Remote Interpreting: The Elephant in the Room (by Barry Olsen)

Remote Interpreting: Feeling Our Way into the Future Published by The ATA Chronicle New communications technologies make interpreting available where it wasn’t in the past. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the way we will work remotely, because what’s going on is game changing and shaking our profession from top to bottom. In April […]

via Remote Interpreting: The Elephant in the Room — A Word In Your Ear


What a Difference Three Decades Make!

Preamble for translators and interpreters: Maybe (just maybe) machines will not replace “all” human translators and interpreters, but all of us will be replaced by some language experts using the latest technologies. It is therefore paramount to play catchup and get on-board with actions to become technologically savvy without delay!

I recently read an 11/29/17 Washington Post Article by Marwa Eltagouiri about an 84-year-old physician who lost her license to practice medicine because she refuses to use a computer, thus failing to comply with New Hampshire State Law on medical record-keeping protocols. In reality, the case centers more around the opioid epidemic and this physician’s inability to meet the State’s electronic drug monitoring program regulations. Whatever the situation, the entire case goes to underline the “electronic” (vs. paper) component that is clearly at the heart of the issue. Regardless of what the physician believes, it is now the law to keep electronic records. That is how fast the world has moved forward in ascertaining the cyberspace as the “factual” space, as well as modern technologies as the underpinning supports for some interactions.

Although some discussions are still going on as to whether doctors have it “better” or “worse” today as a result of this technological revolution, such disagreements are do not change the fact that things “are” what they are.

Just 30 years ago –which, in historical terms, is a short period– the National Institutes of Health via NCBI still wondered if doctors had a positive or negative attitude towards computers! From those “opinion pieces,” we now see ourselves working in a world completely different from the one for which most “older” physicians were preparing 30 or 40 years ago. Everyone in the healthcare and medical fields has had to “suffer” through a very steep technology-learning curve, especially in the last two decades. In 1999 I was working at a large insurance company that employed many nurses and doctors, and I remember all of them saying they would never -ever!- use computers.

Life is not a straight line. At the end of the last century (Wow! that sounds like a long time ago!), we were implementing (*) Y2K conformity requirements, (*) the newly instituted HIPAA provisions (or equivalent efforts in other parts of the world), and (*) the novel C.L.A.S. mandate (and other cultural competency efforts around the globe). In the last 15-20 years, these monumental programs were incorporated into our routine and are now a “mainstream” aspect of our daily life.

My point, then, is that our “way of life” –our daily activities as we perceive them today– is a concept that must be re-evaluated constantly as internal and external forces change and shape it into something different than what we were “used to” just a few years ago. The rate of innovation brought about by the accelerated developments in available technologies is speeding up such rate of change. I look at my grandkids, and all of them were born after Y2K. Even for my adult children, the Cold War is a remote history lesson. Yesterday, TCM showed a movie from my youth and talked about the cinematographic importance of this “classic.” Statistically speaking, a hundred years ago I would have been dead already for a couple decades, as life expectancy for women did not even reach 40 years old!

We must at all times be aware of our surroundings, which includes perceiving, understanding, and adapting to the technological changes (extraordinary and progressive) going on around us!

BrauerTraining Open Forum #1 In Pursuit of One Voice


Text of the PowerPoint presentation posted in YouTube and SlideShare on June 1st to summarize the talking points discussed during the BrauerTraining Forum # 1 held on May 25, 2013.

On May 25, 2013 BrauerTraining hosted its first open monthly virtual forum for translators & interpreters to talk about the future of the profession in the 21st Century.

  • The purpose of these informal forums is the exchange of opinions, in the hopes of eventually having “action-able” ideas to participate in the design our own future.
  • Background to the forum:
    Claudia Brauer believes the profession of translation and interpreting could become extinct in the next decades if translators and interpreters don’t wake up to the reality of the world today.
    BrauerTraining premises

Productivity is replacing Quality
(#s above content)

Utility is replacing Eloquence
(usefulness above expression)

  • There is a “food chain” with an ecosystem in itself, this means there are people at the bottom of the food chain and others at the top
  • Translators and interpreters are almost at the bottom
  • Current translation process sample: Slideshare screenshot excerpt chart from

#1 Process Content via APIs – Automatic

#2 Leverage Previous Translation Work, aka Translation Memory – Automatic

#3 Implement Customizable, Structured Workflows – Automatic

#4 Translate with Context Using Best Practices – Human

#5 Automatically Deploy Multilingual Content – Automatic


  • What makes us – translators and interpreters – relevant in the 21st Century (i.e. what makes us unique)?
  • What new skills do we need in order to adapt to the new roles of translators and interpreters?
  • How do we create a power broker for the profession to speak with one voice?
  • In-house translators vs. freelancers – different needs, different perspectives
  • How can we help? (ask in-house T&I)
  • T&I really want to know what is going on in the industry, understand it
  • Clients do not understand what translation entails – impossible to price it right
  • Also, the market has changed dramatically in the last decade
  • We are loosing clients to other markets
  • Quality is not the target for many users – they just want the gist
  • Google translate and Bing translate used by people AND companies – if they can get the gist, even not congruent, it is OK for them
  • Clients think first of all of bottom line, they will go for the lower cost
  • Price competition drives the market
  • Clients want agility, fast response, immediate product delivery, low cost
  • Younger generations want Tweeter, Facebook, social media translated fast – they accept things as they come, no grammar, no spelling – “sort of” a translation suits the needs of the new user
  • The role of interpreting is also changing because of text-to-voice-to-text. The user does not mind that it is “kind-of” incorrect as long as they “kind-of” understand the content
  • Users speak to their phone, the phone converts to text, the text is google-translated, the phone returns the sentences spoken in another language.
  • The user is OK with the “gist”


  • Only way to market yourself to compete with CAT and MT is becoming a specialist
  • T&I now have to understand and pursue filling “specific” needs of the clients
  • Market your experience and capability to adjust the final version – Localization is the new  role of the translator
  • Market your “being human” and being able to differentiate content, culture, audience, nuances Our uniqueness is in being human, that is what makes us special.
  • How can we market that capability  to a “bottom-line” (price-based) client base?
  • Many clients like to “know” humans are the translators, but do not want to pay the price
  • How do we reach a market that does not know what to expect from us
  • How do we compete with the “bottom line”
  • How do we keep our part of the market share when immediacy is vital in today’s business world
  • The client wants to have results now and here, within the hour, or “same day” service
  • Will CAT replace humans?
    • Not in the immediate future
    • Yes for basic translation within the next decade
    • Probably for basic interpreting too (voice-to-text-to-voice)
    • We have an attitude of denial
    • Many people have been saying “that will not happen”…
    • It has already happened
    • We must stop the denial to move forward as a profession (as a group)
    • CAT was expected to grow pursuant to storage capabilities – now computers can store more in smaller spaces
    • CAT and MTs have gone mobile
    • MTs have been uploaded with good CAT info that was once translated by Humans, so many are starting to have good levels of quality
    • Today humans can TRAIN machines, that is why CAT and MT are becoming more sophisticated, exponentially
    • There is no stopping technology
    • Machines are replacing humans in many parts of the world
    • This is a worldwide trend even with professions established for centuries.
    • Why can’t we make translation and interpreting a reputable profession again?
    • How do we become important for the LSP an the end client?
    • For example, nurses do not perform surgeries:
      Why are bilinguals performing translation and interpreting?
      How do we adapt to the changes in our competition?


  • Our client is no longer found on a person-to-person relationship but rather on a person-to email or freelance-to-corporation for assignments anywhere in the world
  • Many colleagues worldwide are highly trained translators and interpreters who live in countries where GDP is much lower and therefore their rates are sustainably lower than ours
  • Other untrained and un-experienced newcomers to the field are competing with low quality but high rate of market penetration
  • They are using the “business” aspect of the profession
  • All in all, our largest competitors are not our peers but the software and technology industries that have entered the T&I industry with technology and huge negotiating (leverage) power
  • Looking for a relationship human-to-human is now time consuming and client/LSP do not want to be “dragged” into it – they prefer their own anonymity to be able to have you or discard you at will
  • The sharing of information is at every level of the human experience today. Skype, Facebook, create video, etc., gadgets
  • Crowdsourcing is going viral
  • “In your language of preference”
  • What do we need, then?
    • Train the end user about what T&I entails
    • How do we do that?


  • What do we need, then?
    • Train ourselves to respond to the new millennium
    • Training is vital to our survival, but, what do we need to learn
    • Translators and interpreters need  to train in code of ethics and standards of practice to have a unified minimum quality and requirements
    • Newcomers need to be forced to acquire training – how?
    • Translators an interpreters need to learn about the technology of our day, about communication tools (the new mobile devices), networking (social media), cloud computing and virtual world “stuff”
    • We have to become proficient using the tools of our trade today (which include devices everyone uses!)
    • For example, smartphones are now networking devices, not just “communication” tools
    • T&I also need to learn who to trust in the cyber world: how to contract, how to ensure payment, how to protect identity
    • T&I need to understand underlying factors of jurisdiction in the virtual world – What is the jurisdiction of the cloud? It affects legal and privacy issues
    • Confidentiality is key – books that have not been published for example cannot be translated with on the cloud tools
    • Privacy issues in most realms of translation and interpreting
    • Legal possession of data is a great concern – Public vs. nonpublic issues must be fully understood
  • But # 1: We need representation in the big scenario of the decision makers
    Some T&I associations do not prioritize needs of translators and interpreters (they are also catering to the LSP)
  • End of discussion in Forum #1 at the top of the hour.
    Notes taken on power point will be made public via YouTube and Slideshare
    Attending Forum # 1 – May 25, 2013: EGS, FN, PC, AB, CB – Excused DR, LD, SA
  • Monthly meetings: On the 25th at 11 a.m. EST USA (check your local time)
  • Want to participate?
  • Register for our newsletter at and you will be automatically invited, or send us an email to
  • Forum # 2 June 25, 2013  at 11 a.m. EST USA (check your local time) – See you there…


Neo-Luddites or Technocrats


[Image 1]

I believe that translators and interpreters must quickly adapt to the changing world of the 21st Century or we may become one of the extinct professions in a couple of decades. I believe that translators and interpreters must start to bridge the gaps that have been created between the way we used to do our work just a decade ago, and the way in which the work will be done in the coming decades. I believe that utility is replacing eloquence in the language service industry and that productivity is replacing quality. I believe that in the world of tomorrow – and in many places today – usefulness is replacing expression.


[Image 2]

I believe that the associations, the universities, the cohorts of translators and interpreters are not doing enough to educate current and future translators and interpreters about the tectonic shifts that the industry is undergoing and how the future looks, the skills that will be required, and the needed collaboration we have to start seeking with the giants in the software and hardware industry, who are changing the rules and creating the future. And we need to learn to partner with other stakeholders by creating power structures that are significant and have a unified purpose.

I believe in the power of technology for progress (and acknowledge that when misused it can bring about evil, but then, that is not the problem of technology, but of the users and abusers of it). Oh, by the way, I think that the future is already here.  

Neo-Luddites would like to silence the messenger I am concerned that some associations of translators and interpreters, as well as some organizations that should otherwise be exerting their influence, and many in the profession at large, are simply adopting a 21st Century Neo-Luddite position that in my opinion only exacerbates the problem.


[Image 3]

The 19th century luddites were “weavers in England who were being put out of work by the introduction of machinery and responded by organizing to attack and smash the new machines.”[1]

The 21st century Neo-Luddites are “citizens who are opposed to technology not out fear, but rather out of a feeling of superiority over it. They argue against how it is being used and discourage its proliferation.”[2]  Some neo-luddites carry out their fight against technology using the same technological tools they are opposing (internet, computers, social media, to name but a few).

It is my opinion that the associations and other power groups that represent translators and interpreters must start adopting positions that acknowledge the entry of the large software and technology companies in the world of translation and interpreting, as well as the powerful stronghold of other stakeholders in the industry.

How are we, the original translators and interpreters, going to participate in the revolution occurring in the language services industry?

What makes us unique in the new world of instant, mobile, digital world of communication?

How do we remain relevant in a society of millennials and GenX’s who are digitally connected 24/7 and want to communicate in their language of preference, now and here (wherever they are, whenever they desire).

My question then is, in an industry that is growing 22% per year, where the opportunities to render state-of-the-art services to thousands of millions of users are real, why are translators and interpreters ignoring the shifts occurring in their marketplace?

What are the power forces in the industry (associations and power groups) doing so that translators and interpreters may participate as instrumental collaborators in our own future, instead of being relegated to an afterthought in a lengthy process?

Why are translators and interpreters being ignored as a group in the larger context of technology-driven operations and business/marketing strategies?  What is the larger strategy of the power groups representing translators and interpreters?


[Image 4]

I am the messenger.  The message that I bring is a mixed one of optimism but harsh warnings for immediate actions.

So the Neo-Luddites “swiftly usher [the messenger] to the back entrance of the auditorium where he or she will be shoved down a flight of stairs or stuffed into a conveniently located dumpster”.

This rift between the pro-technology translators and interpreters and the Neo-Luddites only encourages the software and hardware industry giants to continue unnoticed eating your pie.

In the meantime, I am still the messenger for those who are tuned up to the reality of the day and want to listen.  I do not want to make converts out of the non-believers.  I want to raise awareness among those who want to listen.

Beware, translators and interpreters.  You need to acquire totally new skills sets.  You need to JOIN the digital revolution (not fight it).  You need to understand mobile technologies (not discard them).  You need to use the tools of the trade in the 21st Century (and learn what they are and what they can do for you).  And you need to ask your power brokers to represent you at the table of decisions, so that your profession does not become extinct (instead of burying the head in the sand).

So, let me summarize it in another way:

There is a big rift in the translation/interpreting industry about the use (or not) of technology, including CAT tools, machine translation, remote video interpreting, phone interpreting and other technologies. One camp, me included, believes that we have to grow with the times, that we have to use all the technologies available, that we MUST keep up with the times.

Moreover, I believe we should have a stronger say in creating that future. The large software industry, including Google and Microsoft, are now investing millions of dollars in developing technologies to make them widely available to the masses.  The camp I subscribe to states translators and interpreters must adapt quickly to the changing times and re-define what we do, how we do it and where we do it. We have to redefine who we are in the new millennium in order to remain relevant. I want to be a part of the new professional experience.


[Image 5]

The other camp believes that many a thing having to do with technology is “below” a translator and interpreter’s intellect and that translators and interpreters should “fight” the software giants that are revolutionizing the industry and that the professionals should take a stand against the use of technology.  Their argument is that if translators and interpreters “bow” to technology we will just become gadgets. They have expressed that such participation in the technological and digital revolution will only degrade the profession.

I believe that unless we URGENTLY and IMMEDIATELY become part of the conversation, the profession will disappear, as many other professions in the past when they did not keep up with the times.  I believe translators and interpreters MUST become part of the equation by learning, adapting and using new technologies (although I do not provide direct training in such technologies, I do recommend you get trained in them).

The rift is huge and it is intense and some people are becoming extremely aggressive and want to silence the messenger. As the messenger, my task continues to be clear to me.  I would like to tell the Emperor that he is running naked in his new invisible clothes.

I believe that translators and interpreters as a group need to demand that they be INVITED to PARTICIPATE in the discussions that large software and technology corporations are having, and which, in my opinion, are leading the industry into the 21st Century.

I believe we should start speaking with ONE VOICE. Right now, we are not even part of the discussion.  We have been left behind. Already. We must run to catch up.

May 25 Go-To Free Meeting Online – In Pursuit of One Voice

On May 25th at noon Eastern Standard Time (U.S.), BRAUERTRAINING will host an Open Forum called IN PURSUIT OF ONE VOICE, via Go-To meeting.


[Image 6]

The purpose of this first meeting is to hear all suggestions and comments from any translator, association or group, regardless of their affiliation, about how we, the community of translators and interpreters, by some counts 300,000 or more around the world, should move forward.

What makes us unique in the 21st Century?

How should we participate in the creation of our own future?

This is the opportunity for voices contrary to mine to express themselves clearly with action-able ideas for the future. Every opinion, from every camp, will be heard and taken into account. Minutes of all opinions will be compiled into a single document that will be distributed to all participants and through social media and networking venues. This will be the first of a series of monthly open forums IN PURSUIT OF ONE VOICE, hosted by BrauerTraining. Our only purpose initially is to open the conversation to create awareness and elicit participation.


[Image 7]

Involvement is free by invitation.  Send me an email to with your email address OR go to my website and register for my newsletter (you will automatically be added to the invitation list). Welcome to the future.


NETA Conference on May 4th – Endnote speaker: From Quality to Productivity

On may 4th I will be the endnote speaker at NETA‘s annual conference in Boston. It is an honor for me to join the courageous Bostonians that are rebuilding their lives. I truly admire their strength and resilience.


My presentation will address

21st Century Standards: from Quality to Productivity
Why “Utility” is now more valuable than “Eloquence”
The Abstract is as follows:

Translators and interpreters must prepare

for a new trend that is changing the industry. In a growing Global market, where billions of end users consume information in their language of preference, the need for translation and interpreting services is growing at exponential rates. But with that growth also comes a change in attitude by the buyer and user of translation and interpreting products: “utility” is progressively being valued over “eloquence”. Huge software companies are seriously entering the industry to provide multilingual solutions, where “quality” will just be a “value added” sought by a few large companies that can “pay the price.”

Translators and interpreters need to be aware of the changes occurring in the industry if we want to remain relevant. In the coming years, the key words instant, digital and mobile will be vital to our survival as providers of the “missing link” (language access) in the new virtual world of global consumption of products and services. Any changes we want (or want to avoid) are up to us to fight for them. We, the original translators and interpreters, must become consciously active in designing the strategies for our own future.  What is the profession going to look like in 20 years?  We have to start answering that question from a perspective of the current reality and set out to project our future in the world.

We basically need two things:
– Start updating our skills set to meet the demands of the new customers. This means, understanding today’s technologies and today’s consumers of virtual, instant, mobile, digital products. We need, therefore, to become skillful at easily interacting with machines in order to compete in this new world.
– Start presenting a unified front. There are so many translation and interpreting associations, organizations, alliances, societies, fellowships etc., in different countries, promoting different perspectives, each with its own particular concerns.  We need a world-wide unified agenda.  We need to become one voice.

Read more about this event at the following links:

Terminology Training Sessions

1 terminology Pr_107_-_TRI_-_29_12_10_-_041For translators and interpreters, words are literally the tools of our trade.  It is with words, through words, in words, by words that we communicate.  Thus, we must always be looking to expand our vocabulary. In this context, In April 2013 I will again join forces with to train translators and interpreters in the basic vocabulary of healthcare, finance, business and legal settings.  I will also have a very special session called “chasing terms online”, where I explain the many tricks I have learned over the years finding the appropriate translation of terms in the Internet, and a final session on how to build your own glossaries.  Each one of these sessions is 90 minutes long and will be available live at noon every Tuesday in April and after that by recorded video that you may see in your own schedule.

202_1The first session provides the basic information and terminology used in the healthcare industry. Topics include information on the medical and healthcare professionals, anatomy and physiology, the main body systems and organs, diseases and illness, common medical conditions, symptoms, treatment options, and diagnostic tests, amongst others.

14_12In the second session, you will get acquainted with the terms most commonly used in the (U.S.) courts, as well as the penal and law enforcement systems, immigration, and the major legal business systems and law specialties, with more than 500 commonly used terms.

ballmoney4The third session will provide the basic information and resources to study the terminology used in business settings and the financial industry. Topics include business concepts, organizational structures, human resources, contracts, marketing and sales, accounting, financial statements, multinational business, and global acronyms, amongst many others.

In the fourth session, you will learn to use the many free online glossaries and translation databases available for translators and interpreters; harness the power of the internet and make your search easier, faster, more productive and consistent, with some of the basic tricks of term research online in the 21st Century: Where to find the meaning of terms, how to combine words and phrases to retrieve information that is valuable to your search; where and how to search the internet; how to bookmark and create your lists of favorite FREE sites for easy search in the future. synchronization_and_sharing_streaming_imagesTopics include Web search operations, online glossaries, databases and other freebies, reliable resources, how to find the strongest source and bookmarking for future use.

Finally, the bundle wraps-up with a session on how to create your personal glossaries, making it easier for you to work on translations or prepare for your interpreting assignments, while ensuring consistency and accuracy for the future. You will learn a basic methodology to search for terms, working with your own template, creating and gradually accumulating your personal glossary by client or domain; learn what, when, and how to enter and retrieve information, change and update it. You may later use it online or print it for your own translations and interpretation, or you may wish to share it with your clients.handpzz4

PREPARATION materials will be shared BEFORE each session, and HANDS-ON exercises to be completed AFTER each session. Each student is expected to be fully engaged with ACTIVE listening, individual thinking and processing of information, as well as hands-on note-taking and interactive activities. Every one of these is a fast-pace session with an upbeat and lively mood, requiring full engagement on the part of the participant.

Join me for this exciting bundle of knowledge!

Continue reading Terminology Training Sessions

Training and language in the 21st Century

Sorting out “MOOCs”.

As part of my participation in the Coursera #EDCMOC (Digital Cultures), I came upon this article of “Sorting out MOOCs – Doing by learning (and vice versa).” Although this article is a discussion of which term to use to describe some of the new knowledge acquisition tools that have appeared in the 21st Century, what really interests me is all the new terms and new content and new concepts that exist now in the Global Village of learners, such as

– Obviously MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses)

– Learning events

– Courses with a connectivist take on learning

– Instructor-led free virtual courses

– Courses with distributed contents

– Courses with network tasks and content

– Courses organized with leaner-centered approaches

– Online unconferences 

– Game-ified language learning programs

– Virtual “Task based (developing a skill by doing [in the virtual world]…)|

– “Exploring new business models for higher education”

– Big course platforms as Coursera, Udacity, edX

– “Network based (the connectivist approach with a big role for community and content created by the learners…)”

– “Learning event with a start date for interactions between a group of people who follow the same course”

– Learning event where the “learners start a sequence of learning packages anytime (Like Duolingoor”

and the most interesting of them all, which ties directly into the EDCMOOC I am attending:

– “It is not the course platform that determines the type of MOOC , it is the “design” or set-up of the MOOC and the organisation of its contents and interactions.”

Quoting the blog, this is exactly what I have found myself doing and experiencing in this new way of learning:

“But with EDCMOOC, the E-Learning and Digital Cultures course run by the University of Edinburgh on Coursera, you get a hybrid kind of MOOC with a big learning community that has organized itself outside of the course platform, months before the MOOC-part of the course had even started. Students are free to use the course platform for discussions, or to use their own choice of social platform. The only assignment is a peer reviewed final digital artefact. The content of the MOOC is also encouraging dialogue and reflecting on the affordances of online education, in the best of the connectivist tradition.”

Now, in terms of the concepts, the writer states that “the kinds of online learning events or sites that are being called a “MOOC” are so different, that we really need a new set of labels.”  That is true also in the larger context of learning.  I have been overwhelmed by the amount of new information, resources and venues to explore.  It is unfortunate for me that I was expecting much less from the course than I am actually getting and thus did not schedule sufficient time to really take full advantage of the “practice practice practice” concept that is implicitly encouraged throughout the course (and so dear to my own concepts of “good” training methodologies).

This course has opened so many doors for me that I am at a cross road as to how to manage my own courses.  I do not have the time right now to apply all this new knowledge about the technological tools at our disposal for interactive virtual training, but will certainly make sure that I apply all this learning in the near future.

What I do recommend everyone in the language service industry and the training industry (those I am directly involved in) is to take a really close look at what is happening with learning today.  I am participating in two Coursera courses, one with 40,000 students and another one with 60,000 students, from ALL over the world, literally.  Right now these courses are tought in English, I am assuming for logistics reasons.  My guess is that they will very soon be offered in a multitude of languages via “instant” interpreting or “web translation”.

Think of the possibilities.