The Month in Numbers: Interpreting

Here's a summary of Judy's interpreting adventures during the month of June. This is meant to be taken with a grain of salt and a bit of Friday sense of humor.

  • Spanish-language interpreting assignments: 95%
  • German-language interpreting assignments: 5%
  • Court appearances in district/justice court: 1
  • Court appearances in family court: 0
  • Number of depositions: 17 (including cancelled, postponed and cannot-find-deponent depositions)
  • Escort interpreting assignments: 1
  • Number of times court clerk or court reporter wanted to swear me in as a court translator: 7
  • Number of times an attorney fell asleep during a deposition: can't say; well, OK...5 times
  • Number of objections voiced by opposing counsel to the other counsel's questions: lost track (in the hundreds)
  • Amount of times an attorney wanted to state for the record that he or she found another attorney to be offensive, rude or inappropriate: 4
  • Percentage of deponents who really did speak English and did not need a court interpreter: 15 (guesstimate)
  • Amount of times interpreter had to ask for repetition because of mumbling speakers: too many to count
  • Miles driven to and from interpreting projects: exactly 200 
  • Amount of extra-soft European tissues shared with anyone who needs this this month: 0 (it was a good month)
  • Dictionaries and books brought to every assignment: Holly Mikkelson's The Interpreter's Companion and Dennis McKenna's Criminal Court Dictionary
  • Amount of times I looked anything up in these dictionaries: 0
  • Blunder of the month: could not think of the English translation of "perejil" (parsley) fast enough. 
  • Person who came to my rescue: an attorney
  • Longest amount of time spent searching for car in the parking garage after assignment: 15 minutes
  • Percentage of law firms who paid their May invoices within 30 days: 100%
It was a good month indeed! How did June go for you?

Happy Friday, dear readers!

Video: Medical Interpreting in the Netherlands

One of our favorite newsletters, The Interpreter's Launch Pad, is out today--and it's Interprenaut's first birthday: congratulations! As usual, this newsletter, which we highly recommend, is packed with fascinating information about the world of interpreting. It also included this thought-provoking video about the importance of professional interpreters in the medical sector in the Netherlands. Please share it with friends and colleagues!

Making the Call

Invariably, at some point in their careers, translators and interpreters will have outstanding invoices that do not get paid in a timely manner. While we have been quite lucky on this front, we have had to make extra efforts to get some invoices paid -- usually one or two a year. Recently, a new interpreting client in the U.S. had an outstanding invoice that had been on the books for some 35 days.

Instead of sending an e-mail, Judy tried an old-fashioned method: the telephone. Sure, it's fallen in disuse, but it's a powerful way to communicate. It's immediate and a bit uncomfortable for all parties: perfect for a please-provide-payment call. The entire call did not take more than five minutes. Judy called the main number for the law firm and kindly inquired who the correct contact person for accounting would be. She was promptly transferred to the office manager. Judy briefly introduced herself, said that she'd e-mailed the invoice to the attorney (as agreed with him) and gently asked when she might expect payment on the overdue invoice. She also mentioned that it was a small sum and that the reason she was calling was to make sure nothing had slipped through the cracks. Turns out the mortified office manager had never seen the invoice because the attorney had apparently not given the invoice to her for payment. She promised to take care of it immediately and Judy agreed to e-mail the invoice again. She did, and sure enough: two days later, she received the check in the mail. Sometimes a call really is more effective than e-mail.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Take a deep breath. You might be a bit nervous, but it's just a phone call. 
  • Sit in a quiet room. Make sure there are no barking dogs or children within earshot.
  • Be friendly, but firm. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt, especially if this is the first time you have an issue with the customer.
  • No diatribes. Say what you need to say, but keep it brief. Then pause for a few moments and give the other person a chance to respond.
  • Don't threaten anyone. Be polite and accommodating -- it's easier to get paid this way.
  • Offer solutions, including sending the invoice again via the postal service, etc.
  • Ask to be added to the customer's vendor database to prevent future glitches in the payment process.
  • Be gracious. This might very well be an isolated incident and this customer might turn out to be a superstar long-term client (that's happened to us).
What about you, dear readers? When do you pick up the phone? We would love to hear from you. 

Your Courtroom Ally

If you are a court  interpreter like Judy, chances are you spend a lot of time inside courtrooms. So who's the most helpful person there if you are a court interpreter? The judge? The law clerk? The district attorney? Read on for Judy's take on this.

It only took me a few days during my Nevada-mandated court observing hours (40 of them) to realize who my most important ally in the courtroom would be. I'd wander into a random courtroom, confused because I couldn't figure out the docket and wondering whether I could get the hours of observation that I needed that day. Luckily, someone came to my rescue. The most helpful folks in the courtroom and in the courthouse will:

  • Help you get the right piece of paper you need to get paid by the courts
  • Hand you the correct schedule of appearances for the day
  • Tell you which cases have already been heard
  • Convince the court clerk to get your cases heard earlier so you don't have to wait around
  • Perhaps let you get away with things you aren't supposed to do in a courtroom, such as check your smartphone and read a book during breaks (as long as you do so discreetly)
  • If it's a big enough courthouse, these nice folks might be stationed at a variety of places. If it's a small courthouse, they do everything. They might save you the trouble of going through the metal detector if they know who you are, thus ensuring a longer life for your cream-colored briefcase (I have one).
  • Tell you what's really going on in the judge's court, even if the judge insists her drug court is highly effective. Ask the most helpful person in the courtroom how many defendants he or she has seen before and the number will be close to 100%. These folks have no political agenda. It's quite refreshing!
  • Share their food with you if you look hungry and are lusting after their donuts, even though you're not supposed to eat in the courtroom
  • Make you feel safe, no matter how intimidating the defendant in the orange jumpsuit.
  • Really make you appreciate a man/woman in uniform.
  • Never get stressed out, lose a piece of paper, or lose their composure
  • Get tough if they have to be, and sometimes that's a good thing
Who are these marvelous, hard-working, in-the-know, humble, discreet and sometimes flexible superstars of the courtroom? Meet the bailiffs/marshals (in Clark County, they recently unionized and went from being bailiffs to being marshals). There are a lot of wonderful people in the courthouse, but the marshals take the prize, hence this little ode to them. If you are beginning court interpreter, I suggest you make friends with these wonderful creatures. Next time, the donuts are on me!  

Intro to Translation: Online Class at UC San Diego

On June 26, Judy will start teaching an all-online class for the University of California-San Diego extension. The five-week Introduction to Translation will give students the basics to get started in the industry. Judy has proudly served on the advisory board of the Spanish/English translation and interpretation certificate program at UC San Diego, and has now happily accepted to teach a few online classes. This class is part of the English/Spanish certificate program and costs $225. Fluency in both Spanish and English is required. We are big proponents of online education, especially in the US, where we have relatively few T&I programs, and UC San Diego is a fantastic program! Learn more and sign up if you are interested.  And yes, there will be homework. 

T&I Video: Participate Now!

As many of you might know, our friends Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche are publishing a much-awaited book, Found in Translation in October. You can pre-order it on In Trans Book Service and other sites. Now they've decided to take on a fun project in conjunction with the book: a video starring all of us, if we want! You can make a short video with any simple camera or smartphone, and all you have to do is say ''I am an interpreter" in your non-English language or hold up a sign that says "I am a translator" in your non-English language. For more information, please click here. The video only has to be 10 seconds long. Dagy already made hers in Vienna (the Danube canal), and the Vegas video should be completed soon. We hope many colleagues participate and cannot wait to see the full video.
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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