You got your degree, became certified … and now?

August 6, 2019 § 3 Comments

Dear colleagues:

Getting a college degree is no minor accomplishment, but in most countries, you need a certification, license, or patent to practice your profession. Interpreting is no different.

Unfortunately, a degree and a certification do not guarantee you anything. We live in a globalized society where only the best will reach success. Interpreters work with languages and human knowledge, both characterized by their constant, eternal change. Modernity brings changes in science and technology, and globalization makes all interpreters your competitors, regardless of their location. Continuing education is as essential to interpreters as the air they breathe.

Continuing education costs money, and interpreters need to spend time studying instead of earning a living. When faced with the need to continue our professional education to survive in a market economy, we have to be very careful as to how we spend that hard-earned money. At this point in their careers, interpreters have spent large amounts in their education: College and certifications were not cheap, and now it is time to decide how we will invest our financial resources, and our time, to further our professional development.

Continuing education is an interpreter’s need, but it is also a business. We will now look into some options out there, describe what we need, and provide a profile of fraudulent and poor-quality programs that exist.

The first question to ask ourselves is: What do we need when we seek continuing education? We need to keep a certification or license current; we need to pass an exam, we need to get certified, or we just need to learn and improve to succeed.

To achieve these goals, we need to seek education in five fields:

1. Interpreting

2. Our specialty area

3. Ethics

4. Technology

5. Business

We also need to stay up to date on current events and accumulate general knowledge.

There are several ways to get the education we need on these areas:

By entering a structured education program in a college or other higher learning institution to get a post-graduate degree; by attending summer courses for those who cannot be full-time students. There are also one- and two-week diploma/certificate programs, weekend workshops and presentations by professional associations, universities and colleges, agencies, the government, and well-known professional interpreters who teach.

There are also international, national, regional, and specialized conferences by professional associations.

Webinars by professional associations, universities, and professional interpreters are another source of education (ATA, IAPTI, eCPD, and others) and individual mentorship or internship programs with experienced interpreters as mentors.

Some colleges, professional associations, and experienced interpreters offer a virtual classroom experience, and this is where we see a higher risk to end up with a poor-quality workshop by an unknown interpreter turned instructors. Although some of these programs may offer continuing education credits, they are of little use in a professional life.

Because of the blog, many friends and colleagues contact me to let me know of workshops, seminars, and courses they regret taking. Most include at least one of these characteristics: The instructor is an unknown interpreter considered a “local hero” where he works and lives. These people have secured a local market as “instructors” because they have been around for a long time, or due to their impeccable social skills that have positioned them within a sphere of influence of judges, court administrators, school principals, and others. The classes are held at a person’s home or office, without a proper learning environment and with very few resources. Sometimes the instructor has her children at the venue, and occasionally, the workshop takes place at the same location where other activities are happening, such as a community theater, religious activities, or sporting events. At these courses enrollment is way less expensive than at legitimate programs.

Often a workshop could cost as little as an admission to the movies. Maybe these so-called “continuing education” programs are offered overseas in a resort, and they are handled as destination events or a family vacation instead of a professional event. I suggest you think long and hard before enrolling on a professional program run by a travel agency, or a workshop advertised in a brochure that describes tours, beach activities, and similar options side by side to a professional schedule. Finally, these workshops are often advertised in tacky signs, unprofessional poster boards, and online adds that are misspelled or improperly written.

Because we are in a very competitive market in a globalized economy that pushes us towards continuing education to survive and then excel, you must take care of your time and finances. Do your homework when going for a Master’s Degree or to attend a workshop to pass a certification test. Always select a program that covers the subjects you want to study, and use common sense when selecting a service provider. Trusted colleges, recognized professional associations, well-known experienced interpreters will offer programs that make sense, are useful, and unfortunately, are expensive. When a class it taught by an unknown, the instructor credentials are questionable, the course takes place in a factory cafeteria or the basement of a church, and the course is cheaper than others, look the other way and avoid the workshop, even if it offers continuing education credits.

Study every day on your own, and try to attend workshops, courses and seminars that will cover the five fields above: interpreting, your specialty area, ethics, technology, and business. Attending reputable professional conferences at least once a year may let you cross off your list two or more of them. Remember, look at the program and mistrust conferences that publish the program at the last minute.

Often a local conference may offer what you need. Sometimes you need not travel long distances to get your continuing education. I now ask you for your comments and experiences with good and not-so-good continuing education programs.

Be vocal! Professional Associations: Stand up against injustice.

June 25, 2019 § 4 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

It has been almost a month since we first learned that our colleague Shin Hye-Yong, who interpreted for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un at the Hanoi summit with United States President Donald Trump was apparently detained at a political prison camp charged with undermining the Leader’s authority. This has been called “a critical interpreting mistake” by some in North Korea.

It has been widely reported by reputable press publications in Asia, Europe, and the United States, that the interpreter was blamed for president Trump’s walking away from the negotiating table when apparently the North Korean leader was “ready to continue the negotiations” and uttered in Korean: “Wait! Wait!” Or something similar that his interpreter did not convey in English before the American delegation exited the room. According to the media, Kim Jung Un ordered her detained and sent to a labor camp where she is currently undergoing reeducation and reflecting on her loyalty to the supreme leader of North Korea. Of course, we all know that in the civilized world, an error, if one really was really committed, has consequences that can go from a reprimand to a demotion, or firing, but never to hard labor or incarceration.

It was also reported by South Korean newspaper Chosun IIbo and others that Kim Hyon Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the United States for nuclear negotiations was executed immediately after the summit. Although this turned out to be false, and Kim Hyon Chol is alive, he has been demoted from his pre-summit position, apparently he spends several hours a day writing essays and reflecting on his loyalty to the supreme leader. Nothing has been reported or leaked about the situation of our colleague Shin Hye-yong or their family.

It is not clear if Kim Jung Un really said these words, and if he did, it was loud enough for the interpreter to hear them, or he spoke under his breath. It is also possible that the interpreter rendered the words in English so low that Trump did not hear them, that she interpreted after the Americans had left the room, or that Trump heard her and ignored her.

I learned of this atrocity against a fellow-interpreter, and against our profession really, while at a conference attended by many colleagues, some of them diplomatic interpreters who have worked with heads of state from many countries. I immediately thought our governments would speak up against these horrible allegations but I also understood governments need to act calmly and wait until there is more information, even when dealing with a black hole of information like North Korea. I also expected our professional associations, those who represent thousands of interpreters and translators throughout the world to raise their voice in support for Shin Hye-yong and in protest for what was done to her and to the profession at large.

I expected those who represent us to react immediately, condemning the allegations and declaring them, if true, unacceptable. The International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI) proving once again it truly stands shoulder to shoulder with all interpreters and translators, issued a letter condemning the allegations right away. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) mentioned the incident on social media, and several colleagues, individually, have shared their total rejection to what happened in North Korea. Most associations, including the bigger, wealthier organizations with the most members have timidly remained silent. Some of them have reacted like news agencies and have called to corroboration before issuing any statement, even when practically all major publications in the world already talked about this. Others, have argued it is better to remain quiet for now out of fear that a communication condemning these actions against Shin Hye-yong could make her situation worse.

I guess these groups think a protest from a translators and interpreters association will motivate a ruthless dictator to punish an individual more harshly than everything already published by the likes of The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Asahi Shinbun, Chicago Tribune, etc.; like Kim Jung Un keeps an eye on our opinions.

These professional associations completely missed the point: a letter from a professional association will not sway a dictator more than public opinion or world-reputable newspapers; the letters are for us. The purpose of issuing a formal protest by any of them is to show their members, and the profession at large, that in times of crisis, darkness, fear and despair, they are with us, they feel our pain, they have our back. It is for us, thousands of interpreters and translators to feel the associations are protecting the profession, to the point of not accepting anything that hurts what we do, even if they are just allegations. Kim Jung Un will never read these letters nor learn of their contents, but Shin Hye-yong, and her family, might. Perhaps she will hear about the letter from IAPTI in that horrible place where she is being held. Knowing her fellow interpreters throughout the world are aware of what happened to her, they are saddened and they are showing their disapproval will make her feel less alone, hopeless, and isolated where she is.

This was a hot topic for discussion and rage among all of us at the conference; opinions against the North Korean regime’s decision to incarcerate the interpreter, and concern for the recent and constant attacks on the diplomatic interpreting profession were voiced everywhere. There was a comment that stayed with me. I asked a top-level interpreter who works with presidents and other world leaders if she thought interpreter and translator professional associations should speak up and condemn the actions of the North Korean government against the interpreter, even if they had not been confirmed. Her answer was: “What would you want your peers to do if you were in her shoes?” I answered without hesitation: “I would want my colleagues and my professional associations to raise their voice in support of the profession and to defend me”. She told me she would want the same if this happened to her. Next, I asked the same question to as many colleagues as I could, and all of them told me the same. Nobody told me they wanted for the interpreting world to wait for a corroborating source. There was not a single interpreter who bought the argument that speaking up would make things worse for her.

Dear colleagues, our profession, especially diplomatic interpreting, is under attack in many places, from the United States Congress politically motivated posturing demanding interpreter’s notes and threatening a subpoena, to the president of Mexico using his secretary of foreign affairs as interpreter instead of a professional, to the disaster in North Korea.

This is not the first incident involving a North Korean interpreters: It is not clear why Kim Jung Un replaced the experienced interpreter who accompanied him to the first Trump meeting in Singapore with our now ill-fated colleague Sin Hye-yong; we saw the fear in an interpreter’s eyes when in front of the TV cameras Kim Jung Un dropped something and the interpreter took a professional athlete’s dive to catch it before it hit the ground; and we all saw the embarrassing incident with the Vietnamese interpreter who dashed from the helicopter down the red carpet to get to the dictator before he uttered a word to the Vietnamese officials welcoming him to Hanoi.

Professional associations do not need to wait for corroborating sources to protest such serious allegations. They can protest the allegation and condemn it if “it turns out to be true”. Professional associations need to speak up; it is not their job to keep dictators happy, their job is to protect their members and the profession. Last century, world leaders sat on their hands as Hitler invaded Poland, they did not want to upset him, and we all know what happened. Professional Associations are always bragging about “everything they offer” to their members. It is time they offer them solidarity and support. I now invite you to share your opinion on this extremely important issue.

We must protect the interpreter, not the middleman.

June 12, 2019 § 11 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

Think of a colleague, anywhere in the United States, who is battling a devastating illness and cannot get the treatment she needs because she has no health insurance, and medical expenses are so high she cannot cover them. I am sure you know an interpreter who has tried to get a job because he is worried about retirement years from now, but cannot get one because nobody is hiring. Language service providers want independent contractors because they have no legal obligation to provide employment benefits: health insurance, retirement plan, paid holidays and vacation, maternity leave, worker’s compensation insurance. If you prefer, look very carefully at your interpreter colleagues who have a sick parent, a disabled child, or another powerful reason to stay where they now live, and for that reason, they have to interpret for the agencies in town (local and multinational) and they do it in silence because they are afraid of losing these assignments, even when they are poorly paid, and they have to endure terrible, and sometimes humiliating working conditions.

Of course, you can always look at your own practice; I invite you to do so and honestly answer these questions: Do you enjoy having to check in and out with the agency every time you do an assignment? do you feel comfortable asking the person you just interpreted for to write down the hours you interpreted and to sign the form so you get paid by the agency? Do you find amusing having to spend hours on the phone and writing emails so you can get paid for a last-minute canceled assignment the agency does not want to pay? Maybe some of you like staying at the venue after interpreting is over because the agency makes you stay for the full time they retained you, even though all your work is done. Perhaps your definition of professional services includes cleaning up files or making photocopies until your time is up. Do you like it when the agency prints you business cards under their name and forces you to give them to the client? Do you like dodging all clients’ interpreting services questions by referring them to the agency every time? How about micromanaging your time on the assignment?

I doubt you enjoy any of these things, but even if you do, please understand that these intermediaries are taking advantage of you. They are forcing you to perform as an employee without paying you any benefits. Agencies distract you by telling you what a wonderful lifestyle you have, how flexible your schedule is, and everything thanks to them, your benefactors who find you work while you do not even lift a finger.

This is what the California State Legislature is trying to stop by forcing those employers who treat their “independent contractors” as employees to provide all benefits and protections people who do what these interpreters do for the agencies are legally entitled to. Think like an interpreter, stand up for your colleagues and the profession. Do not buy the arguments agencies are propagating. They do not see this legislation from the interpreters’ perspective. They see it from their business perspective.

For a long time, agencies have enjoyed this cozy business model that lets them charge their client for your service, pay you a part of it, and get you to do anything they want without incurring in any human resource expenses. It is a win-win situation for them. It is an abusive scheme for the interpreter.

Big multinational agencies are campaigning hard to defeat these legal protections not because they will “destroy the industry” as they put it, but because they will lose their golden egg goose. There will be no more freebies. They come at you with their lobbyists and make you believe they are on your side, they portray themselves as your savior and use scare tactics to make you think there will be no work for you if they are forced to lower their profits by living up to their legal and moral obligations to the interpreters.

Freelancing is not going to end after the bill becomes the law of the land in California or anywhere else. I am a freelance interpreter and I am not afraid. I do not work with these agencies, big or small, who now claim they are on a quest to save us all. New legislation or status quo will not impact my practice, and it will not impact that of most colleagues I work on a daily basis; however, leaving things as they are, giving back these agencies a position of power over the interpreters who work for them, will keep our less fortunate colleagues in the same deplorable conditions they have been working for all these years. This is a decisive moment. Multinational agencies and their lobby know it. They will fight the State of California with everything they have because they know the Golden State is a place where they can be unmasked and lose their privileges. Interpreters have organized labor backing their efforts because there are unions and guilds in California. Other States do not have them. The middleman knows that California is a decisive battlefield and they are spending money and sending their PR people to “convince” interpreters that defeating this legislation is best.

They argue they will not be able to hire interpreters because it would be too expensive. That many agencies will not survive and interpreters will lose a source of work. That is the point. The bill will only be successful when this serf-owner business model is erased. Will interpreters be more expensive because of the labor benefits? Yes. Interpreters deserve these protections. Agencies will either close or adjust their business models to comply with the legislation. Will agencies hire less interpreters? Of course, but the need for interpreters will not go away. There will be many more interpreters hired directly by clients. Is this going to hurt small agencies? It should. Small agencies should not exist in this business model because the essential condition for their survival is the denial of workers’ rights under the law.

Complaints that the legislation has exempted other professions like physicians and attorneys, but not interpreters are nonsense. Doctors and lawyers are well-established professions. Nobody would ever think of calling a “medical agency” and ask for a brain surgeon for tomorrow at 8:00am. If we want to be treated like these professions, we need to look like them. First step: get rid of the middleman. I know, some will say: “but…hairdressers are excluded and they are not a profession like doctors and lawyers” That is true and it is wrong. They should be covered by the legislation. The difference is: They got a better lobbyist and got their sorry exception in detriment of the people providing beauty services.

What about the argument that smaller agencies will not be able to stay in business because they will not afford it? In my opinion, these so-called agencies are not really agencies; most of them are a solo operation where somebody with connections acts as a referral service. I find this dangerous because these “agencies” just want a warm body with the right language combination for the assignment. I do not get the impression that messages on social media that read: “need French interpreter tomorrow at 2 pm” project exemplary quality control. Moreover, these people are not an agency, they should think and act like professionals and do what I do, and many of my colleagues do (all doctors and layers do the same thing): When your client asks for interpreters in a language combination different from mine, I just suggest a list of trusted experienced professional friends I am willing to vouch for, and let my client decide who he will retain and for what fee. I do not get involved, I do not get referral fees.

Finally, to the argument the ABC test is impossible to overcome: This is false. It can easily be overcome by a real independent contractor relationship. That is the point. If any agency could disguise a de-facto employee as an independent contractor the law would be pointless.

I understand what multinational agencies, their lobbyists, small agencies, and those solo practitioners who call themselves an agency without actually being one are doing. They are defending their very lucrative status quo. They have a right to fight for it and save their “industry”. As always, my concern are the interpreters and the profession, and from this perspective, I see the new California legislation as a step forward to our professionalization because, on top of protecting our colleagues in need, it will weaken the agency model, a necessary condition to become a true profession worthy of a place in the pantheon of professions. This is the time to listen to our colleagues and defend our profession, not the middleman interests.

The U.S. Armed Forces and Memorial Day.

May 28, 2018 § 4 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

On the last Monday of May we observe Memorial Day all over the United States. Many friends and colleagues have asked me who do we honor and why. Others confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.  It also marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season throughout the nation. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

On Memorial Day, the flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon.  It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

Now that we clarified what Memorial Day is, let’s talk about the armed forces of the United States. There are five branches of American armed forces: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief.

The United States Army is the largest branch of the armed forces and performs land-based military operations. With the other four branches of the armed forces, plus the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the armed forces responsible for providing power projection using the mobility of the Navy, to deliver rapidly, combined-arms task forces on land, at sea, and in the air.

The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the American armed forces. It is the largest Navy in the world, with the world’s largest aircraft carrier fleet.

The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the armed forces, and it is the largest and most technologically-advanced air force in the world.

The United States Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission (with jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters) and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Navy by the president of the United States at any time, or by the U.S. Congress during times of war.

To complete this brief description of the United States armed forces, I would like to explain the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the president, the secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, and the National Security Council on military matters. The composition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is defined by statute and comprises the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Vice Chairman, the Military Service Chiefs from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force; and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, all appointed by the President following Senate confirmation. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is, by U.S. law, the highest-ranking and senior-most military officer in the United States armed forces and is the principal military advisor to the president, National Security Council, Homeland Security Council, and secretary of Defense.  Even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other commissioned officers, he is prohibited by law from having operational command authority over the armed forces; however, the Chairman assists the President and the Secretary of Defense in exercising their command functions.

I hope you find this information useful and I hope that it may come in handy when interpreting national defense or military issues involving the United States. I now invite you to add any additional information you may consider useful and relevant to our practice as professional interpreters.

Tony Rosado’s CMIC interview. Mi entrevista con el CMIC

March 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

Dear Colleagues:

I would like to share with you my interview with the Colegio Mexicano de Intérpretes de Conferencias about our new court interpreting book that was presented during the International Book Fair in Guadalajara Mexico. I apologize to those colleagues who may not be able to read the text because the interview is in Spanish.

En esta ocasión quiero compartir con ustedes la entrevista que me hizo el Colegio Mexicano de Intérpretes de Conferencias con motivo de la publicación de nuestro libro de interpretación judicial en México, mismo que fue presentado en el Congreso de la Organización Mexicana de Traductores (OMT) durante la Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) en Guadalajara, Jalisco. Gracias a Edna Cerf por la entrevista y al Colegio por permitirme reproducir en este blog la entrevista publicada en el número de febrero del Le Petit Journal du CMIC. La entrevista queda muy bien en este momento en que me dispongo a impartir un taller en la CDMX este fin de semana.

“Tony, muy buenos días. En nombre del Colegio Mexicano de Intérpretes de Conferencias, te agradecemos mucho esta entrevista. Presentaste un libro hace un par de meses en la FIL de Guadalajara. Para los intérpretes y el público en general que todavía no lo conoce, preséntanos tu libro y quiénes intervinieron para que saliera a la luz.

Este libro: “Manual del Intérprete Judicial en México”, es la primera publicación en español sobre interpretación judicial conforme al sistema jurídico adoptado por el gobierno mexicano hace unos años donde se cambia del sistema de juicios escritos, donde la necesidad de interpretación era mínima, a un sistema de juicios orales semejante al de los Estados Unidos y otros países anglosajones, donde la función del intérprete es esencial. En el libro, mis coautores y yo, intentamos llevar de la mano al intérprete judicial por todos los recovecos relevantes para un trabajo de interpretación judicial profesional. Abordamos temas jurídicos fundamentales como los derechos humanos, garantías individuales y demás derechos y valores jurídicos protegidos por la constitución, hasta las normas jurídicas procesales relevantes para la prestación de servicios de interpretación judicial, todo enfocado a la perspectiva del intérprete, no del abogado, logrando de esta forma que intérpretes profesionales, no abogados, comprendan el cómo y porqué de lo que están haciendo en los juzgados. Después, el libro presenta desde la perspectiva del intérprete, el proceso judicial y la participación del intérprete en cada etapa del mismo, adentrándonos en detalles como el tipo de interpretación necesaria para cada audiencia o comparecencia judicial (consecutiva corta, simultánea, o traducción a la vista). Esta sección del manual también va enfocada al abogado y a los jueces, para que los intérpretes puedan emplearlo como una herramienta de información y educación sobre lo que necesitan para hacer su trabajo. Finalmente, el manual trata del código deontológico que debe seguir todo intérprete, y en particular el judicial por ser auxiliar de la impartición de justicia. Esta publicación va dirigida a todos los intérpretes y cubre específicamente la interpretación judicial por intérpretes de lenguas de señas, lenguas indígenas y lenguas orales extranjeras.  Me parece que un gran logro fue la participación de peritos en todas las disciplinas cubiertas ya que mis coautores aportaron aquello de lo que yo carecía: María del Carmen Carreón es Magistrada del Tribunal Federal Electoral y como tal, aporta la visión del juzgador, parte fundamental para la prestación de este servicio. Daniel Maya es una institución ampliamente reconocida a nivel nacional e internacional en interpretación señada, concretamente la Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) y yo aporto mi granito de arena como abogado e intérprete judicial con más de 2 décadas de experiencia en juzgados de varios países y en todos los niveles, además de mi trayectoria como instructor de interpretación judicial y autor de libros.

 

¿Cómo y con quiénes nació esta aventura? ¿Cuál es su propósito?

El manual nace en un momento de esos en que se alinea el universo y Carmen, Daniel y yo nos encontramos en un “green room” esperando pasar a un auditorio para dar una presentación cuando al platicar, nos damos cuenta que tenemos muchas cosas en común y una misma inquietud: Contribuir a la impartición de justicia en México de una manera incluyente donde nadie sea víctima del sistema por no entender el idioma del juzgado, en este caso el español. Daniel y yo teníamos anos de conocernos. Carmen y Daniel habían colaborado juntos por mucho tiempo, pero Carmen y yo estábamos conociéndonos. Carmen, en ese entonces Magistrada del Tribunal Electoral del Distrito Federal, es una persona incansable y alguien que me ha abierto los ojos a un nuevo tipo de juzgador en México, personas capaces y honestas dignas de confianza, y listas a luchar por la justicia. Ella fue instrumental en este proyecto al abrirnos mil puertas en el sistema y al aportar su energía, conocimientos y compromiso social. Daniel Maya es el presidente de la asociación profesional de intérpretes de lengua de señas mexicana más grande del país, con miembros en todo México. Además, Daniel ha estado muy activo a nivel internacional y es bien conocido en todo México ya que su imagen aparece constantemente en recuadro en los televisores mexicanos. Los conocimientos y el entusiasmo de Daniel fueron clave para poder soñar con un proyecto así de ambicioso. Yo siempre había anhelado el poder desarrollar algo que alcanzara e incluyera a los colegas de lenguas de señas y esta oportunidad, aunada con mi previa relación y confianza absoluta en la capacidad de Daniel, hicieron que este proyecto no solo arrancara, sino que llegara a su destino. De este proyecto ha surgido una relación profesional de los tres coautores que ha resultado en muchos proyectos que estamos evaluando en este momento, pero a nivel personal, lo mejor de esta experiencia es la gran amistad que ha surgido entre los tres y muchas otras personas que tras bambalinas han sido indispensables para que este proyecto viera la luz. Una empresa como esta requiere de mucha gente valiosa y trabajadora, no solo de los autores que firman el libro.

 

El “Manual del Intérprete Judicial en México” está presentado por el Dr. José Ramón Cossío Díaz, Ministro de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación y Miembro de “El Colegio Nacional”. ¿Por qué involucrar a la sede judicial?

El Ministro Cossío llegó al proyecto en circunstancias muy especiales. Por un lado estaba su relación con Carmen que era quien mejor lo conocía, por otro lado, en mi caso, estaba un antecedente de hace algunos años, cuando se inició este proyecto de la interpretación judicial en México para satisfacer las necesidades de los nuevos juicios orales, una colega muy querida, amiga mutua, y miembro del CMIC, Georganne Weller, tuvo un encuentro con el Ministro en la Suprema Corte donde ella le platicó de nuestra profesión y en cierta forma despertó su interés en esto. Daniel también fue parte instrumental ya que el Ministro Cossío había manifestado su interés en la interpretación para los ciudadanos sordos en el sistema de justicia mexicano, incluso acompañándonos en una ocasión en un foro que tuvimos en la sede de la Corte y donde él se dirigió a los colegas intérpretes de Lengua de Señas Mexicana de toda la república, a invitación de Carmen y de Daniel. Tuve la oportunidad de participar y me pareció un interés genuino que se cristalizó en esta intervención en el prólogo del libro, lo cual nos brinda una legitimidad mucho mayor y nos abre las puertas de muchos juzgados y despachos de abogados no solo en México, sino en todo el mundo. Hasta donde yo sé, ningún otro Ministro de una corte suprema ha brindado este tipo de deferencia en un libro de interpretación judicial.

 

¿Está dirigido únicamente para intérpretes de señas o para intérpretes de lenguas indígenas que desean ser intérpretes en el sistema penal acusatorio?

El manual ha sido presentado en varios foros y ante diferentes públicos, pero su destinatario es todo intérprete que sea o que quiera dedicarse completamente o parcialmente a la interpretación judicial. Es un error creer que va dirigido a los intérpretes de Lengua de Señas o a los intérpretes de lenguas indígenas. Va dirigido a todos los intérpretes. Esta confusión es prueba de que los intérpretes de lenguas orales extranjeras están tan acostumbrados a que todas las publicaciones vayan dirigidas a ellos, que cuando aparece un manual incluyente de todos los intérpretes, lo vean como algo no destinado a su ejercicio profesional. Les invito a que lo lean y vean como todos los temas del proceso y práctica profesional son abordados con comentarios y conceptos generales aplicables a todos los intérpretes, seguidos de comentarios, conceptos y recomendaciones dirigidas específicamente para los intérpretes de lenguas orales o de señas, y cuando es necesario, mencionando las diferencias y circunstancias especiales para los intérpretes de lenguas indígenas. El libro trata de la interpretación de relevo (relay interpreting) entre intérpretes orales e intérpretes de lenguas de señas, cosa nunca antes vista.

 

¿Un intérprete de lenguas judicial debe de saber derecho? ¿Es un perito en derecho?

Un intérprete judicial debe saber derecho procesal y tener las bases de las ramas del derecho sustantivo en el que vaya a especializarse (civil, penal, internacional, etc.) a un nivel semejante al de un paralegal o asistente jurídico. Obviamente, no estorba saber más y ayuda tener una licenciatura en derecho o criminología. El intérprete judicial certificado es un perito en interpretación judicial, mas no en derecho. No es abogado. En realidad, es como todo trabajo de interpretación. No se puede interpretar lo que no se comprende y para comprender lo que se ventila en una audiencia, hay que entender lo que se está litigando (derecho sustantivo) y el contexto en que se está ventilando la controversia, o sea el momento dentro del procedimiento en que se están presentando alegatos o desahogando las pruebas. No pasa lo mismo en una audiencia intermedia que en una audiencia de juicio oral, por ejemplo (derecho adjetivo). La belleza de la interpretación (y la traducción) es que el idioma siempre cambia, así que hay que seguir estudiando. La belleza de la interpretación judicial es que el derecho no es estático, así que también hay que actualizarse constantemente. Si te gusta estudiar y eres intérprete judicial, tienes pretexto para hacerlo por partida doble.  

 

¿Los intérpretes actuales en los diversos procesos judiciales que se llevan a cabo en nuestro país saben cómo comportarse y están certificados?

Aún no existe en México un programa de certificación para la patente de perito intérprete en juicios orales, pero se están barajando varias posibilidades. México cuenta, con una herencia del ahora caduco sistema indagatorio en la figura del perito traductor, o perito intérprete traductor. Sin embargo, dicha patente no respalda ningún tipo de conocimientos o experiencia con juicios orales. Ahora, actualmente existen intérpretes en los juzgados mexicanos que saben comportarse en ese entorno judicial,  ya sea porque poseen una certificación de interpretación judicial extranjera (generalmente del gobierno federal o de algún estado de la Unión Americana) porque se han preocupado por aprender de manera autodidacta, o simplemente porque tienen muchas tablas y por puro instinto hacen un trabajo bastante bueno. La meta es la certificación para la patente de perito intérprete en juicios orales, ya sea a nivel federal, o estatal si algunos estados se adelantan al gobierno federal y ofrecen algún programa a nivel de su entidad.  

 

¿Cómo conseguir la certificación en México? ¿Cuáles son las recomendaciones de Tony Rosado para profesionalizar a los intérpretes?

Creo que ya he contestado la primera parte de esta pregunta en mi respuesta anterior. Mis recomendaciones para profesionalizar a los intérpretes son específicas para México donde hay que aprovechar el momento histórico que se presenta: El advenimiento del sistema acusatorio y por ende los juicios orales, es un fenómeno que se presenta a todas las disciplinas jurídicas al mismo tiempo. Se trata de algo nuevo para los intérpretes mexicanos, pero también para los jueces y abogados. Existe la oportunidad de que todos aprendan al mismo tiempo, y cuando algo se hace en un terreno nivelado, la cooperación, deseo de aprender, y la humildad ante lo desconocido es la misma. En otros países un intérprete recién formado o aún en proceso de formación tiene que enfrentar un sistema de jueces con años de experiencia, abogados que dominan el sistema y han trabajado con intérpretes judiciales por décadas, personal administrativo en los juzgados que a veces no es paciente con los intérpretes nuevos. Aprovechemos esta circunstancia para sobresalir profesionalmente.

Pienso que el sistema de certificación, ya sea estatal o federal, deberá incluir tres requisitos fundamentales: (1) Demostrar en un examen que el candidato posee los conocimientos de interpretación judicial (consecutiva corta, simultánea susurrada y en cabina, traducción a la vista bidireccional, interpretación completa, incluyendo interjecciones y comentarios aparentemente irrelevantes, registros y variaciones de lenguaje y terminología desde lo más culto hasta lo más soez, etc.) y de terminología y procedimiento jurídicos al nivel ya mencionado en otra pregunta. (2) Demostrar en un examen que el candidato entiende y domina los principios deontológicos de interpretación en general; aquellos aplicables a su especialidad de interpretación (existen preceptos de ética solo aplicables a los intérpretes de lenguas de señas o a los de lenguas indígenas, por ejemplo) y los cánones de ética específicos a la interpretación judicial como el secreto profesional, las reglas de evidencia, las declaraciones testimoniales, visitas carcelarias, imparcialidad, o parcialidad según sea el caso, etc.); y (3) La educación continua necesaria para actualizarse y conservar la patente, garantizando que el perito está al día en cuestiones de interpretación, derecho y ética. A mí me gustaría que la calificación de las credenciales y la decisión de quienes pueden ser peritos intérpretes debería estar a cargo de sus pares, o sea: otros intérpretes, quizá el CMIC o algún otro colegio o asociación profesional de nueva creación, como sucede en otras profesiones en los países más avanzados (en esos países la Barra de Abogados admite a los nuevos abogados, el Consejo de Medicina admite a los nuevos médicos, etc.) o como sucede con la certificación de intérprete sanitario en los Estados Unidos. Para mí siempre es mejor que otros colegas, y no el gobierno, decidan si el candidato es apto para el ejercicio de la profesión.

 

¿En Estados Unidos los intérpretes de lenguas sí están certificados? ¿Cómo logra un intérprete certificarse en E.U.?

Los Estados Unidos han contado con intérpretes comunitarios por mucho tiempo debido a la fábrica social del país. Un gran [porcentaje de población estadounidense no habla inglés. Históricamente, primero de manera orgánica, para satisfacer una necesidad y posteriormente de manera sistemática y profesional, los intérpretes que interactúan con la población en general se encuentran sujetos a rigurosos programas de certificación ya sea judicial o sanitaria.

Existen dos sistemas paralelos para la certificación judicial: Un sistema federal para los juzgados federales y 56 sistemas locales para cada uno de los 50 estados y 6 territorios del país. Además, existe un programa de certificación para los intérpretes de Lengua de Señas Estadounidense (ASL). El sistema federal es más riguroso y su certificación más difícil de alcanzar, pero en general, todos los programas, estatales y federales buscan que el candidato demuestre su dominio de ambas lenguas (origen y destino) de conocimientos jurídicos básicos, ética y profesionalismo, y que tenga una habilidad mínima en la interpretación simultánea, consecutiva corta y traducción a la vista, así como en los cambios de registro, incluyendo terminología jurídica en ambos idiomas, lenguaje soez y expresiones idiomáticas. Finalmente, los estados requieren un mínimo de educación continua anualmente o bianualmente (según cada estado) en interpretación, derecho y ética. No es necesario vivir en los Estados Unidos para certificarse, así que yo invito a que nuestros colegas en México intenten una certificación en Estados Unidos al menos para practicar para la certificación mexicana.  

 

Si en la sede judicial se requieren intérpretes calificados, ¿por qué considera Tony que esta certificación todavía no existe en nuestro país? ¿Qué se necesita? ¿Cuáles serían los criterios?

La certificación aún no existe debido a lo reciente del cambio de sistema procesal en el país. No me cabe duda que en un futuro próximo existirá al menos un programa federal de certificación como perito intérprete judicial. Contestando la segunda parte de  tu pregunta te diré que se necesitan dos cosas: Una mayor conciencia de parte del pueblo de México para que exijan servicios de interpretación en los juzgados y también una mayor participación de los intérpretes de México. A mí me ha sorprendido la apatía por parte de nuestros colegas que siento no han evaluado las posibilidades ni considerado los beneficios de ejercer la interpretación judicial, al menos de medio tiempo. Con tantas reformas necesarias para implementar completamente el sistema acusatorio, no cabe duda que serán prioridad aquellas cuyo gremio sea más vocal. Los intérpretes están compitiendo con los médicos forenses, criminólogos, criminalistas, fiscales, policías, defensores públicos, secretarios de juzgado y otros por un lugar en esa lista de prioridades. A todos les va a llegar su turno, pero la pregunta es ¿Quién quiere ser de los primeros y aprovechar ese momento histórico de aprendizaje colectivo que te mencionaba en una respuesta anterior?  Me imagino que los criterios para Lengua de señas Mexicana (LSM) y lenguas orales extranjeras serán los aceptados universalmente y mencionados en otra respuesta. El caso de las lenguas indígenas será más complejo y diferente debido a las diferencias culturales, usos y costumbres, falta de conocimiento sobre los valores indígenas y la desconfianza de dicho sector de la población, justificada por siglos de maltratos y negligencia.

¿Crees que con este libro los intérpretes en un proceso judicial serán tomados más en cuenta? ¿Por qué?

Definitivamente. El hecho que una Magistrada del máximo tribunal electoral del país sea coautora; que el libro trate temas que incluyen la protección de grupos de mexicanos como los sordos e indígenas, que se ofrezca la herramienta necesaria para dirimir controversias comerciales, civiles, familiares y penales entre mexicanos y extranjeros ya sean personas físicas o morales que no hablen la misma lengua, y que el prólogo haya sido escrito por un Ministro de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (SCJN) son evidencia del gran peso de este manual. La tremenda aceptación, tanto en su venta en México y el extranjero (por toda Sudamérica, Centroamérica, Estados Unidos y España entre otros) como por la asistencia y participación de muchísimos jueces, intérpretes y abogados durante la presentación del libro en todos los lugares de la república donde lo hemos presentado son evidencia de que el libro está teniendo un efecto positivo en todo el sistema.

 

De acuerdo con el Dr. Cossío en este libro hay una ausencia de la descripción de los procesos ordinarios federales con la totalidad de la función jurisdiccional encaminada a los estados. ¿Se considera un tomo 2?

Se consideran varios tomos. Es importante lo que comenta el Ministro Cossío, sin embargo, tuvo que quedarse en el tintero porque nuestro objetivo era el de producir un manual práctico para el intérprete, no para el abogado; queríamos publicar algo lo suficientemente, portátil, claro y conciso para que acompañase al intérprete a la sala del juzgado, el despacho del abogado y los separos del reclusorio.  La observación del Ministro es acogida y será incorporada más adelante, por ahora, sin adelantar mucho, parece que el próximo tema a tratar será el comportamiento ético y profesional del intérprete judicial tanto dentro como fuera del juzgado. ¡Estén pendientes!

 

El Colegio Mexicano de Intérpretes de Conferencias, A.C. (CMIC), tiene 35 años de existencia. Ninguna asociación de intérpretes es tan longeva en América Latina y el CMIC es un referente importante en México y en otros países de habla hispana. En Colombia la más antigua tiene alrededor de 15 años. ¿Qué les dirías a los agremiados al CMIC?

Primero les enviaría un saludo muy afectuoso y una enorme felicitación por el aniversario. Tú sabes que lo hago de corazón ya que cuento con muchísimos amigo en el Colegio (algunas de mis mejores amigas son miembro del CMIC) y a continuación les invitaría, como referente de la profesión el América Latina y conociendo la capacidad individual de sus miembros, a que tomaran en serio y con gran entusiasmo la interpretación judicial en México. En épocas de globalización y de interpretación simultánea remota (RSI) cada día habrá más colegas (muchos de ellos sumamente capaces) compitiendo por los mismos trabajos desde todo el planeta. La interpretación jurídica mexicana les da una oportunidad de aprovechar esta globalización que además de tecnología genera disputas jurídicas con litigantes de todo el mundo, para ser los intérpretes en controversias judiciales internacionales ventiladas en el sistema judicial mexicano en temas como propiedad intelectual, fusiones y adquisiciones, incumplimiento de contratos de importación o explotación de materias primas, testamentos de extranjeros, divorcios, pensiones alimenticias y guarda y custodia de menores cuando las partes en el divorcio no tengan el mismo primer idioma, declaraciones bajo protesta de decir verdad (depositions) y muchas otras.

Hay que recordar que no todo el trabajo de interpretación judicial tiene que ver con la comisión de delitos. Si, habrá trabajo en el campo penal, sobre todo para los intérpretes de Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) que también son miembros de este ilustre Colegio, y para los intérpretes de Lenguas Indígenas, pero una buena parte del trabajo, y sin duda la mejor remunerada, será para los intérpretes de lenguas extranjeras.  Esta es la oportunidad para que nuestros colegas mexicanos se pongan las pilas y asuman los servicios de interpretación judicial en las declaraciones bajo protesta de decir verdad (depositions) que se dan por miles en el territorio mexicano cada año y que casi en su totalidad son interpretadas por colegas que vienen acompañado a los abogados desde el extranjero y que, ante una oferta profesional y seria de parte de los miembros del CMIC, pondrían en evidencia dos desventajas de traer a los intérpretes desde el extranjero: (1) El costo, y no me refiero a los honorarios que deberían ser los mismos,  sino al costo de transporte, hotel, viáticos, etc.; y (2) La cultura local, los modismos, las expresiones idiomáticas, la historia del lugar, etc. Yo siempre creo que un buen intérprete mexicano es mejor para un trabajo en México con mexicanos, o que un buen intérprete colombiano es mejor para un trabajo en Colombia con colombianos. Aprovechen esta oportunidad, diversifiquen su ejercicio profesional, y asuman la dirección y margen el destino de la interpretación judicial en México.

 

¿En qué radica para Tony la importancia de pertenecer a alguna asociación?

Es un síntoma de profesionalismo. No podemos imaginar a los abogados de México sin el Ilustre y Nacional Colegio de abogados o la Barra Mexicana de Abogados. No podemos concebir a los médicos de Estados Unidos sin la American Medical Association (AMA) a los intérpretes de conferencias sin la Asociación Internacional de Intérpretes de Conferencias (AIIC) o a los traductores estadounidenses sin la American Translators Association (ATA).  México necesita del CMIC tanto, o más, que los intérpretes de conferencias mexicanos necesitan al Colegio. Educación continua, condiciones de trabajo, defensa de la profesión, son temas que competen a las asociaciones de profesionistas y en mi opinión no puede ser de otra manera. Ejercemos una profesión bella pero muy difícil y poco comprendida, necesitamos del apoyo de nuestros colegas y nuestras asociaciones profesionales para mejorar la calidad de nuestro trabajo, mantener los estándares de la profesión y para poder vivir la vida que nos merecemos.

 

En el Manual de Intérprete Judicial en México se especifican todos los artículos del Código de Ética del Colegio Mexicano de Intérpretes de Conferencias. ¿Por qué consideras importante que se siga un código de ética como el del CMIC o del INALI?

Te faltó mencionar el código deontológico de los intérpretes de Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM). La interpretación es una profesión como la ingeniería o la arquitectura, pero además es una profesión fiduciaria. A diferencia de otras profesiones donde más de una persona puede darse cuenta del desempeño del profesionista, al menos hasta cierto punto, en la interpretación en general, y en la judicial en particular, una vez elegidos los intérpretes para un trabajo o un caso, todas las partes ponen su confianza ciega en la honestidad, profesionalismo y ética del intérprete. Imagina un proceso para decidir si te quitan  a tus hijos, o si pierdes tu empresa, o si te mandan a la cárcel, donde no entiendes la mitad de lo que se dice y no sabes si quien está hablando por ti lo está haciendo bien. ¡Tremenda responsabilidad! Por ello, un código de ética es indispensable tanto para el buen funcionamiento del servicio profesional, como para la paz y tranquilidad de quien contrata los servicios del intérprete.

 

Las redes sociales han revolucionado la comunicación en el mundo. ¿Crees que Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat u otras pueden suplir a las asociaciones bien organizadas? ¿Qué opinas sobre la recomendación de intérpretes por medio de una red social?

La asociación profesional es un grupo colegiado de individuos con una actividad profesional en común para tomar decisiones y acciones que protejan o avancen los intereses comunes y de la profesión. Yo soy un gran defensor de las redes sociales, pero Twitter, Facebook y las otras tienen cometidos diferentes. No se puede comparar. Yo las empleo cotidianamente para difundir información, externar opiniones, promover mis servicios, fortalecer mis redes profesionales de colegas, pero jamás con la idea de reemplazar a una asociación civil del tipo que sea, mucho menos una profesional. Nunca he recomendado intérpretes por redes sociales ya que lo considero un tema un tanto delicado y no solo por lo que hay que decir sobre un colega; también por la percepción de mis otros colegas a quienes no recomendé. Sin embargo, Yo no veo ningún problema cuando se trata de ciertas situaciones como por ejemplo los recientes sismos en la Ciudad de México donde las redes sociales sirvieron enormemente para poner en comunicación a intérpretes y personas necesitadas de sus servicios. Lo que si detesto es la oferta de trabajo por Facebook o LinkedIn donde un colega o una agencia simplemente dice: “intérprete el martes a las 10 am en Pachuca”. ¿Qué tipo de trabajo? ¿Qué tipo de intérprete? ¿Por cuánto tiempo? Para mí eso es una falta de respeto a la profesión y al colectivo. No hace mucho opiné al respecto en mi canal de YouTube “The Professional Interpreter’s Opinion”.

 

¿Desde cuándo eres intérprete? ¿Con quién te gustaría o te hubiera gustado compartir cabina?

Empecé profesionalmente a mediados de la década de los 80s (ya llovió) Siempre quise ser intérprete, pero sucumbí a la presión de estudiar primero una carrera “de verdad”, así que estudié derecho, de lo que no me arrepiento ya que me dotó de un cúmulo de conocimientos y la metodología para investigar, leer y sintetizar, que me ha servido en mi carrera.  Me hubiera gustado compartir cabina con todos los intérpretes legendarios de la historia, formados profesionalmente y empíricos, conocidos y anónimos: Patricia Vander Elst, Ruth Hall, Christopher Thiery, Italia Morayta, Rosa María Durán, Harry Obst, Squanto, Malintzin, el intérprete de Marco Polo, y todos los intérpretes con quienes he trabajado y sigo trabajando muy a gusto (ellos saben de quienes hablo) además de los valores jóvenes con muchas ganas de aprender y de enseñar algunos trucos nuevos a un veterano de la profesión.  

 

¿Cuál es tu mayor defecto y tu mayor virtud?

Defectos tengo muchísimos, virtudes muy pocas y sería muy injusto que yo sea quien me juzgue a mí mismo, por aquello de nunca ser juez y parte, sin embargo puedo decirte que la gente se queja de que como compañero de viaje o trabajo soy demasiado hiperactivo, duermo poco y hablo demasiado (claro que esto describe a muchos colegas) y también he escuchado que pongo mucha energía en la defensa de los colegas y la profesión en general, que soy buen amigo y me dicen “tonypedia” porque sé de varias cosas. Mejor ahí lo dejamos. 

 

¿A quién admiras?

A todas las personas que triunfan a pesar de los obstáculos, a quienes no se rinden o conforman, a quienes jamás se resignan. No soporto a los mediocres o conformistas. Me cuesta trabajo conversar con intérpretes que se quejan de que no hay trabajo pero ni lo buscan, ni están dispuestos a sacrificar nada por alcanzar el éxito. Admiro a todos los intérpretes que son buenos, a los traductores que son buenos, a los científicos, humanistas y políticos que son buenos, a todos los colegas que dedican su tiempo desinteresadamente a las asociaciones profesionales. Admiro y respeto a los miembros de las fuerzas armadas y las policías porque cada mañana salen de su casa sin saber si regresarán por la noche. Como personaje histórico admiro enormemente a Thomas Jefferson

 

Por favor dinos en dónde podemos adquirir tu libro.

Mi primer libro: “The Professional Court Interpreter” en inglés y sobre el intérprete en el sistema judicial de los Estados Unidos puede adquirirse por internet de Amazon, Barnes and Noble y muchas otras librerías en todo el mundo. El nuevo libro “Manual del Intérprete Judicial en México” se puede adquirir por internet directamente de la editorial Tirant Lo Blanch en México, visitando su página web: www.tirent.com/mex y para quienes nos lean desde el extranjero, pueden pedirlo por email escribiendo a: osanchez@tirant.com También pueden adquirirlo en las librerías Porrúa, Gandhi y demás lugares de prestigio.

 

¿Algo más que quieras agregar?

Solo reiterar la importancia de al menos probar la interpretación judicial en México. Hay futuro. Mientras se definen los requisitos para certificarse como perito intérprete de juicios orales, les recomendaría que estudiaran el tema. La educación continua es muy importante para ello. Creo que pronto tendremos algo al respecto con el Colegio; además existen los cursos con Georganne Weller y me parece que otras promociones en el interior de la república. Creo que voy a andar por Chetumal y Mérida en un futuro próximo, tenemos ya un taller para intérpretes y traductores jurídicos con Georganne en marzo, y desde luego, como todos los años algo en la CDMX para los intérpretes de Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) este otoño y el San Jerónimo en Guadalajara en noviembre

 

En nombre del CMIC, muchas felicidades por el Manual del Intérprete Judicial en México. Enhorabuena.

Mil gracias, Edna, y felicidades por tu trabajo al frente del Colegio.”

Ahora les invito a que incluyan sus comentarios a esta entrevista o a lo que está sucediendo con la interpretación judicial en México.

The Christmas traditions we observe in the United States.

December 24, 2017 § 2 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

The end of the calendar year marks a time when most cultures in the world slow down their work routines, gather with friends and relatives, and reflect on what was accomplished during the year while setting goals to achieve what was not.  Some give the season a religious connotation, others choose not to do so. Regardless of the personal meaning and importance that each one of us give to this time of the year, there is a common denominator, certain actions, traditions, and celebrations observed and held dear by many. They vary from country to country, and are part of the national pride and identity of a nation.

The United States is a unique case because of the convergence of cultures and populations from around the world who have brought with them their language, beliefs and traditions.  With globalization many other regions in the world now live the same situation where not everybody celebrates everything, not everybody celebrates the same, and even the ones who celebrate a particular festivity or observe certain event will do it differently depending on their cultural background. I also want to point out that, due to the immense commercial and cultural influence of the United States just about everywhere in the world, some traditions below will be recognized as something that you do in your country.

Although Christmas is not the only festivity where we see this American reality, I decided to share with you our national traditions on this day because it is widely observed and understood throughout the world, and because it is a nice thing to share with all of you when many of us are slowing down and waiting for the new year.  Finally, before I share these American traditions with you, I want to clarify that although this entry deals with Christmas traditions, it does it from a cultural perspective with no religious intent to endorse or offend anyone. I know that many of my dearest friends and colleagues come from different religions, cultural backgrounds, and geographic areas; and the farthest thing from my mind is to make you feel left out, ignored or offended. This post is written with the sole intention to share cultural traditions, and invite an exchange of information about other customs observed at the end of the year by other groups and countries.  Thank you for your understanding, and please enjoy:

In the United States the Christmas season, now called the holiday season to make it more inclusive, starts on the day after Thanksgiving known as “Black Friday”. Many schools and businesses close between Christmas (December 25) and New Year’s Day (January 1). Most Americans take this time out from their professional and academic schedules to spend time with their friends and families. Because of the high mobility we experience in the United States, it is very common that families live far from each other, often in different states; so that children go home to the parents’ is more significant as it may be the only time they see each other face to face during the year.

Many Americans decorate the exterior of their homes with holiday motifs such as snowmen, Santa Claus, and even reindeer figures.  As a tradition derived from holding Christmas in winter in the northern hemisphere when daylight is scarce, Americans install temporary multi-colored lights framing their house or business.  Because of its beauty and uniqueness, this tradition has spread to southern parts of the United States where winters are mild and daylight lasts longer. The American southwest distinguishes itself from the rest of the country because of the lights they use to decorate their buildings: the luminarias, a tradition (from the Spanish days of the region) of filling brown paper bags with sand and placing a candle inside.

The interior of the house is decorated during the weeks leading to Christmas and on Christmas Eve. Christmas tree farms in Canada and the United States provide enough trees for people’s homes, although many prefer an artificial tree.  These trees are placed at a special place in the house and are decorated with lights and ornaments, and at the very top an angel or star is placed on Christmas Eve.  Unlike many other countries, in particular those where most people are Roman Catholic, Americans hold no big celebration on Christmas Eve, known as “the night before Christmas”, the time when Santa Claus visits their homes while children are sleeping and leaves presents for the kids to open on Christmas morning.  As a sign of appreciation, or perhaps as a last act of lobbying, children leave out by the tree a glass of milk and cookies for Santa to snack during his visit.

Special Christmas stockings are hung on the fireplace mantelpiece for Santa to fill with gifts called “stocking stuffers” that will be found by the kids on Christmas Day while the yule log will provide heat and holiday smells. Even those homes that have replaced the traditional fireplace with an electric one have kept the yule log tradition; and when everything else fails, cable TV and satellite TV companies offer a TV channel that broadcasts only a yule log all day.

Adults exchange presents previously wrapped in festive seasonal wrapping paper, and even the pets get Christmas presents every year.  With the presents exchanged,  people move on to their Christmas dinner that will usually feature ham, roast beef, and even turkey with stuffing, although many families skip the bird because they just had it for Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks before.  Potatoes, squash, roasted vegetables, cranberries and salads are part of the traditional meal, but in some regions of the United States, demographic cultural fusion has added other dishes to the traditional family dinner: It is common to find tamales in a Hispanic Christmas dinner, poi and pork in Hawaii, BBQ turkey or chicken in the south, and sushi and rice in an Asian household. Unlike Thanksgiving when pumpkin pie is the universal choice, many desserts are part of the meal: pies, cakes, fruit, and the famous fruitcake.  They are all washed down with the traditional and very sweet eggnog or its “adult” version with some rum, whisky, or other spirits.

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls have made it a tradition to have home NBA basketball games on Christmas Day that are broadcasted on national TV.  Other traditions include Christmas carols, window shopping the season-decorated department stores, special functions such as the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, the National Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., the Very-Merry Christmas Parade held simultaneously at Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, the Nutcracker ballet in theaters and school auditoriums all over the United States, and endless Christmas movies and TV shows, including the original “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with Boris Karloff as the voice of the Grinch.

I hope this walk through American Christmas traditions was fun, helped some of you to understand a little better the culture of the United States, and maybe part of what you just read will be handy in the booth one day. Whether you live in the U.S. or somewhere else, I now ask you to please share some of your country or family’s Christmas or other holiday-related traditions with the rest of us.  I sincerely hope you continue to honor us by visiting this blog every week in 2018. Thank you for your continuous preference, and happy holidays to all!

Is it true that interpreters must abstain from public commentary?

December 10, 2017 § 3 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

I have recently read many comments about the court interpreter in California who decided to talk to the media after she provided her services to the defendant in a high profile criminal case. To my surprise, must comments promptly endorsed the position that a court interpreter cannot make any public comment. Such extreme “black and white opinion” is quite concerning.

Before expressing such a sweeping opinion, interpreters should reflect on the purpose of their professional service, the reasons for the rule or legislation, and what the consequences of failing to observe it really are. Let’s see:

The main topic concerning this analysis is confidentiality. The nature of the duty of confidentiality is based on two things: the subject matter or area of interpretation, and a scale of values.

Different subject matters or fields of interpreting will be governed by different legislation, interests, and goals. If the interpreter’s professional practice involves intellectual property, diplomacy, or national security, there will be many limitations and restrictions as to the things the interpreter can share with others. Most of these duties will come from legislation, not canons of ethics of regulations. Many others will derive from contractual obligations regarding commercial brands, patents and copyrights.

The scale of values is also important: The more important the value, the stricter the responsibility.

Revealing the content of diplomatic negotiations could have implications of war and peace, and the interpreter could even go to prison, or at least lose his job and reputation.

Revealing medical information can disrupt a patient’s health or treatment, impact insurance coverage, kill a patient’s future employment opportunities, and generate legal problems for hospitals, physicians and interpreters.

When we provide diplomatic or military interpreting services at certain level, we are required to undergo a security clearance process and we take a legally binding oath to secrecy. Breaching this legal obligation will bring catastrophic consequences to the interpreter.

The California case gives us the opportunity to revisit a court interpreter’s duty of confidentiality, so we can see how sweeping statements like those made by some of our colleagues last week, most of them in good faith, are not so categorically right.

First, we need to understand what is protected by the duty of confidentiality, and who imposes the restrictions on the court interpreter.

Interpreters exist because there must be equal access to the administration of justice, regardless of the language the court or the parties to a controversy speak. Here we must make a distinction:

(1) The court interpreter as a communication tool to the litigant.
When a plaintiff, defendant or victim cannot actively participate in their legal case because of a language barrier, the court interpreter acts as the ears and voice of the foreign language speaker in communications with the court, his attorneys, and the opposite party. Interpreters render a complete, accurate interpretation of everything that is said during the hearing, and interpret to the court and parties everything the foreign language speaker says. These interpreters handle three types of information: public record, confidential information, and privileged communications.

These are the interpreters hired by the court, paid from the courthouse budget, and selected from a roster kept by the clerk’s office.

When a plaintiff or defendant want to be represented by a private attorney, but they cannot communicate with their attorneys because of a language barrier, those privately retained attorneys can also hire professionals court interpreters in private practice to help them communicate with their foreign speaking client, their client’s relatives, and with those witnesses who do not speak the language of the attorneys. In this case it is the attorney who selects the interpreters from prior experiences or referrals from others; and it is the attorney, not the court, who pays the interpreters’ fees (very likely from the plaintiff or defendant’s assets). This interpreters handle three types of information: public record, confidential information, and privileged communications.

As we can see, in both cases, interpreters work with information that is public record. This means that everybody has access to what was said or done. For example: As a rule, court hearings are open to the public. Anybody can go to the courthouse and sit in the courtroom during a trial. At the State-level, many jurisdictions broadcast their proceedings in public and even commercial TV. All legal arguments, court rulings, and witness statements are heard by all interested individuals.

Both, court appointed and privately retained interpreters are privy to confidential information not because of who the interpreters are as individuals, buy because of what they do for living. This information is sensitive in nature and if disclosed, it could adversely impact third party innocent individuals. For these reasons, interpreters are usually barred from sharing this information. Details surrounding a case that come to the knowledge of the parties, but are irrelevant to the outcome of the controversy are kept from the public. Names of business partners, financial information, paternity, personal health information, sealed court cases, juvenile court records, are just some of the examples that fall under this category.

While working with an attorney, all interpreters learn what is called privileged information. This is crucial, intimate information about the subject matter of the controversy that lawyers need to know to represent their clients and defend their interests. This information is treated differently because it is only when a person knows that statements made to their attorney in confidence cannot be disclosed to anyone, not even the judge or jury in the case, that clients can truly open up to their attorneys and share all details of a case. Those acting as agents of the attorney, such as paralegals, investigators, and interpreters, are covered by the client-attorney privilege, and nobody, not even a judge can compel them to disclose said privileged information.

(2) The court interpreter as auxiliary agent to the administration of justice.
The court system has a vested interest on the perception that the administration of justice within its jurisdiction is equally fair to all citizens, even those who do not speak the language of the court. For this reason, courts have set policy to clarify this principle, and reassure all potential litigants of the impartiality of the court, even in those cases when a foreigner is party to a controversy, especially in criminal cases where life or liberty are at stake.

This principle has motivated some courts (not all of them), in particular in the United States, to go beyond what many would consider reasonable, and impose the strictest restrictions to some of the things court interpreters can and cannot do. Based on this one-sided extremely restrictive rules, the federal courts of the United States abide by the United States District Court Code of Ethics for court interpreters, who have been sworn as officers of the court for the duration of the assignment, and interpret under contract with such court, “…to follow the Standards for Performance and Professional Responsibility for Contract Court Interpreters in the Federal Courts…” (USDC Code of Ethics. Preamble)

The Federal Code of Ethics contains some important principles needed to practice the court interpreter profession that are free of controversy, such as Rule 5: “Confidentiality. Interpreters shall protect the confidentiality of all privileged and other confidential information…”

It also covers other situations where restrictions seem unreasonable and arbitrary, like Rule 3 where it states that: “…During the course of the proceedings, interpreters shall not converse with parties, witnesses, …attorneys, or with friends and relatives of the party, except in the discharge of their official functions…”, or Rule 6: “Restriction of Public Comment. Interpreters shall not publicly discuss, report, or offer an opinion concerning a matter in which they are or have been engaged, even when that information is not privileged or required by law to be confidential…”

Dear friends and colleagues, we must remember that the above restrictions by the United States District Court Code of Ethics only apply to court interpreters who are providing their professional services when they “…are sworn in (and) they become, for the duration of the assignment, officers of the court with the specific duty and responsibility of interpreting between English and the language specified. …In their capacity as officers of the court, contract court interpreters are expected to follow the standards for performance and professional responsibility for contract court interpreters in the federal courts…”

In other words, said restrictions, as they are not the law, but a mere contractual obligation, only apply to those who are providing their services in federal court pursuant to a contract with the court. These blanket restrictions do not apply to any of us when working as interpreters in federal court if we have been retained by one of the parties.

Once we understand this limitation, and the different role interpreters play when they act as a communication tool to the litigant with his attorneys, and in those cases when they also act as an auxiliary arm to the administration of justice and are paid by their judiciary. It is obvious that legal restrictions and limitations such as client-attorney privilege and confidentiality will apply to all interpreters as they are part of the essence of the legal representation, but other limitations that go beyond that scope will not apply to privately retained interpreters as they exist to assure impartiality and transparency to the extreme. This is not necessary with private attorneys and their interpreters as they are publicly known as part of a team: plaintiff’s or defendant’s.

To the latter group of interpreters, sharing what is already public record should be no problem; and in my personal opinion, I do not believe that even court appointed interpreters should be sanctioned for sharing public information with the media. I believe that telling a reporter that a hearing was moved from 1 pm to 2 pm and saving her the trouble to go up 20 stories to read the same information on the court’s bulletin board will hardly raise suspicion of prejudice, particularity when we know that interpreting is a fiduciary profession. To me, it looks very weird when the interpreter refuses to answer such silly questions and reacts by moving away without an explanation.

As far as confidential information, please be aware that the prohibition is not absolute either. A court order can compel you to testify. Please remember that the client holds the right to said confidentiality, and as such, he or she can always give consent. When this happens, confidentiality goes away. Will these ever happen in your professional career? We do not know, but we should always be aware that it is a possibility.

Even client-attorney privilege is not absolute. There are certain exceptions in the law that allow you to pierce the veil of this sacrosanct privilege. Among other possibilities, the client, who holds the privilege, can also lift it by giving consent; you can also pierce it when defending yourself from the actions of the client who holds said privilege. Let’s say that the client sues you arguing that the interpreter did nothing in the case. Under those circumstances you can pierce the privilege to prove that the client is not telling the truth and show the work you did, as long as the privileged information you divulged is limited and tailored to the point you are trying to prove in court. Statements and information provided during a client-attorney communication that include future illegal activity is not covered by the privilege either, and you as interpreter must disclose it to the authorities.

We must remember at all times that different jurisdictions will have different policy, rules and legislation, so we must adhere to all applicable rules, as long as they apply to us, depending on the type of professional service we are going to provide.

In the case of California, please keep all of the above in mind, and understand that Rule 2.890(c)(4) states that: “…An interpreter must not make statements to any person about the merits of the case until the litigation has concluded…”

Notice how the rule does not go beyond the conclusion of the case, because the rule (erroneously in my opinion) does not make a distinction between interpreters privately retained by the parties who act as a communication tool to the litigant, and those retained by the courts who also must play the role of auxiliary agents to the administration of justice and therefore be impartial at all times. Once there are no more appeals, there is no reason for the restriction on the first type of interpreter.

Finally, a couple of thoughts: I was saddened to see how must of my colleagues immediately assume the role of a criminal court interpreter retained by the court. I am always hoping that more interpreters view themselves as independent professionals working with private attorneys. There is an abysmal difference in professional fees, and the work is about the same. I ask you to please think like a private practitioner, instead of accepting the rules without any reservation. Question the rules and try to understand why they compel you to do or abstain from doing something.

It also concerned me how so many of our court interpreter colleagues rush to “obey” anything the courts say without even checking the source of the “command”. Many people criticized and condemned the interpreter who spoke to the media because of what the “Professional Standards and Ethics for California Court Interpreters” say. Please understand that this is just a manual, not legislation, regulations, or a court decision. It is just a didactic tool for those who are trying to understand the profession. Use it as such. Observe the California Rules of Court.

I hope we all understand that professional rules include universal standard values, but they also incorporate local culture so necessary for an administration of justice that reflects the values of the community it is meant to serve. For this reason, I. Sincerely hope we all come to understand that asking for universal rules or codes is not the best legal option. A system like the one we have is an appropriate one. We just need to understand the rules better, and fight to change those we believe constitute a hurdle to our profession. I now ask you to please share your founded legal arguments on this issue that could adversely impact our profession.

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