This year MiTiN’s Annual Regional Conference on Interpreting and Translation took place October 1st at The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel Detroit-Novi, Novi, MI. The conference was attended by about 100 interpreters/translators and seven vendors, Michigan Medicine Interpreter Services among them. Interpreter Services were represented by Angelica Snyder (panelist), Maha Al-Jumaily and David Porta (vendors), and Sun Joo Chung, Patricia Esteva, Daniela Morales, and Gloria Reinhold (attendees).
Conference participants were warmly welcomed by Ms. Laura Marie Casey, a city of Novi council member, followed by some introductory remarks by Mr. Xico Gomez, the 2018 Conference Chair. This year’s keynote address “The Interpreter’s Voice” was delivered by Ms. Athena Matilsky, a Federally Certified Court Interpreter and Certified Healthcare Interpreter, owner of Athena Sky Interpreting. Delving profusely upon an article by Marie Lebert (https://archive.org/) she recapitulated the history of about how translation and interpretation came into being and discussed their impact upon the world at large. I came out of her talk with two statements to remember: (1) As of today, machine translation is not going to replace interpreters or translators since WORDS MEAN NOTHING, AS CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING, which can be illustrated with an example such as: When she saw the state of our joint account she kicked me out of her joint. I went down to the riverside joint to get a beer and smoke a joint, but I ended in the joint with a painful knee joint. (Type this text into a machine translation, request a version in your interpreting/translating language, and see what you get.); (2) We have to be very watchful of our professional ego as it has been demonstrated that after 20 minutes of simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter’s self-esteem increases while accuracy diminishes. Thus, it may easily affect the interpreter’s performance.
The keynote presentation was followed by several morning talks organized into three different tracks devoted to translation, interpreting, and business. The interpretation track consisted of:
“Lessons to be Learned from Sign Language Interpreters”. The speaker, Ms. Dawn Flanagan, shared her ample experience both as sign language interpreter as an agency owner, making clear that lessons learned from sign language interpreters are as well for spoken languages interpreters. Most challenges we may encounter while interpreting are independent of the working language. She stressed the importance of team consistency as we learn from Duke University that 40% of people’s actions are not decisions but habits. Hence, coaching interpreters to follow identical work patterns help both patient and providers in anticipating what to expect from the interpreter at any given time. Keeping in mind that patients are consumers of interpreter services we share the responsibility not to confuse patients by intervening without interpreting. Patients need to know that the interpreter is ALWAYS the voice of the last person who spoke or signed. The interpreter has also to be aware of behavioral different responses of adults compared to those of children and become familiar with any disabilities the patient may have. The ideal interpreter is personable but does not get personal. To that end, the interpreter should leave the premises when the consumer does to avoid giving the wrong impression of inappropriate behavioral practices.
“Trust Your Memory: Consecutive Interpretation”. The speaker, Ms. Athena Matilsky, analyzed impediments and suggested practical strategies for improving consecutive interpreting skills. She stressed the importance of careful and attentive listening. Good memory by itself will neither conquer consecutive interpretation nor achieve a proper and accurate performance if we get the speaker’s message distorted. We have to prioritize listening over note taking. VISUALIZATION!!! may be the key. Make visualization vivid and personal as helps to remember better. And in case of doubt, always ask the speaker for repetition before any guessing. She defined training provided by reflective practice as one of the best strategies towards overall performance improvement: (1) Listening, (2) Interpreting (uttering message in the target language), and (3) Analyzing (analyze interpreting performance). DO NOT MIX TASKS!!! The process is as follows: record the interpretation practice and criticize it constructively (trying to get feedback from colleagues), listen twice for delivery and check transcripts, and develop skills to analyze performance in order to improve (correct any mistakes and look for specific things to mark as could be improved versus done well). It is important to define patterns of interpretation to tackle them independently.
The afternoon was reserved for an interactive roundtable discussion with a panel of experts (Ms. Dawn Flanagan, Ms. Donna Boss, Ms. Angelica Snyder, and Mr. Rafael Villarruel). It was moderated by Mr. Xico Gomez, who presented several real situations where interpreters faced challenging ethical dilemmas in the manner of Christa Moran’s monthly ‘Ethics for Lunch’. Those situations were vividly commented and discussed among the audience, who illustrated them with personal recollections. Punctual interventions from the panelists, clarified concepts and suggested strategies for reaching satisfactory outcomes without compromising the interpreter’s performance.