Do You Suffer From Interpricide?

Does Nicole Kidman suffer from this? Probably not.

A few months ago, we received an email from our colleague Sarah Glendenning in Manchester, UK. We had not met her in person, and we always enjoy hearing from “new” colleagues, especially those in sign interpreting languages. We have to admit that we do a poor job at reaching out and collaborating with our colleagues in the sign languages interpreting profession, so we are thrilled that Sarah approached us to get our thoughts from the spoken languages interpreting perspective about something that Sarah, a registered BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter has termed interpricide. Let’s have her explain it in this interview. She previously wrote an article about this same topic for Newsli, the quarterly magazine for members of ASLI (The Association of Sign Language Interpreters) in 2009.  

Translation Times: Thanks for speaking to us! We’d never heard of interpricide until you contacted us. Can you explain what it is?
Sarah:  Interpricide is a term myself and a colleague came up with back in 2009 at a conference of the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI).  A call was sent out for interpreters to interpret at the conference and we were trying to persuade our peer group that it would not be “interpricide,” that is, the fear of committing professional suicide by interpreting in front of other interpreters.  It was very much a tongue in cheek phrase but resonated with a lot of people in the room.  It struck me that it is actually a real fear.  Interpricide is “the act of committing professional suicide by interpreting in front of your peer group” (Llorca and Glendenning 2008).  I seem to remember Karl and I getting a lot of requests from student interpreters to read our article, we had to turn them down as an article hadn’t actually been written!


Translation Times: What is your goal in terms of talking about interprecide? Academic research? Awareness-building? How can we help?
At the moment it is purely for awareness building so linguists can start having these conversations. It is something that intrigues me and am looking forward to investigating this further by using different academic/medical theories. From the interpreters I have spoken to informally, many have stated they felt an increased pressure when they knew people in the audience could monitor both the L1 and L2 being used.  At this stage I am not sure if other professions have the same feelings or whether it is just within the interpreting field.  

Translation Times: Have you personally experienced interpricide?
Sarah: Most definitely.  Not so much now because I’ve been on the circuit for a long time, but when I was a trainee and newly qualified most definitely.  I was involved in a conference and my team consisted of four experienced interpreters plus myself.  We were a great team.  However, when I took to the stage to start interpreting, the footlights dimmed and I could see the audience, I could see in the audience some of my professors from University, ex bosses from different in-house positions I had held, some of the assessors who had marked my work throughout interpreter training and also some interpreters who in my view were demi gods and I looked up to them. 

I remember looking at my hands (being a sign language interpreter), and the meta notative comments in my head were on overdrive.  What had I been signing?  Did it make any sense?  Was I even good enough to be there? (Impostor Syndrome). What were my options? (Fleeing was a strong urge). My hands were sweating, my throat went dry, and my knees were shaking, but why?  Some interpreters will say interpricide is not a thing but for me it really is.

Now I have a question for you. Have you experienced interpricide as spoken languages interpreters? Have you seen it happen in your profession? I’d love to know more.

Translation Times: Good point. We hadn’t really thought about it too much until you brought it up – wait, we had thought about it, but we just didn’t have a name for it. Spoken language interpreters tend to be less “exposed” than sign language interpreter colleagues, because we don’t often stand in the front of a room. For our answer we will focus on conference interpreting in a booth first. In this situation, you always have a colleague sitting inches from you, and she or he is obviously quite able to evaluate your performance. There are certainly some nerves involved when you interpret next to a more experienced colleague, and we’ve seen it happen that some interpreters are unable to interpret at all and can’t get a word out. It doesn’t happen very often, and we don’t know if it happens because the interpreter is so intimidated by the colleague or simply overwhelmed by the task at hand. It could be both.

Now in legal interpreting, especially in the United States, you mostly work on your own with the exceptions of longer hearings and trials, for which we use team interpreting. However, oftentimes you will be in a courtroom with multiple interpreters (could be for several different languages) who are waiting for their cases to come up, or you may have an interpreter for both plaintiff and defendant, so in those cases your performance is also quite public to your colleague. That can be scary for interpreters, especially newly certified ones, and we will be the first ones to admit that it’s certainly made us nervous in the past. A few years ago, Judy interpreted in federal court next to a fellow federally certified Spanish interpreter she admires and turns out that the client had made a mistake and had double-booked the interpreters. So, both were there and Judy’s colleague asked Judy to go ahead and start interpreting and they’d take turns if the hearing lasted more than 20 minutes. It didn’t, and Judy interpreted the entire thing herself – while being quite nervous under the watchful eye of her more experienced colleague (for the record: everything went very well). For legal assignments that are not held in court, but usually at law firms, you could be in the situation that you are in, for instance, an arbitration for which both plaintiff and defendant have an interpreter. You’d sit on opposite ends of the table of the other interpreter –which can be uncomfortable for some, especially because you’ve been retained by opposing parties (even though we are, of course, neutral parties). Finally, some law firms have started hiring what is called “check interpreters,” a term we hadn’t heard until a few years ago. For instance, if the firm represents the plaintiff and the plaintiff is called in for a deposition (meaning they give testimony under oath) and the interpreter is hired by a third party (oftentimes the court-reporting firm), sometimes the plaintiff law firm will retain their own interpreter to check on the first interpreter. This is a new procedure, and the rules of professional behavior for interpreters (When should we intervene? How? What is inappropriate?) are still being defined. We are of two minds about this: it does seem troubling that interpreters are, essentially, not trusted, hence the check interpreter. We do have court certifications for a reason, and we are certainly trustworthy as professionals. The check interpreter system also puts both interpreters in an uncomfortable, sometimes adversarial position. On the other hand, this system can potentially double the amount of work available to court interpreters, so that’s a significant positive.

In general, we think all interpreters must have experienced some interpricide at one point in their careers – it’s only natural, and being surrounded by qualified professionals who can actually evaluate your performance keeps you humble and honest, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.




Twin Translations: Thanks so much for your time and for telling us about this very interesting topic. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would love to know whether spoken language interpreters have similar experiences, so thanks for getting things started and sharing your own experiences here. As a sign language interpreter I am visually present in the room and therefore more accessible. It would also be great to see interpreters come together. It doesn’t matter which language we use; we can all learn from each other. Thank you for involving me in this blog.  I welcome your comments! My Twitter handle is @sginterpreting #interpricide.


About Sarah:
A registered sign language interpreter based in the UK. Passionate about her work and dedicated to teaching and training other interpreters.  A mentor and a member of ASLI (The Association of Sign Language Interpreters), regulated under The NRCPD (National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind  People). Widely read and open to discussion. Website: www.sginterpreting.co.uk

Job Posting: Assistant Professor of Translation/Spanish

Happy Friday, dear readers! A few days ago, our colleague Adam Wooten sent us this job announcement, and we are happy to share. There aren't that many job openings for full-time tenure-track translation professors in the U.S., and this one is a hybrid, as it's a combined Spanish/translation teaching position. It's at Weber State University in Utah, located north of Salt Lake City.

Please note that we are not involved in the hiring process and cannot answer any questions about the position -- sorry! We are merely posting this job in the hopes that one of our fantastic colleagues is interested in it. Keep us posted if you apply, which you can do here.

A Blind Certified Medical Interpreter's Job Search

More than six years ago, Judy met the unstoppable blind Spanish/English certified medical interpreter Jamey Cook (CMI) and her late seeing eye dog, Abner, at a conference in North Carolina, and a friendship developed. In 2014, Judy wrote a story about Jamey for the ITI Bulletin, which made the cover of the January-February issue (see picture). They've been in touch ever since, and it's been lovely to see that Jamey landed a full-time OPI (over-the-phone interpreting) position a few year ago. Unfortunately, Jamey and her entire OPI department were recently laid off. Now, losing a full-time interpreting position is difficult, especially since there aren't that many in this country, and it's especially difficult for someone like Jamey who has limitations -- which have, of course, barely stopped her. So we thought instead of us posting job openings on our blog, which we frequently do, let's flip this around, profile Jamey and announce it here that she's looking for a job. Our goal is to spread the word about Jamey's job search and hopefully match this talented medical interpreter with an amazing employer. 

Jamey in a nutshell:

  • Jamey Cook holds a master's degree in Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • She's a certified Spanish/English medical interpreter (CMI; certified by the National Board of Certification for Health Care Interpreters). She is one of only a handful blind certified medical interpreters in the country.
  • She has more than eight years' experience as a medical interpreter (OPI)
  • Jamey resides in North Carolina and is looking for a full-time job from home
  • If you are interested in interviewing/hiring Jamey, please either email her at jamey(dot)cook(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment and we will put you in touch.
So now it's the interpreter community's turn: is Jamey's dream job out there? Can you help her find it? Let's do this, fellow terps!

Free SDL Webinar: Pricing Skills for Translators and Interpreters

Just like last year, Judy is delighted to be giving another webinar for our friends over at SDL -- and it's free for everyone (you just have to sign up). The title is: Tell me how to price my translation services, and here's a brief description of what you can expect to learn:

We translate and interpret because we love it, but we also want to make sure we get compensated well for our professional services. Having a well-developed pricing strategy is key to linguists’ satisfaction and success – but what are some of the economic factors you must take into consideration? How can you make sure you don’t get paid peanuts, what does inflation have to do with anything, and what’s price differentiation?
In accordance with prevailing anti-trust legislation, no pricing recommendations will be made. However, attendees will be presented with practical advice and food for thought that they can implement immediately. Join Judy to talk pricing and learn to not be afraid of this key topic – it can be rewarding.
Here's the link to sign up. SDL is based in the UK, so the event will be held on Friday, November 8, at 3 pm GMT, which is 7 am Pacific and 10 am Eastern. "See" you there?


Court Interpreting in Nevada: Two New Trends

As a federally certified Spanish court interpreter, Judy spends a lot of time in the federal courts around the Southwest, but she also works in judiciary assignments outside of court (depositions, arbitration, attorney-client meetings). As challenging as court interpreting is, regardless of the setting or the mode of interpretation, after a decade or so, you do learn to anticipate quite well, as cases seem to fall within certain categories and can become repetitive. However, every once in a while you notice new trends and new cases coming through the system, which require some investigation and study to be able to interpret at a high level. Here are two that Judy has noticed this year (please note that these topics are quite serious and not for the faint of heart):

Photo credit: https://tinyurl.com/yctxq3w5
1) Fentanyl (fentanilo in Spanish): Anecdotally, before the beginning of this year, I'd say I'd only seen one or two of these cases in my entire interpreting career. This year, these types of cases have exploded, at least from my perspective as a court interpreter, and that seems to be in line with the national trends. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that's some 100 times more potent than morphine (having gotten one post-surgery morphine injection that knocked me out, I find it hard to process that fentanyl is 100 times stronger). It is also many times stronger than heroin, its synthetic cousin. As you would expect, it's highly addictive and dangerous. It's a Schedule I narcotic under the federal courts, and I've seen an increased amount of defendants accused of trafficking fentanyl into the country (oftentimes mixed with heroin or cocaine). I found these links helpful in trying to learn more about this synthetic substance, which is also used as an anesthetic and short-term pain reliever (the use it was originally designed for): Why fentanyl is deadlier than heroin, What is fentanyl?, DEA drug sheet on fentanyl , The fentanyl crisis is so deadly in Canada that even funeral directors need the antidote, Fentanyl is fueling a new overdose crisis

2) MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), an international criminal gang: I mostly work in Nevada, California, and New Mexico, and many defendants in criminal drug cases have some affiliation, as marginal as it may be, to Mexican cartels. I know their lingo well as I have spent years interpreting for them. However, MS-13, a Salvadorean-American street gang that got its start in Los Angeles in the 1970s, is relatively new to me. While I have attended several conferences on MS-13 to learn terminology and get general insight, I'd rarely interpreted for these defendants before. I've recently seen an increase in cases involving MS-13 in my part of the country, and I've had to quickly pick up new terminology (such as paro for "errand boy"). Interpreting gruesome details related to violence is never easy, but the amount of violence inside MS-13 is particularly difficult to stomach, even for an experienced court interpreter. In theory, interpreters can recuse themselves from any case, but I have never done that; I just focus on the job, which is to interpret, regardless of what is being said and of how it makes me feel. Here are some articles that have helped me learn more about MS-13 (warning: explicit content): MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty in Quadruple Murder Highlighted by Trump, MS-13, explained, What You Need to Know About the MS-13 Street Gang.

What about you, dear fellow court interpreters? Which new trends are you seeing? How do you learn more about new topics? We'd love to hear your tips and tricks.

Being on CNN: My Experience

Screenshot from my interview.
Most colleagues will have heard about one of the big interpreting stories of the year involving Russian interpreter Marina Gross at the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, Finland. It was a fascinating story that resulted in a lot of important discussions within our profession and beyond, and we won't recap the details here today (but you can read more here and here and here). In this blog post, we do want to tell you about Judy's experience of being on CNN in her role as one of the ATA spokespersons. We've gotten a lot of questions about what it's like to be on national television, so here are a few thoughts that you might find interesting, including details on how it all happened:

  • CNN woke me up at around 7:15 a.m. I have this cool app called Hiya that  easily identifies numbers on my business cell phone, and my heart skipped a bit when I saw it was CNN. The story had partially broken the day before and I'd already given one phone interview, but I didn't have many details, including the name and even the gender of the interpreter in question (I later learned her name was Marina Gross), so I was dealing with incomplete information, which I hear is not atypical.
  • I talked to the producer in Washington D.C. and they asked me how soon I could be in a Vegas studio to record a segment for Jake Tapper's show, which was due to air at 1 p.m. Pacific that day. Given that I was still in my Snoopy pajamas, I said I could be there in 90 minutes. I've never been on national television before, but I did have the foresight to ask if there would be a make-up artist there, and was told that there would be.
  • The studio is located in a non-descript strip mall right behind the famous Las Vegas Strip, and it's very professional-looking and a bit intimidating. CNN rents space there when they need to record interviews, as I don't think they have permanent studios in Vegas. I managed to get there 15 minutes early, but was told we only had six minutes for make-up, which was later increased to 17 minutes (yes, this is all a bit stressful). The make-up artist was a lovely German lady who took great care of me and even took a stab at my hair, which I had tried to do myself in a haste. It looked a lot better after she worked on it for five minutes. She's a pro!
  • I was still wearing a big and cumbersome orthopedic boot (up to my knee) following Achilles tendon repair surgery, which made getting into the make-up chair a bit of a struggle, but no one could see the goofy boot on television, for which I was grateful. I had been afraid it would be one of those interviews where you can see interviewees' entire bodies, but only the top of my body was to be visible in the recording (I asked).
  • After make-up is done you are allowed to drink water, but only with a straw as to not mess up the lipstick. It was 110 degrees outside and I was parched and was afraid my voice would sound scratchy, so I drank as much as I could. They ushered me into the studio--lots of bright lights!
  • There's a backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip, but it's not live  shot nor is there a window, of courses, so it's a fake (I never knew that). It's a real moving image, but it's just not a view from where I was. The studio is pretty bare bones: just lights, a chair, a small table, some computers, a camera and a camera operator. There's no one there in the same room to interview you, which feels a bit strange.
  • The producer who interviewed me was in D.C., and I do believe he's the same person who called me earlier that morning. It all happened so quickly I didn't even have time to ask! You get a headset in your ear (covered by my hair) and that's where the voice comes from. I was asked to not look into the camera, but to look six inches to the left, which is easier said than done.
  • The interview wasn't live, which is a good thing for a national television newbie like myself. I was quite nervous when it started, but things got better as we went along. I got some pleasant questions and some trickier ones, and I tried to stick to the important talking points we have at the American Translators Association and avoided speculating about things I don't know. As opposed to a few years ago, I now feel quite comfortable saying, "I don't know." I made sure to emphasize that I am not a diplomatic interpreter, but that I was going to speak about the profession and the code of ethics in general terms.
  • In general, the interview was quite pleasant and I don't think I got any questions that were meant to set me up to say something I didn't want to. I felt quite comfortable through most of it, but your brain is working overtime to make sure you get the right points across and don't say something stupid (yes, that was a real fear that I had). The interview lasted about 15 minutes, and at the end I was asked if I wanted to add something, so of course I could not resist and explained the difference between translation and interpretation. In spite of pontificating about this, the text above my name on the show read "Translating Trump." I tried.
  • And just like that, it was over. The camera operator and the make-up artist were the only other persons in the room while the interview were taken place, and they told me I did great, even though I suspect they tell all interviewees that. Roughly 30 seconds of my interview made it to the broadcast, and I was pleased with the way I sounded, although of course in retrospect you always have better ideas. Most of my best ideas came to me in the car afterwards, as expected! I had to almost run out if the studio to make it to my conference interpreting assignment, which was down the street, which is part of the reason CNN picked this particular studio--I was on a tight schedule that day.
So that's it, dear fellow interpreters and translators! Being on CNN was a bit scary, but it was also a big honor to represent our profession. 

Get Rid of Robo Calls: Hiya App Review

No matter where you live, one of today's modern inconveniences are robo calls or unwanted cold calls from marketers, and this is especially true for small business owners in any industry. Ours is no exception, and many T&I professionals run their businesses with a cell phone instead of both a land line phone and a cell phone. Either way is of course fine, but the issue of unwanted phone calls remain, and they are not only annoying but also take away time from actual important work-related tasks. So what can be done to reduce those unwanted calls? Judy tried an app for her Android phone called Hiya and it works really well. Here's her quick review.


  • Hiya is actually free and has no ads. You can download it here by entering your cell phone number. Available for Android and iOS.
  • Basically Hiya is an additional layer on top of the phone. Say someone calls you who's not in your address book. Your regular phone service will not identify the caller, but Hiya will. It will also add the helpful "spam suspected" warning to the call screen so you won't waste your time picking up the call.
  • Some unknown numbers -- we haven't really been able to figure out how Hiya determines which numbers -- will receive a text message thanking them for their call and asking them to identify themselves. In our experience, Hiya is smart enough to only send these messages to actual cell phones, and the caller gets the option to type in their name and their query. Robo callers will not do that, so problem solved. Hiya has sent these automated text messages to actual real new customers, but in our experience, they were not that bothered and simply typed in their name, got cleared by Hiya, and called again. 
  • Hiya's caller ID is incredibly powerful -- it will identify pretty much any caller. That's how Judy found out that CNN was calling her for an interview a few weeks ago (more on that in a future post).
  • You can look at your missed calls on your regular phone interface, but going to the Hiya interface identifies the caller quickly, so you can see, at one glance, if you missed a call from a potential or current client you might not have saved in your contacts. You can then prioritize those phone calls, for instance if you see that you missed a phone call from law firm XYZ.
  • In summary: I've been using Hiya for a few months and it's blocked at least 5-10 spam calls every day, which makes my work life more enjoyable and I actually enjoy answering the phone now because I have not taken one single robo call since I've had Hiya. It's definitely one of my favorite apps right now.
We hope you find this post helpful, dear colleagues! If you have found a similar solution that also works great, please do share it with the community. 

Meet a World Cup Interpreter: Anabella Tidona

Anabella at work at Fox for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
If you are like most sports fans, you've been busy watching the FIFA 2018 World Cup, right, dear readers? We've been watching as much as possible, even though our beloved Mexico lost to Brazil. One of the main reasons we are watching has nothing to do with football/soccer, and everything to do with interpreting. We have the pleasure of knowing several of the Los Angeles-based interpreters who were retained by an agency to interpret the interviews with players and coaches both before and after the matches (they get the feed from Russia). We have never interpreted on live television (and during one of the world's biggest sports events to boot!), so we cannot even begin to imagine how nerve-wrecking it would be. We had the chance to interview the Spanish interpreter for the World Cup, who worked for Fox through the above-mentioned interpreting agency. Anabella interpreted for several different countries and dozens of players of coaches for around 20 days. Judy has had the honor of sharing the interpreting booth and the courtroom with fellow federally certified interpreter Anabella Tidona, and without further ado, here's our interview with her. 


Translation Times: Congratulations on being one of the World Cup interpreters!  How did you prepare for this assignment?

Anabella Tidona: I was lucky that in the months leading to the tournament there were over the phone interviews with some players, that allowed me to ease into the subject. I would study each player’s career (which clubs he played for and in what position, some career highlights) and also their national team: coaching staff and teammates. 

The day before every match I would watch on the FIFATV channel on YouTube the pre-match press conference that my team would do. The FIFA interpreters are of exceptional quality and I sure learned from them too. The sound of the press conferences is recorded in two channels, one ear for the original language and the other ear for English interpretation. Be sure to listen with headsets to decide what you want to hear. Speakers can be overwhelming.
Go Mexico! Photo by Anabella Tidona.

Translation Times: Can you walk us through the logistics of your daily work for this assignment? Your call times were pretty early because of the time differences, right?

Anabella Tidona: Yes, that’s correct. We would arrive two hours before the beginning of the match and we would interpret the express interviews that the assistant coaches would give right after the squads arrived to the stadium. The infrastructure is amazing: many times we could see from a helicopter camera the bus with one of the national teams going from their hotel to the stadium.

We were also ready to interpret any half time interviews, although very few coaches granted those, and post-match interviews. Post-match interviews happen right after the ref blows the whistle. The players are still breathing hard from running, and the adrenaline is still pumping from the match.

Translation Times: Is it nerve-wrecking to be on live television? It would be for us.

Anabella Tidona: Not nerve-wrecking, but certainly exciting. Some players and coaches were predictable and some others surprised us with what they had to say!

Translation Times: What were the most challenging parts of this assignment?

Anabella Tidona: It’s pretty much live TV and there is no do-over. Post-match interviews happen by the side of the pitch and the stadium background noise is still there. 

Translation Times: What were the most rewarding parts of this assignment?

Anabella Tidona: The behind the scenes people making this whole thing possible. Very talented, hard-working and kind people. Everyone pulling together to make this look (and sound) great on TV.

Interpret this! Photo by Anabella.
Translation Times: Who was your favorite player to interpret? Or coach?

Anabella Tidona: Hirving Lozano (#22 Mexico) when he said the whole team busted their asses training (“nos partimos la madre entrenando”). They actually aired it like that.

Edinson Cavani (#21 Uruguay) during the post-match interview after having scored 2 goals against Portugal was a bitter sweet moment, because he was top scorer at that match but he left the pitch a few minutes before the game was over due to a calf injury. He was very emotional because he knew he would not be able to play the following match against France where they were finally eliminated.

Translation Times: Did you come up with a particular solution that you were really proud of that you’d like to share?

Anabella Tidona:  Really focus on the output, really hear yourself speak, one ear uncovered. Most of us were doing Retour into our English B, so we all tried our very best to sound good. Also, try to finish quickly at the end of the interview, does not look pretty when the interviewee walked away and the interpreter is still doing his or her rendition.

I would also listen to the interviews I interpreted previously and try to analyze what could be improved the following day.

Translation Times: Did you have a booth partner? 

Anabella Tidona: No, because the interviews very short in duration. 2 minutes tops.

Many thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Anabella!



Anabella Tidona is a Spanish interpreter based in Los Angeles, CA. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a degree in Political Science, a diploma in Conference Interpreting and a Masters in Medical Translation. The U.S. gave her the opportunity to forge her interpreting career and she has not stopped exploring all the different facets of the profession: conferences, TV, legal and medical. 




The Invisible Interpreter: We Haven't Seen Her

Yes, we are here. In a subpar tabletop booth.
Happy summer, dear readers, colleagues, friends from around this world? This summer, can we all make a pledge to stop being invisible as interpreters? Interpreters are not visible -- in fact, we see many interpreters in many different settings, and even if they are interpreting remotely, they are not technically invisible. We have not yet seen any invisible interpreters, have you? Yet our profession has often been referred to as "invisible," even from within our industry. We are not sure how that started, but we can collectively change it, can't we? 

Interpreters (and translators, for that matter, but we will focus on interpreters in this post) are crucial in myriad situations around the world every single day: war zones, courtrooms, medical clinics, diplomatic talks, international organizations, community centers, churches, schools, prisons, welfare offices--the list goes on and on. Many things in our world wouldn't happen without interpreters: defendants wouldn't have access to justice without interpreters, conference attendees around the world would not be able to understand the speakers, parents wouldn't be able to speak to their kids' teachers, patients wouldn't be able to speak to their doctors, and world leaders wouldn't be able to speak to each other. Interpreters are there, making it happen. Let's shine a light on them, honor them, support them, make them visible, and highlight their importance in making our world work. We are happy to see there's increased visibility now because of the historic US-North Korea meetings and family separations at the US-Mexico border (read about it here and here; Judy was cited in one of the articles).

Dear colleagues: will you join us in being more visible, whatever that means to you? Speaking up for better working conditions, perhaps, or insisting on getting information you need to be successful in your job ahead of time (does this sound familiar, conference interpreters?), fighting for better standards, standing up for our profession, supporting each other, etc.? Let's do it. 

Where's the PPT?

Today's post is about one of the big tribulations of conference interpreting: getting the conference materials you need ahead of time so you an review, research, prepare, and do a great job at the actual event. Fellow conference interpreters are probably already nodding their heads in agreement that unfortunately it can be very, very difficult to get clients to give conference interpreters the materials they need ahead of time. We don't really have a good answer as to why that is the case (we have some ideas, though), but here are some thoughts on this subject:


  • Contracts. In all our conference interpreting contracts, we always include a clause stating that all speaker PPTs, reference materials, etc. must be received no later than five days prior to the event. The deadline can be a bit flexible depending on when the conference is. Now, clients usually agree to this clause, but what if the deadline comes and goes and no materials have been sent: now what?
  • The options. One option is to enforce the contract--depending on how you have written it, of
    course--and state that you will not interpret unless materials have been received, as per the contract. The usually gets the client motivated to find the materials. Let's be clear: we know that conferences are complicated beasts with many moving parts. After all, we have been speakers at conferences ourselves, and we know they are logistical challenges. However, it's in everyone's best interest to get the interpreters the materials they need ahead of time: it's good for the audience, the speakers, the client, and of course the interpreters. If we had a nickel for every time someone said, "Oh, it's just general topics!" only to then have a speaker who made broad connections between cryptocurrencies and the price of steel in Nigeria at breakneck speed, we'd be sitting on a beach sipping cocktails out of a coconut. The other option you have is to tell the client that they will have to sign a document saying they will assume all responsibility for the quality of the interpretation because you, the interpreter(s) has/have not received the  documents that you need in order to do a good job. We like to tell clients that we are like surgeons: we can't operate without a scalpel and without knowing which surgery we are performing, no matter how skilled we are. Yet another option is to insist on none of these things and just do the best you can without any sort of material, which is scary and usually not the best option. But sometimes it's the only option. The problem is that if you do not do a good job, it will reflect poorly on you and only you: the audience will have no idea that you didn't have preparation materials for this conference on reverse financial hedging strategies. All they will know is that you didn't do well. And that's unfair, of course, because you have been set up to fail.
  • Don't get us wrong: many times, clients (usually an LSP) will go to great lengths to ensure that you get the speakers' slides and sometimes even the showflow (those are our favorite clients!) ahead of time. Once in a while we even receive translated (poorly translated, but still) PPTs from all speakers, which is amazing. Sometimes for conferences on financial topics and big industry conferences (think Consumer Electronics Show, where Judy interpreted in January), no materials will be released to anyone, period, because of confidentiality issues. Other times the LSP simply does not understand the value of getting the PPTs for the interpreters (a sign that this isn't a very good LSP if they do not understand the profession), and does not want to "bug" the end client for the slides. Other times speakers will be working on their slides until the very last minute and simply won't have anything to share until the 11th hour. We worked at a conference that featured the speaker changing his slides AFTER the rehearsal, which was about 10 minutes before it went live and was broadcast to the world. That was less than ideal, but we made it happen.
  • Roll with the punches. Like all interpreting fields, the working conditions in conference interpreting can be imperfect, and you need to be prepared for that fact. It does get tricky at times when you have to find the precarious balance between enforcing the minimum standards of what you need to do a good job and being flexible and providing good customer service to a client who might be working under less-than-ideal conditions himself or herself. Bottom line: don't be a diva but do insist on the basics. Here in the U.S. you'd be surprised how often the client does not see the need for a booth for conference interpreting in a large ballroom and wants to use mobile equipment instead! There's no real answer on how to best handle all this in general, and we've interpreted with both a full deck of translated PPT presentations and a complete showflow and at events where we have had no idea what was going to come out of the speakers' mouths; not even a general idea (those aren't good situations).
  • Find what works for you. In conclusion, the best you can do is find what works for you and stick to it as much as possible. It also depends a bit on the client and your relationship with them and your ability to decipher how much you can push without alienating them. Usually, explaining that we need a scalpel to do surgery, we mean, that we need a booth and preparation materials to do conference interpreting, is a good start for clients and LSPs alike. Another important point we like to make to clients is the following: You want your company to look good in other languages, right? Then give us the materials we need to so can prepare and make your company shine in the other language.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, dear fellow interpreters. 

SLAM! Conference in Sweden: Master Class (Direct Clients)

We are delighted to announce that Judy will be heading to Malmö, Sweden, to speak at the SLAM! (Scandinavian Language Associations' Meeting) Conference on September 15. Since Judy is a big fan of Scandinavia, it wasn't hard to convince her to come back to Sweden, and she will be giving the opening address of the SLAM! conference, which is a collaboration between the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish translation and interpretation associations. Check out the preliminary program here. In addition, she's giving a master class the day after the main conference, which is offered in conjunction with SLAM! but has a different sign-up here. The master class is titled: No Pain, No Gain: Active Marketing to Direct Clients and will be held on Sunday, September 16, 2018.

Many colleagues want to market to direct clients but can't quite figure out how to best approach this challenge. There's no easy answer, and as the title of the master class hints at, it might be a bit painful to get there (but it's worth it). The three-hour workshop includes everything Judy has learned in more than a decade working with direct clients and is divided into 1-hour segments. Bonus: since this will be held in Sweden, the workshop includes dedicated time for fika (essentially a coffee break with yes, coffee, tea and pastries). After the workshop, the idea is to perhaps get together with interested colleagues to head to an informal dinner to keep the conversation going and to nurture relationships.

Looking forward to seeing you there! 

Guest Post by Jesse Tomlinson: Who's Watching?


Who’s Watching?

You never know, do you? Even if you’re excellent at visualizing, it’s often impossible to guess who might be watching you when you put yourself out there.

What’s your ideal professional image? What are you transmitting? Is it consistent? Does it accurately reflect your business focus?

What’s in a client? They say it takes seven points of contact to get someone to like, know and trust you, which is what building client confidence is all about. When was the last time you worked with someone you didn’t particularly like? Chances are it was someone who gave you specialized service, someone so knowledgeable that even not liking them, you still wanted to work with them.

Direct Clients

Working with direct clients takes years of investing in professional relationships. Typical recent advice directs us to go to expos, become more knowledgeable in our fields, go to client events and be well versed in their companies, and current events generally – all activities that take years to cultivate.

But as you go about your day-to-day life, professionally and personally, it can be hard to separate your private and professional lives, because you never know in whose company you might find yourself, and whether those people might be potential clients, people who have heard of you, or even someone who is already your client but whom you had yet to meet in person!

Professionally you might have the idea that people are getting to know you, reading things you write, and perhaps even following your work on Twitter. I see myself as a go-after-clients kind of freelancer, but have you ever considered that clients are out there hunting you, too? Waiting to see how well you do with current projects so they can consider using your services in the future? Maybe mystery client 992 has a big initiative coming up in two years and is thinking carefully about who the lucky translator will be to do it.

Proz invited lucky li’l old me to participate on The Pros and Cons of Working with Direct Clients, a panel discussion with Patrick Weill and moderated by Paul Urwin, Sept 26 2017, in honor of International Translation Day. This was a big moment for me and a great experience. But I never imagined that a former major US network news anchor (someone I had known for two years) would be watching and noting what I was saying about translation! I was taken aback. And that’s when I realized that most of us can’t imagine who is watching or listening in on our professional careers.

Paying attention to who could be watching us professionally is a no-brainer, right? But what about when we are wandering the world at large, casually and “off-duty”? Is there ever “off-duty” for a freelancer?

Clients, Clients Everywhere

You may have heard that airplanes are great places to meet clients, and interesting people in general. But have you ever thought that every single person you sit next to on an airplane is a potential client or source of referrals? Thinking this way is a good start to meeting more potential direct clients.

Everything you do matters. Every interaction counts. And it all adds up to the reputation you want to cultivate as a business person.

I was recently a dinner for fifteen, at a private residence where I had already met six of those present. It was a lively night with much heated controversial conversation and opinions flying high. About four hours in, a woman there told me she knew exactly who I was. She was one of my clients whom I had never met, and since we had only exchanged first names when casually introduced earlier in the evening I hadn’t made the link to my professional connection with her. It was a great reminder that you never know who you’ll run into, even when you’re in casual mode with friends.

Who’s watching you?



Jesse Tomlinson is an interpreter, translator, and voice talent. Originally from Canada, she now lives in Mexico and translates from Spanish into English and interprets in both languages. 

She is currently translating Latin American authors born in the 1980s into English for Proyecto Arraigo. See her essay on uprooting (“La vida sin limones”) at http://bit.ly/la-vida-sin-limones. Contact: jesse@tomlinsontranslations.com.

5 Truths About Court Interpreting

Image source: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2794.htm
Both our interpreting students and beginning court interpreters colleagues pursing certification regularly ask us about what it's really like to be a working court interpreter. As Judy is a federally certified Spanish court interpreter, she is going to (partially, of course) answer this question  with 5 cold, hard truths that you might not have learned at university or during your training. In no particular order, here they are:

1) You will be scared/intimidated at times. It's fine. Tennis great John McEnroe is not known for his deep insight, but rather for his tantrums on the court (tennis court, not justice court!), but he did once say something along the lines that if you don't have butterflies in your stomach before a match (or in our case, a court hearing) you simply don't care enough. Judy still has occasional butterflies, and the situation usually merits it. A lot is at stake in court, and they are somber and serious occasions with real consequences for people who are right next to you. It's not for the faint of heart. You might have become complacent when you don't feel any sort of nervous tension at all, ever. Embrace the butterflies. Your work is important and relevant, and sometimes the weight of it will affect you.

2) Stopping proceedings is not really a (good option). It's true that we are taught that you should interrupt proceedings and ask the court (meaning the judge) for permission to look up a word if you don't know it, as guessing is never an acceptable alternative in court. While this is, in theory, true, Judy hasn't seen it done once in 10 years in court. Things move so fast, are so hectic and often so contentious that there usually simply isn't a good time to say: "The interpreter requests permission to look up a term." So the best thing you can do is to train your brain to not have that "out" and be prepared. Overprepare. Obsess about terminology. You must know it once you enter a courtroom. Realistically, you won't have time to look up terminology, so you better know your stuff. If this thought scares you, that's a good thing. Fear is a good motivator. Go and study some more terminology.

3) Sticking to the code of ethics can be a significant challenge. Codes of ethics are key, but they can also be confusing and too general, and, no pun intended, they are open for interpretation. Being impartial is one of the key aspects of the codes of ethics for court interpreters in all states, and it can be harder than it seems. It's also about avoiding the appearance of impartiality, which includes not talking to non-English speakers unless you are interpreting. It takes three people for interpreting to take place, and you are not to have side conversations with anyone. This is oftentimes harder than you think, as witnesses and defendants may want to have a friendly chat. Avoid it. If an attorney asks you to explain something to his or her client, say that you will interpret anything they want, but that you will never explain (the lawyers do the explaining, while the interpreters do the interpreting). When in doubt about the code of ethics, go for the strictest interpretation of it possible. You don't want to have the reputation of not being impartial. Your career very much depends on, in part, sticking to the code of ethics. It's better to be a stickler for the rules than to be dragged in front of the ethics committee.

4) It will be heartbreaking and difficult. You will see grown men cry, you will see teenagers get sentenced to 10 years in prison, you will see families get ripped apart. You will witness injustice, incompetent lawyers, petty disputes between the prosecution and the defense, needless motions, angry judges, overworked bailiffs, upset family members and much, much more. The American justice system is very much imperfect, but it's the one we have. As a court interpreter, your job is not to change it or to advocate for anyone, but rather to interpret. You do it if everyone is crying (and you don't cry). You do it even if it's hard or if something is happening that you completely disagree with. You solider on and do your job. No one cares about what you think and about how it affects you. This may not be what you want to hear, but it's the reality of the profession. And yes, you may interpret for child molesters, wife killers, and those who deal meth by the kilos. Be ready.

5) Respect is earned. As a new interpreter, you might find the pace impossible, and  we hate to tell you this, but no one will slow down for you. Attorneys, courtroom administrators, law clerks and all other players in the courtroom are busy people, and their dockets, desks and calendars are full. The last thing they need is a struggling interpreter, and while that seems unfair for beginners, that's the way it is. Be ready to perform at a high level after getting certified, and don't rush into interpreting in open court until you really are ready. Being certified is great, but it's the minimum requirement. All parties usually have high expectations of court interpreters, as they should. Earn their respect by going above and beyond: arrive early and impeccably dressed in business attire, put away your cell phone, be prepared for your case, don't interrupt, know where to sit, stand and hand in your paperwork, be respectful to everyone, don't take sides, don't give advice, introduce yourself to attorneys you don't know, etc. Court interpreters are an integral part of the American judiciary and of everyday court proceedings, but oftentimes we hear interpreters complain that they don't get the respect they deserve. The flip side of this coin is that attorneys oftentimes complain that interpreters are late and poorly dressed, which is unacceptable. Who's right? We don't know, but we have certainly witnessed plenty of tardiness and (yes, really) completely inappropriate apparel. When in doubt, wear a black suit. It's quite a thrill to get mistaken for the judge, which happens to Judy on a regular basis. 


We hope you have enjoyed these five short truths! We'd be delighted to hear your thoughts.

The Interpreting Olympics


As readers of this blog may have recently discovered, we like to draw analogies between sports and interpreting, mainly because well, we are pretty serious athletes ourselves and because we are tired of the same old analogies about interpreting.

During this month's 2018 Olympics in Korea, we are reminded, as you would expect, of the Olympic spirit of competition and sportsmanship. We especially loved Olympic gold medalist figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu motioning for his fellow medalists to join him on the top of the podium. Shoma Uno and Javier Fernández (who took a historic bronze for Spain), and in a touching moment, they all embraced on top of the podium. Uno and Fernández initially seemed to think that Hanyu was only motioning for them to come closer, but no, he wanted them to share the moment with him as equals. It was a touching gesture that's oftentimes done in Olympics, but it's powerful every time.

And perhaps this Olympic moment can serve as an important reminder that in the profession of interpreting, we are all in it together. It's not a competition, and while some of us might have a higher profile than others, get more glamorous assignments, have more visibility than others, have more followers on social media platforms, have cooler clients and higher rates, travel more or less than others, or get more coverage in the media than others, we should keep in mind that we must all work together to further our profession.  We are, essentially, all equals. No matter your language or your skill level (let's face it: there are skills differentials) or whether you are a high-flying diplomatic interpreter or do thousands of cases in dingy courtrooms for non-glamourous cases, you are just as important as every other interpreter. Oftentimes in our profession we don't realize that we need to be each others' best allies and fans in order to strengthen our profession from within. It is true and correct that we also have to work with the outside world to increase visibility and improve rates and working conditions, but let's not forget that it all starts from within. Let's ask each other to join each other on the proverbial podium. Let's celebrate each other's succcesses and get inspired by them: just like Olympic athletes. This analogy may or not be a stretch, but perhaps we can get a medal for trying to make it. Go #teaminterpreters! 
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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