Thursday, November 8, 2012

Proposed Best Practices for Simultaneous Interpreting in Non-Conference Settings

Many in the industry have been following recent developments in the Federal Immigration Courts. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has decided to start using simultaneous interpreting during immigration court hearings. While this decision is certainly a step forward in increasing language access for the non and limited English-speaking persons involved in immigration proceedings, the move highlights a conundrum that many in our profession face: how to ensure proper working conditions for the interpreter when simultaneous is the required mode.

In response to concern that this innovation would not be accompanied by necessary changes in work policies and conditions in immigration courts, the interpreting profession has recently made a concerted and unprecedented unified effort to reach agreement on what does constitute "best practices" for simultaneous interpreting in non-conference settings.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters (NAJIT), in collaboration with eight national and international interpreter professional associations representing conference, legal, medical, and sign language interpreters, published a joint statement promoting best practices and proper work conditions for interpreters providing simultaneous interpretation in the immigration court system. You can see the full statement here:

Today, InterpretAmerica follows suit with our own statement on Best Practices for Simultaneous Interpreting in Non-Conference Settings. InterpretAmerica worked in tandem with NAJIT and the professional association collaborative, to ensure that our position is in full support of the consensus rapidly forming industry-wide.

In what we plan to be periodic statements on best practices on issues relevant to our profession, we share our Best Practices on Simultaneous Interpreting document with the field. It is our hope that this document, along with the effort of other key stakeholders in the field, will go a long way towards defining proper working conditions for interpreters in sectors where these guidelines are lacking or non-existent.

The Best Practices statement can be viewed here:

We look forward to your feedback!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Logo! New Name! New Programming!

It’s official! InterpretAmerica has a new look – a new logo – and a new name for our annual conference.

We are excited about our new logo, which can be seen in its various formats on our Facebook page. The logo design is symbolic of interpreting, with two opposing dialog balloons representing different languages. They are connected in the middle by a vertical line, one color seamlessly fading into another, representing interpreting.

Our new logo is meant to convey that we support anything and everything that helps make communication and understanding possible between languages and cultures.

We also have streamlined the name of our annual conference. Formerly the North American Summit on Interpreting, we have shortened it to the InterpretAmerica Summit, in recognition of how most people already refer to the event.

In celebration of our new logo and summit name, we have finalized the preliminary program for our 4th Summit, which can now be view at

Check out the planned program for 2013, a blend of the familiar and new, and mark your calendars to attend the 4th InterpretAmerica Summit this coming June 14-15, 2013 in Reston, Virginia.

And let us know what you think of the new look!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Interpreting Finds Its Voice

InterpretAmerica Co-President Katharine Allen is this week's author for the NAJIT Blog. In a piece titled Interpreting Finds Its Voice: The Shared Vision of Association Leaders Cruz and Ferreira, she explores the encouraging trends both men see in our profession.

When will “I am an interpreter” have shared meaning for the average person in the same way that “I am a teacher” or even “I am a politician” does?

And perhaps more pertinent, how will that shared meaning come about?

If NAJIT Chairman Robert Cruz and California Federation of Interpreters (CFI) President Michael Ferreira have their way, that broader recognition and clout will only come about as a result of the efforts of all of us, whether as individual interpreters or as larger association and agency players. However, they see a vital and special role for us, the individual practitioner.

And the moment may indeed be ripe to achieve that kind of visibility.

Both leaders keynoted the recent California Federation of Interpreters (CFI) 10th Annual Continuing Education Conference in Los Angeles. In his address, NAJIT Chairman Cruz emphasized the growing synergy between initiatives undertaken by individual interpreters and interpreter associations, and those spearheaded by outside fields, such as lawyers and the Department of Labor..

You can read the full blog post here

Be sure to leave your comments as to what you see as the most important trends you are experiencing in the interpreting profession.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with Barry S. Olsen and Katharine Allen of InterpretAmerica

Maria Cristina de la Vega, noted blogger on interpreting issues, interviewed InterpretAmerica Co-Presidents Barry S. Olsen and Katharine Allen for her blog this week. The topics covered range from current trends in the interpreting industry to interpreter training, fragmentation in the profession, and outlooks for technology and collaboration. A sneak peak at programming for next year's 4th Summit on Interpreting is also provided. Be sure to read the entire interview at Maria Cristina's blog site. The link is provided below.

Interview with Barry S. Olsen and Katharine Allen of InterpretAmerica

The interpreting  profession has really advanced into the limelight this year, to the degree that we  were  the subject of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Taniguchi vs. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd. Thus I thought it would be apropos to interview two visionary entrepreneurs in the field about their insights into the industry.
Barry Slaughter Olsen and Katharine Allen founded InterpretAmerica in 2009 with the express purpose of raising the profile of interpreting. Since 2010, InterpretAmerica has organized a yearly Summit on Interpreting, which brings together leaders from across the interpreting industry, individual interpreters, and end users of interpreting services. The 4th Summit on Interpreting will take place just outside Washington, D.C., in Reston, Virginia, on June 14-15, 2013.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3rd Summit on Interpreting Keynote Address: The Digital Revolution and Multilingual Communication--A New Paradigm

The 3rd North American Summit on Interpreting took place on June 15-16, 2012, in Monterey, California. For the Summit’s first time on the West Coast, InterpretAmerica reached beyond the confines of the interpreting world to invite a keynote speaker who would help the interpreting profession see just how it can not only fit into but also influence the technology-dominated world we live in.

That speaker was author, entrepreneur and technologist Scott Klososky. While Scott normally speaks to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and business and civic leaders from around the world, he didn’t flinch when we approached him to address an eclectic group of some 180 interpreters, agency owners, professional association leaders, interpreter educators, and end users of interpreting services. He took the time and effort to understand what interpreters do today and how they do it as he prepared his remarks. The result was an informative, engaging and thought-provoking presentation that we now offer to interpreters everywhere here on our blog.

The video is just over an hour long, so carve out some time and prepare to learn and to have your own perceptions challenged. We think it will be time well spent. We look forward to your comments after you watch the video. If you would like to have a copy of Scott’s slides, they may be downloaded here.

Be sure to mark your calendar for the 4th North American Summit on Interpreting on June 14-15, 2013. For the 4th Summit, we will be returning to the Washington, DC region. Keep an eye on for more information.

Finally, thanks to all the interpreters, technicians and dreamers out there who are helping our profession evolve and adapt to the 21st century. This video is for you. We hope you enjoy it and hope to see you at next year's Summit on Interpreting!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

InterpretAmerica Recognizes Lou Provenzano's Contributions to the Interpreting Profession

InterpretAmerica Co-Presidents are both in Monterey this week, wrapping up final details from June’s conference and initiating planning for the 4th Summit.

Over the next couple of weeks we want to highlight the unique contributions made by key sponsors, speakers and participants. 

Today we start with Lou Provenzano. We would like to honor Lou’s contributions to the interpreting profession during his term as CEO and President of Language Line Services:

"In 2009, when we were organizing the 1st North American Summit on Interpreting, Lou was the first business leader that we contacted to support the event," said Barry Slaughter Olsen, InterpretAmerica Co-President. "He immediately saw the potential in a conference that would bring leadership from the entire interpreting industry together to leverage our respective strengths."

Co-President Katharine Allen, who has wide experience in the medical interpreting sector, has worked with Lou Provenzano on many projects, including the initial dialog supporting national medical interpreter certification and on language access issues in California and nationally.

"Through Lou's support, Language Line became an early sponsor of the Summit. Lou personally lent his support as a speaker on misclassification issues during the 2nd Summit, helping us to spotlight this critical yet poorly understood issue. At this year's Summit, Lou helped kick off the Summit at the Language Line sponsored Festival of Cultures, celebrating the company's 30th Anniversary and Monterey as the Language Capitol of the World."

InterpretAmerica applauds Lou for the work he has accomplished to build the telephonic interpreting industry in the United States and internationally, as well as the personal commitment and passion he brought to his work.

Monday, May 21, 2012

US Supreme Court Decision Reaffirms Definitions of Interpreting and Translation as Separate Disciplines

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
 --Pearl Strachan

Washington policy wonks and K Street lawyers pride themselves on getting the words right. They understand that clear definitions are critical because they are the basis for everything else, but even specialists can get it wrong or unwittingly perpetuate misconceptions. This week, in a 6 to 3 decision the United States Supreme Court helped dispel one of those misconceptions—one so pervasive that it is perpetuated in everyday conversation, the media, and even in our country’s legislation. The simple question at the heart of this misconception:  What’s the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

The simple answer, now upheld by the Supreme Court, is that translators write, and interpreters speak.

When Japanese professional baseball player Kouichi Taniguchi fell through a wooden deck at the Marianas Resort and Spa while on vacation in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, he unwittingly set in motion a chain of legal maneuvers that culminated this week when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. The question presented before the highest court in the land, however, had nothing to do with construction codes, accident liability or even compensation for pain and suffering. The question presented is whether costs incurred in translating written documents are “compensation of interpreters” for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1920(6). [1]

“So what?” may well be your next question. But for translators and interpreters, a cadre of multilingual knowledge workers whose importance continues to grow daily in the globally connected 21st century, and for those who rely on their services, calling things by their names matters. Clear definitions are important; they help ensure that all parties involved understand each other.

Consider Capitol Hill, home to this nation’s lawmakers. Representatives work in the House, while senators work in the Senate. The work they do is similar, but no senator would take kindly to being called a congressman, and no congressman would try to participate in a vote on the Senate floor, even though they both work in Congress.

A similar division of labor exists between translators and interpreters. Translators work with the written word. They translate international treaties. They translate seized documents from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. They have translated Harry Potter into at least 67 other languages.  In contrast, interpreters made the Nuremburg Trials possible by simultaneously interpreting witness testimony into and out of English, French, German and Russian for those present in the courtroom. Interpreters make it possible for our president to pick up the phone and speak with other world leaders. They work in countless emergency rooms across this country interpreting what doctors and patients say in life and death situations. A literary translator is of no more use to an emergency room doctor than a medical interpreter is to a company that wants to publish the English version of Stieg Larsson’s latest mystery novel.  The skills, disciplines, and job descriptions are quite distinct.

In its opinion, the Court stated that “both the ordinary and technical meanings of ‘interpreter,’ as well as the statutory context in which the word is found, lead to the conclusion that § 1920(6) does not apply to translators of written materials.”[2]

The drafters of 28 U.S.C. § 1920(6) either intentionally omitted translation or simply overlooked it, focusing on the immediate need to ensure that non-English-speaking parties to a suit could understand and participate in live courtroom proceedings. Given the general confusion surrounding what translators and interpreters do and how often people get the two professions mixed up, the omission comes as no surprise. The best way to fix this oversight would be by amending the code to include translation as well, not by tortured legal arguments that attempt to say translation and interpretation are the same thing, when they indisputably are not. 

Words matter. And the Supreme Court got the words right in this case. When he announced that the ruling was being published by the Court in English, Justice Samuel Alito made it very clear that he understands the difference between translation and interpreting when he said: “Anybody who wants to read it in another language will have to pay to have it translated, not interpreted.”[3]

--Barry Slaughter Olsen

[1] Brief of Amici Curiae: Interpreting and Translation Professors in Support of Petitioner, p. i  
[2]  Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd., DBA Marianas Resort and Spa, p. 11. 
[3] Supreme Court says interpretation and translation are different things when it comes to fee, Washington Post, 05/21/2012,

Friday, May 4, 2012


Interpreting has come of age. That was the message of urgency and passion that emerged from the five workgroups held at InterpretAmerica’s 2nd North American Summit on Interpreting in 2011. In a novel experiment, Summit attendees rolled up their sleeves and began the hard work of addressing key issues cohesively, coherently, and collaboratively across sectors, focusing on:
  1. Professional Associations
  2. Certification and Credentialing, 
  3. Education and Training
  4. Legal and Advocacy Concerns
  5. Technology

The results were catalogued in Interpreting: Full Speed Ahead – Blazing a Trail Toward National Unity, (downloadable here). Amazing consensus emerged in three key areas:

1.     The need for a national umbrella organization to represent interpreters.
2.     A compelling call for a national generalist interpreter certification.
3.     The urgent need to embrace technology and support interpreters who need training on technology.

The key work started by Summit attendees and captured in Interpreting: Full Speed Ahead is reverberating throughout the field, as seen by closer collaboration between key professional associations, renewed momentum towards a generalist certification, and increased dialogue between interpreters and technology developers.

Interested in helping to shape the future of our profession? The 3rd North American Summit on Interpreting (June 15-16 in Monterey, California) is bringing the workgroup sessions back to continue the work started last June. Attendees will again be asked to roll up their sleeves and tackle key issues shaping the future of our profession:

Each workgroup will be moderated by a leading expert in the subject area and all participants will have the chance to share their ideas, expertise, and vision. Results will be captured in publications which will be made freely available to the public.

Complete details can be found at Early bird rates, student and teacher discounts, and poster presentation submissions all still apply! Register now!

Friday, April 27, 2012


InterpretAmerica is the guest author for the NAJIT Blog this week with an in-depth post on Interpreting in Conflict Zones. Please view the blog here.

As part of the civilian interpreting profession, we hear daily news stories of interpreters killed while working for the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan, or listen to interviews conducted through an interpreter with victims of famine, natural disaster, or civil wars. We might fleetingly wonder who they are, how they learned their English, Dari, Pashto or Somali and probably assume that they aren’t “real” interpreters. How could they be? After all, who trained them? Who’s vouching for their competence?

The answers to those questions might surprise you and they are of great relevance to our profession. Interpreting in conflict zones is not only where most of the money in interpreting is spent, it is also where we can find tremendous innovation in training techniques, the use of technology, and collaboration across broad coalitions of military, non profit, governmental and private entities.

Curious? We were, and for that reason we have convened a first-of-its kind panel discussion on Interpreting in Conflict Zones, to take place at the 3rd North American Summit on Interpreting this June 15-16, in Monterey, California. Jonathan Levy, Director of Language Services at Cyracom International has extensive experience training military linguists in translation and interpreting. He will moderate the panel discussion, Interpreting in Conflict Zones, which will bring together a commissioned officer with extensive field experience in Iraq and Afghanistan working with interpreters, a military linguist who has interpreted for combat missions, Revan Hedo, a freelance interpreter and translator who began his career in Iraq, and Barbara Moser-Mercer, founder of the Center for Interpreting in Conflict Zones (InZone), and who has extensive experience training and embedding interpreters with a myriad of agencies and non-profits in hot spots all over the world.

Complete details can be found at Early bird rates and student and teacher discounts all still apply! Register now!

Monday, April 23, 2012



• “Congratulations on a spectacular conference! I came away stimulated, encouraged and excited for our profession (now and later). You do an excellent job taking care of all the big and little details and the result is a tremendous event for our field.” 

• “I want to congratulate you and Barry again for such a great job. The organization was flawless.”

• “The summit was worth my investment. I had a wonderful time learning and networking with colleagues. I certainly look forward to attending the next one.” 

• “Fabulous job. Fabulous opportunity. The best thing I have ever done for my career.” 

• “Great Summit! As an interpreter, I really felt I belonged. It really addressed the challenges of the industry.” 

• “For the 2nd time, a great event that gives you what no other events offer. This is by and for interpreters and it was great! Thank you!” 

• “A very worthwhile and professional meeting of colleagues, educators, vendors, end users, and service providers.” 

• “You are tackling a difficult set of issues admirably. Congrats!” 

Complete details can be found at

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Profession, One Voice: Selling the Interpreting Profession to the Public

Nataly Kelly, Chief Researcher at Common Sense Advisory and regular contributor to the Huffington Post, recently created a professional meme for the Interpreting Profession as part of her blog, The Interpreter’s Launchpad.

“What I Do” memes are popping up all over social media, and provide an often humorous look at how professions are commonly stereotyped. The meme for The Interpreter, however, gets to the heart of a deeper dilemma facing our profession. A common stereotype implies a common understanding of what a given professional does. For interpreting however, few people actually know: a) what we do; and b) why it matters.

Interpreters routinely complain about poor recognition, low pay, lack of prestige, and how undervalued the service we provide is. However, before something can be truly valued, it must be first perceived and then understood.

Interested in doing something about our professional image?

At InterpretAmerica we feel strongly that it is up to us, members of the interpreting industry, to create that perception and understanding. To that end, we have invited award-winning communications consultant Spencer Critchley from Boots Road Group, an advertising, public relations and digital media firm, to moderate the PR Workgroup Session: One Profession, One Voice – Selling the Interpreting Profession to the Public. Attendees will receive a crash course on PR and then work to create unified messaging for the profession, continuing the discussion that began during the 2nd North American Summit on Interpreting. Your contributions will be captured and published as a beginning publicity template for our industry.

Complete details can be found at Early bird rates, student and teacher discounts, and poster presentation submissions all still available! Register now!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Change is Coming Whether We Want It or Not: Interpreting and Technology

Imagine the following scenario: An Arabic-speaking patient and her nurse are waiting for the interpreter to arrive to help with complicated post-surgery discharge instructions. The interpreter is held up and the nurse is called to tend to another patient. Even though she knows it is against hospital policy, she takes out her smart phone, taps on the instant interpreting app and reads the discharge instructions into the speaker. After a few moments, voice recognition software begins to speak in Arabic, relaying the instructions after having been machine translated by the app. When the interpreter arrives, the patient has already been discharged and the nurse is busy with another patient.

Does this scenario concern you? Excite you with its possibilities? Or a bit of both? Like it or not, our workplaces are being irrevocably changed by the technology transforming our daily life.

If you are interested in not only learning how technology is impacting the interpreting workplace, but in contributing to what our profession can do to shape its impact, don't miss the 3rd North American Summit on Interpreting on June 15-16, 2012, in Monterey, California.

Highly-acclaimed technology thought leader Scott Klososky will kick off the Summit with his keynote plenary: The Digital Revolution and Multilingual Communications – A New Paradigm. His speech will be followed by a hands-on panel exploring case studies on Integrating New Technologies into the Interpreting Workplace. Speakers David Frankel, the CEO of ZipDix, Cristiano Mazzei, the Director of Translation and Interpreting at Century College, and Melinda Paras, Director of Paras and Associates and founder of the Health Care Interpreting Network (HCIN), will share examples of ground-breaking uses of technology in remote interpreting and e-participation in multilingual meetings, online training models, and networking public hospitals via video medical interpreting. Finally, Becca Bryant, Technology Developer at Williams Sound, will moderate the Professional Identity Workgroup Session on Technology, Toward a Working Technology Partnership for the Interpreting Profession. Summit attendees will have the chance to share their own vision for best practices for the proper use of technology in the interpreting field.

Complete details can be found at Early bird rates, student and teacher discounts, and poster presentation submissions all still apply! Register now!