What we learned as interpreters in 2013.

December 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

Dear Colleagues,

Now that 2013 is coming to an end and we are working towards a fruitful and meaningful 2014, we can look back and assess what we learned during the past 12 months.  As interpreters our career is a constant learning experience, and from talking with many of my colleagues 2013 was no exception. I personally grew up professionally and got to appreciate our profession even more. 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:  IAPTI held its very successful first conference in London England, Asetrad had a magnificent anniversary event in Toledo Spain, from the evidence so far it looks like the new grading system for the U.S. federal court interpreter certification worked fine, there were many opportunities for professional development, some of them very good, including several webinars in different languages and on different topics; we had some important technological advancements that made our life easier, and contrary to the pessimists’ forecast, there was plenty of work and opportunities. Of course not everything was good.  Our colleagues in the U.K. continue to fight a war against mediocrity and misdirected greed, interpreters around the world faced attempts from special interest groups to erode our profession by lowering professional standards and creating questionable certification programs, and of course, we had the pseudo-interpreters trying to “take over” the market by charging laughable fees under shameful working conditions in exchange for miserable services.

During 2013 I worked with interpreters from many countries and diverse fields of expertise. I was able to learn from, and to share my knowledge and experience with many colleagues dear to me and with some new interpreters and translators.  This past year gave me the opportunity to learn many things at the professional conferences I attended, from the interpretation and translation books first published in 2013 that I read, and of course working in the booth, at the courthouse, the formal dinners, and the recording studio.

This year I had the honor to see how several of my students became federally certified court interpreters in the United States, and I had the fortune to present before conference audiences in different countries.  During the year that ends I traveled to many professional conferences and workshops, all good and beneficial.  Because of their content, and for the impact they had on me, I have to mention the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators’ (NAJIT) Annual Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, the Spanish Association of Translators, Proof-readers and Interpreters’ (ASETRAD) Conference in Toledo, Spain, the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters’ (IAPTI) Annual Conference in London, England, and the Mexican Translators Organization’s (OMT) conference in Guadalajara Mexico where I had the pleasure to attend the magnificent International Book Fair.  My only regret was that for professional obligations I had to cancel my trip to San Antonio Texas to attend the American Translators Association’s (ATA) Annual Conference.  This year that is about to end was filled with professional experiences acquired all over the world as I constantly traveled throughout the year, meeting new colleagues and catching up with good friends. Now, as I sit before my computer reminiscing and re-living all of these life-enriching experiences, I ask you to share some of your most significant professional moments during this past year.

Is someone profiting from your work as an interpreter without paying you?

April 9, 2013 § 6 Comments

Dear colleagues:

During a recent trip I was having dinner with a friend and colleague when the conversation turned to interpretation in the booth. We talked about the ‘old days’ when the interpreters spent a significant amount of time just talking in the booth because there was nobody to interpret for. I am sure many of you have faced the same situation where you do not see anybody wearing headphones in the audience, you ask over the interpretation equipment if anybody is listening, and you double-check with the technician who tells you that nobody has checked out equipment for that session. For many years that meant that you were going to spend the whole afternoon in the booth without interpreting. It wasn’t so bad. We were getting paid as we sell our time and we showed up ready to work, and we had an opportunity to share glossaries, talk shop, and speak of personal things. This was the reason why many friendships among interpreters developed.

Then, one day as we were going through one of these situations, a representative from the agency or the event organizer showed up at the booth and told us that even though nobody needed our services in the auditorium, they were videotaping and audio recording the conference so we needed to interpret  for the recording. Of course this meant that the ‘socializing in the booth’ was over, but we are professionals so we interpreted. This has been my experience for a few years. There are a considerable number of conferences or presentations where nobody requires of the services of an interpreter and we are interpreting for the CD that later on the organizer will sell to others who did to attend the presentation.  This is big business.

Because I also do voice-overs I immediately thought of what happens on that other job; in many ways it is very similar. Some colleagues who had not worked doing voice-overs or commercials loved the new experience. I continued to provide the service for years… and then it hit me! They were recording my work and selling it to many consumers all over the world. They were making a profit from a product that only existed because I had interpreted the workshop or presentation. Yes, it is true that I got paid for doing my job in the booth during the conference, but so did the organizer who charged to those who attended the conference. This was different. They continued to profit from that workshop or presentation and I did not get any piece of the pie.

When you do a voice-over or dubbing you get paid for your services, and then for a few years you get paid for every time the disc is sold or the video is played. Here we were making zero money! I believe that we as interpreters need to receive royalties (like the ones we get for voice-overs and dubbing) every time the company sells or rents a disc that includes our interpretation. I am now including this provision every time I sign a contract to interpret an event that will be recorded. As always, some clients have reacted favorably, others have not. I would like to hear your opinions, and if possible, please share your experience when you ask for royalties.

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