Issue #11                                                                                                               April 2012  



Welcome to the 11th issue of The Interpreter's Launch Pad. This newsletter is designed to bring resources, tips, and a bit of fun to the lives of professional interpreters.


Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for countdown!

10Q: Interprenaut, who are your favorite authors?

A: Too many to list! However, one of the authors whose work I have long recommended to others is David Crystal. He is one of the world's foremost writers on topics of language, and his style makes the information fun and accessible for pretty much anyone. He has written so many great volumes on the role of language in society, the ever-evolving English language, and technology, too. I particularly enjoyed his memoir, "Just a Phrase I'm Going Through." I'm especially honored to announce that David Crystal has written the foreword for a forthcoming book I've co-authored, titled "Found in Translation."

EmailDo you have questions or issues of importance to the field of interpreting that you'd like to see Interprenaut address?  

Send them along

AUSIT and the Jill Blewett Memorial Lectures

Last year I had the fortune to visit Australia, a land that has special significance for the interpreting profession. Australia pioneered telephone interpreting services. Also, it is home to the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT), an association I have always been grateful to for sharing so many great resources with the profession and the international community.

One great resource that must not be missed are the Jill Blewett Memorial Lectures, which have been delivered at AUSIT's annual meetings each year since 1992. Many of the lectures are available for download in PDF format, and I've been inspired by many of them. Two that I find particularly worth reading are Adolfo Gentile's talk called "Translators, Interpreters, and Human Rights" and Karen Clare's discussion of humanness and vicarious trauma in interpreting.

EmailDo you have a resource you'd like to share with other interpreters?   

Send your ideas!   


Sarah Winnemucca navigated between two worlds, those of the Nevada Paiute tribe (her father was a chief) and white settlers. Like most interpreters who enable two cultures to communicate, Sarah ended up being viewed negatively and as a controversial figure by both of the groups she worked for at different times in her life. 


Sarah Winnemucca, indigenous activist, language preservationist, and of course, an interpreter 

Sarah learned to speak English at the wishes of her grandfather. The language soon became an advantage for her, as she was one of the only Paiutes in the area at the time who could not only speak English, but could read and write it as well. She later learned Spanish and several Native American languages. She taught in an Indian school and worked as an interpreter.

Sarah was the first Native American woman to secure a copyright and publish a book in the English language. With the encouragement of Ralph Waldo Emerson and others, she wrote Life Among the Piutes, an autobiographical account of her people's turmoil. The book recounts many years of starvation, forced relocations from ancestral lands, and violent attacks. 


Sarah Winnemucca eventually returned to Nevada, where she built a school for Indian children with the goal of promoting her native culture and language. Sarah's school was open for a short period, until the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 required Indian children to attend English-speaking boarding schools instead. Today, there are fewer than 1,000 people left who speak this language natively.   


Many places in California, Nevada, and Oregon owe their names to Sarah's language, Northern Paiute. (You can click here to see how to count in Paiute.)


Who inspires you?

Is there an interpreter from your country or field with a remarkable story to tell? EmailSend your suggestions for inspiring interpreters you'd like to see featured here.
7Most interpreters are right-handed and "left-eared"

Which ear do you favor when interpreting? That was the question Interprenaut asked last month, and it turned out to be a popular one. According to the 78 people who responded, most interpreters (52.5%) favor the left ear, while a quarter (25.6%) favor their right. About a fifth (21.7%) said that they do not favor either ear. The vast majority (84.6%) of interpreters are right-handed. Interpreters overwhelmingly choose binaural headsets, one with two earphones (74.3%) instead of monaural ones (23.0%).


Here are some of the comments interpreters had to share about their ear preferences:

  • "After long periods of interpreting, I alternate, but it also depends on acoustics in the room."
  • "I do conference interpreting and I always leave the ear next to my colleague out of the headset. It depends on where my colleague is sitting."
  • "I use in-ear earphones (of the now old Sony Walkman type) which are transparent to sound, so I don't need to uncover one ear to hear my own voice. When forced to use big ear-covering earphones, such as in TV studios, I'm very unhappy, and fear I cannot hear my making mistakes. I try to turn the volume down on one side, usually the right, to hear what I say."
  • "On the phone, I alternate sides, but when the sound is weak, I hear better with my left ear."
  • "I recently noticed that I seemed to be asking for repetitions more frequently so I went to get a hearing test and, in fact, I have lost some hearing in my right ear. Since I wear my phone earpiece in my left ear, I have since switched it to my right ear, but now notice that I also have to change which side of the patient I stand/sit on."
  • "I seem to hear clearer with my right ear, although many times I need to be on the left side because of how the courtroom is configured."
  • "When interpreting, I work with my right ear. When my colleague is interpreting, I change to my left ear."
  • "I listen to the speaker in my right ear and listen to my own voice / interpretation with my left."
  • "After a couple of days, I do switch to the left one, but I always start with the right ear. Who wants to begin a conference with a left ear? Or enter the booth with the left foot?"
  • "If I don't change ears regularly, I get a headache..."

One of the things that was clear from the comments is that several interpreters have experienced hearing loss as a result of their work. Interprenaut believes this is an aspect of the profession that is not discussed very often. Interpreters, make sure to tell your physicians about your work and see if you can get your hearing checked periodically. And educators, consider discussing aural health with your interpreting students. 

And now, for this month's chance to share your feedback!

Have you ever experienced emotional stress or trauma
due to something you interpreted?

If so, how did you handle it, and what techniques helped you to recover?


Click here to take a two-minute anonymous poll to share your feedback.   


This month's question is of special significance. Your answers will benefit THE VOICE OF LOVE project, which supports quality interpreting for survivors of torture, trauma and sexual violence.  


The results will be shared in next month's newsletter.  


EmailDo you have a question you'd like to get input on from colleagues around the world?
Send me your suggested topics for next month's feedback section.  

6Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks:
African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa

Africa has been on my mind a lot this month, and I was delighted to discover this fascinating book, which is edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance, Emily Lynn Osborn, and Richard L. Roberts.

Interpreters have nearly always been found sitting at the intersections of knowledge, power, and authority whenever two groups come into contact with each other without sharing a common language, but few historians think to recount the past from their perspectives. And, in the field of interpreting, not much attention is paid to Africa. So, this book is a rare treasure for those interested in either the field of African studies or interpreting studies.

The book profiles numerous interpreters, pointing out that French colonial administrator in many parts of Africa had a "complete dependency on interpreters and chiefs." In fact, the authors even describe a "reign of interpreters" during much of the colonial era. In one part of the book, the authors explain that many officials in the colonial era depended completely on interpreters, not just for communication and mediation, but even for basic necessities of life, such as food. For the most part, this elite class of interpreters in Africa was made up of Africans who learned the European languages. It was less common for Europeans to learn African languages to a level that would enable them to interpret.

One of the main themes of this book is that the interpreters were not only converting language; they were bridging cultures, and as such, were viewed primarily as intermediaries or cultural brokers. They were people who sought not just to interpret words, but "to achieve mutual understanding." This book is filled with many interesting examples of how interpreters shaped African history. You can read some of the book via Google Books.
Do you have a book you'd like to see reviewed by Interprenaut?
Send your suggestions.
From Italy to Ireland: Interpreting inside the Football Stadium

Interpreters can be found in all kinds of places, and international sports is certainly one of the places you're likely to find us. Any fan of football (soccer) in Ireland knows is likely to recognize interpreter Manuela Spinelli. She is the voice of the Giovanni Trapattoni, who manages the national team of the Republic of Ireland. Watch the video below to learn more about her work.
More Languages More Options 3. Languages for Sport: Manuela Spinelli
Interpreter Manuela Spinelli knows a thing or two
about interpreting... and soccer

It might look easy for Spinelli, but the truth is, interpreting for someone who has some grasp of a language can be even more challenging than interpreting for a person who cannot communicate at all. Why? You have be able to guess whether your interpretation is needed or not. And, you have to be prepared to interpret at a moment's notice, even if you think the person understood. Many interpreters who work with athletes face this challenge -- their client's language skills usually improve with time until their services are eventually not needed. In many ways, their job actually becomes more difficult as the person's language skills improve!

 EmailWhat are your favorite interpreting-related videos?
Share them and they may be featured in a future issue.
4I've featured InterpretAmerica before, but this year's Summit promises to be so spectacular that I cannot help but highlight it for readers.

The theme of this year's Summit is 21st Century Interpreting: Staying Relevant in a Transforming World. It will take place in Monterey, California on June 15th and 16th.

One of the agenda items I am most excited about is the discussion of a generalist certification for interpreters. I wrote about the benefits of a generalist certification for community interpreters in an article in the ATA Chronicle back in 2007, and I still believe this would benefit many interpreters, especially those who work in languages of limited diffusion.

Also, the conference will feature Barbara Moser-Mercer, who has conducted groundbreaking work for interpreters in conflict zones and, more importantly, in the quest for peace. Read an excellent blog post on this topic from Katharine Allen here.

EmailHow are you connecting with other interpreters?
Share your favorite forms of staying in touch with your colleagues.
3I stumbled across a beautiful photo of Lucy Uppik, an Inuktitut medical interpreter, and it occurred to me that many readers may not have heard of the Inuktitut language before. It also made me wonder how many Inuktitut medical interpreters there could possibly be in the world.

The population of Nunavut (located in the Canadian Arctic region) is roughly 30,000 people, 85% of whom can speak Inuktitut. (And no, contrary to popular belief, they don't have a large number of words for snow.)

However, Nunavut does have its very own association for translators and interpreters, the Nunattinni Katujjiqatigiit Tusaajinut (Nunavut Interpreter / Translator Society), with an impressive list of certified members as well as associate members. The symbols you see in the Nunavut government's logo above are highly unique too, and are used in the written form of the Inuktitut language. Let's take a moment to applaud and appreciate our colleagues in Nunavut!


EmailAre you an interpreter for an uncommon language combination? Or, do you have an unusual interpreting story you would like to share with others?
Email it so that interpreters around the world can find out about it!
2Recent interpreting-related news items:

(Australia) 80-year-old Indonesian interpreter bikes to assignments
(Azerbaijan) Students will volunteer as interpreters for Eurovision
(Belgium) Brussels airport plans to use interpreters via Skype
(Canada) Afghan interpreters get a second chance to come to Canada
(Canada) Interpreters at new clinic are a lifeline for refugees
(Canada) Interpreters and translators prepare for possible job cuts
(Canada) Individuals denied French interpreters for health care settings
(Canada) Punjabi interpreters assist with blood drive
(Czech Republic) Unqualified interpreters used on numerous cases with foreigners
(Ghana) Sign language interpreters needed for voter registration
(India) Students interpret during Somali pirate trial
(India) Private hospitals in Delhi offer interpreters for Asian patients
(India) Opportunities for interpreters abound in India
(Kazakhstan) Professional interpreters for government lacking
(Kenya) Interpreters needed for International Criminal Court
(Kenya) Interpreters bridge communication gaps in healthcare
(Korea) Volunteer network provides telephone interpreting services in Korea
(Luxembourg) European Parliament struggles to find enough English interpreters
(Malawi) Interpreters requested for television news by deaf individuals
(Malta) Master's program offered for Maltese interpreters
(New Zealand) Afghan interpreters fear for life when NZ withdraws troops
(Qatar) New interpreting and translation launched at university
(Sri Lanka) Interpreter called in when politician gives speech in English
(United Kingdom) Interpreter shortage causes court backlog
(United Kingdom) Interpreter error leads to £25,000 in retrial costs
(United Kingdom) Deaf individuals will have access to remote interpreters
(United States) Interpreters in ER may help limit medical errors
(United States) New program for interpreting and translation at Loyola University
(United States) All-female graduating class of new medical interpreting program
(United States) Missouri court gets access to telephone interpreting
(United States) Hospital on Martha's Vineyard to use telephone interpreting
(United States) Burmese among most needed languages in Jacksonville
(United States) Word is getting out about medical interpreters in NY state
(United States) Health system must pay more than $200,000 due to failure to provide interpreter
(United States) Oregon hospital gets video interpreting system
(United States) West Virginia court demonstrates video interpreting system
(United States) Lack of interpreter in emergency call may have hindered police
(United States) Challenges of interpreting for Cambodian refugees in mental health settings
(United States) Nevada court interpreters protest wage cuts

EmailDo you have interpreting news to report from your part of the word?  

Send it along, so that your fellow interpreters can hear all about it. 

1Ready for launch? Before you head into orbit, please observe the following pre-launch announcements from Mission Control...

Just look how far Interprenaut has traveled! 
Each month, Interprenaut visits nearly 3,000 interpreters in 68 countries! If you live in a country that is not listed here, send in your mailing address via email to receive a postcard via regular mail.    


Don't miss Interprenaut's Latest Book!

Make sure to get your copy of Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, forthcoming from Perigee/Penguin USA in October 2012. This book explores the many ways in which your work shapes society, everything from sports to entertainment, politics to religion, even love and war! You can pre-order the book in Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States; coming soon in France too.

Telephone Interpreting


Subscribe and get a free telephone interpreting book!   

If this email was forwarded to you by a friend or colleague, why not sign up? Just click here to subscribe, or SMS (text) message the word INTERPRENAUT to 22828. All new subscribers will receive a free digital copy of the book, Telephone Interpreting: A Comprehensive Guide to the Profession. To purchase a hard copy of the book, click here.   


Interested in translating the telephone interpreting book?

Trainers, educators, and interpreters! If you would like to translate the telephone interpreting book into another language in order to use it to deliver your own training sessions or to use it as an educational material, feel free to get in touch. Translations for several languages are now underway!      


EmailYour comments are welcome!  

Do you have a resource you'd like to share with your colleagues? A book you would like to see reviewed? An inspiring interpreter you believe should be featured? Email your suggestions, observations, and reactions. To see what readers are saying about Interprenaut, click here.     


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"I wanted to be a translator or an interpreter."
-- Hollywood actress Emily Blunt

"Music is a lot like interpretation,
in that both are enriching and cognitive."
-- Interpreter and professor Jaime Fatįs

"When I was at a very low point in my life, my interpreter helped me.
He is very important to me."
-- Former NBA player Stephon Marbury, who now plays in China 


"To err is human, to interpret is divine."

-- Interprenaut (channeling Alexander Pope)

(C) 2012 Nataly Kelly                                                                        Issue #11 - April 2012