Organisations in the profession – Professional organisations – Part one

It’s time to move on after two weeks of holiday and another two weeks of paper writing and catching up. So, time to catch up on the blog too. And what would be better than take a few lines from the last #IntJC on professional organisations. You can read the archive here. #IntJC is not a forum for long, elaborate and eloquent lines. But that is the strength of it, too. However, after an #IntJC I often feel the urge to complement and summarize, but this time even more so. This time I really felt that I just blurted out strange things. So these two posts are aimed at going back to my tweets and elaborate.

Before I start elaborating I’ll go through the translator/interpreter organisations I’m a member of and explain why. I thought I would be able to do both the run through and elaborate on my statements in one post, but I realize it will be too long. So, here’s first my list of organizations where I’m a member and in the next post I’ll continue to discuss professional organizations.

1) AIIC – The longing to be a part of this exclusive club started as soon as I started working. Why exclusive? Well, that’s how it felt when I started working and had maybe 4 conference interpreting days/month, and realized that I had to have 300 days (it’s been cut down to 150 now) in order to become a member, on top of that I had to ask my daunting, experienced colleagues for signatures. But why long for it then? Well to be quite honest, my first reason was selfish – that’s where the interesting jobs lied. On a small market with a strong AIIC community, I had two choices; going grey (i.e. accepting sub-standard pay and conditions) or stick to AIIC standards and colleagues and secure a stable market in the long-term. I didn’t think twice. I’ve been a member for 12 years now, and have probably become one of those daunting colleagues. I have also served on different functions in the organization and I really appreciate what it does for the profession. We can do more – but we are first and foremost the closest conference interpreters get to a trade union. As I also work as community/social interpreter I really understand what a strong professional organization mean to the profession.

2) EST – This is an organization for translation and interpreting studies. Again, joining was of rather selfish nature. I wanted access to their newsflashes and their list of members. But EST is doing a lot of work to defend translation studies in academia, e.g. journal-ranking which is a hot topic that I’ve discussed earlier. They also have an absolutely outstanding scholarship for young researchers in translation studies. And their congress is a vibrant and active TS event, usually resulting in one of the most interesting conference proceedings in the field. The website is loaded with resources both for members and others.

2) ATA – Why on earth would a European interpreter join a US translator organization? Well, first of all, they work for interpreters too, with an active interpreting division. I joined when I went to their conference four years ago, but I have remained a member since I like their newsletter, their journal and the different discussion forums. I have not learnt the profession, but I’ve learnt so much about the profession from them.

3) CATS – Again an organisation for Translation Studies. And no surprise that I joined when I went to a conference there. They support young scholars, they have a good journal and they organize interesting conferences. Good reasons for continue to renew my membership.

4) ATISA – One of my newer memberships. The American Translation and Interpreting studies association. I’m too new to ATISA to have experienced all they do, and unfortunately I will not go to their conference this year. They publish a journal – Translation and Interpreting Studies that I’m looking forward to.

5) Conference of Interpreter Trainers – Also a new addition. Focus on sign language interpreter trainers, but not only. And their journal is online for members!

So much for the professional organizations I’m a member of. I’m not a member of IAPTI,but maybe it’s time to join. None of my memberships are with organizations focusing more on community/social interpreters. So maybe it’s time to add a few more.

Why so many organizations? Couldn’t I use the money better? Maybe, but for all of the above organizations I feel that I’m getting something out of it for me personally , and that I also contribute to the community. But more about that in the second post.

Do you recommend any other organizations? How many organizations are you member of?

Day 14 – One thing you didn’t know about interpreting

Well, a couple of things actually…
What do interpreters talk about when they meet? You may think (at least if you suffer from a slight persecution mania) that we discuss our clients alot. We do talk about our clients of course, but probably not what you think and most likely not as much as you think.
If we discuss our clients it’s usually their performance as a speaker. We comment on speaking speed because speed is important to our own performance. We love good speakers and comment on that. But very few interpreters I know make personal comments about their clients, they are our clients and all interpreters I know are very consiencious about the professional secrecy.
When we debrief over a coffee or beer it is usually our own failings we discuss. When did I not live up to my own standards, what did I miss in that presentation, when did I have to stop my client/rely on my colleague to check a word? Why couldn’t I render exactly what s/he said?
We also talk a lot about terminology. Terminology is probably our pet subject. What do you use for this? I think it’s so hard to find an equivalent to that.
Sometimes we also talk about ethical problems – what would you have done in a similar situation?
And last, a personal confession, at smaller conferences or in a social setting I sometimes get the impression that my clients think that I am just as interested and engaged in their topic/area/problem as they are. I’m sorry to disappoint you here, but I’m rarely as engaged in my clients’ problem as they are. I usually find it interesting, sometimes fascinating as an interpreted situation, I may enjoy interpreting it and I will always be faithful. But I will not go home at night and continue to solve their problems.
This is of course my personal list. The things I experience with my colleagues. If you don’t agree or if you would like to add something. Please comment.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can view the whole list here.

Court interpreting, fees and renumeration

From the tweets of @NFrancoR I learn that courts in Dallas county in the US intend to lower their minimum period of payment from 2 hours minimum and in half an hour increments to 1 hour minimum in 15 minute increments.

In Sweden court interpreters are paid per hour with a decreasing fee; 75 euro for the first hour and then an additonal 20 euro per half hour, for a certified court interpreter; 58 euro for a generally certified interpeter with an additional 17 euro per half hour; and 43 euro for a non-certified interpreter with an additional 10 euro per half hour. Needless to say most proceedings are only an hour and most interpreters working in court rarely work full days.
It’s not a bad pay though, compared to Spain (12 euro/hour) or Canada (18 euro/hour).

When it comes to quality in court interpreting I would like to quote Franz Pöchhacker (interpreting researcher at the University of Vienna) at a round table at the Quality in interpreting Conference who said; “You get the quality you pay for.”

The problem is that court interpreting is a trade that requires highly skilled interpreters. Here I will share a secret of one of my professional failures. I hold a diploma in conference interpreting (supposedly the most difficult type of interpreting), I am accredited to the European institutions (supposedly one of the most difficult types of accreditation tests). And I have failed the Swedish court interpreting certification exam – twice.

I have passed the general certification exam, I have interpreted quite successfully in court, but I have not so far been able to pass the special exam for court interpreting. The exam is both written and oral, you answer general questions about legislation and court proceedings and there are a large glossary test both to and from you own language. The oral test is a role play in a court interpreting situation. You have to have 85 % correct answers in the written test to sit the oral and in the oral you have to hav

But what is the incentive for

Do you really need interpreter training? A few reasons for not closing the Interpreting MA at the University of Westminster, UK

Bilinguals interpret all the time, for friends, family and others in need. Children who have grown up bilingually are used to interpreting. And since everybody is learning English nowadays anyway, why bother to train new generations of interpreters?

I’m not sure whether this was the way the University of Westminster reasoned when they decided to close down their MA in conference interpreting.

This is a course that has a long, and well-founded good reputation. It was established in 1963 (at the Polytechnic of Central London), actually one of my colleagues went there in those early years. Since then the school has produced many more colleagues working for the EU institutions of course, but also for the UN and even Canadian governement. Other than Swedish and English booth they have also trained colleagues for the French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Bulgarian, Irish, Maltese, Russian and Chinese booths.

In the announcement from the University it says that the interpreting course

is a well-respected course that has been recognised by the EMCI, AIIC, the EU and the UN in various ways for the quality of its graduates. The closure of the course is not a decision that has been taken lightly and it has not been taken because of any quality, teaching, management or recruitment problems.

OK, so a good course, highly reputable. One of the oldest interpreting trainings in Europe. No problem when it comes to applicants, management of quality and yet it has to close down. Why?

Well, it’s not making enough money…

English interpreters are soon a scarcity. The European Union, for instance, fears that it will not be able to cover their need for interpretation into English in 5 to 10 years. Fewer and fewer people with English mother tongue learn foreign languages and therefore the access to people who can even be considered to become interpreters is decreasing. And on top of that, Westminster chooses to close down a good, well-functioning interpreting school.

So, I guess that since the school is not making enough money, we’ll just go back and rely on people who grew up bilingually and who probably learnt the trade when they were in diapers. Or, hey, maybe language students can do it as a student job, that way they can exercise their languages as well. I would like to quote my colleague Victoria who blogs at when she speaks about growing up bilingual:

And if you were “born” with two languages it’s even better, then you know everything, don’t you? Personally, I remember how my dad always used to talked about things like “enter into force”, “temporary asylum accommodation”, “tarsus”, “fenced pasture”, “percutaneous coronary intervention”, “the Administrative Procedure Act” and similar words, when I was a little girl. The languages ??just came flying at me, of course it was completely effortless.

Interpreting is a highly qualified job. Future conference interpreters are screened for interpreting aptitude, they have to pass entrance tests covering both language skills and general culture. It helps to have grown up bilingual, but it’s far from enough. After that they are trained in different interpreting techniques. If you have the language skills and interpreting aptitude it takes at least a year and you’re probably better off with a two-year-course. Despite language skills, aptitude and training there is still a high level of failure at the final exam. Between 50 and 70 % of the canditates make it to a diploma.

Unfortunately, very few community interpreters are screened and trained in the same way, I believe they should be, because their work is just as, if not even more, important.

And in a time where there is a growing lack of interpreters with English mother tongue, an increasing need for upholding standards and every reason to boost and improve our interpreting training programs; The University of Westminster chooses to close down one of the oldest and most well-reputed interpreting schools. It is a shame!

If you want to have your say on the closure of Westminster’s interpreting course you can do it here.

You can also read what other bloggers have to say about this at Bootheando, Interpreting Diaries, Traducción e investigación, Aventuras de una traductora-intérprete en Madrid and Dos Palabras.

Recruitment via interpreting agency – a good example

Dear interpreting agencies,

When you write to me or call, you make my life infinitely much easier if you state:
1) Which languages would you like me to interpret to and from?
2) What type of meeting are we talking about?
3) Who is my colleague (if you know/it’s applicable)?
4) Where and when will the interpreting take place?
5) How much do you regularily pay your interpreters for this type of job (travel fees?/daily allowance?)

If you give me this information, you make it easier for me to determine whether I am the right person for the task. And if I’m not, I may even be able to give you the name of somebody more suitable.

Unfortunately, there is more than one agency who has somebody calling or e-mailing, hardly introducing him/herself and asking: I need an interpreter for Wednesday/next week/June 30th are you free?

If you use this recruiting routine I would strongly encourage you to improve it.

I will give you a good example: Today, I got a very nice e-mail from an agency I have not worked with before saying:

Dear interpreter,
We got your name from so and so.
We need an interpreter with Languages A and B to work in simultaneous mode. You will work with your colleague XY.
The meeting is in CITY, on the following dates.
Your fees will be this much.
The meeting is about THIS and we will send you documentation should you accept.

And the letter ended with a presentation of the company and a more detailed description of how they got my name.

No need to say that since I was available on the dates in question it took me about ten minutes to double check a few things and then accept it. With agencies like this there is a fairly big chance you get the right interpreter at the right place.

So, dear interpreting agencies, please check your recruiting routines and revise them if necessary. It will definitely enhance your business.

Best Regards,