Want to post on our blog? The NOTIS Publications Committee accepts T&I-relevant content submissions on a rolling basis. Read more about the type of content we're intrested in here, and send any questions (or submissions) directly to our marketing specialist at Thank you! 

  • 06/22/2023 14:29 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    Attention NOTIS members: We are currently recruiting volunteers to run for our Board of Directors!

    The Northwest Translators & Interpreters Society is growing, and so too must our leadership team. As a NOTIS Board member, you will enjoy professional prestige and camaraderie while helping to shape the future of our society. 

    Board Members serve two-year terms (for a maximum of six consecutive years).

    To apply, please submit your CV as well as a brief statement explaining why you would like to volunteer to

    If you know someone who may be interested, please pass this along!

    Thank you for your ongoing support and for all the good work you do for our thriving T&I community.

  • 05/07/2023 11:38 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    As of April 30, 2023, UniversalLanguage Service, Inc. (ULS) is no longer providing third-party language testing for DSHS. 

    This decision has been made in compliance with Substitute Senate Bill 5304, recently passed by the Washington State Legislature, which determined the previous arrangement to be a conflict of interest and opted to prevent any "private entity with a financial interest in the direct provision of interpreter services" from developing and administering certification exams [Senate Bill 5304; Section 2.8, pg. 3].

    The legislature has also affirmed that there is nothing preventing DSHS from developing and administering a testing program. At present, however, there is no clear indication as to future modalities for testing, and it is unknown how DSHS will operationalize the new law. 

    To quote the email announcement distributed by ULS: "Interpreters that have completed one exam and need the other for credentialing [should] direct all questions directly to DSHS LTC at on how to finalize their credentialing process."

    We understand that these are uncertain and frustrating times. This as all that we know as of now, but we will be sure to "keep our ears to the ground" and update you as soon as more information is made available.

    Read the entire bill 
    here, and stay tuned for more announcements. 

  • 04/09/2023 09:39 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    by Laura Hurley 

    I recently interpreted for the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) and learned that the city of Seattle has a new ordinance that protects independent contractors. I didn't know it existed until I found out through that interpreting job, so I figured other interpreters might not know about it either. Here's some information about the new labor protections for independent contractors so you can know your rights and pass the word to other colleagues who work in Seattle!

    This is my own summary of the ordinance and the webinar I interpreted, but I'll also include links to more official and detailed information on the Office of Labor Standards website.

    The Independent Contractor Protection Ordinance (ICPO) went into effect in September 2022 to provide labor protections for independent contractors. We aren't employees so we aren't covered by regular employer/employee labor laws, and this ordinance is designed to close that gap in worker protections.

    The ordinance creates some requirements that commercial hiring entities in Seattle must comply with when they hire independent contractors, such as: a notification of rights, a written notice of the terms of work and payment, timely payment, and itemized payment information. It doesn't impose new requirements on us as independent contractors, but it's useful for us to know what information our clients are required to provide when they hire us.

    The ICPO protects self-employed independent contractors who:

    • work as a "one-person shop" (i.e., don't have employees),
    • do at least part of a job in Seattle[1], and
    • expect to receive at least $600 from the hiring entity during a calendar year.

    "Independent contractors” under this ordinance doesn't include Uber or Lyft drivers (gig workers have their own ordinance), companies with employees, or lawyers (apparently attorneys can fend for themselves in contract disputes).

    The ICPO applies to any commercial hiring entity that hires an independent contractor in Seattle. This means a business or nonprofit that hires an interpreter to help them do business would count, but a person hiring you to provide language tutoring for their child probably wouldn’t (unless they run a tutoring business and hire you to help them conduct that business). Note that an interpreter or translator could be both a contractor and a hiring entity under the ordinance if they subcontract a colleague to work on a project.

    The requirements of the ICPO are:

    • The hiring entity must provide the contractor with a written notification of the contractor's rights under this ordinance. They're allowed to use either the document OLS created or a different one, as long as it includes all the information the ICPO requires them to provide.
    • The hiring entity must provide a written notice to the contractor before any work begins with all the details about the job and pay. As with the notification of rights, they may use the model notice OLS created or their own form, as long as it contains all the required information. The model notice is impressively detailed, which will allow us to negotiate very clear agreements with clients.
    • The hiring entity must pay on time—according to the terms of the pre-work notice if it specifies payment terms, or within 30 days if it doesn't—and they must provide itemized payment information with each payment.

    Once the work has started, the hiring entity can't require the contractor to accept less than the pay in the agreement as a condition of being paid on time. The agreement can include terms and conditions for payment (such as partial payments after completing certain stages of a job, or the right to inspect or approve the work), and of course it's possible to negotiate changes and amend the pre-work notice. However, once work starts, the agreement is what it is.

    For instance, if you're hired to translate a 5,000-word document for a particular price by a particular date, they can't come back after you've begun the project and say, "Oops, it's actually 10,000 words and we still need it by the same time. We'll pay you 1.5 times what we originally agreed to because a lot of the words repeat, so it won't be that much extra work!"

    The ICPO gives us some negotiating power in these situations by holding contracting entities to the terms of their agreements. My understanding is that if a hiring entity does not provide pre-work notifications with all the required details of work and pay, then if the contractor later makes a complaint, it will be presumed that the terms of the agreement were whatever the contractor (us!) says they were unless the hiring entity can produce some evidence to the contrary.

    I know many of us write our own client agreements to protect our interests, so I appreciate that this ordinance relieves us of some of that burden. It puts the responsibility and penalties on the hiring entity and gives us an enforcement mechanism and the benefit of the doubt in payment disputes. If you want all the details, The OLS website has the full text of the ordinance, the model notifications, fact sheets, and Frequently Asked Questions. They also have personnel available to answer questions and receive complaints, if you have any.

    I hope this is useful info, and please feel free to share it with colleagues.

    [1] In the webinar, they said that it counts if the job is physically located in Seattle, if you must attend a meeting at the hiring entity's office in Seattle as part of the job, or if you live in Seattle and perform the work remotely from your home. It doesn't count if, for instance, you have to drive from your home in Everett to do a job in Kent and happen to stop in Seattle for a sandwich on your way there. Some of the actual work must happen in Seattle city limits for the city to have jurisdiction.

  • 02/19/2023 02:06 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    In January of 2023, NOTIS bid a fond farewell —or, more accurately, a “see you later”— to three members of our Board of Directors (see their farewell notes below!): 

    Since joining the Board in 2021, Zakiya Hanafi (an Italian and French to English translator and interpreter) has served as a member of the Scholarship and Publications Committees and as chair of the Marketing & Communications team. With a passionate, can-do attitude, Zakiya has promoted and organized a number of new initiatives at NOTIS, the effects of which we will celebrate for years to come.

    Tarja Sahlstén (a localization specialist and audiovisual and literary translator from German, English, and Italian to Finnish) joined the board in 2021 and has served on the Translation Division and Social Events Committee. Tarja brought subtitling to our events calendar and good-humored levity to all of our gatherings.

    Pinar Mertan (a Turkish <> English medical and court interpreter) has been an active member of the Board of Directors since 2019; she has served as chair of both the Scholarship and Social Events Committees and co-chair of the Legal Division. With her characteristic kindness and constant concern for others, Pinar has certainly left her mark on our society. 

    While we are sad to see Pinar, Tarja, and Zakiya leave the board, we’re grateful for the good work they’ve done for our NOTIS and our community. We look forward to seeing what they do next, and we expect to cross paths again soon!

    In their own words 

    Zakiya Hanafi: 

    It’s been a thrilling two years for me on the NOTIS Board of Directors. It all began with me sticking up my hand at the first meeting I attended as a new member in January 2021. “Why don’t we hire a marketing consultant to help us define our needs and conduct a job search for someone to stay on as our social media specialist?” 

    Little did I know that my suggestion would be welcomed and supported by my fellow members, leading to heaps of professional satisfaction and development as the Chair of the NOTIS Marketing Committee. 

    It’s been a wonderful experience, filled with learning opportunities and teamwork that I could never have had as an inveterate solo freelancer. (I’d like to encourage any of our NOTIS members with good ideas to bring them forward to the Board: you never know what will come of them!)

    My other greatest satisfaction: working with Pinar Mertan on the Scholarship Committee. It is a rare privilege to be able to give away money to deserving professionals while enjoying the company of a remarkable colleague.

    By the way, this may be goodbye to the Board, but I don’t plan on disappearing! I will continue to serve as a volunteer on the NOTIS Marketing and Publications Committees.

    Tarja Sahlsten:

    I’m one of those lucky people who are doing what they really love: translation. Every day I get to learn new things and words, tackle challenges and enjoy successes, talk to amazing colleagues, and bug my husband about Americanisms

    I’ve been lucky enough to have translated everything from classic Italian movies about big family dinners, a film about Snow White and the seven dwarfs, a German series about a Gasthaus up in the mountains, famous American sitcoms about Friends ;), a guide to making the best tea in the world, a wild story about hitchhiking across the U.S, comic books about amazing women, and everything in between. If I had to pick what I have most enjoyed, I would have to say: the mix! Every day is different, every job is different.

    “The mix” is something I have found in NOTIS as well: people from different backgrounds and countries working with different languages in different fields. Court and medical interpreters, localizers, subtitlers, literary translators and more — all working together for a common goal. I genuinely enjoyed my 2 years on the board. I got to know amazing people and learnt so much about all the different jobs language professionals can have in such a big country. (It is different in a small country like Finland.)

    I encourage everyone to join NOTIS  — for the mix, comradery, and common goal. All the wonderful meetings and workshops (etc.) are a priceless way to get out of your translator’s cave and meet people face-to-face. Over time, it might just creep on you that you’d like to make a bigger difference and join the board. I highly recommend it!

    What is next for me? More travel and hitting the road — literally. We bought an RV, and I am getting to know my new home country better — and translating as we go! See you somewhere some time, dear colleagues. FAREWELL AND THANK YOU, NOTIS!

    Pinar Mertan

    While working in Turkey as an attorney, I registered as a sworn translator too and quickly realized that I loved translating documents as well as preparing them. After moving to Washington and seeing that there were very few Turkish interpreters in the area, I decided to become a credentialed interpreter. Then, I joined the NOTIS Board! This was one of the best decisions of my life. 

    As an interpreter, I love the fulfillment I feel after each assignment. Being able to connect individuals with my language skills and the appreciation I receive from my clients are my biggest rewards. There is no other profession where a person can work in such a diverse range of fields. An interpreter can work for a court, a clinic, a school, a company, or an institution—fulfilling all sorts of communication needs. This may be an attorney-client meeting, a medical operation, a diplomatic summit, a parent-teacher conference, a seminar, or a book translation; the possibilities are endless. I love this surprise aspect of the job. It enables us to improve our skills and learn many things. We create our unique style in time. It is like writing a book; it carries our signature. We all leave our own marks in people's lives, however small they may be.

    I take pride in having served the translation and interpreting community alongside NOTIS’s  wonderful board members for two terms, as chair, co-chair, and member of different committees. I am honored to be a colleague of such dedicated professionals. I thank each one of them, but I have to name a few: Shelley Fairweather-Vega and Laura Friend for being excellent presidents, Luisa Gracia Camon and Maria Farmer for their warm friendship, and Yasemin Alptekin, for being my big sister and mentor.

    With much gratitude and respect, 
    Pinar Mertan

  • 02/13/2023 00:11 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    As of January 1, 2023, the DSHS Language Testing and Certification (LTC) Program has changed how medical interpreters can be certified.

    There are no changes to testing for social services interpretation or document translation certification.

    DSHS LTC no longer administers medical interpreter exams; rather, they accept interpreter exams administered by the following entities:

    • Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)
    • The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)
    • UniversalLanguage Service
    • ALTA Language Services

    Each of the above entities has different processes and requirements for testing. Please visit the DSHS LTC Test Information page for details of each option.

    Please note that the first two entities, CCHI and NBCMI, are national certification bodies. Most healthcare providers will fully accept CCHI or NBCMI certification in lieu of DSHS certification, therefore making it unnecessary to submit CCHI or NBCMI scores to DSHS. However, DSHS may require that any medical interpreter providing services within a DSHS setting be credentialed through DSHS.

    These changes to DSHS’ certification process have been a concern to many in Washington. The interpreters’ union, WFSE Local 1671 – AFSCME 28, Interpreters United, published a position paper about the changes and are supporting WA State Senate Bill 5304 which would require DSHS to resume their testing and certification program. A video of the union’s statements about the SB5304 hearing can be found here. A representative from NOTIS also spoke at this hearing in favor of the bill.

  • 01/26/2023 02:40 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    In January of 2023, the Board of Directors at NOTIS welcomed two new members to its ranks: Howard Chou, a Mandarin and Cantonese <> English community and healthcare interpreter, and Timothy Gregory, an Arabic to English (mostly literary, mostly science fiction and fantasy) translator. Beyond their biographies, which you can read here, on the NOTIS website, we asked them to share a bit about their experience in the field(s)—and, in the case of Howard, some advice for colleagues. Read on to learn more!

    Directors are elected for a two-year term, which can be renewed up to two more times. Interested in volunteering? Want to learn more? Contact (and/or consult our bylaws here).

    Howard Chou

    What I enjoy the most about interpreting is helping the person with limited English proficiency (LEP) communicate with the providers. I always feel that by doing so, I make the world a slightly better place for those that need our service. 

    One of my most rewarding experiences in the field was when I helped an LEP in a Labor and Delivery session. It was five and a half hours long, and, after the baby was born, the new parents decided to name the baby after me. (Can you imagine there is another Howard running around town?)

    My most challenging experience was interpreting for the parents of a two-year-old girl that drowned in the neighbor's pool. The session was transferred to me from a colleague that was not able to continue. The deceased was already wrapped in a white blanket when I took over and the charge nurse was carrying her to the morgue in the basement with the parents following behind. For the next two weeks, I had to sleep with the lights on, and, to this date, the image of that white blanket still pops in my head from time to time...

    A piece of advice I would like to share with my colleagues is "LET IT GO." Vicarious trauma is our worst enemy in this profession. Talk to your supervisor and your colleagues and seek professional help if you notice any physical or mental changes as soon as possible. At the end of the day, turn off the computer, throw the keys on the dresser, pour yourself a stiff drink, light up a cigar, get the music going and have a party.

    Howard’s NOTIS mission statement:
    This past year of volunteering for NOTIS’s CID (Community Interpreter Division) has been the best time in my interpreting career. I have enjoyed all the meetings and events in which I’ve participated, and I’ve learned so much from my colleagues here. As a board member, I will contribute as much as I can to help NOTIS prosper,  to help educate the members to be better interpreters, and to close more linguistic and cultural gaps in the community.

    Tim Gregory

    The thing I enjoy most about translating is the constant challenge. I know quite a few people who find their field and their niche in it and are happy to translate the same sorts of things all day every day. They become a master of that domain. My career has followed a more meandering path; I’ve translated a lot of personal documents, years of military and government, a smattering of religious and technical texts, and I am focusing my literary efforts on science fiction and fantasy, which can include a bit of all of the above. The new opportunities to learn and stretch my mind keep the job fresh and exciting for me. 

    Tim’s NOTIS mission statement:
    I’ve been a member of NOTIS since approximately 2007 when I attended my first workshop for the ATA certification (then accreditation) exam. After attending just a couple of in-person events, I knew that I had found my tribe: a group of people who were deeply interested in the same sorts of things I was. Professionalism in translation, a constant quest for self-improvement, and an environment that is supportive rather than competitive. One of my favorite features of NOTIS is that the organization is member-driven. The training offered, whether online or in-person, comes organically from within. If someone has something to share, or notices that a friend or colleague has something to share, NOTIS will help create the venue. In particular, the NOTIS-backed Northwest Literary Translators group has helped me find a home among like-minded friends. As a member of the NOTIS board, I will work diligently to continue this collegial mindset of peer mentoring, skills development, and friendly support.

  • 01/01/2023 07:27 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    What is the WHAT?
    by Teodosia Rivera 

    Hello everyone, and welcome back! For our second installment, I would like to circle back to a question I posed last time. It’s a question that all new and emerging translators and interpreters tend to ask themselves from time to time: What do I do when I don’t know what I don’t know? As a guide to answering this question, I proposed the 5Ws method, that is: the who, what, where, when, and why of your decision to embark on this journey.

    In part one we answered the WHO? question, and we established that you are the embodiment of the success you want to achieve. You can check out our first installment of this five-part series here on the Northwest Linguist Blog. Today, we will tackle the WHAT?

    The WHAT? question here is twofold:

    1. What is your ultimate goal? and, 
    2. What do you possess that guarantees you can reach that goal? 
    Your ultimate goal, for example, could be to have more than one specialization for more marketability. Another goal could be to have your own business and train other language professionals to find their niche in the industry. As for what you possess, think of it this way: if you are the embodiment of the success you want to achieve, what is it about you that makes that so? 

    HINT: Jot down your answers to questions one and two above either in the “Notes” space in your phone or on post-its in your office. If you’re like me, your mind may play tricks on you when you are trying to remember what you need to remember at a given time or place; been there, done that, right? 

    Here (below) are some DOs and DON’Ts I believe can guide you to answer these two questions on a more personal level:

    This is the second installment of a five-part advice column for new (and not-so-new) translators and interpreters. The next three installments will be released periodically over the coming months. Subscribe to the
     NW Linguist Blog and to NOTIS News Quarterly, our—you guessed it—quarterly newsletter, here.

    Have you got a question for Teodosia? You can get in touch by leaving a comment or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, by emailing

    Teodosia Rivera has been working as a professional translator and interpreter since 2018. She is a member of ATA’s Interpreters Division, Spanish Language Division, and Translation Company Division, in addition to two ATA chapters: the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) and the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS). Teodosia has established her own business since participating in professional development in the language profession. She brings with her the background of a classroom teacher after teaching for more than 20 years in Osceola County, Florida. “I am still growing and learning,” she says.

  • 10/29/2022 13:02 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    NOTIS welcomes content submissions for all of our publications on a rolling basis, and we want to hear from you! Our publications include:

    • The NW Linguist Blog
    • NOTIS News Quarterly 
    • NW Linguist Annual Newsletter (December)

    This is an excellent opportunity to put your name and your voice out there, to draw attention to your work, and to be recognized by your peers.

    The Northwest Linguist NOTIS News Quarterlythe official printed publications of the Northwest Translators & Interpreters Society, are designed to share organization and industry news, useful tips, fun facts, and educational pieces with our members.

    We are currently accepting submissions in the following areas:

    • Articles or essays on: 
      • approaches to translation
      • interpretation skills
      • translation reviews
      • T&I technology
      • local language access developments
      • legislation affecting language professionals 
      • personal/professional anecdotes 
    • Translations of: 
      • poems 
      • short prose or excerpts of prose
      • recipes
      • songs 
      • etc... 
    • Comics, memes, and other bits of humor!

    Submissions should be written in English and — excepting translations — should fall somewhere between 200 and 800 words (longer pieces will be considered for the blog or the annual newsletter; shorter pieces, for our quarterly newsletters or blog). Relevant images may also be submitted alongside or independent of the written piece.

    If submitting a translation, please send both the original version and the translation. Copyright notes and source references should be included as well, if applicable.

    Submissions will be evaluated by NOTIS's Publications Committee and will be edited for content, grammar, and space limitations. 

    Please send submissions and any other queries to our publications editor, Brianna Salinas, at We look forward to publishing your work!

    Best wishes,
    The NOTIS Publications Committee

  • 10/24/2022 13:37 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    New or not-so-new to translation or interpreting? Whatever your answer, don’t be surprised if every now and then you find yourself overwhelmed by the same question I struggled with when I first joined the profession in 2018: What do I do when I don’t know what I don’t know?

    Even after four years of taking training courses to stay educated about the profession, I continue to find myself not completely sure of what to do if I don’t know what I don’t know. How could that be? You may ask. The answer is simple: The translation and interpreting landscape is constantly changing. The changes come as human innovation continues to advance, terminology management becomes more complex, communication with direct clients and agencies evolves, and we try to find our niche in the surrounding market culture. In my humble opinion, this ever-evolving market keeps us language professionals aspiring to stay engaged in what we love: being a bridge that connects language communities.

    How can we stay engaged in the translation and interpreting landscape? I would like to offer some advice based on the “Five-Ws” approach and the knowledge I have acquired since joining the profession four years ago.

    The “Five-Ws” approach utilizes the words Who, What, When, Where, and Why as a guide to create a schema of the key elements of a story. Remember back in the day when our teachers were trying to show us how to write a book report? (I know—I taught this when I was a classroom teacher beginning in the 1990s!) Those five words would serve as the primary components in our summaries of a given story or passage. In the same way, I would like to repurpose the “Five Ws” to help you summarize yourself and, in so doing, find your own answer to a question we all sooner or later face in this field: What do I do when I don’t know what I don’t know?

    For starters, let’s take out a piece of paper and something to write with and begin with the first guiding word in our series of five: ‘Who.’

    1. Start with a sentence describing ‘Who’ you are using two to three adjectives that summarize the uncompromising you!
    2. Now, write a second sentence sharing how you envision yourself as a translator or interpreter at this juncture in your life—regardless of your present age. If you are working as a translator or interpreter, for instance, you are probably a person who enjoys languages and likes to be a bridge of communication for others.
    3. Write yet a third sentence to mention who you have around you that could potentially hold you back from becoming exactly who you want to be as you plow the ground for your professional success.
    4. Direct a fourth sentence to that person—in a positive and confident tone—expressing how determined you are in your pursuit of this new career.
    5. Before you write the fifth sentence, think about who you have contacted (including professional associations or colleagues) as key components of the T&I landscape you are now exploring. Write the names of the associations or chapters you have joined to educate yourself about the industry on your way to becoming a serious translator or interpreter.
    6. Finally, combine the above five sentences into a single paragraph, editing anything you would like. Once you’ve finished, read the paragraph out loud and listen to who you have become in this new venture. You embody the success for which you are willing to work hard. You just discovered who is in charge of making the inevitable decisions that come your way in your translating and interpreting business: You, that’s who!

    To summarize, when you are just beginning to establish yourself as a translator or interpreter, everything begins and ends with who you are and who you choose to keep around you. It is of great importance that we all begin this journey knowing who we are and how that has led us to where we are. This foundational knowledge must remain firm and ever-present, even as we continue to discover along the way that we may not know exactly what to do when we do not know what we don’t know.

    This piece is the first installment of a five-part advice column for new (and not-so-new) translators and interpreters. The next four installments will be released periodically over the coming months. Subscribe to the NW Linguist Blog and to NOTIS News Quarterly, our—you guessed it—quarterly newsletter, here.

    Have you got a question for Teodosia? You can get in touch by leaving a comment or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, by emailing

    Teodosia Rivera has been working as a professional translator and interpreter since 2018. She is a member of ATA’s Interpreters Division, Spanish Language Division, and Translation Company Division, in addition to two ATA chapters: the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) and the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS). Teodosia has established her own business since participating in professional development in the language profession. She brings with her the background of a classroom teacher after teaching for more than 20 years in Osceola County, Florida. “I am still growing and learning,” she says.

  • 09/23/2022 02:56 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

    For this issue of the Northwest Linguist Blog, Laura Friend, our current NOTIS president, interviewed Caitilin Walsh, who held the same role more than 20 years ago—from 1998 to 2000! 

    You can catch both Laura and Caitilin at our Annual ITD Event on October 1st as well as at #ATA63. Now, without further ado... 

    Laura Friend (LF):  Caitilin, thank you so much for joining us. It is a pleasure to “sit down” with you for this virtual chat. You have done so much for our profession over the years, through NOTIS, ATA and Bellevue College, to name just a few organizations, that I think our members would benefit by hearing from you again in the
    Northwest Linguist.

    Caitilin Walsh (CW):  Thanks, Laura, it's always a pleasure to talk with people who have picked up the baton, especially for NOTIS, which will always have a special place in my heart. 

    LF:  You started translating professionally in the late 1980s, after completing degrees in Theatre (Willamette University, 1984) and French Language and Literature (University of Strasbourg, 1989), is that right? What was it about translation that attracted you? How did your earliest projects come to you? 

    CW:  I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but was discouraged when I returned to the U.S. with my shiny French diplomas; in order to teach, I would have had to complete yet another degree, and I needed to generate income (and we won't even mention how low the starting salary for a teacher was). My résumé opened doors to private schools, one of which had a translation department. Since I knew something about it—I had made the acquaintance of a conference interpreter in Germany—they put me on the desk managing T&I, and asked me to do some translation. It turns out that I had a knack for it, and projects started flowing in.

    One of my first lessons was that smart project managers (who also do double duty as mentors) like married couples. My husband and I tried really hard to make our resumés different, but of course, our address was the same—and the reason we were first hired! Our first project was a simple one-page invoice, and we spent hours on it. We got hung up on a reference to "16 chains”—we just couldn't make sense of it (how do you count chains?), until my long-haul trucker brother showed up (it was close to dinner time), looked over our shoulders, and said, “Oh, yeah, that's the company that makes these neat new cable chains—so much easier to put on than old chains!” That's when I learned lesson #2: know what you are writing about.

    LF:  You translate primarily for the software and culinary industries. Did one come before the other? Do you approach software translation projects and culinary translation projects differently?

    CW:  Software definitely came first. I saw an ad in the newspaper for a localization intern and applied (theatre people will try their hand at anything). I was the only applicant who actually had any real language skills—all the other applicants just "loved travel.” I learned localization from the ground floor—this was just about the time Windows 3.1 came out and changed the game. From there, demand for freelance localization kept me very busy for years, and padded my bank account nicely. Software has many technical demands, but the hardest part is working with developers (and some managers) who never studied language and could not grasp things like gender or accented characters, or different syntax. The sector has matured immensely. 

    I've always "studied” foods and am accomplished in pastry work and classical French techniques. So, I worked my connections and landed translating recipes in glossy magazines and several cookbooks. It really is a highly technical exercise in knowing how foods and ingredients work: if I add a little more butter to a pastry recipe to round a converted measurement, it won't make a difference; but if I change the amount or type of sugar in a frozen dessert by even one gram, it won't have the right texture. You really need to have a depth of understanding that most home cooks don't. 

    In the end, both types of translation really have to be user-focused: will they understand a new program or recipe?

    LF:  I see you have volunteered for Translators without Borders for the past 11 years.  What inspired you to get involved with that organization, and what is the nature of the work you do for them? Are there ever legitimate grounds for concern about potential exploitation of volunteers in arrangements of this sort?

    CW:  If you look at long standing traditions in the "liberal professions” ("professions libérales"), one important piece is pro bono work. Everyone from lawyers to architects to doctors is expected to volunteer their services for the good of society. Translators without Borders is one way I found to give back to those finding themselves in a situation where they need help. 

    One of the most powerful lessons we can learn both professionally and personally is to set boundaries—that's a lesson from my years in the theatre: you can only be exploited if you allow it; you always have the opportunity to say ‘no.’ (And this applies to more than volunteering professional services!) The folks at TWB have always sought feedback from volunteers to make our experience meet our capacities and abilities. 

    LF:  You served as president of both NOTIS (1998-2000) and the American Translators Association (2013-2015). In your opinion, what are some of the main benefits of organizations like these?  

    CW:  In an industry dominated by self-employed people (and mostly women), professional associations provide us with a "home” to be with others like us. I've seen a wonderful evolution over the years from where we went to meetings to be able to gripe about demanding clients to a place where professionalism is something we learn from each other, and support is just a quick message away. It also allows us to amplify our voices both for our profession and the people we serve, both locally and beyond. I personally enjoy being able to spend this phase of my career focusing on projects that will strengthen our profession for future generations.

    LF:  You also teach translation and have been working as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor at Bellevue College for 30 years now. What are some tips you can share with student translators and interpreters who are just starting out in the industry?

    CW:  Because the “product” we sell as independent contractors is ourself, students need to not only work on the “externals” of gaining and honing the skills to work; they also need to spend some time introspectively. Do their life experiences (past jobs, hobbies, curiosity) lead them to certain areas of practice? Do they have the self-discipline to work for themselves, or should they be seeking an in-house position? Knowing yourself is key to marketing your services, setting your rates, and creating a business structure that works for you

    There's no single piece of advice for newcomers, since so much depends on what their own strengths and weaknesses are: if you're gregarious, networking will come naturally; an introvert may abhor the networking but excel at terminology research. If they know and understand their own value, they shouldn't get trapped by unreasonable demands or usurious practices. Learning to say "no” is an important life and business skill. And of course, I am a huge proponent of joining the local and national group(s), both for T&I and for your particular focus area. 

    LF:  Can you tell us a bit about the T&I certificate programs at Bellevue College’s Tombolo Institute? Who are they designed for? How do they prepare aspiring language professionals for careers in translation and/or interpreting? 

    CW:  We were given the brief to revamp the successful, decades-old program at Bellevue College by splitting it into two comprehensive certificates: a language-neutral core certificate, and language-specific skills-building certificate. Additionally, we integrated technology and ethics into each unit of the program, since they touch on all areas of what we do. Our target audience is people with advanced language skills—either learned or heritage language—who want to enter this broad field. By providing them with the tools they need to work (everything from how to work with CAT tools to how to market themselves to working through ethical dilemmas), and the time to really reflect on what they bring to the equation in terms of specialized knowledge and ability, students should leave the program ready to launch their careers. 

    Caitilin Walsh is an ATA-Certified French-English translator specializing in software and gastronomy, and a translation educator. A past president of the American Translators Association and the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society, she chairs the ATA Education and Pedagogy Committee and works on a local and national scale to bring organizations and institutions together to create and illuminate educational pathways for Heritage speakers and World Language students seeking to use their skills in rewarding careers. She brings her strong opinions on professionalism to bear as an instructor in the Translation and Interpreting Certificate Program at Bellevue College’s Tombolo Institute. When not at her computer, she can be found pursuing creative endeavors, from orchestral music to food preparation. You can follow her on Twitter @caitilinwalsh.

    Laura Friend is a certified Russian and French to English translator specializing in legal translation. She is currently the President of NOTIS. View her bio here, and read more about her journey as a translator in last month’s issue of the Northwest Linguist Blog

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