What we learned as Interpreters in 2016.

December 29, 2016 § 9 Comments

Dear Colleagues,

Now that 2016 is coming to an end and we are working towards a fruitful and meaningful 2017, it is time to assess what we learned during the past 12 months.  As interpreters we are constantly learning, and from talking to many of my colleagues, 2016 was no exception.  The year that ends gave me once again the opportunity to work with magnificent interpreters and many of my dearest colleagues.

Our profession had some positive developments this year:  In the United States, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and in Mexico the Organización Mexicana de Traductores (Mexican Translators Association, OMT) held very successful conferences in San Antonio, Texas and Guadalajara, Mexico respectively. In April I attended the Sixth Latin American Translation and Interpreting Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina where some of the best professionals gathered to learn and share experiences in a high-quality, professional environment. I also had the opportunity to participate in other professional conferences and seminars of tremendous level where I was honored to share some experiences and exchange ideas with many professional colleagues. Thank you to all my colleagues who attended my presentations, workshops and seminars in Cancún, Toronto, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Querétaro, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Lima, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Pachuca, Phoenix, Ohrid, Beirut, and Guadalajara. It was a pleasure to spend some time with all of you in 2016.

The year that ends in a few days saw the growth of our profession in the healthcare and media fields, where we currently have more and better prepared professional certified interpreters than ever before. I also noticed the growth of our profession in Africa where our friends and colleagues held several professional events, and 2017 promises to be even better. And just this week we learned that, after many months, our Vietnamese court interpreter friends and colleagues in Melbourne, Australia Magistrates’ Court won their hard fought battle against the system and an opportunist contractor and are finally going to be paid a decent professional fee under favorable work conditions.

Unfortunately, not everything was good.  Our immigration court interpreter colleagues in the United States continued their fight against mediocrity and misdirected greed with SOSi, the contractor selected by the U.S. federal government to be the sole provider of interpreting services in all immigration courts of the United States. 2016 was the year when this contractor took working conditions and the quality of interpreting services to an all-time unprecedented low.  Some professional associations, individual judges, and attorneys have voiced their objections to this practices, but not much has changed. The war is far from over, and these colleagues should use the Melbourne Australia success story as a source of motivation.

Our colleagues in the American immigration courts are not alone in their struggle, the Workers’ Compensation Court interpreters of California, state-level court interpreters in New Mexico, and other court interpreters in some American east coast states are also fighting against low pay, deplorable working conditions, favoritism, ignorant government program administrators, and others. Some European countries, like Spain and the United Kingdom, are under siege by governments that want to lower the quality of translation and interpreting services in the legal arena to unimaginable levels of incompetence.

Interpreters around the world faced attempts from special interest groups to erode our profession by lowering professional standards and creating questionable certification programs, the multi-national language agencies continued to push telephone interpreting whenever, and wherever they can, offering rock-bottom per minute fees to the interpreters. A handful of translators attempted to disrupt one of the top professional translator and interpreter associations in the world because they refused to understand the legal system where the association was incorporated, wanted to advance a personal agenda, and in a way that raises deep concerns, attacked the association because of the national origin of its board. The year was also marked by many efforts to distract, and perhaps mislead interpreters and translators, through carefully crafted conferences, webinars, publications and other events where some renowned colleagues, for reasons unknown to me, addressed our peers with a new carefully planned tactic that consists on making interpreters and translators believe that the agency is on their side by softening the rhetoric, showing some cosmetic empathy, and advancing their low fee, low quality service agenda on a stealth way.

Of course, we also had our “regulars” just like every single year: 2016 was full of para-interpreters trying to “take over” the market by charging laughable fees under shameful working conditions in exchange for miserable services. As you can see, much changed and much stayed the same. I choose to think that there were more good things than bad ones, but I continue to be aware of the awesome problems we still face as a profession from threats that come from without and within. I now invite you to share with the rest of us your learned lessons (good and bad) of 2016. I wish a Happy and Productive New Year to all my friends and colleagues!

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§ 9 Responses to What we learned as Interpreters in 2016.

  • It is important for conference interpreters to be wary of clients. There are so many examples of companies offering interpreting and ripping off interpreters, for instance by requiring them to pay their own fares to travel long distances, etc. I recently did a job abroad and the company’s client suddenly asked the interpreting company to send us out a day earlier. As we were working at a huge conference, there were very few hotel rooms left. When we got to the (expensive) hotel we discovered that our rooms had not been paid for! Two months later, we have not been paid for interpreting or for our own expenditure.

  • Marj Evans-de-Carpio says:

    In Minnesota, our organizing efforts have taken off. Our respected American Sign Language interpreters are remunerated at a much higher rate in the courts than we spoken language interpreters. They organized years ago and the fruits of this are very evident in the difference in our fees. So, rather than resent them or allow ourselves to be pitted against them, we are learning from their example and organizing and making a case for the first increase since the MN Judicial Branch set a policy establishing the remuneration for interpreting services in 1998! The court administrator requested money in her budget to give us a pay raise, but only a 1% increase! This will not be accepted and we are working together to make this clear. We commit to advancing this cause in 2017.

    • Marj Evans-de-Carpio says:

      I correct myself–she requested funding for a 4% increase. Nevertheless inadequate to catch up with 19 years at the same rate!!!

  • Alina Salvat says:

    Thank you for your well researched and documented posts Tony. I have always appreciated your observations. As certified Interpreters we are not about greed. However, as has been well documented many times, aside from paying bills (rent/mortgages, food, car insurance, etc.), we must also pay professional fees to maintain our CEU’s and, in some cases professional liability insurance (not cheap!). Other professions have increases in remuneration on a regular basis — regardless of the budget and/or budgetary constraints. As I have said before, “the budget” is nothing more than a convenient excuse because there is ALWAYS money in the budget. Remember, it’s only the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. As Interpreters we must all commit to advancing this matter in 2017 and beyond. Count me in!

  • […] Some European countries, like Spain and the United Kingdom, are under siege by governments that want to lower the quality of translation and interpreting services in the legal arena to unimaginable levels of incompetence. Interpreters around the world faced attempts from special interest groups to erode our profession by lowering professional standards and creating questionable certification programs, the multi-national language agencies continued to push telephone interpreting whenever, and wherever they can, offering rock-bottom per minute fees to the interpreters.  […]

  • […] Of course, we also had our “regulars” just like every single year: 2016 was full of para-interpreters trying to “take over” the market by charging laughable fees under shameful working conditions in exchange for miserable services  […]

  • Alina James says:

    Informative Post!
    You have mentioned resource and very important about interpreters. The most interesting are National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT). Everyone should read it once and know how interpreter work in the situation of language translations

  • Max Neilson says:

    There are many online and offline translations providing company, but to hire services of the professionals and certified translators is another thing which matters allot.
    And you blog content will help people to understand the importance of professional translations for their language translations.

  • Sharon James says:

    Really an excellent blog. It was a great experience to go through this article. I would suggest all the translators or the people of this interest must go through this article. I am sure they will love it.
    Thanks for sharing!

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