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 […]
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.” 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?
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.
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.
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.
Involvement is free by invitation. Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address OR go to my website www.brauertraining.com and register for my newsletter (you will automatically be added to the invitation list). Welcome to the future.
On December 21, 2012, at 9am EST, I will be presenting a session to the members of the Certified PRO Network in ProZ.com, on yet another topic for professional translators and interpreters working in the Global Village of the 21st Century: professionalism, from the standpoint of codes of ethics and standards of practice. This time I will place the stress on behavior, rather than technical knowledge or abilities. We, translators and interpreters, must exhibit professionalism not only in terms of our technical knowledge or artistry but also, very important, in terms of the way we behave. This behavior is founded on two pillars – Codes of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
But what is Ethics? Paraphrasing a recent study by the California Endowment, Ethic deals with the rules of conduct or expectations for what is considered appropriate or the right behavior with respect to oneself, others, and one’s environment. We try to find what the shared accepted principles of right and wrong are that govern the social group around us and which have become formalized. Ethical behavior therefore is a behavior that corresponds to the accepted and idealized principles expressing what is considered right and wrong, what we find acceptable or unacceptable.
The translation and interpreting industry has many Codes of Ethics and many Standards of Practice. There is no national or international consensus on what these codes of ethics or standards of practice should promote. Moreover, there are even differences in the definition of the terms among different users in different countries. There is an extensive overlap in content between diﬀerent types of documents. They may be described as existing along a continuum from ethics to practice.
Lets talk about some core concepts that are common in virtually all codes of ethics and standards of
practice anywhere in the world:
Conﬁdentiality—Accuracy and completeness—Impartiality Integrity—Best behavior
These are the topics we will be discussing in our Proz PRO session. In accordance with the MERRIAM WEBSTER dictionary, Professionalism is the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.
Let me highlight the fact that Codes of Ethics and Standards of Practice promote your best behavior as a translator or interpreter. This best behavior includes preparing for your assignments and respecting the laws or requirements under which you carry out the assignment. If you have contact with the client or the client’s customers, you must be polite, courteous, and discreet as well as patient and even-‐tempered. I cannot stress this enough, especially if you are an interpreter and you will ﬁnd very rude customers or LEPs or they may be in situations where they are rude to you. Just keep your calm and make sure they understand you are the interpreter and deserve respect, but without loosing your cool. The same goes for translators who have to deal with project managers and other individuals in language service providers.
In terms of best behavior, you should always try to stay in your roles but be ﬂexible. Practice cultural competence at work. This is so important, because almost everything we do as translators and interpreters has deep roots in our ability to understand the cultural underpinnings of human communication and to understand and bridge the cultural diﬀerences that arise when individuals from diﬀerent backgrounds try to form relationships or conduct business. It is up to us to ensure that we bridge that gap and become a conduit not only of ideas and concepts, but also of experiences, feelings and motivations.
Foster trust and mutual respect. Remember that many times the client’s business or even his or her life is in your hands. In your ability to appropriately convey the message needed. That trust and respect is quintessential to the role of the translator and interpreters. Just as with your doctor, if you do not trust your doctor, will you allow him or her to treat you?
ACCURACY & COMPLETENESS
Lets now talk about accuracy and completeness, or what we might call the competence level that any translator and interpreter should have. But what is accuracy? Basically it is deﬁned as rendering your message in the target language with
- No additions and
- No omissions
- Favoring meaning over literalness
- And maintaining for each message its source Register + Style + Purpose + Spirit + Intention
It means that:
- You are expected to have a mastery of the target language equivalent to that of an educated native speaker,
- You are expected to have up-‐to-‐date knowledge of the subject material and its
- terminology in both languages
- You are expected to have access to information resources and reference materials,
- and knowledge of the tools of the profession,
- You must be able to carry out translating or interpreting tasks thoroughly and
- and you should only accept jobs for which you are able to guarantee a proper standard of quality to their clients.
Codes of ethics also often talk about maintaining impartiality and keeping neutrality. Now then, Impartiality means treating all people and groups equally. So, regardless of what your personal beliefs are in regards to certain groups of people, as a translator or interpreter you should maintain impartiality when dealing with groups you would normally not engage in your daily activities. And that also entail avoiding discrimination and stereotyping. And if you are not able to do so because, for example, your personal religious beliefs, then you should withdraw from the assignment if you believe you might be biased in any way.
Impartiality also means the ability to exert no inﬂuence on parties and give no advice or insert no opinion. Interpreters sometimes step out of their role and become advocates, for example. But interpreter should NOT be advocates unless they are speciﬁcally requested to act as such or if not acting as an advocate would negatively impact the outcome of the encounter. In any other circumstance, the interpreter should hold their opinions to themselves and exert no inﬂuence on the parties.
The same applies to translators, where this inﬂuence may be more diﬃcult to trade but veiled by the use of certain terms or the way in which the structure of the idea is presented, to stress this or that concept. Or by adding translators notes that reﬂect the translator’s opinions and not just clariﬁcations to the meaning of text in context. Just like translators should keep translators notes to a minimum, so interpreters should avoid engaging in any side conversations.
Codes of Ethics and Standards of Practice stress the translator and interpreter commitment to integrity.
The translator and the interpreter must honor their commitments and deadlines. Too often do we hear of translators that do not deliver their assignments on time or interpreters that fail to arrive on time. This is totally unacceptable. Translators and interpreters must work under a business model where a high priority is placed on meeting any commitment agreed with the client and fulﬁlling such obligations on schedule.
Another issue stressed by codes of ethics is to avoid malicious statements. This includes malicious statements not only about our clients but also about our colleagues, about our associations and about the profession in general. It is very easy nowadays in social media to express opinions that are harsh and many times unfounded or that might have a valid explanation if the other party was given the opportunity. Therefore, unless you are absolutely certain that it is the right thing to do, refrain from all sorts of malicious statements
We should avoid any conﬂicts of interest but if they appear, we should declare them to the client or withdraw from the assignment. A conﬂict of interest is a situation in which your decisions as a professional translator
Ethics mandate that you do not provide any services that are unnecessary and that you do not charge any additional fees to those actually required. This issue seems obvious but there are many translators and interpreters that will perform unnecessary services only because the client asked for them or did not speciﬁed that they would be unnecessary. Remember that many times your client is relying on you to tell them what they need translated or interpreted. Similarly, do not charge fees you have not incurred in. Avoid incurring in unfair practices or breaching the trust of your client, peers or the public in general.
Commitment to integrity also implies that there will be
- No false advertising or No self-promotion while on assignment.
- No referrals to third parties.
- And that you will accurately represent your qualiﬁcations.
Exercise due care with property. Now, other people’s property includes the documents you receive for translation, the ﬁlms, CDs, and other forms of multimedia. The computers you use if they are not yours, the equipment to which you may have access. And if you are an interpreter, you will most probably be inside their property working with their equipment or having access to it. Have the greatest care with it.
For interpreters, dress in appropriate attire. I know this may sound basic but believe me, many times the interpreter forgets they are a professional. I live in Miami and have seen interpreters arrive at Immigration to represent a client in a hearing, and they have been wearing shorts or a t-shirt or, on the other hand, dressed so provocatively that the people in the room are distracted by the interpreter’s looks. So, beware of business dress code any time you have an assignment.
And ﬁnally, you should be constantly pursuing your professional development by being aware of the developments in the ﬁeld and constantly learning more in your areas of specialty. Additionally, it is important that you have a membership in at least one professional association. Associations sponsor numerous events throughout the year that allow you to connect with your peers. You can participate and have the opportunity to learn about breaking news in your career, learn “best practices” or new ideas, and meet and brainstorm with others who are also looking to share and learn new information. You can use of their career and information resources.
We have now seen how codes of ethics and standards of practice stress the need for accuracy and completeness, impartiality, integrity and your best professional and business behavior. Now lets tackle the issue of conﬁdentiality, privacy and secrecy. You will handle huge numbers of documents and large amounts of information, most of it containing sensitive content and confidential information, at least from the client’s perspective.
For me personally, Conﬁdentiality is a huge concern and a topic that I stress in all my training sessions.
Translators and interpreters have access to information that could be sensitive in many ways. So, one of our commitments must be to maintain conﬁdentiality and disclose only what the client has agreed that we may or should disclose or that which we must disclose by law.
Confidentiality is a term that indicates preserving the privacy of the persons with whom you come in contact or the companies with whom you have any business relationship. This includes information gained verbally, in writing, from encounters, or by observation. All information is considered confidential when it pertains to medical care and client records, when it deals with most legal issues, and when it relates to financial data and business information. As a professional, at least 99% of anything you handle in life will fall into one of those categories and therefore you should treat it as confidential.
Let me repeat that in a different way. All translator and interpreters should ALWAYS act as if they had signed a strict confidentiality agreement for every single assignment they undertake, stating that they will abide by the strictest guidelines and principles of ethics, confidentiality, privacy and security. It does not matter if you are just translating a news release or a press article that has already been published.
Client conﬁdentiality is the conscious eﬀort to keep private all information revealed from the client while rendering services.
I would say that just like physicians have their Hippocratic oath, so translators and interpreters should have an oath to conﬁdentiality and privacy. Such oath would say something like
I will do no cause harm and I will take no gain
with or from any information obtained from or on behalf of my client.
To ensure confidentiality means to have in place rules and protections to preserve the privacy of the persons, information or documents in your care (gained verbally, in print or electronic formats) and that you will keep them in strict confidence for use only by those specifically authorized by the owner of the information or document.
Remember that what we “share” may affect lives.
- WHAT do we “share”?
- With WHOM do we “share” it?
- HOW do we “share” it?
- Could this material cause “undesirable effects” if publicly available?
ISO-17799 states that Minimum Necessary means “Ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorized to have access.” You are bound to know or disseminate the “minimum necessary” information to perform your job. This means that you should only access information at a minimum necessary level to be able to carry out your duties. The same applies to everyone else who might have access to the information under your care. Therefore, it is expected that you make reasonable eﬀorts to limit conﬁdential information to the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended purpose.
Excerpts from Claudia Brauer’s presentation to the Certified PRO Network:
Dec 21, 2012 13:00 – 18:00 GMT (9 a.m. EST)
ProZ.com jut released a very important brief on the state of the translation industry. Let me quote one of the important sections therein:
Demand and growth
Indicators here are fairly positive. Almost 70% of translators asked are handling more volume now than just two years ago (around 12% were unsure if the volume had increased or not), and just under 70% report steady or increasing volume from 2011 to 2012 (5% were unsure).
According to Common Sense Advisory, the market for outsourced language services is worth US$33.523 billion in 2012, and it is calculated that the language services market is growing at an annual rate of 12.17% (up from 7.41% in 2011). The US Department of Labor estimates that “employment of interpreters and translators is expected to grow 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.” EMSI, in a recent report, stated that translation and interpretation services have grown by approximately 50% since 2007 in the US.
These indicators would seem to match with the concept of a “flat world” in translation as we saw at the beginning of this report. Demand is healthy, growth has increased. How is this affecting freelance translators in terms of their own income and growth?”
I recommend that all translators and interpreters take a look at this important document @ http://www.proz.com/industry-report/2012.