Interpreting: Online FCICE Prep Course with Ernesto Nino-Murcia

It's that time again: the oral portion of the FCICE (Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam) is being offered again in mid-2017, and if you are thinking about taking it, you should definitely already be preparing for it. Our friends at MATI (Midwest Association of Interpreters and Translators) have helped eliminate geographical boundaries, which make it much easier and cost-effective to attend these preparation courses, as they are being offered via Facebook Live. Our esteemed colleague and Judy's fellow federally certified interpreter Ernesto Nino-Murcia is not only a fantastic interpreter, but also a great instructor, as we've seen for ourselves during his presentations at several conferences. We've heard nothing but outstanding feedback about the courses he's offering through MATI, and no, we are not getting paid to say this! Here's the link to sign up. Best of luck on the exam and keep us posted.

Here's to a healthy and happy 2017 -- and maybe to passing the FCICE!  

Upcoming Classes: University of Denver and University of California-San Diego

Another exciting year in the world of T&I is coming to an end, and we'd like to thank all our friends and readers for following this blog, for reading it, and for being part of our fantastic community.

Before we head to Berlin to celebrate the arrival of 2017, we wanted to give you some information about upcoming online classes that Judy will be teaching in the next few weeks. Her class at the University of Denver is brand-new: the 10-week online class titled "The Language Services Business for Translators and Interpreters" is part of UD's master's degree program. Please read on for more information:

1) University of California, San Diego-Extension (online): Introduction to Translation. This popular five-week course starts January 10, 2017. Spanish/English. No prerequisites. Tuition: $250.
2) University of California, San Diego-Extension (online): Introduction to Interpretation. Starting February 14, 2017, aspiring interpreters can get a solid overview of the profession to decide if it's for them. Spanish/English. No prerequisites. Tuition: $250.
3) University of Denver (online): The Language Services Business for Translators and Interpreters. This brand-new 10-week class will commence January 3, 2017. It's part of a master's degree program in Global Studies at the University of Denver, so there are some prerequisites. Language-neutral. Tuition: $628.

Have a happy and healthy start into 2017!

Risks and Rewards

As the end of the year approaches (time flies, doesn't it?) we wanted to discuss, very briefly, something that is near and dear to every entrepreneur's heart: risk. You can't be an entrepreneur and move your business forward without taking any risks, but oftentimes we see ourselves as linguists first and entrepreneurs second, and we've always proposed doing it the other way around. Now, what kind of risks are we talking about here? Allow us to elaborate.

  • New clients. While keeping the status quo is always easier and a lot less work, sometimes you might have to take a risk to get better clients if you don't already have them. This might be risky because you'd invest time looking for better clients than taking work from, say, lower-paying clients (the safe bet), but in order to get better clients, this is a risk you need to take. You won't get better clients (and you can define "better" in a variety of ways) just by wishing for them. There's always a downside to risk, but there's also a downside to not taking it.
  • Investments. At some point in your career you will have to make relatively small investments to further your business. We are in the lucky position that we have no hard labor costs, no offices, no expensive capital investments, etc., but there will be some things you need, such as specialized software or perhaps a public relations service to increase your company's profile. You don't always know ahead of time if these small or large expenses will work out for you, because unfortunately you don't have a crystal ball, but there's only one way to find out.
  • Networking. This may seem like a small issue, but oftentimes we hear of linguists who don't want to take time away from a busy work schedule to carve out time for networking and meeting new people. It might seem counterintuitive to give up paid work to head to an event that might or might not result in new clients, but continuous client acquisition is something you always have to do. The risk here is relatively low, and all you'd be potentially giving up is a few hours of work, but thanks to the nature of our work, you might be able to make up those hours after you return home.
ONe of our main points here is: if you don't like something in your business, you need to work on changing it. Complaining to your colleagues about it might be therapeutic in the short run, but it doesn't change your situation. So go ahead, take baby steps and take a small risk today. We hope it works out -- but not all of it will, which is just the nature of risk. Best of luck!

Job Posting: In-House at Epic (German)

Today's brief blog post is a job announcement that we received because the company in question, Epic, was asking if Judy would be interested in applying. As you might expect, we are not looking to transition from business owners to in-house translators, but there are many advantages to working in-house (been there, done that). First and foremost: a steady paycheck and benefits. Full disclosure: we have absolutely no ties to Epic (a leading healthcare software company), and we are posting this job announcement here for them as a courtesy in the hopes that readers of this blog will perhaps find it interesting. We'd love to know if you applied for the job and/or get it. Please keep us posted! These positions are located in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here are the details:

We're hiring a team of full-time in-house German translators at Epic (all will be based in Madison, WI). 

Here’s a little more about working at Epic and info on the German Translation openings

Should You Wear a Suit?

Happy Friday, dear colleagues! Today's quick post is meant for interpreters, especially court interpreters, and the answer to this very simple question should be: yes.

We put on suits for you. Photo by Ulf Buchholz.
Oftentimes in our profession we battle with the fact that we might not be perceived as true professionals by others, which is disheartening. However, we haven't always done ourselves a favor by not sticking to some basic rules of business, and one of them is professional dress. We've seen plenty of underdressed court interpreters, or interpreters who reveal too much, or interpreters who wear clothes that are too tight or simply inappropiate for professional situations. One of the ways we can ensure that outsides to the industry take our profession seriously is by dressing professionally--we have to advance the industry from the inside out. And dressing professionally is something that we can very easily do. You don't have to spend a fortune to look good, and just get a few suits that fit well and have "court" written all over them. In fact, you do want to get mistaken for an attorney, as that is usually a good sign (Judy gets addressed as "counsel" at least once a day).

So what say you, dear colleagues? How about we advocate for the professionalism and importance of our industry without having to say a word? Clothes might sound trite in the big scheme of things, but they are key and also very much contribute to first (and second, and third) impressions. So the next time you ask yourself the "Should I wear a suit question?" we have an answer for you: yes, put on that suit and go interpret and conquer. Save the comfy outfits for home and the tight and revealing choices for a night on the town.

We'd love to hear your comments.

Celebrating Each Other: Happy International Translation Day

Congratulations to all our lovely friends and colleagues around the world! September 30 is International Translation Day, and we celebrate St. Jerome, but of course that includes interpreters as well.

Instead of announcing some cool new conference or celebration, may we suggest we all do something very simple to strengthen our community and our profession? It goes like this:

1.) Find a colleague who happens to be in your city permanently or on business/vacation. Pick someone you have never met before or someone you don't know well.
2.) Drop him or her an e-mail (or call!) and extend an invitation. It can be for coffee, for dinner, for drinks--whatever works. 
3.) Meet up, enjoy, and network! You will have probably made a new friend, and if not, a new colleague. There's nothing quite like breaking bread, sharing a glass of wine, or just talking with someone you don't know well (yet), but who is in your same industry.

Judy has started with this and has invited a lovely colleague who's visiting from Argentina to stay at her house for a few days--it should be a lot of fun.

What do you think, dear colleagues? Will you join us in celebrating our profession and each other?

Let's Talk About Rates

Image created on
Our lovely colleague Jo Rourke of Silver Tongue Translations in the UK is hosting a live chat to discuss something that's very near and dear to all translators' hearts: rates

It's oftentimes not discussed enough, mainly due to restrictions on doing so (price fixing), but these are important conversations to be had, especially for newcomers to the profession. The live chat is completely free, but is limited to the first 100 linguists who sign up. It will also feature some give-aways! Here's the link. There's even a cool video! Please join Jo for this awesome-sounding event on Wednesday, October 5th at 8 p.m. London time, which is 12 pm Pacific and 3 pm Eastern here in the U.S. We just signed up ourselves.

Business Pitfalls: The Trouble With E-Mail

It's Labor Day here in the U.S., and while we are not working that much today, we wanted to leave you, dear readers, with a brief post about business practices.

For better or for worse, the vast majority of business communication most of us do is via e-mail, and while as translators we know that the written medium is a fantastic choice for many things, it also has myriad limitations. People could read things into it that you did not mean, the tone can come across differently than you intended it to (especially if you have a quirky writing style and the other person does not know you well), you can come across as too direct or not direct enough, etc. In spoken communication, especially when we are actually looking at each other, things are easier because non-verbal communication is an essential part of communication that makes it easy for humans to decipher the other's intent by evaluating tone, body language, pitch of voice, etc. We don't have that in written communication, and we need to be aware of this fact. By that we don't mean adding emoticons to business e-mails (we actually highly discourage you from doing so), but we mean that you should be very careful about what you put in writing.

We recently worked on a large legal case that included a government subpoena and some 1.1 million e-mails, and we bet that none of the people who wrote those e-mails ever expected anyone other than the recipient to read them--this in spite of the well-known fact that e-mail is never truly private. We think it's essential to keep in mind that you should never put anything in writing that you wouldn't feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. This is a little internal test that we use quite frequently, and it works for us.  Here are a few other e-mail tips you might find useful:

  • Don't send e-mails when you are angry. It's fine to write them, but just don't hit the "send" button until you have let some time pass. Let the message sit for a few hours or a few days (as long as it's not urgent), and come back to it later. Keep in mind that you usually can't take back what you have written, so think before hitting "send."
  • Have someone give you a sanity check. For very important communication via e-mail, we look over each other's e-mail to make sure the tone is right. It's good to have someone double-check your messages, especially if you have any doubt about whether what you are writing is appropiate. Of course you shouldn't need to do this very frequently, but probably just a few times a year or so.
  • If you have any doubt about whether you should send the message or not, don't send it. Your instincts are probably good, so delete the message and start over.
  • Be brief. Judy has a tendency to write e-mails that are too long for everyone, so she's worked hard on changing that, and has also tried to learn from her lawyer husband who's fantastic at writing succinct messages. Read through the message again before sending it and see if you can strip out unnecessary sections. It's a sign of good writing, and your e-mails are also more likely to be read that way.
What about you, dear colleagues and readers? Is there anything you would like to add to this non-exhaustive list? We look forward to reading your comments. 

ATA Annual Conference: Advanced Skills & Training Day

Time flies, doesn't it? Our favorite week of the year is almost around the corner, and readers of this blog will know that we are talking about the annual conference of the American Translators Association (ATA). This will be the 57th conference (amazing, huh?) held in gorgeous San Francisco, and as the organization is constantly striving to improve the conference, there's something somewhat new this year. 

What used to be the pre-conference is now a full day of three-hour courses taught by the most popular ATA speakers and it's called Advanced Skills & Training Day. This year it will be held on November 2, and Judy is delighted to have been invited to present a three-hour session titled "Seven Ways to Actively Market to Direct Clients." It runs from 8:30 am to 12 pm and includes a networking break. The session is language neutral and is limited to 25 participants. You will learn how to create a strategy to find those elusive direct clients and how to keep them happy. Come prepared to learn innovative client acquisition techniques you may not yet have thought of. 

Other fantastic sessions include:

These sessions are $150 each and are in addition to your ATA conference registration. Caveat: the ATA requires that attendees sign up for the entire conference in order to be able to attend AST, you must sign up for the entire conference. See you in San Francisco, dear friends and colleagues?

Tuesday Laughs: Voice Recognition Meets Scottish Accent

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! We know there's a lot happening in the world of voice recognition, and here's a humurous take on it. Many thanks to our lovely colleague Willy Martínez in Argentina for sending us this gem. Enjoy!

Packing Technique: Carry-On Only

Both of us travel quite a bit for both work and for fun, but mostly it seems that we are on the road for work these days. Judy greatly prefers to travel with carry-on only, and most her trips involves getting on an airplane, while Dagy takes a lot of trains in Europe. In the last eight weeks, we've been to: Mexico City, Boston, Reno/Tahoe, Vegas (for Dagy, as Judy lives here), Houston, and Washington, D.C.

Judy's masterpiece in Washington, D.C.
A few years ago, we learned a very easy packing technique that we cannot live without: the rolling packing technique. It involves rolling all your clothes because it allows you to fit an extraordinary amount of clothes into a carry-on. Typically, we are able to fit all of this into our trusted carry-on using this techinique:

  • Up to 5 dresses and/or skirts (summer dresses; winter is an entirely different issue)
  • One business suit (we don't roll the jacket and rather fold it on the very top; can get a bit wrinkly)
  • Up to 6 tops (short-sleeved or without sleeves)
  • Running shoes, pair of dress heels for work, flip-flops
  • Packing cube with underwear, scarves, socks, etc.
  • Packing cube with laptop charger cables, other chargers, etc.
  • Laptop (oftentimes we have to fit the laptop in our rolling carry-on because otherwise, with a laptop bag and a purse, we'd have three carry-ons, which is one too many)
There's no way we would be able to fit this much without the rolling packing technique and yes, the right carry-on (here's our recent favorite). We don't have an elaborate technique for folding and then rolling--we just wing it (but there are plenty of experts on YouTube who will show you exactly how to do it). Check out this video about the rolling technique. We also like this packing guide

What about you, dear colleagues? Any travel secrets you would like to share?  

Interpreting and Flying: The Connection

At the tiny airport in Ixtapa, Mexico. Photo by Judy.
Today's quick post is about two of our favorite things: interpreting and flying. Yes, we love to fly, and we fly a lot. Neither of us knows how to fly a plane, even though Judy's recent Google searches include "private pilot classes in Las Vegas." We've often thought about the similarities between interpreting and flying, and if you think that's a stretch, hear us out.

Once the plane--no matter how big or small, a Cessna, a C-130, a Boeing 737 or anything in between--is in the air, there's only one way to bring it down safely: by landing the thing. The same is true for interpreting: once the microphone has been switched on, or you have simply started interpreting without equipment, the plane has left the runway and you have to keep on going. There's no turning back in interpreting, and only one way to land the proverbial plane: by finishing the job that you have started. Again, we've never flown a plane, but we've been inside thousands of them, and in a way, we bet the adrenaline one must feel getting behind those controls is not that different from a high-profile (or not) interpreting assignment. Something we've learned along the way, while interpreting at international events, for presidents, CEOs, judges, lawyers, doctors, defendants, diplomats and everyone in between, is that starting an interpreting job means needing to finish it, no matter how scary or difficult the assignment is. The same is true for flying: the landing might not always be pretty or smooth, but you have to do it to complete the job and keep everyone safe. 

If you are a new interpreter and are trying to get used to landing the plane, we'd like to suggest that you train your brain to keep on going by forcing yourself to interpret every video and audio file you have clicked on. Keep on going, even if it doesn't feel great and it's not a great "flight." It's important to get used to the fact that you have to keep on going, no matter what. If you are lucky enough to work in formal conference interpreting situations, you will have a co-pilot, err, booth partner, to come rescue you, but in all other interpreting scenarios (legal, medical, community), you usually don't. Happy interpreting and flying! 

Mentoring Conference Interpreters in Austria

Dagy recently had the pleasure of being a mentor to young interpreters at the 3rd International Conference on Family-Centered Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Bad Ischl/Austria. Following an initiative by the president of the Austrian Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association UNIVERSITAS Austria, Alexandra Jantscher-Karlhuber, the conference organizers agreed to give recent interpreting graduates who are part of the UNIVERSITAS Austria mentoring program a chance to show their skills, assisted by a total of four mentors who would take over when things called for an experienced interpreter, which happened considerably less often than you would think. Here's Dagy's report from this event.

The conference was a fascinating experience for those of us who like myself had never had any contact with the deaf community. What struck me was the excellent organization, the fact that dozens of speakers provided their PowerPoint presentations weeks (!) in advance and the general great ambience among conference attendants.
The organization was quite a challenge from the technical side, catered to everybody’s communication needs, and included a large array of language professionals showing their skills, ranging from sign language interpreters for as many as five different national sign languages to spoken language interpreters from English to German and vice versa as well as colleagues doing the captioning for speeches delivered in spoken language (provided for those who are hard of hearing and don’t understand sign language).
Our delegation included a total of 17 people who handled all kinds of different interpreting needs, including keynote speeches delivered in American sign language and interpreted into spoken English and from there into German. For the presentations delivered in spoken English, our booth was a relais meaning that the Austrian sign language interpreters used the German interpretation to provide theirs. This called for very exact interpreting, and the mentees did a great job at that.
As a mentor to these recent interpreting graduates, I was deeply impressed by their skills and dedication, both prior to the conference and during these three days. They ploughed through countless presentations to create glossaries on subjects ranging from a documentary about deaf role models in Kenya, traditional family structures and their impact on the health system in New Zealand, and the psychological aspects of decision-making processes by parents with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, to name just a few. The conference also included the typical frustrating experiences (which seemed to annoy me more than the mentees) such as presentation delivered at breakneck speed by a South African researcher, highly intangible subject matters and hard-to-understand accents. My fellow interpreters soldiered through it all. One of them, after a particularly challenging speech that left even the mentor exhausted, still said: “Interpreting is the best job in the universe.” Hearing her say that affirmed my belief that she has indeed chosen the right career path. Mentees with such passion and excellent skills assure me that the future of interpreting is in great hands. 

Upcoming Conferences: Denver, Houston, Philadelphia

Happy summer to all of you, dear readers! Summer is usually not our main conference season, but here are two great events in July that you might enjoy and one in September in Philadelphia. Please contact the organizers if you have any questions about the content or registration.

CAPI General Member Meeting and Educational Conference (Golden/Denver, July 9 and 10: Colorado Association of Professional Interpreters): Our friends at CAPI have put together a fantastic two-day event in the gorgeous Denver area. They say one goes to Denver for the winter, but stays for the summers, so this is a great opportunity for you to get lots of continuing education credits and enjoy the spectacular beauty of Colorado. The speaker-line up features a nurse examiner who will address the issue of interpreting sexual assault testimony, a workshop on sight translation, medical terminology in the courtroom, and much more. This conference is designed for interpreters.

The Entrepreneurial Linguist at HITA (Houston, July 30: Houston Interpreters and Translators Association): Judy is delighted to be the only presenter at this four-hour workshop at the University of Houston, organized by HITA. Come learn how to be an entrepreneurial linguist. The HITA website will have more information in a few days. Be sure to check back!

East Coast Interpreters and Translators Summit (Philadelphia, September 10): Our friends at DVTA (Delaware Valley Translators Association) have a long history of organizing top-notch conferences, and they are one of the most active ATA (American Translators Association) chapters in the country. In addition to fantastic speakers, with topics ranging from time management to Word formatting tricks and transcription techniques, DVTA is also offering an ATA certification exam the day after the conference. Have a look at the flyer here.

Becoming a Better Interpreter

We oftentimes get this question from beginners, students, those trying to achieve certification, and everyone in between. We are also constantly striving to become  better interpreters ourselves, as there is no finish line: this is a lifelong journey. We've long tried to dispense short nuggets of advice to those who ask, but we are simply unable to answer every e-mail with this question, so we promised we'd do a blog post about this important subject. Please keep in mind that not all these suggestions will apply to all linguists and that everyone's individual situation is different and might warrant a very individualized approach. Having said that, without further ado, here's a short (and by no means comprehensive) list of our favorite ways to become a better interpreter:

  1. Go outside of your comfort zone. You won't improve if you always interpret the same things and topics.
  2. Practice every day (or every week); no matter what. Be consistent. Be accountable to yourself. Can you commit to 10 minutes a day? A week? Great. Now go do it. Make it part of your daily routine.
  3. Learn new vocabulary in both (or all) your languages. The more synonyms and alternate expressions you know, the better. The bigger your vocabulary, the better. And yes, you have to do this the hard way: by memorizing and then actually using new words.
  4. Acquire new knowledge. The broader your knowledge, the better an interpreter you will be. If a keynote speaker at a conference keeps on referring to her PR without much context and you know a bit about sports, you'd know she's talking about her personal record. And you can only interpret what you know and understand.
  5. Question what you know. Just because you've used a particular term for 10 years doesn't mean it's necessarily the right one. Perhaps it was never right, or perhaps there's a better term now. Language changes and evolves. Stay up-to-date on the trends. Be humble.
  6. Learn from others. Observe others who are better interpreters than you are. Listen to their recordings if they are willing to share and learn and grow.
  7. Contribute practice materials to sites like Speechpool so we all have more material to hone our skills. Developing speeches is also good for your interpreting skills. 
  8. Join a practice group. If there isn't one that fits your needs, start one. It doesn't have to be in person. The internet is your friend.
  9. Get unbiased feedback. Surround yourself with colleagues who will tell you the truth about your performance. Take a class if you can't find anyone unbiased and get good feedback from the professor.
  10. Work on your voice. Research has shown that clients (=actual users of interpreting services) are attracted to pleasant voices. Work on your entonation and your breathing. Hire a vocal coach if your voice and/or your speech needs an adjustment (we've done that and are happy with the results).
  11. Finish your sentences. Don't leave the listener hanging. Finish the sentence you've started, even if it's a struggle and even if it's not the most beautiful thing you've come up with.
  12. Move on. If you don't like the way you solved a particular sentence, that's OK. Interpreting is mostly ephemeral, and if you stumble, pretend you are an ice skater. Get back up and keep on skating, err, interpreting. If it makes you feel better: most of the time you will actually sound better than you feel.  
  13. Don't be too hard on yourself. Interpreters, even highly qualified and experienced ones, aren't robots. We make (few) mistakes, and that's normal. Not knowing a word or two every few hours when speakers are going at 160 words a minute is a remarkable percentage of accuracy, if you think about it. Be critical of your own performance, but not too critical.
What do you think, dear colleagues? Would you like to add to this list, which will surely grow very long indeed? We figured we'd start with 13--and 13 can be the lucky number, for now.

Link: 139 (Mostly) Free Tools for Translators

Today marked the publishing of a blog post by our dear colleague Alina Cincan over at Inbox Translation, and it sure is an exciting day for those of us who want to discover new software tools. This is, as far as we know, one of the best and most comprehensive lists of free (or almost free) tools for translators. In total, 72 translators, including Judy, contributed to this list, and we want to try them all out right away! We hadn't heard of some 60% of these tools, so this list has already benefited us immensely. As you might imagine, compiling this information and getting the submissions from 72 translators is a ton of work, so we'd like to thank Alina very much for undertaking this project that benefits translators around the globe. 

Here's the link to Alina's blog

Quick Translation Tip

Today's quick translation tip is simple and easy in theory, but not always that easy to do in practice.

After you have finished the second draft of your translation, try the following. Read each and every sentence in isolation without consulting the source document and ask yourself these questions: 

  • Does this sentence sound idiomatic in the target language? 
  • Would I have written this if it weren't a translation?
  •  If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board.

After all, the goal of translation is to produce natural-sounding texts in the target language that don't sound like translations. We know that it's a lofty goal, but it is possible to get there, especially if you use this approach and have ample time to think about it. That's just another reason we don't enjoy rush projects. It's always better to have more time to ponder each sentence, and we definitely think there's a direct correlation between the time allowed and the quality of the translations. What do you think, dear fellow linguists? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Language Lovers Blog: Voting Phase

Vote the Top 100 Language Professional Blogs 2016
Once again we are absolutely delighted to have been nominated in the Top Language Lovers 2016 competition! This humble blog has received several awards in the Languages Professionals category in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and it's an honor to be nominated alongside so many fantastic blogs written by our friends and colleagues.

All of them are equally worthy of your vote, but we would be thrilled if you considered voting for ours! As you know, blogging is a labor of love and it's our goal to share what we know with linguists around the world on this form. Judging from the traffic we get, it's a useful forum and we very much plan to continue doing it. We are going strong after 7+ years and more than 500 posts!

You can vote here as of right now. Many thanks for reading and for considering voting for us. And we feel like we are running for office here...but we promise we won't quit our day jobs.

Final note: Judy's Twitter account was also nominated in the well, Twitter category. What an honor! You can vote for her (@language_news; Judy Jenner) here

Anatomy of a Deposition: Workshop at NAJIT

Today's quick blog post is to let you know about one of Judy's upcoming workshops for the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), which will hold its annual conference in San Antonio May 13-15. Judy is delighted to present a three-hour pre-conference seminar on Friday, May 13, 2015. It's on a subject that many interpreters want to know more about, but one that's rarely included in conference sessions: depositions in civil matters. As a matter of fact, Judy has been preparing this three-hour workshop for several weeks, and has come to the conclusion that there's very limited information for interpreters who want to prepare for interpreting assignments at civil depositions. In fact, a quick Google search for "depositions + interpreters" yields very limited results, including a link to this humble blog. So we decided that it was time to share what Judy knows about depositions in terms of procedure, structure, interpreters' roles, ethics, terminology, etc. The result is this three-hour workshop, which Judy will be giving in San Antonio for the very first time. 

Here's an abstract of the workshop: 
As some court systems have reduced the rates for judiciary interpreters, many court interpreters actively look for assignments outside the court system. There are plenty of opportunities available, and depositions, which are typically held at law offices, are one of these proceedings that oftentimes require interpreters. Little has been written about the role of interpreters in depositions, and this workshop will provide an overview of the structure of depositions, the parties, the objectives, the terminology, etc. Attendees will receive plenty of real-life advice on how to manage the flow of information, how to deal with difficult situations, and exactly what to expect during the course of the deposition. Specific terminology related to depositions will also be covered. In addition, there will be an interactive session on ethics during depositions and a review of pesky situations and how to deal with them. This workshop will be held in English and is thus suitable for interpreters of all languages, but some Spanish-language examples will be provided. The presenter is a federally certified court interpreter who has interpreted at more than 300 depositions. She is not a lawyer, but is married to one.
You can register for the workshop here. See you in San Antonio? 

Wanted: Presidential Interpreter (German/English)

Judy the White House tourist.
Have you ever wondered what it's like to interpret for the President of the United States, currently Barack Obama? So have we, but we have never gotten anywhere near the White House (other than as tourists). For the record, Dagy has interpreted for two presidents (Austria and Chile), but that's not quite the same as interpreting for POTUS and traveling on Air Force One. Actually, we have no idea if the interpreter would travel on that plane or on another plane, but our imagination is running wild here. A few days ago, we saw a job posting on one of the listservs that we belong to, and it's a job that would put the lucky interpreter at the very top of the international hierarchy of interpreters: full-time German<->English interpreter for POTUS.

There's a pretty detailed description of the job qualifications and requirements here. Please note that the job is open to United States citizens only. Not surprisingly, the candidate must be able to obtain and maintain a Top Security clearance. As you may imagine, we are not involved in this job search at all nor do we have any additional information, but we wanted to share this information with our lovely fellow interpreters. Best of luck and keep us posted if any of you get this highly prestigious job

The Dog Park Client

Lexi the matchmaker (sort of).
Do you ever wonder where in the universe you can meet clients? We can't say it enough: you can actually meet clients essentially anywhere. Allow us to elaborate with one of the oddest places we've met a client. Yes, it's clear from the title of this post. We did indeed acquire a client at the dog park.

Last year, Judy's husband Keith was at the dog park with our rambunctious rescue German shepherd, Lexi. Keith is an attorney, as is one of his dog park acquaintances--let's call him Bob. Bob takes his much better behaved dog to the park on the weekend, so that's when Keith and Bob see each other. Everyone's quite friendly and they chat and spend the early mornings together. One day Bob, who works for a large law firm, came to the park complaining that he had communication problems, in both written and spoken form, which his overseas client. Keith perked right up and told Bob that our business, Twin Translations, could probably help him solve this very quickly and easily. So Keith gave Bob Judy's card, we met, talked on the phone a few times, and Bob's law firm has been a client of ours for the better part of a year.

Now, two weeks ago, Lexi saw Bob at the dog park and was quite excited, ran up to him, and nipped him a tiny bit. Unfortunately for us, this really happened. Needless to say, we were mortified. Luckily for us, Bob was not mad and he's still our client. Lexi, on the other hand, is going back to doggie training.

We hope you enjoyed this anecdote, dear readers. What about you? What's the strangest place you've met a client?

Spring Classes at UCSD (Translation, Interpretation, Marketing)

Happy Friday, dear friends and colleagues! Today's quick post is to let you know about three of Judy's upcoming classes at the University of California San Diego. 

This spring, UC San Diego-Extension's Certificate for Spanish/English Translation and Interpretation program (all online) offers a variety of classes that might be of interest for both beginning and more advanced interpreters and translators.

Introduction to Translation (no prerequisites, starts March 29) is a five-week course that teaches newcomers to the profession the basics of translation, and introduces them to a strategic way to approach translations. This course is ideal for those who want to find out if this profession is for them. Judy will share the realities of our profession without sugar-coating the challenges translators face. Students will submit two graded translations and many exercises.

Introduction to Interpretation (no prerequisites, starts May 3) is a five-week course delivered via Blackboard (an online learning platform). Every week, students will access customized, pre-recorded PPT presentations with audio, which last approximately 2-3 hours per week. Students complete assignments every week, including weekly quizzes, and learn about all basic aspects of interpreting. The PPT presentations include dozens of exercises with original content. Students are only graded on one actual interpreting assignment (the final exam), as this class is meant for beginners.

Strategic Branding & Marketing for Interpreters and Translators (language neutral, no prerequisites, starts March 29) is a ten-week course where Judy teaches everything she knows about marketing your services as a translator and/or interpreter. The course follows the same format as the other classes and includes easy-to-use information on marketing to agencies and direct clients, social media, networking, outreach, public relations, etc.

To view all classes in the certificate program, please have a look at this link.

Mistake of the Week

The solution is on the left side.
True to our tradition to occasionally poking fun at ourselves with the goal of having others learn from our mistakes, here's Judy's mistake of the week during a legal interpreting assignment.

All Judy knew was that she was to interpret at a deposition. She had the case name, the time, the plaintiff's name and the deponent's name. It's very common to get incomplete information about the cases for which you are to interpret; even if you ask. It's just something court interpreters work to live with, but we all know that it's always ideal to have as much context and background information as possible. Having had it would have solved the following situation that we are now delighted to present. In fact, it could have been prevented with a single photograph that everyone but Judy had previously seen.

The attorney is deposing a maintenance worker. That is all Judy knows about the deponent at this point.

Defense attorney: So why did you trim this tree?
Judy (interpreting): ¿Por qué recortó usted este árbol?
Deponent: Bueno, porque las ramas estaban llegando hasta la carpeta (note: last word was hard to understand).
Judy (interpreting): Well, because the branches were reaching all the way to the carpet.

Puzzled looks all around, including from Judy.

Here's an explanation: the Spanish word for carpet is not carpeta. It's incorrectly used by Spanish speakers in the U.S. all the time. The correct word for carpet in Spanish is alfombra. Carpeta is also a Spanish-language word, but it means folder, as in a manila folder that you would have on your desk. We've gotten very used to Spanglish terms, and when we hear carpeta we immediately interpret "carpet." Now, Judy was very aware that it didn't really make sense in this context to talk about carpet since the issue in question as a tree, which would most likely be outside. That said, she didn't have any other context and interpreted what she heard. Here's what followed.

Plainttiff's attorney: At this point I'd like to stipulate that my client said "cart path." Would our interpreter agree?
Judy: It is the interpreter's opinion that the deponent could have used the English-language term "cart path," but pronounced it in such a way to render it almost unintelligible.
Defense attorney: For the record, I did not hear anything resembling an English word in the deponent's answer.
Judy: Would counsel like the interpreter to clarify that the deponent meant to say "cart path"?
Both attorneys: Yes, please go ahead.

A few minutes after this incident, the defense attorney introduced an exhibit: a photograph that clearly showed an image of a golf course, a tree, a cart path, and a maintenance cart belonging to the worker. An image speaks a thousand words, and context sure is king. After the session ended, all parties agreed that this was a new one. But yes, if you pronounce "cart path" a certain way, it could sound like carpeta. Mystery solved.

We don't really know how Judy would have been able to do any better with this one under the circumstances, but it's still a mistake that's worth pointing out. Actually, mispronounced English-language words by Spanish speakers and Spanglish are very interesting topics that we don't discuss much in our industry, and we plan on writing more about them in the future.

What do you think, dear colleagues? How would you have reacted? Having asked for repetition would have resulted in the deponent repeating the word with, most likely, the same pronunciation, so the options here were limited. 

Making Yourself Popular With Attorneys

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As a federally certified court interpreter for Spanish, Judy works with attorneys on an everyday basis. Most are quite grateful to have the services of an interpreter, as it enables communication with their clients and/or the other party. There are a few things that attorneys have told us that they appreciate throughout the years when it comes to interpreting rendition, and there's one thing that stands out. 

It's something all court interpreters know, and it's part of our code of ethics: it's about interpreting fully and faithfully. This means that you have to be very, very precise. And that's the feedback Judy has gotten the most: that the clients and everyone involved appreciate her precision. In practice, this means interpreting "um" when the non-English speaker says "um" and not omitting anything, not finishing sentences for the non-English speaker, etc. You just have to resist the urge to complete sentences or answer verbally when the deponent (or defendant, of client, or witness) did not. This can be difficult, especially in the beginning, and one can be tempted to make things easier by just "helping out a bit," but as court interpreters we are not allowed to do so. 

Consider this example:

Attorney: Ms. Quiroz, so you were at home the morning of February 21?
Interpreter (Judy): Señora Quiroz, ¿así que usted estaba en casa la mañana del 21 de febrero?
Deponent (Ms. Quiroz): A-ha.
Interpreter (Judy): A-ha.
Attorney: Did you mean "yes"? 
Interpreter (Judy): ¿Quiso usted decir "sí"?
Deponent (Ms. Quiroz): No entiendo.
Interpreter (Judy): I do not understand.
Attorney: Sorry, let me make this clear. Please provide audible answers. So that means answering "yes" or "no" so we can take your answer down for the record.
Interpreter (Judy): Perdón, permítame clarificar esto. Le ruego dar respuestas verbales. Esto significa que debe decir "sí" o "no" para hacer constar su respuesta en el acta. 
Deponent (Ms. Quiroz): Ah, ya entendí. Sí, estuve en casa.
Judy: Ah, I understand now. Yes, I was at home.
Attorney: Thank you.

Of course, this would have all been a bit less painful if Judy had interpreted "yes" instead of "a-ha" the very first time the deponent spoke, but it wouldn't have been correct. This is the one thing that attorneys comment on the most: that accuracy is key for them. As one of our favorite attorneys said last week: "I may not speak Spanish, but I am smart enough to pick up on a lot of things." In summary: be precise, don't omit or add, and you will make yourself popular with attorneys and other clients. We'd love to hear your comments, dear readers!

I Speak Spanish!

We speak Spanish, too. Photo taken in Mexico City.
Happy Friday! For today's post, we figured we'd send you off into the weekend with some humor. Fellow Spanish court interpreters can surely relate to today's (humorous) post. This is a situation that Judy, in her role as a certified court interpreter, encounters relatively frequently.

This is the situation: You walk into a deposition or into a courtroom, and next thing you know, the plaintiff and/or defense counsel walk(s) up to you to let you know that they also speak Spanish. Now, one might think that they are only making friendly conversation, but as those of us who deal with attorneys know, in litigation, attorneys don't say much without trying to make a specific point. When saying, "I speak Spanish!" what is really being said is this: "I will be checking up on you. You better watch out, interpreter." Now what? 

The problem which such a statement from an attorney is that there are really no possible reaction, except for maybe one, that do not make you sound at least somewhat defensive. That's a problem, because even though the attorney is clearly a bit aggressive here, as service providers, we usually want to keep our composure and maintain a friendly tone. That said, it's marginally possible that the attorney just wants to make conversation about his/her Spanish skills, in which case it's a great idea to start a high-register Spanish conversation about the expropriation of Mexican petroleum to show them the limit of their Spanish (kidding). Seriously, now: How do you react? Here are things Judy has wanted to say, but has never, ever actually said:

"Thank you for sharing. I am really worried about my performance now."
"Well, I really have been put on notice. Duly noted, counsel."
"Maybe you should just do the interpreting then and I can go have an espresso."

Of course, please do take this with a grain of salt (we told you this would be a humorous post). We'd never seriously think about saying anything like that, but it's fun to at least let these thoughts appear in your head. 

Usually, it's just best to say: "That's fantastic! It's a great language, isn't it?" and leave it at that (or something similar). We are very aware that many professionals, especially here in the American Southwest, do speak Spanish (some better than others). While humility and the desire to keep on learning are important for interpreters, so is confidence in one's skills and certifications. One doesn't become a certified court interpreter by osmosis or chance, just as no one becomes an attorney by taking a few criminal justice classes and watching a lot of Judge Judy. 

So, dear fellow court interpreters: Be proud of your skills, and let's welcome all the Spanish speakers into our proceedings. Now, we've heard from other court interpreters that sometimes there are entirely incorrect objections to certified court interpreters' renditions, and that's another topic--one that has actually not happened to us. What are your thoughts, dear colleagues? How would you react or how have you reacted when confronted with "I speak Spanish"? 

Can Translators Learn to Love MT?

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First things first: we are not experts on machine translation (MT) by any stretch of the imagination, but we certainly know that it's an incredibly polarizing topic in our industry. It is, perhaps, the most polarizing issue we've encountered in the last 10 years--in addition to how much we should charge for our services, of course. Now, our lovely colleague Jost Zetzsche is, without a doubt, the expert in the subject, and he told us about Lilt. Jost wrote about Lilt very eloquently here. Since the recommendation came from someone we trust, we went and checked it out. For the record: MT is integrated into many of the translation tools we use (Smartling, Wordfast, etc.), and while most of the MT-generated suggestions for translations are still quite giggle-inducing, MT has been getting better. As we've mentioned: we don't know that much about MT, but we have, chosen to view it as a tool to help translators become more efficient rather than a tool that will replace us. Others view this very differently. Allow us to elaborate on Lilt. And you probably know this, but let us emphasize that we have no financial or business connection to Lilt. We just think it’s a cool tool.
Courtesy of Lilt. Great summary indeed.

We took Lilt for a spin, and here are our findings: the program is very promising. Basically, it's a super-easy browser-based interface, there's nothing to download (just sign-in with a Google account or e-mail address). It's technically a statistical machine translation tool (SMT).  It was developed by the smart folks at Stanford Natural Language Processing Group, and it learns as you translate. We tried it for English->Spanish, and while it created some hilarious results, some were also very good. Lilt is currently available for EN<->ES, EN->FR and EN->DE). It's very nice to know that this system was created by a bunch of brilliant programmers at top-notch universities who are a lot smarter than we are. The whole idea is to make translators' work better and smarter through the use of technology. We know this is a big shift, but think about it: we work smarter and better because of computers in general, right? (Trite, but true.) They've allowed the industry to flourish, in part because we can research better and don't have to type up our work on a typewriter anymore (not that we are old enough to remember this). Perhaps this is the second revolution for translators--courtesy of computers, software, and computational linguists. Speaking of computational linguists, we had the chance to interview Spence Green, one of the founders of Lilt. He holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford (yes, smart guy; and nice, too). So here's a lot of information, straight from him, because he can say it so much better than we can. We sure do think we are ready for the next era of translators learning to embrace MT. What do you think?
Courtesy of Spence Green

Translation Times: What would you say to translators who are afraid of MT? And where does Lilt come in?

Spence Green: Machine translation is a tool. Specifically, it is generalized translation memory. Whereas a TM can only produce an output for an input that matches X% of some previous input, a sufficiently large MT system---where all of the major commercial systems today are sufficiently large---can produce an output for any input. The intellectual heritage of TM traces to Martin Kay's 1980 position paper on man/machine approaches to translation. Of course, Martin was and is an MT researcher. So translators should see MT as an evolution of a tool that they already use and ostensibly derive value from.

Lilt is an interactive MT system ( Interactive MT is an old idea that dates to at least the 1960s, but it has never been widely available for translators. Lilt is based on a research system we built at Stanford called Predictive Translation Memory (PTM). PTM began as a human-computer interaction project to understand translator behavior in the presence of machine suggestions, be they from TM or MT. It evolved into an interactive MT system. About 100 professional translators from Proz and elsewhere participated in the three research studies during 2012-2014.

In my view, the issues that seem to upset translators---the MT post-editing experience, rate discounts, often unrealized promises of productivity improvements by vendors---have more to do with the peculiarities of the industry than with the technology itself. 

TT: Why did you create Lilt?

SG: After undergrad I moved to Abu Dhabi. This was in 2005, and I was 24 and restless. I wanted to learn a non-European language, and it seemed to me that the Arab world would be very important during my lifetime.

Two significant things happened during that time. First, after about a year, I found that most of my friends were Arabs who didn't speak English well. Through their eyes I saw a different world. You often get paid less. There aren't as many books available. Wikipedia and Google search stink. Information access began to matter to me.

Second, Google Translate was released. I thought that this technology could solve the information access problem at a scale that human services never could. I wanted to learn how it worked. But I soon realized that my undergraduate training was insufficient. So I applied to Stanford and started graduate school in 2008.

In 2010 Ed Bice of gave a talk at Johns Hopkins, where I was spending the summer doing research. He runs a small translation non-profit in San Francisco that uses MT from IBM. I started to visit his office regularly. I began to understand the differences between the assimilation and dissemination use cases of MT. Google Translate solves the former, but the latter---which is translation with a quality threshold---seemed like an underexplored area consistent with my desire to improve information access.

Courtesy of Lilt
I spent the summer of 2011 at Google working on Translate. I learned how to build huge translation systems. And I learned how many people send translation feedback to Google, and what can be done with that feedback. There was real work to do that was both intellectually compelling and high-impact.

At Google I worked with John DeNero, who worked for Franz Och. John and Franz both left Google in 2014. I graduated at the end of 2014. John is a co-founder of Lilt, and Franz is chief advisor.

TT: Wow, that’s quite a pedigree. Now, what’s your current revenue model?

SG: Lilt is in a free trial period. We will add a professional version in 2016. We charge for our translation API, for which we currently have one launch customer.

TT: Sorry for this question, but: what’s the catch? If Lilt is free now, how will you make money? 

SG: Yes, the professional version will be released later this year. But there will always be a free version or a free trial.

TT: Can you tell us when exactly other languages will be added?

SG: Fr-En and De-En will be added next week. En-Pt will follow in February. The Danes and the Dutch seem to be pretty enthusiastic, so we'll probably add those language pairs in February.

TT: Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and your core team? Who are you? What’s your favorite author? Your favorite musician? 

SG: I'm a Southerner, but I've moved around a lot since high school, so my accent doesn't betray my nationality anymore. I grew up in Atlanta, went to U.Va, and then to grad school at Stanford. I speak Arabic; I run; and, I am a scuba diver. My favorite book is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. If I were stuck on an island forever, I suppose that I wouldn't tire of listening to The Joshua Tree by U2.

John DeNero, my co-founder, completed graduate school at Berkeley, then spent four years at Google on Translate. Now he is a CS professor at Berkeley. He teaches the largest class at the university. He's a busy guy.

Joern Wuebker and Sasa Hasan, the other two founding members of our company, completed graduate school at RWTH Aachen under Hermann Ney. They're great. Hermann produced Franz Och, who then worked with Philipp Koehn, then a grad student at USC. Franz and Philipp went on to produce Google Translate and Moses, respectively.   My brother Richmond is in charge of marketing. It's great fun to work with a sibling, as you must know! Chris Manning and Jeff Heer, my two academic advisors, are also on our advisory board.

TT: Did you raise any venture capital or how is your company financed?

SG:Yes, we raised a VC round. We are backed by XSeed Capital.

TT: We know you don’t have a crystal ball, but do you think translators will ever be replaced by MT? Is Ray Kurzweil right? What’s your hunch?

SG: This is a philosophical question that Nietzsche, Quinn, Jakobsen, and others have considered. I tend to think that their treatments were more sophisticated than those that you read in the media. I wrote about this in the introduction to my dissertation (sect.1.2;

Short summary: yes, for text that can be memorized or otherwise easily routinized (imagine a large TM of all of the translations ever produced in the world...). Not anytime soon for any sort of translation that requires world knowledge. That problem is AI-complete and would signal the advent of artificial intelligence. 
TT: What’s the most underrated website on the internet, in your opinion? 

SG: Wikipedia. It is one of our greatest intellectual achievements as a species. 

Many thanks to Spence for answering all of our questions. We've barely scratched the surface with Lilt, but will continue playing around with it. It seems like a great tool that can potentially really make every translator's life easier, and as scary as MT can be, we encourage colleagues to keep an open mind and view the tool as a benefit. And no, we are not about to work as post-MT editors anytime soon (we actually don't know anyone who does). What do you think, dear colleagues? Do you have any questions for Spence? We bet we can twist his arm to answer them here. 

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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