THE NORTHWEST LINGUIST Blog

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  • 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.


  • 11/06/2020 15:30 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    And we don't mean the U.S. election! NOTIS members will vote on bylaws amendments and appoint a new Board of Directors by acclamation this December. Active members, please check your email for more details. 

    Please review the Proposed Bylaws Amendments and Slate of Candidates in the members-only section of our website (you must log in to view those pages). Individual and Honorary members whose dues are paid will be allowed to vote, so this is a great time to check your membership status.

  • 06/12/2020 12:02 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    A message from the NOTIS board.

    Right now, Seattle, Portland, and other cities in the NOTIS region continue to see protests every day, triggered by the killing of George Floyd. At NOTIS, we know that our region is not immune to the dire effects of institutional racism and other kinds of prejudice. We’re lucky to be a naturally diverse organization, with members and a leadership board representing multiple nationalities and languages. And we’re proud that our professions – translation and interpretation – play a vital role in ensuring effective communication between people of different experiences, cultures and backgrounds. Whether in poetry or in the schools, in a hospital room or a courtroom, interpreters and translators help make every voice heard, and we do our part to ensure justice is served and opportunities are equal. But if there’s anything this time of protests around the country has taught us, it’s that all of us can always do better. We all must continue to educate ourselves, examine our prejudices, and try our best to make a positive difference.

    To that end, NOTIS invites our members to a new conversation on racial justice, specifically within our professions. What else can NOTIS do as an organization to contribute more to this cause? Please join our conversation by commenting below. We welcome your ideas!

    Please remember that your online comments will be visible to everyone. Keep your comments respectful and constructive. NOTIS will be monitoring this discussion closely.


  • 04/09/2020 10:31 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS’s Coronavirus Resources list

    Assembled by NOTIS Secretary of the Board Mary McKee

    The COVID-19 virus is having a real impact on communities in the Pacific Northwest and around the globe. NOTIS is following the situation closely and seeks to provide real professional support to our members. Many organizations in the language industry have compiled lists of resources, trustworthy professional information of interest, and tips and suggestions, and we would like to share these links below. If you have any other links to share, please comment below:

    The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) offers a list of resources to help language professionals help during quarantine:

    https://najit.org/a-few-resources-help-with-quarantine/

    NAJIT also has a list of practical tips for the daily grind of dealing with coronavirus:

    https://najit.org/practical-tips-for-dealing-with-the-coronavirus/

    The American Translators Association (ATA) has created a detailed breakdown of the 880-page CARES Act recently passed and how certain provisions affect translators and interpreters:

    https://www.atanet.org/membership/cares_act_translators_interpreters.php

    ATA is compiling a list of resources, which should appear on their website within the first weeks of April. You can still submit resources via this form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5WJCZGX

    Each state’s governor’s office and employment-related organizations have their own websites with reources relevant to the residents of their state. Please find below links to the main pages for the five states that NOTIS serves:

    Washington Governor’s office: https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-resources-businesses-and-workers

    Washington Employment Security department: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

    Oregon Governor’s office: https://govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19

    Oregon Employment Department:  https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Documents/COVID-19%20Resources%20for%20Businesss%20Employers%20Workers%20%20Job%20Seekers%203-23-20.pdf

    Alaska Governor’s office: https://gov.alaska.gov/home/covid-19-economy/

    Alaska Small Business Development Center: https://aksbdc.org/covid19/

    Idaho Governor’s office: https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/

    Idaho Department of Commerce: https://commerce.idaho.gov/covid-19/

    Montana Governor’s office: https://covid19.mt.gov/

    Montana Department of Labor and Industry: http://dli.mt.gov/employer-covid-19


  • 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."
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