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  • 10/06/2021 12:50 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    Women in Translation Month (#WIT) has come and gone, but we at NOTIS believe that women, transgender women, and non-binary authors and translators should be celebrated not only throughout the course of one month, but all year round. 

    As you may well know, painfully few books published and sold in the United States are translations (approximately 3%). And of those translated texts, only about 30% are written by women.

    To read more about these numbers and see them in charts and graphs, check out this blog post from the excellent Three Percent website.

    These numbers are dismal––yes––and we must absolutely continue working towards a more equitable future for women in translation.

    That said, the purpose of today’s post is celebratory

    Did you know that the current Board of Directors at NOTIS is made up entirely of powerful and talented women linguists? Theirs are the faces of translation and interpreting, and working with them is truly inspirational. 

    Read NOTIS board member bios here

    One of our organization’s primary objectives is to highlight and amplify historically underrepresented voices. To that end––and in late (but never too late) observance of #WIT month––we have spoken with a few local translators about their current projects. 

    Without further delay, I will now yield the floor to Mia Spangenberg, Shelley Fairweather-Vega, and Takami Nieda so that they may tell you, in their own words, about the women they are translating.


    Mia Spangenberg



    Mia Spangenberg holds a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Washington with a focus on Finnish literature and cultural studies. She translates fiction, nonfiction, and children's literature from Finnish and German into English.  

    Here’s what Mia has to say about her experience translating Small Crescendos, a genre-bending work of autofiction by Finnish author Pirkko Saisio:  

    Pirkko Saisio is a giant on the Finnish cultural scene, and I have long admired her both for her novels and plays. Her prose is unique: an autofictive, genre-bending style that incorporates elements from theatre, poetry, and postmodern aesthetics. I love her visual focus on objects and the setting, as well as her rhythm and pacing and how it moves her narratives forward. Translating anything she writes is always a challenge, but it is also always a joy. Someone told me that you can tell when a translator truly loves the work they are translating, and I guess I am doing something right because I received the best compliment from Saisio herself - she told me she was moved by my translation and how I had perfectly captured the rhythm. It's wonderful to have this connection with her, and I hope to make more of her work available in English soon!

    • Read Mia’s translation of “Small Crescendos” here (published by Asymptote) to get a sense of that perfect rhythm!
    • Read more about Mia's work here


    Shelley Fairweather-Vega



    Shelley Fairweather-Vega translates from Uzbek and Russian into English, specializing in texts concerning culture, history and politics. For six years, she has been an active member of NOTIS’s Board of Directors and she currently serves as its president. Shelley is also a member of the Advisory Board at the University of Washington’s Translation Studies Hub. 

    Here's what Shelley has to say about the upcoming anthology of Kazakh women's literature she's collaborating on: 

    This month my colleague Zaure Batayeva and I got the news that our anthology of Kazakhstani women's writing, Amanat, will be published by Gaudy Boy in July 2022 - just in time for next year's Women In Translation month. We've been translating these short prose pieces since 2017, with our first three translations appearing in Words Without Borders in 2018. Kazakhstan is a big and complicated country from which we have very little literature in English. As a former Soviet republic, it's home to people writing in both Kazakh (a Turkic language with a long oral tradition) and Russian (a Slavic language with a storied literary tradition). In the old Soviet writing bureaucracy, male writers occupied most positions of authority, and they won the bulk of the funding and publication contracts. While the Soviet system is gone, some of its institutions remain, and male authors still receive more than their share of attention in English translation. That was part of what motivated us to focus on female authors. They are telling their own stories and the story of their country, and doing so with very little institutional support. Women in Kazakhstan are also helping to bridge the gap between the two languages spoken there and their associated cultures. I was surprised to learn that at least half of the twelve authors in our collection are translators themselves, either between Kazakh and Russian, or between those languages and others. That makes it a special honor to work with them. Even the way Zaure and I have divided up our labor on this collection reflects the linguistic diversity in Kazakh literature today - she is in charge of author relations and translated the Kazakh-language stories, while I am in charge of publisher relations and translated the Russian-language stories; I answered her questions about the English language, and she answered my questions about Kazakhstani culture. So our small team of female translators will, I hope, bring this larger team of female writers, from a country we need to know more about, to the attention of a wider audience.

    • Read more about Shelley and her translation work here


    Takami Nieda



    Takami Nieda was born in New York City and has degrees in English from Stanford University and Georgetown University. She has translated more than ten works from Japanese into English and has received numerous grants and residencies in support of her translations, including the PEN/Heim Translation Fund. Formerly an assistant professor of translation at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, Nieda currently teaches writing and translation at Seattle Central College in Washington State.

    Here’s Takami on her experience translatingThe Color of the Sky is the Shape of the Heartby Chesil:

    The story is about Ginny Park, a teen in search of belonging. As a Zainichi Korean born and raised in Japan, she isn’t fully accepted at Japanese school because she’s Korean, and isn’t fully accepted at Korean school because she’s not Korean enough. This sense of in-betweenness, by the way, is something that I’m certain many readers can identify with. Ginny can’t fit in. She won’t fit in, and her wild tongue gets her into more trouble than out against her bullies. Furthermore, when she sees an injustice, she’s fearless enough to say, “This is wrong” even when others wish she wouldn’t, and when she commits a certain act of defiance, she is forced to leave her native Japan. Bouncing around from Japan to Hawaii to Oregon, Ginny is looking for that one thing everyone wants—a community that will accept her just the way she is.

    I fell in love with Ginny for her righteous anger and courage to call something out when it’s wrong, especially since this isn’t particularly encouraged in Japanese society. I was also heart-stricken by how Ginny has to navigate the complexities of discrimination and injustice all alone, without anyone to help her or to validate her anger. I thought the novel wasn’t merely a story directed at young readers but was also calling out adults for creating a society that is fraught for young girls like Ginny. In doing a bit more research about the author Chesil, I found an article where she mentioned how growing up, she disliked hearing a certain catch-all excuse that grownups used to avoid involvement or to ignore the plight of others: “It doesn’t concern me.” The novel is, in part, a response to those grownups. Reading this gave me the sense that I had connected with the novel in the way the writer had intended, and also gave me the confidence to ask permission to translate the book. Chesil very graciously said yes.

    Every aspect of translating the book was challenging and delightful, and I especially enjoyed being able to consult Chesil during the translation and editorial process. She very generously answered every question I sent her, giving me insight into her intentions and process. By combing through the details of the novel with her, I came to learn how deeply personal this story is to her, and fell in love with Ginny even more. I’m excited for English readers to get to know Ginny through her journey.

    • Follow Takami on Twitter @TNieda to stay informed about her recent translation work, teachings, etcétera


    Thank you for joining us in celebrating and amplifying the voices of women in (and of) translation, not just in August but year-round. 

    If you would like NOTIS to feature a publication of yours in a future blog post or via social media, please contact Brianna Salinas.


    Further reading






  • 09/09/2021 10:17 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    Written by 2021 Conference Scholarship recipient, Mariko Kageyama.

    NOTE: Our second round of 2021 scholarships is open through 27 September 2021. Read more about our Conference and Tuition Scholarships here. 

    Mariko Kageyama is a Washington Courts Registered Court Interpreter in English/Japanese and a translator in the same language pair. She is also a licensed attorney in Washington.

    I am excited to share with the NOTIS community my unique experience as a first-time conference attendee at the Japan Interpreting and Translation Forum 2021 (JITF), hosted by the Japan Association of Conference Interpreters (JACI). I joined remotely from my home in Seattle during the month of August––yes, the whole month. In the years leading up to this triumphant event, starting in 2015, JACI organized one-day annual conferences in Tokyo, known then as the Japan Interpreting Forum (JIF). This changed in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But the JIF has now successfully metamorphosed into JITF: a month-long online festival for Japanese language professionals, attracting interpreters, translators, and linguists of diverse backgrounds and skill levels.

    The registration fee for non-JACI members like myself was JPY 9,800 (about USD 90). This included full access to 40 live and recorded presentations delivered via Zoom by more than 40 leading language professionals. These sessions took place from August 1st to the 31st, one session per weekday and two on Saturdays and Sundays. While Japan is 16 hours ahead of the Pacific Time, I do not think it seriously disadvantaged overseas participants because video recordings for all segments were posted within the day and remained available until the end of September. I regret not attending the live, open-networking sessions to meet new people, but I was not disciplined enough to stay up till 2 am! 

    On a side note, I made a small volunteer contribution to the JITF 2021 by creating and sharing a data file containing the entire event schedule––including daily entries for lecture titles and Zoom links––for an easy, one-click Google Calendar import, which was wildly popular and greatly appreciated by other attendees.

    The sessions were moderated, ran an average of 1.5 hours, and included plenty of time for interactive Q&As. I watched all of them, meaning that I immersed myself in more than 60 hours of rich educational content! They covered a wide variety of practical and theoretical topics, including Oscar Wilde grammars, subtitling Japanese indie films, translating German and Italian operas, voice training, language service company startups, Brexit, linguistic biases, how to properly charge for remote interpreting, the history of wartime interpreters, and so forth. One thing in particular that caught my attention was a lecture on the present situation surrounding legal interpreters who work for Japanese courts and immigration offices. I was shocked to learn that Japan has no formal laws addressing court interpreters and their services!

    JITF 2021 effectively mobilized various social media outlets, ranging from the hashtag #JITF2021 campaign to a closed Facebook Group for posting speakers’ bios; facilitating pre-talk surveys and follow-up Q&As; and (with speakers’ permission) sharing lecture slides, web links and reference materials. I fully enjoyed JITF 2021––a huge success with over 770 registrants from all over the world! Kudos to the JACI board members and JITF2021 organizers for running a seamless conference.

    Last but not least, I am tremendously grateful to NOTIS for the Conference Scholarship, which made it possible for me to gain valuable experience at professional meetings of my choice and advance my knowledge and skills as a Japanese interpreter and translator during this challenging time. Thank you very much!

  • 08/07/2021 12:49 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    Must the flame lick our doorstep
    before we acknowledge the fire?

    Wildfire season has returned to the West Coast with exceptional fury. Year after year, the fires start earlier and are contained later, ravaging homes and businesses, millions of acres of land, and countless animal and human lives.

    In 2020 several fires continued blazing into December, and 2021 threatens to be similarly catastrophic. According to a report by CNN, wildfires have already burned around 3 million acres this year––an area greater than that of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. On the heels of a record-breaking heatwave, with moderate to severe drought affecting over 90% of land in California, Oregon, and Washington, conditions are unlikely to improve any time soon.

    In the face of such catastrophes, there are several ways to protect ourselves and our neighbors. Every year, many sectors work together to do just that. Translation and interpretation represent two of the less obvious––but tremendously important––ones.



    Language access services are indispensable in times of crisis, whether personal, local, or global. These fires underscore our undeniable need for multilingual emergency alert systems (for earthquakes, hurricanes, and other severe weather events as well).

    “A recent report in Grist highlighted the importance of providing accurate and human-developed translations of public safety warnings, in order to ensure that we don’t leave behind individuals with limited English proficiency in our response to natural disasters,” says Andrew Warner, a California journalist writing for

    Multilingual.com

    Warner explains that quality translations of crucial public-safety information about wildfires are limited, if available at all. According to U.S. Census data, some 44% of California residents speak a language other than English at home (Spanish accounts for roughly 28%), and yet a 2017 state audit found that in several of the counties most affected by these fires––“some of the most severe … in the state’s history”––residents had not received “adequate warnings in languages other than English.”

    The numbers don’t look much better in Washington or Oregon, where 20% and 15% of the states’ respective residents do not speak English at home. In the rural areas of both states––those hardest hit by wildfires––hese numbers increase exponentially. In Eastern Washington’s Adams County, for example, roughly 50% speak Spanish at home.

    Some communities have turned to services such as Google Translate to improve the accessibility of their emergency alerts by broadcasting them in more than one language, but machine translations are not always reliable. Warner cites an example from Ventura County, California, where “in 2017, an automatic translation of a wildfire notice … mistranslated … ‘brush fire’ using the Spanish word for ‘hairbrush.’” This may seem more comical than alarming but, when time is of the essence, accuracy is key. Avoiding confusion can save lives.

    Whatever the disaster and whatever our politics, proficiency in a given language (or lack thereof) should never impede one's access to critical information about threats to their personal security.

    Information about preparedness, evacuation, and safe sheltering should always be of quality and readily available to all residents of our diverse society. It is therefore critical that local government entities (along with community groups and faith-based organizations) employ more human translators in their efforts to spread the word––quickly, clearly and without equivocation.

    Doing so could be the difference between home and homeless, or life and death.

  • 07/17/2021 12:05 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    In an article for nwLaborPress.org called "Medical interpreters unite," Don McIntosh explains this watershed moment: “The State of Oregon on April 23 recognized a union for as many as 500 medical interpreters who translate for Medicaid patients" (1)

    As independent contractors, Oregon interpreters have long been unable to unionize. This year, however, Oregon AFSCME (one of the largest member-driven unions in the state) helped pass
    HB 2231—which allows medical interpreters to unionize, influencing wages, paid time off, fair scheduling, affordable healthcare, and more.


    Fig.1. From Oregon Interpreters in Action; pamphlet accessible at: http://interpretersinaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Two-Pager.pdf 

    These efforts have been years in the making in Oregon. In neighboring Washington State—considered by some to be a model for freelance language professionals countrywide—medical interpreters "recently achieved major improvements through a similar process" (1). Today, medical interpreters in Washington State can earn about $42 per hour, compared to $18-25 for their counterparts in Oregon.

    A 2018 post in the ATA Interpreters Division blog—“Washington State: Leading the Way for Professional Interpreters” (2)—explains the “model”:

    In the past, Washington paid interpreters through language companies that retained some 40% of the money the state paid for their services. But since 2010, Washington interpreters have seen a significant wage increase and, as many attest, an improvement to the quality of their work and life. In 2010, a state bill “granted freelance interpreters unionization rights for appointments paid by two Washington State agencies, DSHS and HCA” and then, in 2011, “a provision in the state budget created a new procurement model for interpreting services.” As a result, the aforementioned language companies now keep less than 15% of what the state spends in interpreting services. (2)

    The evolving situation in Washington State is what Dennis Eagle, WFSE/AFSCME legislative and political action director, calls a win-win: “This bill makes our procurement process more cost-efficient and effective, lowering costs for taxpayers — increasing pay for interpreters” (3).

    While the passage of HB 2231 in Oregon State may only be one step in a long and complex process (complete with contract negotiations), many newly unionized interpreters in Oregon are enthusiastic about what looks to them like a more just and equitable future.

    According to Maria Fiallos, a medical interpreter for Spanish speakers: “[we] have nowhere to go but up” (1).

    ______________________________________________________________________

    (1) https://nwlaborpress.org/2021/05/medical-interpreters-unite/ 
    (2) http://www.ata-divisions.org/ID/washington-state-senate-bill-6245/ 
    (3) https://www.thestand.org/2018/02/expand-win-win-interpreter-model-to-other-state-agencies/


  • 07/04/2021 14:59 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    Hello NOTIS members!

    I am Brianna Salinas, the new Marketing and Communications Specialist for NOTIS.  

    If you have any questions for me about engaging with NOTIS social media channels or if you simply want to say ‘hello’, don’t hesitate to contact me at briannaren3e@gmail.com

    A little about me:

    I earned an MA in Hispanic Literary Studies at the University of Washington.

    While at the UW, I worked with Katie King on a Multi-Disciplinary Translation Studies group whose goal was to build a community of and for translators and translation scholars.

    I also had the honor of working alongside three passionate and prolific faculty translators (Richard Watts, Heekyoung Cho, and Michael Biggins) who built the UW Translation Studies Hub.

    I am an emerging translator. While my personal focus may be on literary translation, I am eager to learn more about the important work of our interpreting community as well! 


    What I am here for:

    I will be helping NOTIS with social media, blog posts, the Northwest Linguist newsletter, and more. My goal is to:

    • amplify NOTIS’s public-facing presence,
    • create support for all that NOTIS does across various platforms, and
    • recruit new members along the way.

    Overall, I view this as an incredible opportunity to continue the community-building and advocacy work I engaged in at the UW. 


    A couple of updates:

    • NOTIS is interested in adding member news sections and/or a member spotlight to upcoming blog posts and newsletters.
    • If you would like to share a recent announcement or achievement (e.g., a publication, certification, new course, etc.) with fellow NOTIS members, please contact me at briannaren3e@gmail.com

    Additionally, if you are interested in sending a photo or blurb from a recent event, please do not hesitate to do so!


    Our new and updated social media pages are as follows: 


    Please note that NOTIS’s previous Twitter account (@NOTISnet) is no longer active. The link above will take you to our new profile.

    As for Instagram, there is little to see at the moment. Soon, we will be uploading announcements and event photos there, too.

    I am beyond excited to be working with NOTIS and I look forward to meeting more of you in the coming months! Perhaps at a Feedback Forum? Or the annual picnic?

    All the best,
    Brianna Salinas 

  • 04/28/2021 10:31 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Heidi Schmaltz, a dedicated interpreter and translator and treasured friend. Member Helen Eby provides this moving tribute for Heidi.

    ***

    Heidi Schmaltz (1982 – 2021)

    Heidi lived for 38 years. During the “dash,” between 1982 and 2021, she made an impact on colleagues, friends, and on the profession.

    I was one of those colleagues. We enjoyed having tea together after interpreting events in Clackamas. We got together to chat over lunch between interpreting appointments. She would call me to cover her appointments when she couldn’t make it… but I think it was just so we could have tea when I was close by.

    She was an accomplished woman. A certified court and healthcare interpreter and literary translator, she also taught Spanish at the university level. Her translations appeared in the New England Review. They were published in this volume, posthumously.

    She took advantage of opportunities. A training-of-trainers event for healthcare interpreters was to be held at Western Oregon University, where we would stay on campus for the week. At the time, Heidi was preparing to take the Oregon court interpreting oral exam. I asked her to come anyway, because some top-notch Oregon certified court interpreters would be there and could coach her outside of class time. She came, her room became a coaching hub, and she passed! She was relentless. 

    She volunteered. Heidi was a founding member of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters, where she served on the nomination committee. She was also a member of every professional group that was relevant to her work: American Translators Association, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society… She was a member of Interpreters United until 2019. She did advocacy. She taught. She was there to help the profession grow, and gave presentations for the associations to which she belonged.

    I went to one of Heidi’s classes and observed the relationship she had with her students. They just loved her! She taught with kindness, compassion, and I got the idea she didn’t let anything slip by, either. 

    We went to the Oregon state legislature together on many occasions, advocating for the profession. We shared a passion for setting up a better world for our colleagues, but also for the non-English speaking people we serve. Heidi also worked on those issues with colleagues in Washington state. 

    To me, she was more than a colleague. She was also my friend. Her bridal shower was at my home. Heidi loved her husband deeply and was so happy to get married! Pablo is Cuban, so she went to Cuba to know his country better. They loved each other fiercely and were such a beautiful couple!

    Heidi loved her mom. I remember when she brought her mom to give a presentation on medical terminology. At the time, her mom was a physical therapist and Heidi invited her to speak to a group of interpreters. The give-and-take between them was just beautiful. 

    Heidi loved to walk. If the interpreting appointment was within walking distance, that is how she would get there.

    She loved books. We compared notes on books all the time. Literature, linguistics, dictionaries, everything. Pablo told me she always looked for the local bookstore whenever she visited a new country.

    I miss my friend. When I learned that she would not be there for a phone call or a cup of tea… I could think of nothing else for a week. Heidi’s life was cut short at 38. Now it is time to continue the work we started together. 

    Heidi’s work at the Oregon Council for Healthcare Interpreters

    As a member of the Oregon Council for Healthcare Interpreters, Heidi gave of herself generously.

    We were both nerdy. Heidi, too, loved digging into an issue, researching it, and finding ways to serve our colleagues. Together, we researched ways to update the language proficiency requirements for Oregon Healthcare Interpreters. We researched how to evaluate language proficiency testing programs. We researched… and researched… and that all got poured into work that benefited the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) program.

    The most recent result of our study of language proficiency served as the foundational research for the Language Proficiency Testing Vendor Application for the Oregon Health Authority office of Equity and Inclusion. Now, the Council has a way to evaluate vendors who test language proficiency. Heidi even studied to be an ACTFL rater, and applied her knowledge to this project after we had exhausted all other possible research avenues. It takes 6 months of study to be an ACTFL rater! That is how dedicated she was to getting things right.

    Together, we updated the language proficiency requirements for healthcare interpreters. After researching every single requirement on the list, we found that some were below the Advanced Mid level on the ACTFL scale. Some tests were no longer being administered, while others were written exams, not oral proficiency exams. As a result of this work with Heidi, Oregon healthcare interpreters had a more accurate evaluation. 

    She was also involved in advocacy regarding the legal framework for healthcare interpreting in Oregon. At the public hearing the last time the law for healthcare interpreters was amended, she pointed out that Council members give of their professional time and their work should be treated with respect. She argued that the OHA should generally follow the guidance of the professional subject matter experts who willingly donate their time, and should let them know when implementation of the advice was not practical. The OHA has been following that recommendation ever since, even though the principle is not enshrined in law.

    Heidi was dedicated. She always looked for ways to improve the situation for healthcare interpreters and the people we serve. It took intense research, phone calls, emails, and meetings outside the official meetings, but she got it done. 

    It was a pleasure to work with Heidi. I grew by working with her. I miss her.

    By Helen Eby

    Links:

    Obituary of Heidi Astrid Schmaltz | Crown Memorial Centers Crematio... (crowncremationburial.com)

    Oregon Health Authority : Oregon Health Authority Approved Health Care Interpreter (HCI) Training Programs : Office of Equity and Inclusion : State of Oregon

    https://www.oregon.gov/oha/OEI/HCI%20Non%20Meeting%20Documents/Language%20Proficiency%20Testing%20Vendor%20Application.docx

    https://www.oregon.gov/oha/OEI/Documents/HCI-Requirements-Explained-12-16-2016-Updates.pdf

    https://www.oregon.gov/oha/OEI/Pages/HCI-Resources-Events-Policy-Laws.aspx 


  • 04/23/2021 09:51 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    The City of Seattle's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is designing updates to its language access program and wants input from working community translators and interpreters! To contribute, please fill out the survey in the link below by Monday, April 26. The full invitation is below.  -NOTIS

    ***

    Hi Translators and Interpreters,

    I hope you and your loved ones are doing well.

    The City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Language Access Program plans to:

    • Form working relationships with local translators and interpreters
    • Introduce technology solutions to manage projects and translation memory

     

    If you are interested in learning more about our work or would like to share your insights, please fill out this Community Translator Survey by Monday, 4/26 to help us better design our program. Please help share the survey with other translators or interpreters you know.

    Please feel free to reach out to Peggy Liao (Peggy.Liao@seattle.gov) or Jessica Sidhu (Jessica.Sidhu@seattle.gov) with any questions.

    Thank you!



  • 04/19/2021 08:50 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    This spring, NOTIS plans to hire a part-time Marketing and Communications Specialist to help us improve our services to current and new members, grow student and younger membership and help us intensify our presence throughout our five-state geographic region. Would you or someone you know be a good fit?

    We are looking for someone who can work 8 – 10 hours per week, with flexible timing. This is a 6 month contract with the potential for renewal. The Marketing and Communications Specialist is a remote position, but the candidate must reside in one of NOTIS' five member states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, or Alaska). And the position comes with one free year of NOTIS membership.

    Why Work for NOTIS?

    This is a great opportunity to use your marketing and communications talents to help further NOTIS' mission and positively impact our community of language professionals. The position offers plenty of opportunities to contribute with constructive ideas to improve all of NOTIS' marketing and communications efforts and will provide valuable experience for someone interested in furthering their career in marketing and communications.

    For details, please download the complete job ad here. Feel free to share with your network! The application deadline is May 3, 2021.


  • 03/19/2021 08:52 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    The American Translators Association (ATA) has sent a letter to the United States Senate addressing freelance translators and interpreters' concerns about the proposed PRO Act, which would reclassify some independent contractors as employees. If you followed the controversy over California's AB 5 bill over the past two years, you might recognize these issues, now being discussed at the national level.

    Read ATA's letter to the Senate here, and consider contacting your own senators if you have an opinion about the bill. If you have questions about the bill or ATA's advocacy activities, please email the ATA committee at advocacy@atanet.org.

  • 12/11/2020 19:44 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    In November 2020, Crosscut published a news article addressing concerns that legal processes are being delayed in the Seattle area because interpreters are refusing to work in person in courts and jails. In consultation with interested parties, NOTIS's Legal Division has authored a response, pointing out that methods exist for interpreters to deliver high-quality services without needlessly risking exposure to COVID-19. That response is copied below.

    ***

    On November 18th, CrossCut published an article by David Kroman entitled “COVID-19 delays justice for King County inmates who need interpreters - Non-English speakers are receiving substandard legal representation because interpreters won’t appear in person, attorneys say.”

    NOTIS, the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society, is compelled to present a very different perspective on the dire situation faced by Limited English Proficient (LEP) inmates today.

    The very same week that CrossCut published this article, the New York Times printed an op-ed by its editorial staff: “America Is Letting the Coronavirus Rage Through Prisons.” The NYT article sites horrifying statistics about infection rates in correctional facilities, summarizing them with this conclusion: “The American penal system is a perfect breeding ground for the virus.” And yet, not only are interpreters being asked to work inside these facilities, they are blamed for the miscarriages of justice suffered by non-English speaking inmates because of their “unwillingness” to do so.

    In Washington State, while court interpreters are officers of the court, they are not employees of the court, nor of the city or county that the court serves. Thus, they do not receive any of the benefits of employees, notably medical insurance and paid sick leave. Interpreters are independent contractors for whom illness has a direct financial impact.

    COVID has wreaked economic hardship far and wide—on interpreters as well. When an interpreter declines an assignment, it is due to the extraordinary risk it entails and not to an overabundance of alternative assignments. Interpreters are eager to render their professional services when provided a safe and effective way to do so.

    The responsibility of providing safe conditions for adequate interpretation for LEP inmates in King County lies squarely at the feet of the county. Interpreters who decline assignments requiring them to expose themselves and others to substantial risk of infection are behaving rationally and responsibly. When attorneys meet with inmates in the jail, it is in a cubicle slightly larger than a phone booth, with the inmate seated on the other side of a glass barrier and both parties using an old-fashioned telephone handset.

    The problems described in David Kroman’s article are solvable without subjecting interpreters to high risk or scapegoating them for their “unwillingness” to assume this risk themselves. The notion that an interpreter needs to be in a huddle with the recipient of their interpretation is arcane. Indeed, many courts and correctional facilities have found excellent solutions, that simply require modern technology and advanced planning.

    When COVID struck in March, 2020, everyone scrambled to find safe ways to interact and continue to provide just about every conceivable type of service. Indeed, most municipal and district courts in King County and elsewhere have utilized platforms such as Zoom and WebEx to hold court and provide access to interpretation for anyone who needs it. They quickly figured out how to facilitate confidential attorney-client communications, bringing interpreters into the confidential virtual “room” whenever needed. SCORE jail in south King County has been successfully connecting interpreters remotely by video.

    As for documents, such as guilty pleas, that attorneys wish to review with their clients with the assistance of an interpreter, they need only be sent electronically to the interpreter so that the interpreter can sight translate the document to the defendant. This is nothing new, and given their importance, the interpreter should always be provided a copy of any documents.

    For most interpreters, particularly in high-demand languages, interpreting is their livelihood. They are highly skilled professionals who must pass rigorous examinations to become certified court interpreters and must maintain this credential through many hours of continuing education and in-court experience. Their job is cognitively demanding and emotionally taxing.

    Court Interpreters´ professional ethics and standards of practice exist to maintain a very high quality of interpretation. Court Interpreters are often the direct providers of language access in the justice system, but they are not the ones creating access problems, nor do they have the power to fix them on their own. May this letter serve as the catalyst to dispel misinformation, find solutions, and acknowledge the proper respect due to this profession.


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