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! 

  • 01/23/2019 10:37 | Alicia McNeely

    Two years ago, the United Nations declared September 30th International Translation Day, and in 2018, NOTIS celebrated that weekend with a two-day event! 

    On the first day, we hosted the NOTIS Language & Job Fair, where professionals and students were able to meet and network with several organizations who offer a range of opportunities, from local interpreting jobs, to contracts with an internationally based translation agency, to volunteer opportunities with the Northwest Justice Project to provide interpreting for refugee populations. The Northwest Literary Translators even set up a booth to promote their creative work and sell their published books. 

    In order to continue the fun, and for some of us, in order to avoid peak rush-hour traffic, we gathered for drinks and snacks afterwards. Happy Hour was filled with lots of laughs and some much-needed socialization, as we swapped work stories and travel adventures with our fellow language professionals. This time was especially valuable to those of us that work alone most of the time!

    The autumnal air was crisp the next morning, as eighty translators and interpreters came together over coffee, pastries, and professional development! For translators, terminology was the initial topic of the day. Mr. Tim Gregory led a presentation that reminded us that efficiency and consistency are the main purpose of terminology organization. He also taught us about several free tools that are available to help in the often overwhelming and time-consuming effort of researching and recording terms. One of the most accessible resources that Mr. Gregory suggested was Microsoft OneNote.  OneNote catalogues everything that is uploaded, including scanned documents with handwriting on them. With proper exploration and practice, this often-underutilized product in the Office Suite could be a translator’s answer to merging and quickly searching through his or her assortment of vocabulary spreadsheets, bilingual documents, and even scanned source texts scribbled with annotations.

    Next up, Mr. Roger Kohn and Ms. Jackie Leader from Tousley Brain Stephens law firm kindly donated their time to discuss legal issues freelancers often face, such as what types of businesses we can own and how to write and enter into contracts with our clients. Their main piece of advice, above even the most minute details, was to record everything at all times. If you have not documented in writing where your money is going, and which services you agree to provide, it is as if the agreement never existed!

    Meanwhile, many interpreters chose to attend two sessions regarding medical interpreting and interpreting in high profile, high pressure situations with Ms. Hiroko Ishii, who has interpreted for prestigious clients such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama. Thanks to experiences such as these, Ms. Ishii learned and shared with us that in preparation for an intense interpreting assignment, it is vital to watch and listen to videos of people for whom you are going to interpret. If you do, you will have a sense of which words they like to use most often and the cadence of their speech, which will help you provide a better rendition when it is your turn to interpret what that individual has just conveyed. Also, during her workshops, Ms. Ishii challenged attendees to consider the side effects of extended and all-day interpreting assignments, as well as the importance of taking days off to decompress and study. 

    After a delicious lunch of bánh mì sandwiches, all attendees came together for an ethics presentation by former ATA president Caitilin Walsh. Mixed in with a few witty quips and a bit of humor only interpreters and translators would understand, Ms. Walsh analyzed various codes of ethics within our field and how these compare to an individual’s moral code. She shared several scenarios in which colleagues had to juggle their personal moral beliefs with their professional code of ethics. She then called upon the audience to give our input regarding whether or not interpreters in various real-world examples had properly observed their code of ethics. Attendees were encouraged to think critically about how we would respond in certain situations where our moral beliefs might conflict with our code of ethics. She concluded her engaging talk with a reminder that “we need to be mindful that [what one does as an individual] reflects upon us as a profession,” and that we are all in this together.

    We concluded our day with a translation and interpreting agency discussion panel in which representatives from Academy of Languages, Universal Language Service, and King County Superior Court graciously participated. After sharing a bit about each of their organizations, the speakers shared ideas on how to achieve harmony between freelancers and project managers by being able to tactfully give and receive feedback, as well as general tips and tricks within our industry. Workshop participants were able to submit questions and receive feedback on a range of topics from advice on getting started in the field, such as joining relevant organizations like NOTIS and getting certified, to ways of building a steadier income stream, like working in remote interpreting. Finally, all of our panelists encouraged freelancers to view contracting agencies as teammates in the industry and to leave lines of communication open at all times.

    NOTIS strives to provide rewarding events, workshops and presentations for its member base.  We look forward to offering another exciting International Translation Day event next year, and welcome any suggestions about subject matter you would like to see presented in 2019.  Please feel free to e-mail us at


  • 10/31/2018 10:18 | Alicia McNeely

    NOTIS is pleased to present this Q&A with our corporate member, The Academy of Languages Translation and Interpretation Services ( Thank you to Olivier Fabris for taking the time to participate in this interview.

    Q: Can you please tell us a little about your organization?

    A: The company started operating in 1979 as part of a language school. In 2002 we separated from the school and became an independent corporation focused on providing translation and interpretation services. Our mission is to empower our clients to connect with foreign language speakers at home and abroad through professional language services.

    Q: What are the main services you offer?

    A: We primarily offer translation and interpretation services in the business, legal, medical and technical fields. Our interpretation services are almost exclusively delivered in person. We also provide some multimedia services (e.g. voice over, subtitling, transcription), website localization and multilingual desktop publishing.

    Q: With what languages do you work?

    A: We work primarily with Western European, Asian and some African languages, but our network of professional linguists covers most languages requested by our clients. We work with organizations that serve the local LEP community, so the languages requested for those assignments roughly reflect the make-up of the local immigrant population. We also work with clients who sell their products and services overseas, and the languages requested for those projects don’t follow the same breakdown.

    Q: What sets you apart as a language serviced provider?

    A: We are a small family-owned operation and are able to adapt quickly to different requirements. We treat our translators and interpreters with respect, and we like to build relationships over time. We’ve been working with some of our translators for over 20 years! We do not compromise on quality. We recruit all of our linguists very carefully and we do not work with contractors whom we feel are not qualified or a good fit for the assignment. We hand pick our contractors for every assignment.

    Q: What advice do you have for translators/interpreters and project managers working together?

    A: Communicate, communicate, communicate! Given the line of business we are in, it seems obvious, but I’ve seen feelings getting hurt or relationships souring due to a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication. For all parties involved, be polite and respectful. Work together for the betterment of the industry, and promote high standards.

    Project managers need to give their linguists clear instructions. And in return, those instructions need to be read, understood, and followed. If something isn’t clear, say something! Adherence to the schedule is of the utmost importance – do not be late for an assignment or deliver a project past the deadline. Keep your commitments (don’t give back a job you are already committed to because a better opportunity comes along). Know your limits and be honest with yourself and your client.

    Q: What advice do you have for language professionals who are new to the field?

    A: Be patient and dedicated. If you are passionate about what you do, and you are good at it, you will succeed! Join professional organizations. Network and market yourself. Research the industry and potential clients. Try to specialize in a few specific areas. Find a mentor. Talk to more experienced colleagues. Work towards getting a professional certification. Price your services attractively. Triple check your resume and cover letter for typos. Be responsive when a prospective client contacts you.

    Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with translators, interpreters, students or other language service providers?

    A: We value our partnership with our freelance translators and interpreters and believe that agencies and independent contractors are better off working together to advance the T&I professions.

  • 10/04/2018 17:03 | Alicia McNeely

    Written by: Svetlana Kupriyanova, 2018 NOTIS Conference Scholarship Recipient

    The Pacific Northwest Court Interpreter Conference, which usually takes place in Portland, Oregon, is one of my favorite conferences to attend. This year I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from NOTIS and was able to go to this wonderful event again! Though a long way from Mount Vernon, Washington, it was a great place to spend a fall weekend, especially when one had an opportunity to sharpen her interpreting skills in a supportive and interactive environment with people who work, laugh, and learn together.

    This year the class that I attended taught me how to practice and develop my interpreting skills on a daily basis. I was a bit weary of the topic at first and thought that maybe I would just hear the typical “listen to the radio and interpret” piece of advice. However, when the instructor brought out equipment for every participant, and we started to record our interpretations, I happily realized that this was something I had never done before.

    While listening to my recorded interpretation, I was pleasantly surprised by my fluency, precision, and clarity. I was proud of my work, and I had not expected to feel that way. It gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities and inspired me to strive to produce even higher quality interpretations. We continued to do similar exercises several times, each time trying to improve and perfect our work. We used different modes of interpreting, and I could clearly see how I could better myself. I discovered I needed improvement in an area where I had not anticipated. In other words, these exercises were an eye opener and a great chance for me to re-evaluate my skills.

    Now, I am working to incorporate these short exercises and recording sessions into my routine. With technology so readily available to me every day, I can do these valuable exercises anywhere simply by using my phone.

    Sometimes a little bit of guidance makes all the difference. I am very grateful to the Oregon Judicial Department and NOTIS for this opportunity. Throughout the years, I have received a lot of good, practical, and applicable advice when participating in the Pacific Northwest Interpreter Conferences. I hope I am able to continue to attend and to see all of you, my friends, next year!

  • 03/15/2018 12:56 | Alicia McNeely

    Written by: Laine Ferrer-George, 2017 NOTIS Scholarship Recipient for the ATA Annual Conference

    I had so much fun and excitement when I attended my first American Translators Association (ATA) Annual Conference and first ever trip to Washington D.C. from October 25 to October 28, 2017.  It has been my wish since I became an interpreter in 2015 to be able to experience an event like this where over 1,700 members gather annually to gain and exchange new ideas and knowledge in order to expand and strengthen their businesses and skills. I am forever grateful to the NOTIS Scholarship Committee for making my wish a reality and for giving me the opportunity to experience what it feels like to belong to a top-notch association comprised of highly educated and capable translators and interpreters from all around the country!

    When I first looked at the conference program, all I could say was “wow!” It was filled with activities that took months of planning. There were over 170 educational sessions as well as an exhibit hall, a job fair, division meetings and dinners, networking gatherings, and other special events. It could be an overwhelming and intimidating experience for a new attendee.

    However, as a first-time attendee, or a “newbie,” I signed up to have a seasoned attendee, or a “buddy,” to make things easier for myself. My assigned buddy, Christine, is a professional freelance Spanish translator from Brooklyn, New York. She was very helpful in guiding me and introducing me to all her new and long-time friends. My roommate, Kathryn, became my second buddy. She is also a Spanish translator and a NOTIS member from Seattle, Washington. I felt so at ease with both of them, especially since they had been attending the conference for a long time and were familiar with all the ropes already!

    During the conference, I was exposed to various learning tools and resources available to translators and interpreters. When you become an ATA member, you earn access all kinds of online professional development information and webinars. The ATA directory is another valuable resource that connects you with agencies, translators, interpreters, and students. As a result of my membership, I have been contacted by agencies for various projects.

    The best advice I received from one of the educational speakers was to always listen carefully and understand the meaning of what we are trying to interpret first before making a rendition. This requires a lot of critical thinking because without meaning, translation and interpretation is lost.

    I was also impressed by ATA President David Rumsey’s opening speech in which he described the ATA as a home, such “that we’re continually improving our house, where the living room is always welcoming to our new and old guests, and we share knowledge and ideas, so we can all achieve success in making our profession better.”  I think this statement captured the essence of why we celebrate this annual event. It is like having a big family reunion where connections are built together to strengthen long-lasting relationships.

    Overall, my first ATA Annual Conference experience has energized and motivated me to continuously improve myself. I encourage other NOTIS members to attend this memorable event at least once! Thanks again, NOTIS. Now, I can proudly say that I am no longer a “newbie!”

  • 02/26/2018 17:51 | Alicia McNeely

    Happy 2018!  It is often hard to believe another year has come and gone, yet here we are two full months into the new year already.  For NOTIS, the new year meant growth for our Board of Directors, as we welcomed five new members (read about them here: Board of Directors).  As a Board of twelve, we all met together for the first time in January to get to know one another, organize, and discuss fresh ideas on how to best serve the translation and interpretation community. 

    I left our first meeting feeling inspired to be a part of such a dynamic group of linguists and invigorated to not only make the most out of my experience on the Board, but also to better myself as a translator.  As fellow new Board member, Laura Friend, and I carpooled together back to Kitsap, the hour-long drive quickly passed as we excitedly reflected on the meeting and our own experiences in the translation industry.  I shared how intimidated I am by the prospect of taking a certification exam. Laura encouraged me to pursue practice tests and to build my confidence through preparation, rather than just feeling like I needed to jump in and sign up for the next exam.  Her reassurance, along with the support of our stimulating NOTIS organization, has motivated me to make this year my year of certification preparation.

    Whether you are just starting out on your translation career or you are a seasoned interpreter, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time for all of us to reflect on work habits we may want to change, or ways in which we can improve professionally.  So, take this month to brainstorm, dream, strategize, prepare, and set a new goal for yourself: maybe it is something you have been putting off for a while, or maybe you are ready to reach for new heights in your career!

    • Get certified

    Certification can benefit all linguists, translators and interpreters alike, as a proof of knowledge, skills, and professionalism.  In addition to ATA certification, other organizations offer certifications for medical interpreters, and some states administer certifications for translators and court interpreters.  Begin by researching which option best suits your professional needs, verify that you are able to meet all educational or other prerequisites, and start working on acing those practice tests.

    • Education

    In addition to certification, having a higher education in translation and interpretation, your learned languages, or your areas of specialization, will enhance your credibility as a linguist and give you confidence as an expert in the field.  Translation and Interpreting degrees, which are widely available overseas, are becoming more prevalent in the States, and options for on-site or online learning are continually increasing.  If you have been considering pursuing more education, start researching programs or courses that best fit your professional aspirations.  If you already plan on enrolling in a translation or interpretation program for the 2018-2019 academic year, apply for a NOTIS scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition and books.

    • Technology

    Whether it is a new computer aided translation (CAT) tool, or diving into voice recognition software, such as Dragon, integrating technology into your work flow can make translating more efficient; however, the learning curve is quite the opposite.  If you already own a program that you avoid using or if is time to invest in a new license, make your goal this year to commit extra time to learning and gaining proficiency.  You could start by participating in an online training session, but mostly it just takes patience and practice with trial and error before you are able to fully incorporate and appreciate any new software.  If you are unfamiliar with CAT tools, translation memory software is designed to improve productivity as it saves and recalls segments of a linguist’s previously translated texts for future projects.  SDL Trados and memoQ are two of the most trusted brands, and if you are a Mac user like myself, Wordfast is an easy choice.

    • Update your website

    If you have a website or blog, of if you want to create one, make it your mission this year to update your credentials, write a post more frequently, or design a page to attract more business.  You need not be an expert in HTML to create an attractive and professional page, and hopefully your desktop publishing skills will improve in the process as well.  Be sure to update your NOTIS profile with your new website link when you are finished.

    • Get involved with NOTIS

    We may be biased, but this is probably the most exciting professional goal you could set for yourself this year.  Our chosen career can often be lonely, so getting involved with other likeminded souls is the best way to counteract that drawback.  Check out our events page to register and attend an event focusing on your specialization or language pair, or if you live too far away from Seattle, host your own coffee meet-up!  If you want to dive even deeper, join a committee and volunteer your time with us.  We would love to meet you, and new friends and networking opportunities certainly await.   

    • Attend the ATA Conference

    This year the ATA 59th Annual Conference will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 24-27, 2018.  Even though the official details have not been released yet, attending the conference can be a financial and logistical strain, so planning to attend sooner rather than later is recommended.  This way, you can set financial goals to save up for it throughout the year.  Not to mention, once they announce the location, the conference hotel will book up quickly, and you will want to reserve your room right away.  If you plan properly, though, it will be well worth it.  The conference is the best place to mingle with fellow linguists, network with potential employers, and learn new skillsets.  You will leave feeling rejuvenated to take on your next big translation project and grateful to be part of such a diverse, intelligent, and invigorating community.  If you will be a first-time attendee, be sure to apply for the NOTIS scholarship that covers the registration fee and provides a travel stipend. 

    What is your new goal for 2018, and how are you planning on achieving it?  Let us know in the comments below, on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn. Good luck!

  • 01/24/2018 11:40 | Elise Kruidenier

    Written by: Heidi Schmaltz, 2017 NOTIS Scholarship Recipient

    Although there are legal requirements in the United States to provide linguistic access in courts, hospitals, and schools, many professionals working in the field of translation and interpretation lack the theoretical orientation that can be gained through formal study. We may be proficient in the languages we use in our profession, but we are not necessarily proficient in the language of our profession itself. A recent NOTIS blog post entitled “Our Neighbo(u)rs to the North” encouraged members to look north for training opportunities, thus addressing this lack of proficiency. I did just that: allow me to share my experience with the Spanish Translation Certificate through UBC Extended Learning.

    The certificate program through the University of British Columbia consists of three required online or in-person courses (students in the online program can take one of the three courses in person during the summer). After completing the three required courses, students complete a final translation project. The courses cover a wide variety of topics from literary, medical and legal translation to Spanish writing conventions for specializations such as advertising, marketing and online publications. The first two courses focus on different theoretical approaches to translation, such as dynamic vs. formal equivalence, as well as possible translation strategies based the different approaches. Rather than arguing over which approach is best, students are given the opportunity to explore the pros and cons of each. This was refreshing and transformative. Students view translation through Amaro Hurtado Albir’s categories (2001), which label interpreting and its various modes as a modality of translation. The translation strategies learned are extremely relevant to interpreting and I would suggest similar training for anyone who works as an interpreter.

    After completing the three courses, and now being in the process of finishing my final project, I feel I have obtained a solid level of proficiency in the language of translation. I also discovered many free online glossaries and journals. Here are a few gems that Spanish translators may find useful:

    In addition to the helpful new online resources, I was able to learn more about the field of translation and interpretation in Canada. Unlike here in the U.S., working as a translator in Canada often requires credentials beyond a short certificate program. A degree in T&I, certification, and/or at least five years of full-time work experience is often needed for employment. The UBC program meets partial requirements to apply for associate membership on dossier in the Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia. Members are then allowed to sit for the certification exam which is offered yearly. 

    While the certificate program covers both translation and interpretation and is strong on theory, I found it to be weaker in the area of ethics and standards for interpreters, specifically. My classmates enjoyed learning about my work as a certified court and medical interpreter in the states. As often happens when borders are crossed, in the case of Canada we have just as much to share from here down south as to learn from our neighbo(u)rs to the north. 

  • 12/08/2017 15:44 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    Translation: Sameness, Likeness and Match

    By Viktor Slepovitch, Ph.D.

    Viktor Slepovitch is Associate Professor and Department Chair at the Department of Business English, Belarus State Economic University, Minsk, Belarus, and Principal Consultant for Washington Translation Bureau (a NOTIS corporate member).

    Dr. Slepovitch reviews the “Translating Europe” 4th International Conference, October 5-6, 2017, Vilnius University, Lithuania.

    A very special event for translators, interpreters, and academics occurred this past October to mark the 20th anniversary of the Department of Translation and Interpretation Studies of Vilnius University. Vilnius University is the oldest institution of higher education in Lithuania.

    The Department Chair, Professor Nijole Maskaliuniene, and the faculty, in collaboration with the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation, did a tremendous job arranging this large-scale conference on translation issues, which brought in participants from 17 countries. It was indeed a privilege for me to participate in the capacity of presenter alongside other professionals in the field.

    Plenary speakers were carefully selected to meet the interests and expectations of the audience. They included Pietro U. Dini (University of Pisa, Italy), Luc van Doorslater (University of Leuven, Belgium), Filip Majcen (Directorate General for Interpretation (DGI), European Commission), and Robin Setton (International Association of Conference Interpreters).

    Apart from the plenary speakers and presenters who delivered papers in parallel sections, there were workshops for students and freelance translators that focused on translator competencies and skills in the contemporary labor market, as well as on practical aspects of the work, including case studies. These workshops were run by representatives of the European Commission’s DGI and the translation agency Alumnus.

    In this short review, I would like to share with you the most insightful and mind-broadening ideas expressed by the keynote speakers Luc van Doorslater and Robin Setton, who reported research findings which truly became food for thought and the subject of discussions among the conference participants.

    Professor Luc van Doorslater of the University of Leuven started his presentation, “Media translation and imagology: Translation in newsrooms and image building,” by commenting on how blurry the concept of ‘nation’ is from a research perspective. He then drew the audience’s attention to the issue of languages as framing factors for images and identities. This was followed by his observations on the extended subject of translation studies. Van Doorslater continued by exploring new fields in which the translation process is applied, including migration/assimilation as translation, identity development as translation, travel as translation, and news processes in the media as translation.

    Imagology/image studies for translation purposes, according to Doorslater, focus on the cultural representation of otherness: of a country/state/people in the literature of another country, as well as extra-literary sources and the importance of para- and metatexts. In the example of France, he identified the following positive and negative constants that turned out to be contradictions in the national representation: civil behavior, verbal eloquence, and refined social manners (positive) vs. arrogance, showiness, and vanity (negative).

    Finally, Doorslater highlighted a challenge for media translators, which he called the automaticity of stereotyping. Translation problems in journalists’ texts are related to all kinds of stereotypes that are in place due to the journalists being poorly informed, which results in an “overabundance of nationality-related stereotypes.”

    Robin Setton (International Association of Conference Interpreters) delivered an “Update on (advanced) conference interpreter training.” He started with what many consider to be “threats to the profession of conference interpreter.” The number one “threat” is that more people are now fluent in English and do not need interpretation. This is the result of the combination of ELF (English as a lingua franca), or Globish, with media exposure. ELF (Globish) is now a basic business tool, like a smartphone. Meetings conducted only in ELF run more quickly and smoothly, but the exchange of ideas may be superficial and unequal. The number two “threat” is machine translation.

    The largest market for interpreters worldwide is now bilingual, being mainly that between a local (national) language and English. The conditions under which conference interpreters must operate range mostly between reading a prepared text (which is easier than speaking impromptu because the content can be controlled in advance) and spontaneous interpreting, when speakers are not willing to share their texts (for security reasons).

    Later on, Setton focused on special skills conference interpreters need when working in different settings:

    • formal language (when interpreting ceremonial, official or ritual speeches);
    • precision and completeness (for legal/courtroom interpreting);
    • flexibility (for community interpreting).

    Another important skill is adaptation and mitigation in conference interpreting, especially when changes in the conference climate are beyond the interpreters’ control.

    According to Setton, interpreters can only mitigate the impact of those changes through their relations with clients (negotiating conditions, getting documents in advance, explaining the interpreters' role) and adapt by updating their skillset or diversify into other branches of interpreting and translation; learning about these new settings and roles, while bringing with them their high standards and professionalism.

    The concluding part of Setton’s talk was about the optimization of interpreters’ work. It covered (1) optimization of form (changing how, but not what is said), i.e. managing the information flow, organization, style, and presentation; (2) optimization of content: explaining (annotating), clarifying, elaborating/compressing, correcting, filtering, toning down, and censoring; (3) optimization of process: intervening by asking a speaker to clarify, repeat or expand; asking for texts in booths; signaling to stop all talking at once; clarifying their own role (e.g. taking turns, segment length, etc.); clearing up cultural misunderstanding and communication failures.

    There was also an emphasis on the need for stronger mediation on the part of a conference interpreter in the form of interrupting and regulating the flow of talk, assuming a moderator’s role, and providing commentary or certain information. As a matter of fact, this is all outside the interpreter’s standard role, but it can be considered in some contexts, at the request of clients (if all sides agree).

    Meeting these challenges that interpreters currently face will eventually facilitate and improve the process of building bridges between people worldwide.

  • 11/27/2017 09:31 | Elise Kruidenier

    Panel Discussion: Working with Agencies

    On November 11, NOTIS hosted a panel discussion with the following participants:

    * Stacey Brown-Sommers, MindLink
    * Jessica Rogauskas, Universal Language Service
    * Dimitri Azadi, Purple
    * Suenne Dixon, Academy of Languages

    The panelists discussed the topic of working with agencies: how to start out, get work, maintain good relationships, etc. Here, we’ll provide an overview of what was discussed during the panel.

    The takeaway message here is that there is plenty of work for everybody, although it can take time to get established, depending on your language pair. Of course, your language skills need to be solid, but the panelists emphasized soft skills even more. If you’re professional and you work well with others, you’re more likely to get called back.

    Below is a summary of questions discussed.

    Why are agencies relevant?

    Agencies provide a number of benefits for linguists:

    * scheduling
    * billing and taxes
    * confidence you’ll get paid
    * marketing
    * communication and education with client
    * HIPPA compliance
    * advocacy for contractors and the industry

    Do agencies worry about linguists leaving for direct clients?

    * No, contractors are free to work independently, and generally must, because no one agency can provide enough work for a full schedule.
    * However, it’s not cool to steal clients. It happens, but not often.
    * An attitude of abundance is helpful. There is a lot of potential work for everybody.

    How can interpreters build a good relationship with agencies?

    * Be clear about your specialities, so an agency knows when to call you.
    * Get certified.
    * Do continuing education.
    * Be engaged with the agency and the community.
    * Be professional.
    * Don’t be a diva.
    * Be willing to travel.
    * Answer the phone.
    * Show up for work on time (surprisingly, this is a big issue).
    * Be proactive and clear about any problems.

    How can you stand out as a translator?

    * Read the instructions carefully.
    * Work independently.
    * Engage with agency (likes on social media, etc.).
    * Do continuing education.
    * Be clear about qualifications (language, specialities, certifications).
    * Have a profile on LinkedIn (with picture—this makes a difference for many).
    * Meet your commitments.

    How can we work better together?

    * Work as a team.
    * Communicate clearly.
    * Keep the client happy.
    * Have good relationships with colleagues.
    * If you’re turning back a job, recommend a colleague who is available.
    * Communicate about problems.
    * Work to ensure fair policies.
    * Show up on time.
    * Read policies about client cancellations so you’re not surprised about getting paid.

    Comments about ASL interpreting

    * Team work helps interpreters mentor and also become aware of serious problems with performance.
    * ASL is a small community, so awareness of issues spreads fast.

    Getting started as a new translator/interpreter

    * Get involved in the community.
    * Get certified.
    * Do continuing education.
    * Follow up with agencies from time to time.
    * Turnover rate is high, so be patient.
    * Be flexible (be willing to travel or work on short notice).
    * Don’t turn down work too often. It’s fine to be booked already.

    Thank you to German translator Melody Winkle for taking notes!

  • 11/20/2017 09:14 | Elise Kruidenier

    by Jennifer O’Donnell and Tim Gregory

    On November 8, 2017, the NOTIS Literary Translators had a roundtable discussion on Education for Literary Translators with Tim Gregory and Jennifer O'Donnell, and co-founder of the NW Literary Translators group, Shelley Fairweather-Vega, acting as host.

     Tim Gregory is an Arabic to English ATA accredited translator who is working on transitioning into more literary translation. He’s currently completing his MA in Translation with the University of Illinois and team-teaching one class on technology at Bellevue College in their Translation and Interpreting Certificate program.

    Jennifer O'Donnell is a Japanese to English translator with an MA in Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS, and is also studying Translation and Interpreting at Bellevue College. Jennifer is a Bilingual Logistics Coordinator for an export company and runs her translation business J-EN Translations on the side.

    We asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves and share their own translation education experiences. The majority had learned translation and about the translation business the long way – either as a bilingual or a language student, and then, to quote one attendee, “making all of the mistakes we have to make and then figuring out how to make a living at it.”

    Tim’s Experience Completing the MA in Translation with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    Tim has found the program at UIUC to be what he expected and hoped after reading up on the curriculum and requirements. The MA in Translation and Interpreting is divided into three tracks: Translation for the Professions, Literary and Applied Literary Translation, or Conference and Community Interpreting. Tim is focused on the literary translation track.

    There are general courses in translation theory, ethics, practice, and technology that cover much of the basics of translation and tools used by translators, but little in the way of practical advice on things like freelance business models, setting rates, creating invoices, tracking projects, and so on, even though several of the instructors do freelance translation work.

    If a student works with French or Spanish, they will find that many of the professors in the program work in those pairs as well and can provide in-depth feedback on translation assignments. Even when the professor does not share the student’s language, however, they provide excellent feedback on the structure and readability of a translation. In some cases, Tim has found this to be a particular strength of the program.

    Once beyond the general courses, specialization and electives kick in. These classes take the students through the process of translating literature including poetry and short stories, with final projects like creating a literary magazine (for the class only, not for publication).

    The school offers translation or elective courses for the following languages: French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. If a language-specific translation course is not available, students can take one of the electives instead. Later, they will have the opportunity to work with a mentor who is a professor in their language, if appropriate, as part of their capstone project for the MA – or select a mentor from outside UIUC with approval from the capstone coordinator.

    The MA capstone project can be just about anything of substance related to the translation field, but a translation alone would not be sufficient. A paper written about a lengthy translation, creation of a specialized terminology database, development of a translation-related class, or appropriate research have all been used by students in the past.

    Jennifer's Experience with the MA in Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS

    Jennifer did not have a great experience with her MA. She joined the program because it was at a very prestigious school for languages and international culture, but she found the MA to be sorely lacking.

    The program was half theory and half practicing translation, with little to no feedback or direction. She was not taught how the theory applies to practical daily translation, and with no feedback on translations, she felt like her translation skills didn't improve at all.

    When she graduated, she struggled a lot, not just because of the lack of translation skills, but also due to the lack of business know-how. Without any guidance to the freelance business, she had to turn to the internet and other translators. Then when she moved to Bellevue, the Bellevue College T&I certificate program to make up for the education she felt she missed.

    Education in the Business Side of Translation

    Many people at the event agreed that educational programs for translators often lack business training.

    This concerns not only how to determine rates, of course (which is mostly a US-based hang-up because of the ATA/FTC antitrust issues), but also how to find and work with clients, create invoices, set up a business and so on.

    Some favorite resources that were shared which counter this lack of education include Corinne McKay’s How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and her online courses and podcast, as well as Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators podcast. Both are good resources for the business-running side of translation.

    Bellevue College Translation and Interpreting Certificate Program

    The Bellevue College curriculum introduces translation and interpreting skills at a good pace, honing on everyone's skills before allowing people to focus on their language pairs. They emphasize the importance of knowing that translation and/or interpreting needs to be a good fit for you before you put the time, effort and money investing in the skills.

    A lot of business acumen is included in the Bellevue College curriculum, and the Tech for Translators class that Tim team-teaches not only covers TM tools, but also general computer and word processing skills, including an introduction to opensource operating systems and tools and lessons about using technology to organize translation workflow.

    Despite satisfaction on that front, the students who had attended BC were disappointed that the program there does not address literary translation. Tim promised to propose adding a literary elective and possibly a writing skills elective when the BC board next meets.

    Education in Writing Skills

    We then discussed education in writing skills as part of a translator’s education.

    Tim described the Translator Journal exercise in Dr. Patricia Phillips’ Writing for Translators class and how it has evolved for him from a 5-minute daily practice of high-speed, no reference translation practice into learning to mimic different authors’ voices. He shared these exercises as something everyone could do for themselves to improve as translators and writers, in order to avoid always translating into one’s own voice.

    Everyone agreed that having peers review your work is great at helping hone your skills. That's why the NOTIS Literary Translation Feedback Forums (the next one is coming up on December 21) are a great experience for all participants.

    After input from one attendee who is going through an MFA program with “very low residency” in New Jersey (and residency locations around the US), we may even have sparked a movement to (through NOTIS, most likely) create a literary translator’s retreat somewhere in the area in the next year or two. This would include a week of time to translate, combined with workshopping, guest speakers, readings, and peace and quiet, similar to the week-long Middlebury Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference in Vermont, USA.

    Link Roundup:

    Higher Education (MA and non-MA) Programs:

    Literary Translation Resources

    Translation Business Resources:

  • 08/04/2017 13:30 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS is pleased to present a guest blog post by translator Viktor Slepovitch. Examples given are in Russian, but we hope the topic will be useful to everyone.

    Viktor Slepovitch is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Business English at Belarus State Economic University (Minsk, Belarus). He obtained his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Minsk State Linguistic University, was a Fulbright visiting scholar at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and won the Chevening award presented by St. Mary College, Twickenham, London. Viktor has also been a guest lecturer at California State University (Bakersfield). He is Principal Consultant for Washington Translation Bureau, a NOTIS corporate member.

    The role of situational subject-matter awareness in translation

    When reading a professionally translated text, we do not focus on the fact that it is a translation—instead, our attention is drawn to the subject matter of the text. What might make us aware we are dealing with a translation is a multitude of translation faux pas. The best way to avoid those is situational subject-matter awareness, and contextual awareness, which I would argue is a part of a translator’s competency and professionalism.

    Situational subject-matter is the persons, objects and phenomena found in the text, as well as the relationships between them. Translation scholar E. Breus states that the same extralinguistic situation can be perceived and described differently in different languages [1]. Clearly, without situational subject-matter awareness, a translator is not able to produce an adequate translation and fully convey the message meant by the author in the source language.

    Here are two examples in which situational subject-matter awareness is vital for understanding what the original text is about.

    ENGLISH – RUSSIAN: Why is it that smokers always head out coatless, no matter what the weather? (Head out – выходят из здания на улицу = are leaving the building rather than стремятся выйти or направляются = are trying to leave or are headed for.)

    RUSSIAN – ENGLISH: Библиотечный фонд университета составляет полтора миллиона экземпляров книг. (Библиотечный фонд is not the library fund, but the number of books held.) [2], [3].

    Without situational subject-matter awareness the wrong translation is unavoidable. In a TV program about rock musicians of the 1980s who arranged concerts for charity, it was said that the musicians called themselves representatives of the Band Aid generation. According to Wikipedia, the term originated from a charity super-group featuring mainly British and Irish musicians founded in 1984 to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song “Do they know it’s Christmas?”.

    The translation of this phrase into Russian came out as поколение групповой помощи (literally “the generation of group assistance”), which was not correct. The word Band-Aid (originally meaning a brand of an adhesive bandage) was understood as split into two words: band (a musical group) and aid (assistance). The context, however, also made it clear that the musicians considered it their mission to provide emergency aid for the needy—just like a Band-Aid is used for emergency purposes. The translator should have used a metaphorical expression, but the major challenge was to understand the situational subject-matter for the purpose of conveying the meaning in Russian.

    The context is what makes it easier to understand the situational subject-matter and produce the correct translation, taking into account what and how they say/write in this or that situation in the target (Russian) language.

    • When watching American movies, Russian-speaking viewers fluent in English are quite often able to notice incorrect translations of English phrases. For instance, in a telephone conversation, the question Are you there? should be rendered in Russian as Ты меня слышишь? (literally Can you hear me?) rather than the more word-for-word Ты там?
    • As a rule, the meaning of the word becomes clear as soon as it is placed in a sentence, which serves as a narrow context:
    • ENGLISH – RUSSIAN: The settlements between companies were made without delay. – Расчеты (not урегулирование, поселения, etc.) между компаниями были произведены без задержки.
    • RUSSIAN – ENGLISH: Нам было предложено оценить его работу. – They suggested that we evaluate (not appreciate, estimate, etc.) his work.
    • But in other cases, to understand the situational subject-matter and the meaning of the word or a phrase, a broad context is needed. It may include several sentences, a paragraph, or even the text of the whole article or video, as was the case with the Band Aid generation.
    All this means that situational subject-matter awareness—as an important translation issue—should be considered an indispensable skill in interpreting and translation, alongside skills such as discerning narrow and broad contexts, awareness of realia and culture-bound objects, competence in terms of the text’s content or field, recognizing the dangers of carbon paper (word-for-word) translation, and observing the norms of the target language.

    That said, a translator should not overdo it by trying to produce a special effect in the process of translation. The following example seems to be a good illustration of this statement.

    In May 1995, an American was interpreting during the meeting between Clinton and Yeltsin in the USA. Russias President sarcastically said, “Вот вы, журналисты, предрекали провал. На самом деле это вы провалились”. This is what the interpreter said: “You, journalists, said it would be a disaster. In fact, you are a disaster.” (Clinton is laughing.)

    Perhaps in that situation it would have been more appropriate to use the verb to fail: “You journalists predicted failure. In fact, it’s you who have failed.” The word disaster was too strong, and was surely a case of the interpreter “overdoing” the interpretation [4].


    • 1.      Бреус, Е.И. Основы теории и практики перевода с русского языка на английский [“Fundamental theory and practice of Russian to English translation”]. Moscow: URAO, 1998.
    • 2.      Слепович, В.С. Перевод (английский – русский): учебник [“Translation (English - Russian: Textbook”]. Minsk: Tetralit, 2014.
    • 3.      Слепович, В.С. Настольная книга переводчика с русского языка на английский = Russian-English Translation Handbook. Minsk: Tetralit, 2013.
    • 4.      Чужакин, А.П., Палажченко, П.Р. Мир перевода-1. Introduction to Interpreting XXI. – Moscow, 2008. Available online:

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software