name is (_________), nice to meet you! Is this your first time at the (name of the conference)?” will do the trick. Introverts are often full of useful info and great professional expertise.

 

5) The Educator

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You can see them running a session or simply mingling with peers. They usually look very distinguished and confident, as this is most likely a hundredth conference they’ve been to, and they trained many of its attendees and speakers. At one of the previous ATA events we had an honor of dining with a veteran translator who had attended some of the first ATA conferences, and the chat was so interesting that it became the highlight of the conference for us. Whether they present at this conference or not, educators are a great source of knowledge and fun stories.

How to: Look sharp and ask many questions.

 

6) The Presenter

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A presenter might look confident, but no one is immune to stage fright, be they new or seasoned speakers. Especially at such major conferences as the annual ATA gig.

How to: Make the presenter’s day by telling them how interesting their speech was, and what you liked about it specifically.

 

7) The Exhibitor

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Sitting in a booth all day can get lonely. Not everyone knows that, but exhibitors are more than happy to greet anyone approaching their booth with a curious gaze and/or questions.

How to: Stop by even if you are only interested in a sugary pick-me-up or yet another stress ball. The goal is to have all the swag gone by the end of the conference anyway. The exhibitors are the only attendees here who have to work non-stop. Show them some love by asking about their job and exchanging business cards to connect on LinkedIn. Who knows, it might become some of your best connections at the conference.

 

8) The Businessperson

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When going to a conference, the goal of the businessperson is simple: to make money. This can be achieved a few ways. They can interact with people whom they can pitch and sell their product to. As a freelancer, they can pass along their resume or business cards. The businessperson can also use conferences as an opportunity to establish partnerships and relationships with other business people.

How to: Ask what they like most about their job. Business people love talking about their business.

 

9) The Intelligence Operative

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Conferences bring all types of language companies together under one roof. Whether they’re selling services, training programs, or software, it’s inevitable that representatives from these companies will be checking out their competition. These intelligence operatives will gather information, even posing as potential customers, by asking questions and collecting a rival’s marketing materials.

How to: Ask if they know of any job openings for a professional linguist.

 

This year Interpreter Education Online will be exhibiting at the main national event for translators and interpreters, American Translators Association (ATA) 59th Annual Conference. We look forward to connecting with over 1,800 translation and interpreting professionals from throughout the U.S. and around the world, and seeing our old friends. Find IEO booth #3 and ask us about the conference discount we offer on all our courses!
If you are missing the event this year, follow the workshops and get connected with participants by using #ata59 on Twitter.

What is happening to my brain?

I can remember how to say “Compass Rose” and “boatswain” in Spanish at the drop of a hat, but I cannot remember what I ate for lunch 2 days ago.

I can recall every word of a 2-minute narrative by a witness and render it fully into English, but I cannot recall what someone said to me (or what I said to someone) a week ago.

Because I am an interpreter!

Well, I am no neuroscientist or neuro-anything, but it doesn’t take much to realize my brain—and, by extension, my memory—does not work like most other people’s brains. Why? Because I am an interpreter. It’s that simple. I have been using my brain in ways that people who are not interpreters will never use theirs.

Scholarly articles on the bilingual brain are fascinating. In fact, they make me wonder how we can ever do what we do. One such researcher, Narly Golestani, from the Brain and Language Lab at the University of Geneva, has mapped the brain of interpreters during simultaneous renditions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs), confirming what most of us already know intuitively: “Simultaneous interpretation is an extremely demanding task that requires exquisite control of the language system in order to comprehend and produce speech concurrently in two different languages.”[1] This, of course, can be said of consecutive interpreting, although the concurrency of the process is somewhat different inasmuch as we must be perceiving or understanding the message in one language, retaining that information while converting it to another language, and within seconds be producing the converted message.

Beyond language

Golestani told Geoff Watts, a former biomedical researcher-now-journalist, during a visit he made to the Geneva lab: “There’s been a lot of work on bilingualism. Interpretation goes one step beyond that because the two languages are active simultaneously. And not just in one modality, because you have perception and production at the same time. So the brain regions involved go to an extremely high level, beyond language.”[2]

But why do I remember some things so well, and forget others so easily? Well, neurological research has found that we store information in two different parts of the brain. “It appears the hippocampus provides temporary storage for new information whereas other areas [of the brain] may handle long-term memory. Events that we are later able to remember appear to be channeled for more permanent storage in the cortex (the outer layers of the brain responsible for higher functions such as planning and problem-solving.)”[3] Could it be that I have nurtured my brain’s cortex more than my brain’s hippocampus, so I can store all that vocabulary and other linguistic data I need to perform my job as an interpreter?

Rapid and short-lived or slower and long lasting?

Susumu Tonegawa from the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics in Japan has conducted research that “points to the existence of complementary memory systems. One allows rapid memory formation but has limited capacity, and thus needs to pass information that should be retained to another system that is longer-lasting but slower-acting. This frees space in the hippocampus that can then be reused.”[4] And there you have it! My memory’s storage capacity is not unlimited.

“Psychological studies of human memory make a distinction between Short-Term Memory (STM) and Long-Term Memory (LTM). The idea of short-term memory simply means that you are retaining information for a short period of time without creating the neural mechanisms for later recall. Long-Term Memory occurs when you have created neural pathways for storing ideas and information which can then be recalled weeks, months, or even years later. To create these pathways, you must make a deliberate attempt to encode the information in the way you intend to recall it later. Long-term memory is a learning process. And it is essentially an important part of the interpreter’s acquisition of knowledge, because information stored in LTM may last for minutes to weeks, months, or even an entire life.”[5]

Because we are interpreters!

I always say that if I do not need to remember something in order to do a better job as an interpreter, I won’t. I really don’t need to clutter my brain’s cortex with useless memories, like what I had for lunch 2 days ago. Well, maybe it’s not that simple, but as an interpreter, I know for a fact I need a lot more language-processing information in my long-term memory than people who are not interpreters, so I will purposely let any trivial recollections fade away from the short-term memory in my hippocampus.

So if anything like this is happening to you, don’t worry. We are not absent-minded. We’re interpreters!


[1] Narly Golestani, Barbara Moser-Mercer, Alexis Hervais-Adelman, et al. Brain plasticity in interpreters. http://virtualinstitute.fti.unige.ch/home/index.php?module=clip&type=user&func=display&tid=4&pid=3&title=brain-plasticity-in-interpreters

[2] Geoff Watts. The amazing brains of the real-time interpreters. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141117-the-ultimate-multi-taskers
[3] Simon Makin. Where does the brain store long-ago memories? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-does-the-brain-store-long-ago-memories/
[4] Ibid.
[5] Weihe Zhong. Memory Training in Interpreting. http://translationjournal.net/journal/25interpret.htm

 

By Janis Palma, federally certified English<>Spanish judiciary interpreter
This article first appeared on https://najit.org/