Sunday, June 16, 2013

The InterpretAmerica Blog Has Moved to

On Friday we launched our new website. All new blogs will be posted there. Visit our new website and let us know what you think!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Live Webstreaming Comes to the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit!

On The Cutting Edge: Bringing Interpreting To The Forefront is this year's theme for the InterpretAmerica Summit, taking place this June 14-15 in Reston, Virginia.

Exploring the "cutting edge" in the interpreting profession is not just a one-off conference theme for us, it is a primary focus. Another primary goal is to help create a highly recognized and respected platform for the profession itself.

We are proud to announce that this year, in collaboration with Voices For Health, we will be advancing both goals in one exciting package: 

Live webstreaming for Day Two of the Summit. 
(See below for details and more information about Voices for Health.)

To our knowledge, this will be the first time a national-level interpreting conference is streamed live to a virtual audience from North America.

Why stream? 
  • Affordable: Interpreters, language service companies and educators around the world have told us they would love to attend an InterpretAmerica Summit but often can't make it because of the time and cost associated with travel.
  • You Can Have It All: In what is surely a positive sign of growth, our field is increasingly crowded with on-site meetings. It can be hard to attend every event relevant to your professional growth!
  • Broader Audience: In our increasingly virtual and mobile world, streaming provides a wonderful opportunity to open the Summits up to a broad international audience. The adage that there is strength in numbers is all too true. The more we unite as a field, the more we can further our goals of greater recognition, remuneration, and opportunity.
  • Taking Control of Technology: Similarly the more our profession embraces the new technological landscape proactively and positively, the more we can adapt these tools to the benefit of interpreting.
Programming for Day 2 of the InterpetAmerica Summit brings you top-notch speakers and panels that will challenge our assumptions about technology and bring new perspective to everything from interpreter practice to training indigenous language interpreters. 

Our closing keynote speaker Saima Wahab's account of her time as a woman Pashtun interpreter for the US forces in Afghanistan is something everyone will benefit from. The full program can be viewed here.

Our "streamers" will be able to view Saturday's sessions, and comment and ask questions using Twitter (Hashtag #IASummit4), all from the comfort of your home computer or smart device. 

Space is limited, so register now! Cost of registration is $25.00 USD. 


Want to attend InterpretAmerica 4 in person? No problem! 

Register for the Summit now to take advantage for our full two-day program and the many networking and professional opportunities we provide onsite.


Voices for Health - comprehensive language and culture solutions
Owned and operated by healthcare providers, Voices For Health was established in 1997 to improve the quality of healthcare, education and social services through comprehensive language and culture solutions. As the largest provider of face-to-face medical interpreting in Michigan, we also provide over-the-phone and video remote interpreting to healthcare organizations nationwide. Additional services include written translation, cross-cultural lectures, language classes, multilingual research, film production and event live streaming. In the summer of 2013, VoicesACADEMY will be launched online (, providing medical interpreters, translators and healthcare providers with affordable on-demand access to a video library of continuing education content.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Collaboration: The Key To Interpreting's Future

Of all the changes technology is bringing, the ability to collaborate on much grander scales is perhaps the most important new resource to latch onto. [Collaboration] is “a fundamentally generative act. [It] isn’t just about achieving a goal or joining forces; it’s about creating something together that it would be impossible to create alone.”[3]

Our field, once so separate, is now brimming with the possibilities created by such innovative efforts, a collaborative blogging site for the sign language community, the soon-to-be revealed Voices Academy, the newly-minted combination online/onsite Masters in Conference Interpreting at the Glendon College of Translation, and Interpreting for Europe, which was originally maintained by both the European Commission and the European Parliament to address conference interpreter shortages and which grew into the largest social media site for interpreters anywhere in the world (more than 25K likes). Both entities have now launched separate campaigns to more specifically target their different social media objectives.
As my co-president Barry Olsen recently shared on Facebook:
“For all the possibilities that communication technologies represent, their use for good or ill depends solely on people. Forget all the talk about machines taking over. What happens in the future is up to us.”[4]
All of these innovators and many more will be present at the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit on June 14-15 in Reston, Virginia. Come join us to help shape our profession’s future! Early bird rates good through Monday, May 20th!
Excerpted from InterpretAmerica's Co-President Katharine Allen's guest post for The NAJIT Blog. To see the full article, click here
Then go REGISTER for the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit and see where your collaborative powers can take interpreting when joined with others in our field!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Martin Scorsese, Cinema and the Future of Interpreting

Last month, Academy Award winning film director Martin Scorsese delivered the 42nd annual Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Earlier this week, I had a chance to listen to Scorsese’s lecture on the power of images, motion pictures, and what he calls “the language of cinema.” His insights were enlightening, but one of his comments was particularly poignant and encapsulates what I think is the state of the interpreting profession today. 

“Cinema,” he said, “has always been tied to technological development. And if we spend too much time lamenting what’s gone, then were going to miss the excitement of what’s happening now. I mean, everything is wide open. To some this is a cause for concern, but I think it is an exciting time precisely because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, let alone next week.” 

Of course, interpreting has not always been tied to technological development and it has been around much, much longer than cinema. But the development of interpreting in the modern age has been closely tied to technological development, beginning with the first microphones, amplifiers and mixers that were used to test the feasibility of simultaneous interpretation at the International Labor Organization in Geneva and later to facilitate the war crimes tribunals in Nuremberg. Technological advancement continues and is having a profound effect on how, where and when interpreters work, but more importantly, on how the world communicates.

I agree with Martin Scorsese, it is an exciting time precisely because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But there is an unprecedented opportunity to influence the future of interpreting and the way the world communicates. InterpretAmerica 4 will take place on June 14-15, in Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. This will be an unprecedented gathering of interpreters, interpreting industry leaders and technological innovators meeting to bring interpreting into the 21st century. Won’t you join us? 

Early bird registration ends May 12, 2013. 

Barry Slaughter Olsen

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Introducing Interpret-ED - Must-See Speakers and Topics/1

Excitement is ramping up for the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit, coming this June 14-15 to Reston, Virginia. 

We have gone through the difficult process of selecting our inaugural Interpret-ED session speakers for this, which is designed to inspire and move Summit attendees. We want everyone to come away enriched by the multiplicity of ways in which interpreting makes communication, understanding, and concerted action across language and culture possible. 

We have a wonderful group of speakers to do just that. They will explore a variety of topics that range from digging deep into the value of interpreting, to explaining the contradiction of master interpreters who never practice, to unlocking the secret to transforming indigenous immigrants into professional medical interpreters, and more. Each speaker brings something unique and important to the stage. 

Take a look at our inaugural Interpret-ED speakers, then register now! Early bird rates still apply!

The Real Value of Interpreting
Communication researcher Stephanie Jo Kent explores how interpreting allows for the simultaneous and seemingly contradictory existence of difference and connection. Professional interpreters perform at the precise intersection where education, experience, custom and creativity meet in live social interaction. According to Kent, the significance of interpreting at that juncture and in this precise moment in history cannot be overstated: Indeed, it offers a tangible way to approach solving global problems that threaten human survival.

Do Interpreters Practice?
Elisabet Tiselius, conference interpreter and PhD student, explores the seeming contradiction of expert interpreters who never practice, yet still reach a master level of expertise. Through face-to-face interviews with working interpreters, Elisabet uncovers surprising insight into what makes interpreters excel.

From Indigenous Immigrant to Professional Interpreter
 Victor Sosa, Language Access Director and Medical Interpreter takes us on an extraordinary journey into providing healthcare services for indigenous Triqui, Zapotec, and Mizteco patient populations. Along the way, he finds a unique path to provide care and ultimately, to train members of these recently arrived and still poorly understood immigrant communities as professional medical interpreters. This session will surprise and move you.

Confessions of a Webcast Interpreter
Interpreter Cris Silva will share the good, the bad and the ugly in webcast interpreting. An activity once limited to onsite booths and close proximity to your interpreting partner can now be done from home in pjs with your boothmate thousands of miles away. But one thing hasn't changed: It's either tear your hair out or get along. Cris shares her own experience with humor and wisdom.

Netflix for Interpreters Coming to You Soon!
 Voices for Health founder and RN Michelle Scott explores how digital entertainment delivery models such as Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon have the potential to transform interpreter education. An expert in plain language, Michelle will show us cutting edge programs that have the potential to change how we view interpreter training. 

You do not want to miss these wonderful speakers and the unique insight they have into our profession. 

Register now for the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit. We looking forward to seeing you there!                                                                                                                                                                   

Monday, April 22, 2013

If InterpretAmerica 4 were a blockbuster movie, this would be the trailer...

We're getting revved up for InterpretAmerica 4 in June! We'll be announcing our Interpret-ED speakers later this week. And with that, our 2013 program will be set. As we put together this year's program, we thought, "If InterpretAmerica 4 were a Hollywood blockbuster, what would the movie trailer be like?" Watch below to find out...

interpretAmerica 4 Trailer from InterpretAmerica on Vimeo.

Yes, we are that excited about the future of interpreting! Join us on June 14-15, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Virginia, just a short distance from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and learn how technology is changing our profession. Early-bird registration ends on May 12, 2013, so register today! (Oh, be sure to let us know below if you liked the trailer too!)

Friday, April 19, 2013

NAJIT Guest Blog: The Urgent Need for Best Practices in the Interpreting Profession

Be sure to check out Katharine Allen's latest contribution to the NAJIT Blog: "The Urgent Need for Best Practices in the Interpreting Profession." Digital and mobile platforms are here to stay and changing everything we do. As Katharine puts it: "In the face of such rapid and comprehensive change, our profession needs to step up the pace in response. We need best practice guidelines, recommendations for everything from how to move into the digital age by adopting the use of some of these platforms to solid client education resources to protect our working conditions."

Do you agree? Read her post and share it with your colleagues. Start a conversation. Learn about these new technologies. And don't be surprised when you are asked to use them while interpreting. Most importantly, join us at InterpretAmerica 4 on June 14-15, 2013 in Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. Interpreting industry leaders will be there along with many of the digital innovators who are seeking to disrupt the interpreting space. Engage, connect, and influence the future of the profession. 

Early bird registration ends on May 12, 2013! Register now at  

Monday, April 8, 2013

InterpretAmerica Co-Presidents Make the News!

InterpretAmerica Co-Presidents Barry S. Olsen and Katharine Allen have been busy. In addition to pulling together the myriad of details for the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit, both have recently made the news with individual projects they are working on which they are excited to share with the field.

ZipDX Brings Together Simultaneous Interpreting and Teleconferencing:

This week, Common Sense Advisory's Global Watchtower blog post by Vijayalaxmi Hedge highlights ZipDX's groundbreaking remote simultaneous interpreting technology for conference settings. InterpretAmerica Co-President Barry Olsen serves as General Manager of Multilingual Operations for ZipDX. He doesn't just speak about technology in the interpreting profession, he is actively engaged in pioneering promising new applications for our field.

ZipDX’s introduction of simultaneous interpreting to teleconferencing is one of those things in life that you had no idea you needed so badly until you were actually introduced to it. It offers a cloud-based meeting platform in which interpreters listen to the speaker and interpret simultaneously for other people logged into the call. 

David Frankel, founder and CEO, and Barry Slaughter Olsen, the General Manager of Multilingual Operations, talked to Common Sense Advisory last week about ZipDX Multilingual. Some features of the product caught our attention: 
  • Multilingual capability: In a ZipDX call, speakers of different languages can choose their desired language channel via their telephone keypad. As the interpretation happens real-time, speakers don’t need to pause but can carry on the conversation like they normally would. The system offers adjustable “audio cues” so that the speaker can hear the interpreter working faintly in the background and those listening to the interpreter can hear the speaker faintly as well. The speaker can also hear others if they want to interrupt, even if they are in another language channel. In addition to supporting back-and-forth multilingual conversations among small groups, the system can also enable large lecture-type virtual meetings leveraging simultaneous interpreter(s). Users can currently conduct a conference in eight languages, but Frankel said the number of languages could be increased significantly, if required. 

Click here to continue reading the blog post. Congrats to Barry Olsen for his innovative endeavors to adapt new technologies for effective use in the interpreting field.

Take Note!

In a more traditional vein, InterpretAmerica Co-President Katharine Allen has been commissioned to write a book! 

The following is an excerpt from Cross Cultural Communications weekly newsletter. You can sign up for Intersect here.

Take Note: Strategies for Successful Note-taking in Interpreting
by Katharine Allen, MA Let's face it: most community interpreters are not effective note-takers. Yet the need to master note-taking is huge, and far too long ignored. Most conference interpreters are well trained in note-taking. Not so community, court and business interpreters. Your time is coming. In November 2013, an extraordinary book by the Co-President of InterpretAmerica and a national leader in our field will [be published]. Note-taking is a vital skill. This book fills a huge gap and will provide practical guidance and field-tested techniques to help working interpreters improve their note-taking skills. 
For more information, or to order CCC publications, click here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Diasporas, Smart Mobs, and the Creation of a Digital Interpreting Commons

“When we change the way we communicate, we change society.” –Clay Shirky

I have spent the last few years observing macro trends in technology, communication, and social interaction wondering when and how these larger trends would eventually affect the world of interpreting. Last week at the annual SCIC Universities Conference held in Brussels, I no longer had to wonder. 

A new initiative called is poised to help student interpreters and their trainers alleviate one of the vexing problems of interpreter training efforts around the world—a lack of quality, level-appropriate speeches for beginning and intermediate interpreting students to practice with.

The idea is strikingly simple, as most revolutionary ideas are—provide a simple, easy, universally accessible platform where students and trainers from around the globe can upload audio and video recordings of speeches being given in classes and practice groups in a myriad of languages at training institutions the world over so they can be used by students and trainers everywhere. The initiative is the brainchild of conference interpreter and trainer Sophie Llewellyn Smith. You can watch her introduction of the platform here or read a recent interview about it on The Interpreter Diaries

Speech banks have been around for years at individual schools and institutions. But due to the rapid advance of technology and the time-sensitive nature of much of the speech content, these platforms were quick to obsolesce and the speeches grew stale. So what’s so groundbreaking about this initiative? Put simply, it has the potential to harness the collective creative power of the diaspora of thousands of interpreting students and trainers around the globe to the benefit of all, thereby encouraging mutual improvement and success while allowing competition at a higher level of competency.[1] It is a clear example of win-win thinking, which is the basis of the emerging sharing economy. This is not one group offering content to others out of the goodness of its heart. It is not altruism. It is a platform for a dynamic exchange of value between equally interested parties, and that makes all the difference because will only succeed if there is sustained value generated by all who contribute to and benefit from the platform.

Of course, there are many unknowns in this budding effort. But that is not the point. The days of certainty and a near perfect product before going to market are over. This platform can adapt and change as new needs and ideas emerge. Serial iteration in the new hyper-connected digital world where everything is software based and resides in the cloud makes it easier than ever to adapt and evolve. 

To my knowledge, this is the first bona fide example of intelligent crowdsourcing that has the potential to improve the quality of interpreting services around the world, not to dumb down or cheapen the profession. That is powerful.

 The key to the success of this endeavor is participation and meaningful contribution, so dust off those old video and audio files that are languishing on your hard drives, digital recorders and smartphones and contribute them to the greater good of a growing profession, and while you are at it, practice some consecutive with notes. Oh, and fasten your seatbelts, this is just the beginning of a coming wave of innovation that is already affecting our noble profession.

Barry Slaughter Olsen

Interested in learning about how today’s technologies are changing how interpreters work and promote their careers? Then join us at InterpretAmerica 4 on June 14-15, 2013, in Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. Register today! Early-bird registration ends May 12, 2013.

[1] See Leaders Make the Future by Bob Johansen, p. 165.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wild Wild West Conditions Persist in Medical Interpreting

This week, InterpretAmerica Co-President Katharine Allen, along with interpreting student Kaitlin Heximer, is the guest blogger for the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters' (NAJIT) weekly blog.

The topic? Lamentable work and language access conditions that still persist in too many healthcare settings. Raising the profile of the interpreting profession is a major focus for InterpretAmerica. The theme for this year’s 4th InterpretAmerica Summit is On The Cutting Edge: Bringing Interpreting To The Forefront. A major goal of the Summit is to impart the knowledge and skills we all need to create a highly visible platform for our field. 

Our keynote speaker, Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Busy World, will apply the depth of his expertise to creating such a platform not just for individuals, but for an entire profession. His talk will be followed by a panel of three of the most effective social media users in the interpreting industry - Ian Andersen of the European Uniion, Nataly Kelly, co-author of Lost in Translation, Brandon Arthur of

The blogpost, Wild Wild West Conditions Persist in Medical Interpreting, highlights the story of Masters candidate Kaitlin Heximer, whose initial interpreting work in the community interpreting sectors was anything but smooth, due to the lack of even basic training she had received in interpreting ethics, standards, and protocols.

“When I think back to the first time I ever interpreted in a formal setting, I would have done things differently if I knew then what I know now about interpreter ethics and best practices. A “simple” medical appointment turned into an epic 11-hour saga at the hospital emergency room with a patient whose sinus problems were quickly overshadowed by his mentally unstable condition.” **
Kaitlin is currently a student in the newly-minted and highly-innovative Masters in Conference Interpreting program, offered through the Glendon College School of Translation at York University. She already has a Masters in translation, and is no stranger to the healthcare system herself. She started interpreting just a year ago, as a volunteer interpreter for a refugee resettlement agency.
Her story is worth hearing. It is a stark reminder that despite so much rapid change transforming the healthcare interpreting profession, the “bad ‘ol days” of pressing untrained bilingual staff or volunteers into service are not yet a thing of the past. Hospitals may be jumping on the technology bandwagon in droves, doctors now access video medical interpreters through their smart phones and there are not one but two validated national medical interpreter certifications in the US[1]. However, patients and bilingual individuals trying to help them are still put in high-risk situations with depressing frequency.
To read the rest of her story, visit the NAJIT Blog.
Then register for the 4th InterpetAmerica Summit, to be held June 14-15, 2013 in Reston, Virginia! Add your voice to the discussion!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Best-selling Author and Pashto Interpreter Saima Wahab Coming to InterpretAmerica!

Interpreting in conflict zones has garnered significant attention in the mainstream media in recent years, in large measure due to the plight of interpreters left behind after military forces withdraw. At InterpretAmerica, we have sought to shine a light on interpreters working in conflict zones, as have others in the field.

A recent post by Nataly Kelly on the New York Times blog “At War” vividly illustrates just how serious their plight is.  The non-profit organization Red T and its dedicated group of volunteers are doing great work to protect translators and interpreters in conflict zones, while international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been cooperating with the Interpreting Department of the University of Geneva to train interpreters in conflict zones through the innovative InZone program.

The work of these programs is invaluable, yet despite how compelling their stories are, we seldom get the chance to hear directly from the interpreters themselves. This year's InterpretAmerica Summit will change that.

We are proud to announce that the closing keynote speaker for the 4th InterpretAmericaSummit in Reston, Virginia, on June 14-15, 2013, will be conflict zone interpreter and author of the New York Times bestseller In My Father’s Country Saima Wahab. A naturalized US citizen, Saima spent six years as a Pashto-English interpreter in Afghanistan, her native country, becoming one of only a handful of female Pashtun interpreters in the world. During her time in Afghanistan, she interpreted in hospitals for injured civilians, in high-level political and diplomatic meetings, and on patrol with coalition forces in some of the most hostile territory in the country. Saima will share her experiences as an interpreter in Afghanistan.

Register today for the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit!

Can’t wait until June? You can hear an interview with Saima by NPR’s Rachel Martin here or watch Saima on The Daily Show with John Stewart here.  

See you at the Summit!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The (Potentially Positive) Power of Disruption

noun: a disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process
New Oxford American Dictionary

For the average person, the term disruption automatically brings to mind a negative process. An unexpected power shortage disrupted the Super Bowl. Hurricane Sandy disrupted life on the East Coast. Crispy Creme was out of chocolate creme donuts, disrupting my breakfast.

But sometimes disruption refers to concepts that we usually view in a more positive light: innovation, cutting edge technology, the growth in human interconnectedness. Indeed, the rapid change we are all experiencing encompassing just about every aspect of human interaction so frequently combines innovation with a profoundly disruptive effective, that we now speak of disruptive technology and disruptive innovation

In general, a disruptive technology is a "new technology that has a serious impact on the status quo and changes the way people have been dealing with something, perhaps for decades." (

Few industries are more impacted by disruptive technology than the interpreting profession. From the introduction of new video conferencing technologies, to the growth of social media and increasing global interconnectedness upending traditional practices for hiring interpreters, to instant translation and interpretation apps and the proliferation of digital terminology resources, technology is penetrating all levels of our profession.

But perhaps no innovation will change the face of our profession more profoundly than the rapid world-wide adoption of the smart phone. The first iPhone was introduced in June, 2007, the iPad tablet in April 2010. Barely more than half a decade has passed since these mobile devices hit the market, yet smart phones and tablets with internet access, together with traditional PCs, are now in the hands of more than 5 billion people around the world. 

Journalist Christoper Mims of The Atlantic posted a year-end article last December titled: The 5 Most Disruptive Technologies of 2012. Number 5 on the list? "Ultra-cheap Web Devices: Five Billion People with Internet Access." 

In this article, Mims asks the reader to consider:

"What does it mean that another one or two billion people are encountering the internet for the first time? If the value of the network is proportional to its size, what happens when most of Earth's inhabitants can tap into a common pool of information and contacts?"

For our profession, some are answering these questions by racing to develop apps and other technologies to take advantage of these hand-held computers. As a result, almost every aspect of the traditional model for delivering interpreting services is being challenged. Everything from training and hiring practices, to marketing and service delivery are now possible through a mobile platform, upending a profession that has for more than half a century functioned primarily with a face-to-face model.

Google Translate, real-time machine interpretation, real-time video delivery of live interpreting services over smartphone and tablets, the ability to interpret for any client anywhere in the world from the comfort of your home, are examples of just a few new technologies available to the interpreting profession. 

The downside, or disruption, can include lowered wages, a decrease in face-to-face assignments, difficult sound, visual and voice conditions with imperfect new technologies, and the loss of hard-earned labor/management employment models, among others.

The potential upside can include a hugely increased market, more full-time work for languages of lesser diffusion and interpreters who work outside of urban centers, greater awareness and visibility for individual interpreters and the profession as a whole, and the ability to provide previous hard-to-come-by training to a greatly increased geographic area, to name a few.

For the interpreting profession, the key question remains not whether we respond, but how. In a nutshell, we can reactive or be proactive.

We are excited to be highlighting this issue at the upcoming 4th InterpretAmerica Summit taking place in June with the interactive panel, The Coming Wave: Technologies That May Disrupt Interpreting. Representatives from Babelverse are among those presenting. Their services provides an excellent example of a proactive response to disruptive technology.

We encourage you check out our program and speaking and presenting opportunities, and register for the Summit today!