Saturday, December 15, 2012

Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation at the Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland

I recently wrote about the specialization on court interpreting that will soon be available at Monterey Institute of International Studies (Monterey, California).  See, my December 7 post.  This week, I learned about the new graduate programs in interpretation and translation offered by the Department of Communication (College of Arts and Humanities) of the University of Maryland.  I am thrilled to see more intepretation and translation programs at the graduate level. Language proficiency by prospective students is one of the main challenges faced by interpreting programs. Generally speaking, students at the graduate level are more likely to meet the language proficiency requirement.

These degrees offered bye the University of Maryland are the following:

1.      interpreting:

• Graduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Consecutive Interpreting and a

• Master of Professional Studies in Interpreting, which offers two tracks:  
  Conference Interpreting; or Public Service Interpreting


• Graduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Translation and a

• Master of Professional Studies in Translation, which offers two tracks:
  Translation; or Translation and Localization Project Management

 The programs are receiving applications for both national and international students. The deadline for international applicant is March 1, 2013 for fall 2013 admission.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Monterey Institute of International Studies to add a specialization in English-Spanish court interpreting

The Monterey Institute of International Studies, which is known for its programs and degrees in translation and interpreting – especially conference interpreting – is preparing to offer a specialization in court interpreting for the English-Spanish language pair. Although Monterey has offered court interpreting and legal translation as part of its regular curriculum for many years, it has never had a specialization in court interpreting. It appears that this is about to change and beginning next year students will have the option of a specialization in court interpreting as part of their M.A. degree.

The specialization will require four courses specifically focusing on court interpreting, in combination with the general translation and interpreting classes. And while Monterey has not publicized this specialization yet, it is piloting it with current students and new students are being advised of this option as soon as they register. The plan appears to be that once the “kinks” of integrating this new specialization into the existing curriculum have been worked out, Monterey will publicize it on its website. However, anybody interested in this specialization may send their inquiries by email directly to the Institute.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Freek Lankhof: A friend who offers an invaluable service to interpreters and translators across the United States

In all undertakings, there are people who go the extra mile for the collective good, and our profession is no exception.  I could include here a list of immediately recognizable names, but have decided to highlight the work of a person whose service to the interpreting and translation community in the US is undeniable, yet sometimes not fully acknowledged or appreciated.

 That person is Freek Lankhof, President of InTrans Book Service – a true friend of our profession.  Those who do not know Freek (one measure of his friendship is that he lets us pronounce his name “Freak” instead of “Frake”) may think at first that he is just an exhibitor in interpreting and translation conferences and educational activities throughout the United States. Well, he is an exhibitor, but not just that.  Freek is passionate about our profession –being himself a translator.  Born in the Netherlands, Freek studied Swedish and worked as a Swedish–Dutch translator.  He also worked for a Dutch publishing company and then became a proofreader and copy editor.  The book distribution business brought him to the United States, but he quickly decided to start his own company focused on reference and teaching materials in English –Spanish translation and interpretation, although he also stocks a variety of resources in other languages.
If you organize an activity with enough participants to make it worth his while to attend (hey… the guy has to make a living), he will be there.  At times, he will load up his car with hundreds of heavy books and drive miles to allow us to buy resources right at the event.  Other times, he will fly to the event, shipping his books ahead of time. The wonderful thing about all this is that Freek is always there with his friendly smile and gentle manners. Even more wonderful is that he will not stop coming to our events even if some of his books have been stolen; sad to say.  Freek and his services have become a feature of most educational events in our field.  Exhibitors come and go, but Freek is always there. He is part of our profession.
Giants like, however, are an imminent threat to his business.  While Freek runs his business not only to earn a living but because he loves what he does, he cannot offer the discounts that the giants of the book distribution business can.  I would urge my fellow translators and interpreters to never use our friend’s list of books and prices as a source of information and then buy those books somewhere else.  The research work that Freek does to provide our profession with the latest publications is more than worth any small additional price for his books and reference materials. This is what I love about Freek and wanted to share with you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Revisiting Shadowing in Interpreting Teaching: The Need for Empirical Research

As indicated in previous postings, I have been working on a course development project on behalf of Glendon College of York University, in Toronto, since early this year. The experience has proven to be extremely enriching as it has allowed me to interact with colleagues around the world who have been developing interpreting courses in various language pairs for Glendon College. Although spread around the globe in countries such as France, Germany, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Russia, we have interacted profusely and exchanged invaluable information and experience through a virtual forum.

A topic that generated fervent debate among us was the usefulness of shadowing as a preliminary stage into simultaneous interpreting training. Some colleagues were utterly against it while others were very much in favor. It has been several weeks since this debate, in which I hardly participated at all, took place.  Since there was not a clear winner, I decided to do some research on this hotly debated topic.

During my research, I came across articles by Nancy Schweda and Sylvie Lambert. In her article, Schweda clearly favors the use of shadowing in interpreter training, and distinguishes three types of shadowing: phonemic shadowing –the repetition of each sound that is uttered– phrase shadowing  –the repetition of a speech after hearing longer utterances– and “adjusted lag shadowing” –where the student is asked to lag behind a specific  number of words before starting to shadow (page 34).  She also provides pointers for the selection of passages and appropriate feedback to students by the instructor.

Lambert also makes a case for the use of shadowing in interpreter training, while highlighting some drawbacks of this teaching approach. She draws an analogy between learning to become an interpreter and learning to drive a stick-shift car – arguing that the aspiring driver very likely “was not thrown into the driver’s seat of a vehicle travelling down the freeway at 70 miles an hour. He probably began by turning on the ignition, letting the car idle, and learning to master the brakes, clutch and gears before actually taking the car out for a ride” (page 264). Regardless of divergent viewpoints on the usefulness of shadowing, the truth of the matter is that shadowing –in particular phrase shadowing– is used in the field of interpretation as a device to screen second language proficiency, aptitude for interpreting, and pre-simultaneous interpreting training. It is also a research tool in the fields of cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics to assess attention capacity and an exercise to improve accent in a second language. Of course, as can be sensed from this posting, I favor shadowing in interpreter training, but not merely as a repetition exercise. Having a student simply repeat sounds would reduce an aspiring interpreter to the status of our feathery friend the parrot. Shadowing, as I have used it and intend to use it in my upcoming interpreting courses, is a listening exercise –as active listening is the basic skill in any form of interpreting– as well as a  comprehension and recollection exercise. By the latter, I mean that students will be asked to shadow a speech without taking notes and retrieve the salient points of the speech. The same way a student driver is not thrown in the driver’s seat to drive on a freeway, aspiring interpreters should not be asked to recall the specifics of a speech they have just shadowed. By and large, interpreters do not recall the details of a speech they have just interpreted.

Regardless of heated debates in favor or against the use of shadowing in interpreter training, there are two facts that cannot be denied. One is that shadowing trains the brain to multi-task and gives the student a good idea of the skills required in simultaneous interpreting. The other is that neither the usefulness nor the downsides of shadowing as a pre-simultaneous interpreting approach are supported by empirical research. The field of interpreter training would benefit from research on interpreting teaching approaches, including the use of shadowing.  The Schweda and Lambert articles date from the early 1990s.  New research on the benefits of shadowing would yield important insights on this topic.

Sources cited
Lambert, Sylvie (1992): “Shadowing”, Meta, 37, 2, pp. 263-273.
Retrieved August 30, 2012.
Schweda, N., Nancy (1990): “The Role of Shadowing in Interpreter Training”, The Interpreter’s Newsletter,  3, pp. 33-37. 
Retrieved August 30, 2012.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Language proficiency and translation and Interpretation

As I point out in my previous message, I am developing two court interpreting courses for the new Master in Conference Interpreting (MCI) of Glendon College in Toronto.  

I am also reading Is that a Fish in Your Ear?  by David Bellos – one of the best books on translation around. Actually, this book isn't just about translation; it's about language and meaning, and even what it is to be human. In this book, Bellos addresses the issue of language proficiency, which prompted me to write this post.
One of the most important issues when dealing with prospective interpreting students is their language proficiency level. It seems that people in general overestimate their proficiency in their second (or third) language or do not know the level of proficiency required to enter the fields of translation and, more specifically, interpretation.
In one chapter of the book, Bellos calls the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals an unprecedented event that led to the modern practice of interpretation. He describes how interpretation services were rendered during those trials, including the composition of the various interpreting teams and the recognition of simultaneous interpreting as one of the most exhausting things one can do to a human brain. As Nuremburg showed, high-speed language transfer is one of the main difficulties interpreters face, paired with the fact that politicians and diplomats in general do not use simple sentences but rather “sausage-like strings of evasive circumlocutions.”
This first generation of modern interpreters came from unique circumstances. In a typical case, an interpreter would have been the child of refugees from countries such as Russia, who was brought up in a far-flung place like Shanghai. He or she studied in schools like the Lycée Français, and learned English along the way. Due to their terrible circumstances, these children might have had time to acquire outstanding levels of language proficiency while awaiting a US visa before going to college in New York.  These were unique circumstances, indeed. So conference interpreters, as Bellos rightly indicates, are individuals belonging to a rare breed – fast talking yet good listeners “who must be both alert and relaxed, able to tolerate unspeakable boring harangues but also quick to pick up the gist when something entirely new comes on the agenda.” But the foundation for these rare individuals is truly exceptional language skills. 
Andrew Clifford, the Chair of the School of Translation at Glendon College discusses the language skills interpreters need today in this video. In it, he talks about key ideas about the profile of an aspiring interpreter, among which I’d like to stress the concepts near-native fluency, extended stays, several years, and love of life-time learning. Few individuals grow up in fully bilingual environments – and there are probably not enough of them to meet the diverse needs and demands for their skills. Of course, language proficiency alone is not enough to succeed as a student of interpretation or later as a professional interpreter. But the challenge today is how to help the many motivated students to reach the advanced levels of language proficiency needed to be able to learn interpretation and perform at a professional level. In a nutshell, the level of proficiency required to be an interpreter is acquired over time and it takes individuals with exceptional qualities. Interpreters indeed belong to a rare breed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It is finally here – the possibility of studying court interpreting on-line at the college level!!!

As indicated in my previous posting, I have been absent from this blog for several weeks. Here is why. Glendon College of York University (Toronto, Canada) is in the process of creating a Master’s program in interpreting, which includes courses in court, conference, and health care interpreting. 
My absence from this blog relates to the fact that I am developing two court interpreting courses on behalf of Glendon for the English <=> French language pair; an activity that has added to my regular work load. Eighteen other curriculum developers around the world are working on court, conference, and health care interpreting courses in language pairs including English<=> French, English <=> Portuguese, English <=> Spanish, and English <=> Mandarin. The program has already received funding to add courses in English <=> Cantonese, English <=> Arabic, and English <=> Russian. Funding for the development of these courses has been provided in part by the Government of Canada’s Canadian Language Sector Enhancement program.

This program, called Master’s in Conference Interpreting (MCI), is a two-year program, but students who do not wish to pursue conference interpreting can complete one year of studies and earn a graduate certificate in general interpreting. Year one of the MCI will be offered completely on line through an array of e-learning tools.This program, housed in Glendon’s School of Translation, is the first on-line degree program in interpreting in the Americas and provides an excellent opportunity to students in the US as well as Canada.

The program will start this fall, and Glendon will begin accepting on-line applications for admission in early May. It will run with English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin as working languages. A new video has just been released to promote the program.

I’ll post updates on this exciting program as it develops.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Extremely busy... but will be back soon!!!!

I have been working on a court interpreter education initiative for over a month now, which explains my absence from my blog for the few past weeks. I will be able to report on this exciting project shortly.  In the meantime, check out John's section 'Interpretation in the News.'

His latest posting is about a scammer who poses as a court interpreter and preys on the Hispanic community.

I’ll be back soon!!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

GREAT NEWS!!! ABA Standards Have Been Adopted

My July 14, 2011 posting was about the development of national standards for language access in US courts by the American Bar Association (ABA). These standards represent an additional step towards the goal of overcoming language barriers in court proceedings by providing guidelines for courts and state court administrators across the United States in the design, implementation, and enforcement of a comprehensive system of language access services that suit the needs of their communities. Sadly, in my August 23 post I reported that the ABA’s House of Delegates tabled discussion of the Standards to their February 2012 meeting. I am happy to report – finally – that the Standards were recently adopted  --in an amended form.  Rob Cruz, Chairman of the Board of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters (NAJIT), and a resilient proponent of the Standards, will write an article for the next Proteus – NAJITS’s newsletter – on the process, next steps, and what the amendments to the Standards mean. In the meantime, I am happy to provide a link to the adopted Standards.

I will certainly write here on Mr. Cruz’ report as soon as it becomes available.  While the Standards do not have binding force, their adoption by the  America Bar Association’s House of Delegates marks a milestone in language access for Limited English  Proficient  (LEP) persons and for the development of court interpreting in this US.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Winds of Change in South Carolina: Interpreter training and certification is gaining momentum

An idea that germinated for a long time has finally come true: South Carolina has its own interpreter and translators association.  For the longest time, certified court interpreters in South Carolina dreamed of having an association of their own.  While not completely operational just yet, the South Carolina Association of Interpreters and Translators (SCAIT) has come into being “to advance the interpreting and translating professions in South Carolina and to foster communication among professional interpreters and translators across our state, as well as with the communities they serve."

South Carolina joined the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts (formerly the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification) in 2005 but the court interpreter certification process was rather slow, and there was virtually no communication between certified interpreters and the South Carolina Court Administration, the entity responsible for the court interpreter certification process in the state. Around 2010, Cyndy Hernández, Lydia Lester, Luna Gainer, and Carla Collins (who since relocated out of state), all graduates of the Masters’ in Interpreting of the College of Charleston– started discussing the creation of professional association in the state.  Laura Cahue, also a College of Charleston’s MA in Interpreting graduate, joined these efforts, which have come to fruition. SCAIT’s first activity, "Certifications, Certificates, and Qualifications: What is all this?", was a free workshop held in Columbia –the  state’s capital city–  on November 12, 2011, The workshop was offered to help prospective interpreters and translators in South Carolina understand key terms, concepts, and entities of the field, including what it means to be certified, the difference between certification and a certificate, the meanings of the terms qualified and qualifications, the various organizations that offer certification credentials, etc.  Understanding these terms and concepts are also extremely important to consumers of interpreter/translator services to make sure credentials claimed by interpreters and translators are the proper ones. 

SCAIT is already holding its second activity, Law School for Interpreters: An Overview of the South Carolina Court System; a workshop to be held on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at the South Carolina Bar Conference Center in Columbia. Organized and presented by the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission's LEP Workgroup, this activity is part of a series of educational workshops provided to the interpreting community and is aimed at anyone with interpreting experience who is interested in learning more about court interpretation. This workshop has a participation fee of $35.00 per person, which includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, and all materials. Not a bad deal at all! For this second activity, SCAIT has the support of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charleston Immigration Office, Comunicar, South Carolina Access to Justice Commission, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program, South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, South Carolina Court Administration South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA), South Carolina Association of Interpreters and Translators (SCAIT), National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) , South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS), South Carolina Legal Services, South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind and South Carolina Immigrant Victim Network,  and South Carolina Victim Assistance Network. 

The lengthy list of sponsors attests to the strides SCAIT has made in very short period of time.  My heartfelt congratulations go to SCAIT Board of Directors; thanks to these tenacious women, interpreters and translators in South Carolina have a voice that can and has been heard.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Interpreting in Pharmacies: An Overlooked Topic

Yesterday’s posting on health care interpreting included a resource for pharmacists and it made think of the fact that interpreting in pharmacy settings is seldom addressed in interpreter training.

Cynthia E. Roat, principal author of Bridging the Gap –a 40-hour training course for health care interpreters—discusses the importance of accuracy when interpreting in pharmacies and lists the topics pharmacists are likely to address regarding a patient’s medication; such as, name and class of medication, indications, action, dosage, timing and mode of administration, etc.  This article titled “A Prescription for Accuracy”, can be found in her book Healthcare Interpreting in Small Bites –a selection of articles published between 2002-2010.

Cindy is a very vibrant woman who has contributed greatly to the development of health care interpreting.  Bridging the Gap is the most widely taught course in the field and has become a requirement for certification.  Her book Healthcare Interpreting in Small Bites is a wonderful source for both interpreters and interpreter trainers. It contains articles on topics that are seldom addressed in interpreter training activities as well as useful vocabulary exercises and puzzles on topics such as obstetrics, domestic abuse, and acronyms and slang.  Both the name of the book and the article I just described speak volumes about Cindy’s charismatic and engaging personality which makes her so effective as a teacher.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

An Overview of Interpreting in Health Care

Through my postings I have tried to paint a portrait of interpreting and translation in the US and have focused mostly on legal interpreting.   Today I am writing about the National Health Law Program (NHeLP); a law firm working on health care issues.
With offices in Los Angeles (California), Washington (District of Columbia), and Chapel Hill (North Carolina)  NHelP is a public interest firm with the declared mission to foster access to quality health care for low-income and underserved persons.  While this firm does not provide legal services to individuals, it helps them by serving health care providers, community-based organizations, associations such as the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), legal services programs, and others.  It works on issues related to Medicaid, children’s health, language access, court access, government accountability and health reform; the latter being the topic that currently generates the most heated debates.
Besides its work, what is noteworthy about NHeLP is the wealth of information made available in its website’s Publications section.  It includes Advocate – the organization’s newsletter, links to review articles, and publications on Medicaid, children’s health, language access, race and civil rights, reproductive health, and other areas of their focus.
Under language access, one can find articles on the cost of language barriers in medical malpractice, the obligations of health care interpreters in cases of child abuse, legal rights and responsibilities regarding language access in health care, etc.  Best of all, these articles relating to specific aspects of language access are available free of charge and in full text. The following two provides portrait of translation and interpreting in health care:
The former tackles aspects of translation and interpretation,  such as differences and commonalities between them, skills and qualifications, standards of practice, modes of interpreting, how to hire an interpreter, etc. The latter, aside from providing information on translation and interpretation (including an overview of “What is in a Word?...”), describes how to develop a language services plan as well as good practices for providing language services in pharmacies. 
It is worth noting that both documents include a glossary of terms that stem from the shaping of these fields in the US.  NCIHC‘s web site also has a glossary that is a perfect complement for these two. “What is in a Word?...”was, in fact, developed in collaboration with NCIHC.

I cannot help but marvel at how community interpreting has evolved in the US over the last decade, and feel immensely fortunate to be a part of it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy (belated) New Year!

This blog has made it through an entire year and I am extremely pleased to start 2012 with the determination to continue writing about community translation and interpretation in the U.S.
My next posting will be on health care interpreting; particularly the way its practice has been shaped in this country.

Cheers to a wonderful 2012!