THE NORTHWEST LINGUIST Blog

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  • 03/23/2020 02:00 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    We are now accepting articles and submissions for our online blog and the summer issue of our newsletter, The Northwest Linguist.

    The Northwest Linguist is the official printed publication of the Northwest Translators & Interpreters Society, designed to share organization and industry news, useful tips and educational pieces with our members.

    Ideas for submissions include: 

    • Approaches to translation
    • Interpreting skills
    • Legal or business issues for translators and interpreters
    • Computer Assisted Translation Tools
    • Summary and advice learned at a recent workshop
    • Academic research relating to translation and interpreting
    • Current events relating to translators and interpreters

    Submissions should be between 500 and 1,500 words, written in English. Relevant photographs or visual content may also be submitted, alongside or independently of a written piece. If a submission includes a translation or an example in another language, an English back-translation should be included. Copyright notes and source references must also be included, if applicable. 

    All submissions will be evaluated by the Northwest Linguist Blog committee. Content selected for publication will be subject to editing for content, grammar, style and space limitations.

    Please email submissions or any questions to Alicia McNeely at alicialynn3033@gmail.com.

  • 03/02/2020 19:58 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    Washington State seems to be a hotspot for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Just in time, NOTIS member and interpreter trainer Yuliya Speroff offers good advice for protecting yourself on the job. For more from Yuliya, join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/interpreterswa/

    ***

    If you haven't heard of COVID-19, you might be living on Mars. And for those of us based in Washington State, the recent news might be especially worrying. It can be difficult not to panic as you see clinic receptionists wearing face masks with eye shields, or when you go to the grocery store and see empty shelves where there ought to be hand sanitizer, soap, bottled water and toilet paper. The term ‘coronapocalypse’ is being circulated on social media - referring to the spread of the virus itself, the subsequent slew of news stories and social media posts as well as the panicked buying of supplies. 

    With all the news and misinformation coming to us from every source, even the most level-headed of us can start to feel alarmed. And as interpreters working in healthcare settings, it may feel like we’re in the line of fire due to the very nature of our work. Many of us work as freelance interpreters, moving between multiple locations every day - from busy emergency rooms to clinics and hospital floors. Some of us frequently work with vulnerable patients - for example, those with weakened immune systems, as well as the elderly. In light of the above, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can stay safe and keep our loved ones and the people we work with safe. How do we do that? 

    1. Start by reading information from reliable official sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

    2. It might also be a good idea to check with your local public health authority. For those of us living in the Greater Seattle area, it’s King County Public Health. 

    3. If you prefer to get your news and information from social media, subscribe to the above sources on Facebook and Twitter. This way you’ll be getting the latest updates and live videos of press conferences: Public Health - Seattle & King CountyCDC, WHO.

    4. Look out for communication from your employers and/or agencies you’re contracted with. For example, the state vendor, Universal Language Services, sent out an email providing an update on COVID-19-related measures from Swedish Medical Center which include going through screening for respiratory symptoms and fever prior to entering SMG facilities. 

    5. Read the latest advice on wearing masks.

    6. If in doubt, ask medical providers you are interpreting for if it might be appropriate for you to wear personal protective equipment including masks and gloves. 

    7. If you’d like to get some information that is on the lighter side - that is, if you're a fan of infotainment - check out Dr. Mike's YouTube video: Coronavirus Is A PANDEMIC....Technically.

    8. And here are some podcasts related to the subject: 


    This Podcast Will Kill You: Episode 43 M-m-m-my Coronaviruses

    NPR Life Kit: 5 Ways To Prevent And Prepare For The Coronavirus

    This American Life: Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan

    (Russian) Критмышь: Короновирусная истерия

    Important note: This post was written on March 2, 2020. The situation is evolving rapidly, so keep checking the sources listed above and stay safe! As a popular meme says: Keep calm and wash your hands! 



  • 12/23/2019 06:01 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    The American Translators Association has published an official statement about its stance on the new California law known as AB 5. If you are interested in learning more about the law and its potential impact on freelance translators and interpreters in California and elsewhere, or you would like to get involved in monitoring this issue, you can download the ATA's letter here.

  • 12/11/2019 11:06 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    Written by Mia Spangenberg, 2019 NOTIS Conference Scholarship Recipient

    Mia Spangenberg is a Finnish to English translator with a PhD in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Washington, Seattle.


    For the first time, thanks to the help of a NOTIS scholarship, I attended the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) Annual Conference, which was held on November 7-10, 2019, in Rochester, New York. I couldn’t have picked a better year to go because ALTA is growing significantly as an organization, and this year, the Conference had over 500 attendees for the first time.  ALTA is a very friendly and welcoming organization, and there were many opportunities for attendees to mingle and connect. ALTA offered a “wayfinder” program for first-time attendees, which paired newcomers with seasoned ALTA conference attendees. My “wayfinder” introduced me to several people at the conference and also told me about key events I should attend. There were also beverage breaks during the day and readings in the evenings which provided people with opportunities to connect. As I translate from Finnish, I was glad to be able to connect with other Finnish and Nordic language translators. In fact, after meeting and talking to Icelandic translator Larissa Kyzer, we set up a Google group for literary translators working to and from the Nordic languages as a forum to share advice and collaborate. 

    The ALTA Conference offered two opportunities to meet with editors: flash sessions and pitch sessions. Flash sessions gave translators fifteen minutes to discuss two pages of a manuscript (submitted in advance) with an editor. It was a wonderful way to get feedback from an experienced editor. The pitch sessions were offered for the first time this year and gave translators the opportunity to pitch a project to a particular press. About ten presses participated in these sessions. This was an exciting and slightly nerve-wracking opportunity. Pitches were limited to five minutes maximum! I’ve never talked so fast in my life as I provided the context for my author and gave a short summary of the plot, plus I submitted my business card and a translation sample. Then the waiting game began. However, I am grateful because this opportunity was yet another way to make connections that could bear fruit in the future.

    I also learned about how ALTA works as an organization and how different presses are profiling themselves. I began putting names to the faces of prominent literary translators, and I picked up tips on how to make it as a full-time literary translator and negotiate the best possible contracts. The Authors Guild was even in attendance, and they have started a new division for literary translators and will review contracts for their members for free. 

    I feel energized for the coming year and plan to attend the ALTA Annual Conference again next year. The 2020 Conference will be held in Tucson, Arizona from November 11-14. 

    If you are interested in going to the ALTA Annual Conference and will be a first-time attendee, feel free to reach out to me. Also, please email me if you would like to join the Google group for literary translators working to and from the Nordic languages. You may contact me, Mia Spangenberg, at: mmspangenberg@gmail.com.

  • 11/19/2019 20:46 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    With the end of one year and the beginning of another, changes are coming to the NOTIS Board of Directors. 

    We bid a fond farewell to two members. First, Adrian Bradley, who served in the Legal Division and on the Webinars Committee, and contributed in other, quiet ways to the smooth functioning of many NOTIS events. Second, Alicia McNeely, from the Translation Division and Social Media/Marketing Committee, whose graphic design work you have seen on our website, Annual Conference program and newsletters. We're glad to note that while Adrian and Alicia are stepping down from the Board, they've promised to stay involved with NOTIS.

    Our organization is lucky to welcome two new Board members who will begin new two-year terms in January 2020. French and Russian translator Laura Friend is returning to Washington State and the NOTIS Board after a stay in Japan, and Turkish translator and interpreter Yasemin Alptekin joins our team for the first time. Laura and Yasemin will be elected by acclamation (as this election is uncontested) at the NOTIS Annual Meeting on December 7, 2019. Their candidate statements are below.

    More about Laura Friend

    "I am a certified translator of French and Russian into English, specializing in legal and business translations. I have spoken French from an early age, spending several years in France, and I learned Russian in college and graduate school.

    In my spare time I enjoy literature, travel, music and nature. I am originally from the East Coast but lived in Seattle for 20 years until recently relocating to Port Orchard on the Kitsap Peninsula.

    Because I appreciate the vibrant community of translators and interpreters that make up NOTIS, and especially the robust continuing education program that NOTIS offers its members, I would like to give back by helping to run the organization. I was briefly on the Board of Directors but had to step down when my husband and I moved to Japan for a time. Now that I am back I would be happy to resume my duties and rejoin this wonderful group of leaders."

    More about Yasemin Alptekin

    "I am writing this letter of intent to communicate my interest in becoming a NOTIS Board member where I can be of assistance with my academic and professional background in T&I in a capacity that would best serve the objectives and mission of NOTIS.

    I have been a proud member of NOTIS and I have benefited from my membership considerably, as many other members have done, via training, conference and networking opportunities, all of which are essential for a field to grow bigger and better while gaining respect for its professionals.

    I am a native speaker of Turkish with bilingual fluency in English with years of experience in simultaneous interpreting from English to Turkish and Turkish to English equally proficiently. My areas of focus are legal, medical and educational interpretation/translation as well as literary. I am also academically involved in translation theories as well as translating literary and technical texts. I have linguistic knowledge of French with some conversational skill, and Arabic with basic reading.

    I have been involved in translation and interpretation work since I started learning English as a second language at Robert High School in Istanbul, Turkey. I started a Translation Club to understand the cultural nuances between the source and target languages to build strong bridges of communication. I later studied linguistics, literary translation theory and techniques while pursuing my BA in Western Languages and Literature at Bosphorus University, one of the top ranking universities in Turkey. When I came to the US for my graduate studies, I was hired by a Turkish Education Project funded by World Bank. During my years as a doctoral graduate associate working for that project I served as a liaison and interpreter for the Turkish delegations visiting the US, helping the administrators as a translator/interpreter for three years and as a Program Director later for another three years.

    I recently completed all the requirements to become a Registered Court Interpreter in Turkish."
  • 10/16/2019 10:56 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    Conference Bronze Sponsor Nimdzi wrote a glowing review of our 2019 Annual Conference. We're reposting excerpts from the review below with permission from the authors. To learn more about Nimdzi, visit their website. You can also read the full report here.

    ***

    The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS) Annual Conference brings translators, interpreters, and language professionals under one roof to discuss the topics, trends, and challenges of working in the T&I industry. The thirty-year-old association attracted a motivated crowd to Washington’s Museum of Flight in Seattle for the two-day conference. The event offered sessions in a multi-track program – one for translators and one for interpreters. And it allowed participants to choose their own sessions in either. The conference is fitting for anyone looking to break into translation and interpretation work, to learn from those who have been in the field for decades, to network with translation and interpretation colleagues, and to look for new opportunities.

    NOTIS board members Pinar, Lindsay and Adrian at NOTIS2019.

    Translation, in a positive light

    Setting the tone with her keynote speech, Dr. Karen McMillan Tkaczyk, trained chemist, technical translator, editor, and American Translators Association Secretary, presented an insightful talk titled, “Translation Bloopers are Deaf: Long Live Abundant New Ways of Showcasing Yourself and our Profession.”

    You have probably heard the phrase, “The best translators and interpreters are those who are invisible.”

    If this rings a bell, you know that the best translations sound natural and not like translations at all. The line of work takes mastery of working languages and a life-long dedication to learning.  And yet, those working behind the scenes are often not seen, unless, of course, something goes direly wrong.

    Keynote address by Karen Tkaczyk.

    In her talk, Dr. Tkaczyk goes off a keen observation: we often hear about translation when a disaster occurs. The photos and memes of “translation fails” are, unfortunately, the content that gets the most engagement on social media platforms in the industry. Why is that, and how can we showcase the work in a more positive light? Dr. Tkaczyk’s opening speech brings our attention to this question.

    There are a number of actions linguists can take to show the work more positively. Here are some takeaways from the talk

    1. Promote your colleagues

    Show some love for the people you work with. Perhaps you have a talented editor, or a project manager who is on top of his or her work. Your reviews and recommendations on their sites and on LinkedIn profiles are a simple way you can promote their work.  And it brings visibility to an “invisible” profession.

     2. Refer your colleagues

    There will be times where translators are overloaded and cannot take on more work. When you cannot take a job, refer a colleague. There are plenty of newcomers and graduate students starting out in their careers, and a referral gives them a leg-up. If you have never worked with a particular person, mention it and let the client consider whether or not to hire. Referrals are another simple way you can add value to others and the translation community at large

    3. Promoting yourself

    Professional linguists have updated websites, which gain them trust and provide a place to showcase skills. Why not upload a video of yourself, adding a personal touch to your site? Portfolios are a great marketing tool. In Europe, it is common for translators to bring their portfolios to events and lay them out on tables. While language service provider NDAs make it challenging to get permission and sample your work, there is no harm in asking. If not, you may find published work online and leverage it in your portfolio. Dr. Tkaczyk shared several options for creating online portfolios:

    4. Ask for testimonials

    Asking for reviews and testimonials showcases your professionalism. Make a space for them on your site. They can work in your favor for a rate increase. Ask clients if you can use their LinkedIn profile photo. Clients can also generate new leads for you. Some linguists even add a message to the bottom of their email signatures saying that referrals are the highest compliments. 

    5. Be proactive

    Activism can take on many forms. Voice your opinions with constructive criticism by writing to editors of magazines. There is much talk on the profession, machine translation, mistranslations and so on. Activism can also include political activism. For T&I Advocacy Day in 2017, nearly 50 translators with the ATA made their way to Capitol Hill and met with Congressional offices and Executive Branch agencies to advocate for the profession with topics including inaccuracies in prevailing wages rate determinations for translators and interpreters, language services procurement, and machine translation versus human translation. By being proactive, you’d be shedding more light on the industry and on your work.

    While Dr. Tkaczyk’s speech presented participants with much practical advice, the conference had more to offer for translators and interpreters, especially for those looking to learn about the T&I industry. Other sessions  included: “Breaking into New Fields in Translation,” “Breaking into New Fields in Interpreting,” “Interpreting for Forensic Drug Analysis,” “Translating Long Projects,” “Interpreting for Immigration Court,” “Introduction to Practical Subtitling,” “Interpreting for Special Education,” “Editing and Proofreading,” and “Common Pitfalls in EN<>ES Translation.”

    The NOTIS Conference also holds a job fair, provides continuing education credits, and reserves a space for sponsors and exhibitors. Most importantly, it builds community and provides a space for professionals to share, learn, and grow in their careers.

    Nika Allahverdi Photo

     

    This conference report was researched and written by Nika Allahverdi. If you wish to find out more about the NOTIS Annual Conference in Seattle, please reach out to Nika at nika@nimdzi.com.


  • 08/26/2019 05:26 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    Written by Natalia L. Rivera Fernández, 2019 NOTIS Tuition Scholarship Recipient 

    Natalia L. Rivera Fernández is a Spanish/English WA Certified Court and Medical Interpreter, Certified Document Translator, and CEO at Need a Translator Interpreting, LLC (NATI).

    This summer, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the University of Arizona’s Court Interpreter Training Institute (CITI). In June, I participated in a series of webinars covering a wide range of topics, from ethics to weaponry and medical terminology. In July, I attended the intensive in-person two-week component in Tucson, Arizona. On-site, I spent my time in a classroom and language laboratory setting. There are several lessons I learned from this experience for which I couldn’t be more grateful.

    To begin, I learned the importance of repetition of the same exercise for rapid improvement of simultaneous interpretation. In the language laboratories, we would listen to a recording, record ourselves interpreting simultaneously, then review new terminology. Afterward, we would record ourselves interpreting again while referring to our notes, if needed. We would repeat this exercise several times, each time trying to do better while referring less to our notes. The following morning, we would have a “re-lab,” repeating the exercise one or two final times without using notes. As one of our excellent instructors, Carmen Patel, put it, this gave us the opportunity for the new knowledge to simmer, “just like a good pasta sauce.” It truly worked! I found myself improving every morning and being able to more quickly retrieve new words and keep up with increasingly faster simultaneous interpretation exercises.

    Something else I learned at the CITI is the importance of studying with different colleagues for more effective and efficient learning. In doing consecutive and sight-translation exercises in groups of three or four, we would take turns interpreting specific sections of a document, and then alternating. I received constructive feedback, and I also learned new terminology by listening to different colleagues interpreting the same texts. Each one had a unique perspective and something to offer.

    Furthermore, at the CITI, I learned firsthand the importance of networking to be able to find more opportunities in our field. For example, I learned about the interpreting and translation programs and credentials currently available in some Central American countries from a Guatemalan colleague. I also learned that by joining international interpreter Facebook groups, I may be able to find conference interpreting opportunities. 

    Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned at the CITI was the importance of supporting our newer colleagues in the profession. I was surprised to meet a newer colleague from Seattle who was looking for mentorship. As I consider myself still relatively new in the trade, it never would have occurred to me that someone would look up to me for mentorship. However, it quickly became clear to me that new colleagues are often looking for support and guidance as they learn their way around in our profession. I am grateful for having met my mentee. I have already started sharing with her what I have learned in the last few years as a freelance interpreter and translator. It seems that we are so much better when we work together. By sharing our knowledge, we elevate our profession. In turn, we are giving back to our communities at large, as everyone benefits from having higher-quality interpretation and translation services.

  • 04/19/2019 07:59 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    In the last decade, social media has taken the advertising world by storm. If you are a freelancer or aspiring T&I entrepreneur who is not taking full advantage of this free form of marketing, now is the time to start. Read on for a few ideas on how to make Twitter, Instagram and Facebook work for you.

    Create bilingual content 

    Twitter: Now that tweets can be up to 280 characters, as opposed to the initial 140, you have twice the space to share your thoughts. So, instead of rambling for all of those characters, write something short and sweet in your second language, and then translate it into your native tongue.

    Facebook: Your content on Facebook should be translated as well. Don’t make your followers rely on using the “see translation” feature. However, should someone still choose to click this button, your thoughtful, bilingual post will surely show them the beauty of human-over-machine translation.

    Create eye-catching imagery

    Instagram: Turn any word, quote or thought into an attention-grabbing image by overlaying it on a photo (using Photoshop or any similar photo editing application). Then, caption your post with the translation of the text in the image. Just be sure to use your own photos so as not to infringe upon copyright.

    Facebook: Photos and images with text also attract a lot of views on Facebook. However, you should be selective about what content you share on both platforms. Every Instagram post should not be shared to Facebook and vice versa.

    #Hashtag everything

    Hashtags are your friends on social media. Add a few hashtags to all your posts that relate to T&I, your languages and/or your specializations. Use as many as you like on Instagram and then fewer on both Twitter and Facebook. Anyone searching the terms to which you attached a hashtag has an opportunity to visit your page. 

    Engage with your community

    The best way to continue driving traffic to your pages is by communicating consistently with your followers and others involved in your field. Be sure to follow potential clients and influencers who work in your specializations on their social media, as well as individuals and organizations you admire in the translation and interpreting sphere. Additionally, you should add posts with regularity and keep your content varied and interactive.

    Twitter: Depending on how relevant the content may be to your target audience, “like,” comment on, and re-tweet other posts and news articles.

    Instagram: End your photo captions with a corresponding question to encourage your followers to comment on your post.

    Facebook: Use the poll feature to ask your followers questions about themselves in order to gain a better understanding of who your audience is and how you may better serve their T&I needs.

    Perfect your grammar

    Before you post anything on social media, be sure to double and triple check your spelling and grammar. Editing is supposed to be our specialty as linguists, so be sure your reputation remains flawless with polished and precise posting practices.

    Have fun!

    More than anything, social media is supposed to be an exciting and enjoyable form of marketing that feels more personable and less forceful than traditional advertising. So, step a bit outside the box of what you may view as traditionally “professional.” Always remain respectful and smart, but feel free to be your witty, quirky and entertaining self.

  • 02/06/2019 11:52 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    As many of you know, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has changed its certification requirements for interpreters and translators. Many of those changes come into effect in the next couple months. Please note that DSHS authorized/certified translators and interpreters who will lose their credentials before 06/30/19 may apply for a temporary credential reinstatement through 06/29/2019. These people will, however, still be required to re-test to become re-credentialed.

    Please see the following links for more information: 

    DSHS website: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/sesa/language-testing-and-certification

    Maintaining credentials flyer: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/sites/default/files/FSA/ltc/documents/Flyer.pdf 

    Temporary credential application: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/sites/default/files/FSA/ltc/documents/Temp%20Cred%20Reinstatement%20Request%20Form.pdf

  • 01/31/2019 17:16 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    by NOTIS Board Member Pinar Mertan 

    Until I was asked to do some research about two months ago for a seminar for court interpreters, I had no idea there was a semi-official job definition of interpreting under the name of 'dragoman' in Ottoman Empire-era Turkey. As a Turkish-born person and a recently registered interpreter, I was surprised that I had missed this information. So when I was asked to contribute to NOTIS’ upcoming newsletter, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to introduce our society (and myself) to this interesting topic. 

    What is a Dragoman?

    "In the history of interpreting, a Dragoman was a man who acted as a guide and an interpreter in countries where Arabic, Turkish, or Persian was spoken” (Oxford Dictionary). The word dragomanis “tercüman” in Turkish, and the Ottomans used the word “tercüman” to refer to interpreters. This word originated from the Syriac language and passed into Arabic (Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, 119).

    The Ottoman Empire and Its Subjects

    The Ottoman Empire was a multiethnic, multireligious monarchy founded by the Turks in 1299 that lasted for over 600 years. The English word Ottomanis the Anglicized form of the Turkish Osmanlı, meaning 'associated with Osman’ (Teachmidest.org-Ottoman History With Resources). It survived until the end of World War I and was dissolved by the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. 

    Ottoman society was quite cosmopolitan. The Empire’s subjects came from many different ethnic and religious groups. At its height, the Ottoman Empire included modern-day Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, some of Arabia, Lebanon and a considerable amount of the North African coastal strip (BBC-Ottoman Empire, History.com-Ottoman Empire). The largest ethnic groups were Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Slovenians, Serbs, Albanians, Ruthenians, Wallachians, Moldavians, Croatians, Armenians, Laz, and Kurds. Ottomans dealt with minorities by letting them self-regulate. Non-Muslim religious groups were called milletsand had the autonomy to regulate their own affairs with fairly little interference from the Ottoman government. The main millets were the Jewish, Greek, and Armenian ones. By the 19th century, there were 14 millets. These groups were spread across the empire. Often, there was little contact between different millets (New World Encyclopedia).

    Official Language

    The official language of the empire was Ottoman Turkish, an administrative language consisting largely of Turkish grammar, with Anatolian Turkish, Arabic, and some Persian vocabulary. Ottoman Turkish belongs to the Oghuz group of Turkic languages. Ottoman Turkish was written using Arabic script. Ottoman morphology and syntax was primarily Turkic, using the order of subject-object-verb. It was primarily a written language, and today, it is no longer spoken (Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire, 322-323). After the Turkish Republic was founded, the Arabic script was replaced by the Latin alphabet.

    Emergence of the Dragomans

    In his article "The Role of Dragomans in the Ottoman Empire," Elvin Abbasbeyli writes that “the Sublime Porte and Western diplomatic missions in the Ottoman Empire needed individuals fluent in both Western and Oriental languages.” According to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies (p. 121-122), institutional efforts to educate interpreters began in the mid-16th century. The most significant dragoman in the Ottoman Empire was the dragoman of the Sublime Porte, also known as the Grand Dragoman. At first, bilingual converts were employed, and they were imperial civil servants. By the 17th century, Greek Orthodox families in the Fener District of Istanbul changed this. Greek dragomans had an advantage in education and understanding of Ottoman structures. In the Ottoman hierarchy dragomans ranked very highly, and the job had some advantages, such as tax exemption. The title of Dragoman of the Sublime Porte was passed from father to son. In 1821 a Translation Office was established where Muslims began to learn foreign languages, and the Greek families were expelled from this profession completely.

    Western ambassadors and merchants also employed dragomans in their relations with the Ottomans. Those dragomans were chosen among the Latin Catholic families of the Galata area of Istanbul. But since these dragomans were Ottoman and were not fluent in Western languages, the European countries decided to teach and employ their own citizens. The Venetians led the way by sending young language students to Istanbul to learn Oriental languages. Those “Giovani della Lingua” or “Jeunes de Langues” became dragomans in relations with the Ottomans. The French followed suit by establishing a school named “L’Ecole des Enfants de Langues” in 1669. The graduates would be employed as missionaries or dragomans by their government (Gürçağlar, “The Diplomatic Trinity,” 3-5).

    Dragomans' Role and Contributions

    According to Professor Nathalie Rothman, “Dragomans are often known as diplomatic translators, but their responsibilities and roles went much further than being mere interpreters.” Dragomans had diplomatic, consular, and commercial roles and they even served as pilgrimage guides and spies (Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, 119). 

    Dragomans' importance to the Ottoman Empire peaked when the empire reached its widest territorial reach during the 15th and 16th centuries. They served as important intermediaries between the Palace and non-Turkish-speaking subjects well into the 19th century. Although most of them were the Empire’s own people, some of the imperial dragomans were from foreign countries (Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, 120-121).

    Dragomans took assignments at different offices in many regions. They performed their job by interpreting in consecutive and in whispering modes, and they held a wide range of diplomatic, commercial, and consular duties in other Ottoman cities. It is known that Venetian dragomans served as official emissaries and recorded their diplomatic missions in writing. The Venetian dragomans in Istanbul were probably the largest group of these professionals, but by the 17th century, all foreign embassies in the Ottoman capital had at least one dragoman (Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, 120-121).

    The dragomans enjoyed a legal status called beratlı, which means ‘holders of a patent'. Their numbers, privileges, and responsibilities were all listed in imperial charters granted by the Sultan to other countries (Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, 122).

    As Professor Rothman notes, “Dragomans wrote some of the earliest works on the Ottoman-Turkish language.” Their contributions lasted through the 20th century, and their impact went far beyond diplomacy. Their writings about Ottoman society and culture were a huge contribution to the philological study of early Ottoman texts. They also translated several extended Ottoman chronicles. Their position in the Ottoman Empire and their connections with Ottomans and foreigners alike let them build strong ties with political elites. Having access to valuable knowledge allowed them to write about Ottoman language, history, arts, sciences, theology, music, and botany, to name a few (Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, 123-124).

    Translation Office

    In 1821, the Translation Office was established and served more as a school by preparing young men to serve abroad as embassy secretaries. Some of these later became ambassadors, foreign ministers, and even grand viziers. The office became part of the Foreign Ministry when it was organized in 1836 (Encyclopedia.com) and became a channel of the intelligence network. Documents in foreign languages were translated and stored in the archives of the Translation Office before going to the higher offices. The Translation Office employed primarily Muslim officers, rather than non-Muslim or Greek dragomans, many of whom later became prominent statesmen (Kamay, Public Diplomacy and the Translation Office in the Ottoman Empire, 3-6).

    For a generation, the Translation Office was one of the best sources of Western education in Istanbul. This office continued being an important place to begin a career, and it was in operation until the empire came to its end in 1922 (Encyclopedia.com).

    RESOURCES

    Professor Nathalie Rothman’s works in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies

    Public Diplomacy and the Translation Office in the Ottoman Empireby Berna Kamay

    The Diplomatic Trinityby Aykut Gürçağlar

    “The Role of Dragomans in the Ottoman Empire” by Elvin Abbasbeyli

    Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire

    New World Encyclopedia

    Encyclopedia.com 

    Teachmideast.org

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