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!

Aug 6 – Easy & Fun Project Management

Aug 6 – Easy & Fun Project Management for the Freelancer in the 21st Century

Click here to register for this Live Webianar via

This hands-on experience allows you to learn simple techniques that make the process of organizing your work a FUN activity instead of a tedious chore.

Are you always struggling to deliver your work on time with the highest quality? Have you avoided seeking or receiving large projects because you feel intimidated? Would you like to be more productive and have some peace of mind? Then don’t miss learning this easy and fun way of managing your projects as a freelancer.

project management

Big projects may be your wish in terms of income, but they can become overwhelming. Even small projects may be intimidating if we have too many of them and don’t know how to prioritize the work. And then there is all the other “stuff” you never have time to tackle, like improving your billing or filing systems to be more productive. Acquire easy to use tools that help you be your own nagging boss, that allow you to have a clear picture of how to run the project and how it should look once it is finished, and to estimate the time needed for completion. All this while having fun!
Follow the link attached!
This 90-minute hands-on workshop provides simple and fun ways to manage your projects. At the completion of the workshop you will have acquired a fail-safe method of organizing your workload, by setting up a repeatable process, learning to focus on the essential aspects of your job, and helping you acquire skills to set reasonable priorities as well as long-term goals.

Machine Translation 101 – Translators & Interpreters talk a lot (good and bad) about Machine Translation. Few really know what it is.


19th Century Image: “Tsunami” by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎)

BrauerTraining Newsletter # 1

June 2013

(Subscribe to our newsletter!


The world’s first pocket calculator.

The Abacus was developed around 2000 BC. It took humans some four thousand years to create electronic calculators, which appeared in the 60’s (see above). It then took just 10 years to develop and popularize a pocket-size device. Today, calculators are integrated as part of computers, PDAs and smartphones.

Machine Translation 101


Claudia Brauer

I will open our first newsletter with a quote from Carl Sagan, a scientist and author who has deeply influenced my vision of the world:

“I do not think it irresponsible to portray even the direst futures. If we are to avoid them we must understand that they are possible. Where are the alternatives? Where are the dreams that motivate and inspire? We long for realistic maps of a world we can be proud to give to our children. Where are the cartographers of human purpose? Where are the visions of hopeful futures of technology as a tool for human betterment and not a gun on hair trigger pointed at our heads?”

― Carl SaganPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

I have also decided that our first topic needs to be one of the most controversial subjects in the translation and interpreting industry today: Machine Translation. Shying away from the discussion will not resolve the issue of our survival as a viable profession in a future progressively driven into technology. I believe we have to stop seeing technology as our enemy and rather start embracing it, working with it, influencing its development, becoming co-creators of the tools we will be using in the next decades.
If we want to avoid a dire future as professional translators and interpreters, we must understand that such future death by inaction is possible and then set out to create the alternatives.
We must become the new cartographers of our future purpose in the industry. We have to make sure we remain relevant. That we are seen as useful and essential. There are segments of the industry that clearly think we are replaceable. What are we doing to show them otherwise? Staying in our comfort zones will not solve the dilemma.
We cannot continue hiding in the sand and think that just because we do not want it, it will not happen. Rather, we must face the scary challenge posed by progress and run to catch up for the decades we have been complacent while the rest of the industry became digital, mobile and instant.

A pale blue dot

(Above) Earth: A pale blue dot in the immensity of space

In 1990, at the request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft to take a photograph of Earth from a record distance of about 3,700,000,000 miles. The resulting photograph was titled the “Pale Blue Dot” because earth is shown as a tiny little dot against the immensity of space.

We, professional translators and interpreters, are but a pale blue dot in the sea of information that needs to be communicated in multiple languages worldwide. We can only control our own response to the sea of change.

It still is the survival of the fittest.

Kaijo no Fuji (Tsunami, or The Big Wave) by Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai

Language & Translation Automation Conference (LTAC) – Proceedings

Recommendation # 1:

Download these proceedings for free at and read them!

This is an eBook in pdf format that collects the 2011 discussion by “some of the most prominent experts from academia and the language industry worldwide [who] met in the Great Hall of the LUSPIO University in Rome, under the auspices of the Faculty of Interpreting and Translation and the Directorate-General… ” for the European Master’s in Translation (EMT).
This Language and Translation Automation Conference (LTAC) “was convened with the goal of gathering the most innovative ideas and initiatives on language automation, translation technology and terminology, with an emphasis on controlled languages and controlled authoring in academia and in the language industry.”
I have not finished reading the document yet, but still I recommend you all start reading it too. It is a very good window into the present of the translation industry. It collects some important thoughts and visions for what I call our potential future (if we survive as a professional species). It also explains in layman’s terms some of the obscure aspects of Machine Translation.
Ignorantia legis neminem excusat (ignorance of the law excuses no one). Ignorance of MT is no excuse for you (to ignore the developments happening in the Language Services world).
Step # 1 in your learning curve, therefore, is to learn about the tools you will need to remain relevant in the professional world of tomorrow!

(The picture selected by the authors for the cover, “…describes the modern conflict between the forces of nature and the fragility of man. For us it meant the desire to ride exceptional forces, to win the awe they bring, and draw energy and strength.”
Valeria Cannavina & Anna Fellet)

So…. is Google Translate

“THAT” bad?

“Of course!” cry the Translators and Interpreters.

“Actually it is pretty good,” says my american friend working in China, who uses it to get “the gist” of many documents of possible interest to her, written either in Mandarin or any of a couple of dozen dialects. “I use it at least 10 times a day….and it really helps me out to understand what the general content is about.”

“I use it all the time,” says my relative, a top executive at an international logistics company in the port of Miami, one of the busiest in the USA. “We all use Google Translate all day, to know if we are dealing with invoices or purchase orders, to see if it is a request for us to make a shipment or to receive a shipment… I just need to know more-or-less what the words say… I do not need full-text, perfect translations… I understand many terms are wrong, but I really do not care… I do not have the time or the money to pay for a translator… when I really need something important translated, then I send it out, and accept the wait and pay the price. But that is not very often.”

Welcome to the 21st Century. The “gist” and “understand more-or-less what it says” are the rule for the masses. We are increasing quality control in industries such as healthcare and legal. We are having the fight of our lives to at least hold these two industries to a high standard. We are dealing here with lives of people “on the spot”. Quality is of the essence here.

But for most people in the masses, a “kind-of” translation is good enough.

So, another suggestion, if you want to get the “gist” of what Machine Translation is, head on to the vilified Wikipedia (I actually use when I need to get the “gist” of a topic… sounds familiar?) – Why not dedicate a little time to educate yourself?

(Above) Josh Estelle a Google Translate engineering leader

A recent article published in CNET News by Stepehen Shankland ( conveys the reality of Google Translate (vs. what some translators would like it to be):

“Google Translate provides a billion translations a day for 200 million users…”

One thousand million translations a day!

That surely is mainstream.

Two hundred million users!

That surely is mainstream.

“The amount of text Google translates daily is more than what’s in a million books, and surpasses what professional translators handle in a full year,” stated Josh Estelle, a Google Translate engineering leader.

He also noted that 92% of usage is outside the United States (that may explain why translators and interpreters in the USA have such a limited view of how extensive its use is in other parts of the world).

The internet is “expanding gradually to other languages, helped in part by technological change … [since] 2008, Google launched the ability to translate any language to any other language,” stated Estelle.

Google Translate is currently working on better quality for Machine Translation as well as ubiquity: “No matter where you are, you should have access to a translation.”

They are also working on real-time multi language communication:

“We want you to be able to translate things instantly,” from and into any language, said Shankland.

So, translators and interpreters….how are WE adapting to this change in the marketplace?

What do we offer today that is a value-added to what people get with Google translate?

How are we marketing such value-added?

How are we differentiating ourselves from Machine Translation and the likes of it?

In a market where everyone (including you, dear reader) likes to save a buck or two,

think about how you are going to face the ever-expanding competition of the likes of Google Translate (yes, there are many), in the next five years.

I believe that just as a potential Fourth Wave of democratization is brewing worldwide, so too there is a Huge Wave of changes related to the democratization of translation and interpreting.

Those in the profession who fail to see this wave may very well perish under its weigh.
Others will learn to ride it.
Others will harness its power.

Claudia Brauer

How are other professionals confronting the Age of Automation? (Open Forum)


“How are other professionals confronting the Age of Automation?”

June 25 @ 11 am EST (USA): Open Forum #2 In Pursuit of One Voice

Participation is free by invitation to the GoTo meeting platform.

If you are interested,

send us an email at

or register for our Free Newsletter at

The Proposed topic for our BrauerTrainig Forum # 2 is one set by Diana Rhudick in a Linkedin discussion thread of ATA.

She states:

“Someone else posted an article by Jaron Lanier about our economic future in light of many professions being taken over by computers (journalism, music, translation). Apart from Lanier’s suggested solution, I’m wondering whether journalists, musicians, publishers, etc. have any lessons to teach us about how to meet the future. Does anyone know people in these areas? Have you read articles about workers retooling their skills, or educating clients about man vs. machine? I know the argument that we should specialize in specific areas and work with direct clients, but I’m thinking about the shorter term and more feasible suggestions.”

Join us in this Forum # 2 in Pursuit of One Voice and let us hear your opinion, input, comments, links!


Participation is free by invitation to the GoTo meeting platform.

If you are interested,

send us an email at

or register for our Free Newsletter at ==================================================================

Additional references:

Neo-Luddites or Technocrats


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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.


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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.


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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: