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  1. BEYOND BILINGUALISM: What it takes to become an English-Spanish translator or interpreter

  2. By M. Eta Trabing – Berkana Language Center September, 2008

  3. Translator or interpreter? • Translators work with the written language, and usually only into their dominant language. • Interpreters work with the spoken language and must go in both directions, so have to speak both equally well.

  4. Requirements for the Profession • To be a translator you must: • know the target language perfectly • be very detail-oriented • be prepared to do a lot of research • know some subject matter in depth, if not, study it first • be familiar with general business and computer terminology

  5. Requirements ... • To be a translator you must: • understand the source language very well • have access to appropriate technical dictionaries • be prepared to study grammar again • read copiously in both your languages • be a good proofreader or get someone else • study something new every day

  6. Requirements ... • To be a translator you must: • know who your audience will be • know the culture(s) of the countries/regions that use your languages • not fall into “translatorese” -- your translation must stand on its own • must make total sense in the target language

  7. Requirements ... • To be an interpreter you must: • know both the source and target languages equally well • you must use the tone, register and words of the original speaker • you must convey the speakers’ exact messages -- their meanings and nuances • a speaker could be very erudite or have little formal education

  8. Requirements ... • To be an interpreter you must: • have a great store of knowledge in your short- or long-term memory • like people! • study constantly • learn consecutive and simultaneous interpretation techniques • learn to sight-translate

  9. Requirements ... • To be an interpreter you must: • learn as many dialects and regional jargon as possible within your languages • learn “Spanglish” -- but as a separate language, NOT to replace English or Spanish • accept pressure and tension and still keep your cool • establish trust with those you work for

  10. Requirements ... • Now that you know what to expect from translating and interpreting, think of which one you would be most comfortable with, which one you might enjoy more, which one your temperament and personality are best suited for. You must/should enjoy what you do, every day!

  11. A few more things ... • Self-study continues for the rest of your life! • Get a few specialties and every few years, add a couple of new subjects • Keep up with the modern use of your languages • Learn geography and history of your area

  12. Certification • For translators: • ATA certification – check language pairs • Check website:

  13. Certification • For interpreters: • Court certification -- both federal and state • Check National Center for State Courts website: • NO community or medical interpreter certification at this time

  14. Necessary Investments • If you want to interpret or translate, you must: • have a computer, modem, Internet access, e-mail address, software in both your languages • know how to use them efficiently • have office space or space in a home office • have a telephone, fax/copier/printer • have business cards, résumé or brochure

  15. Necessary Investments • buy office supplies • learn to use Terminology Management software (Trados, SDLX, Déjà vu, etc.) • learn to use PowerPoint and Excel, as well as Word • learn how to scan graphs and pictures

  16. Necessary Investments • invest in specialized and general mono- and bi-lingual dictionaries • learn to find dictionaries on the Internet • learn to research subjects on the Internet or elsewhere • Have simultaneous interpreting equipment • become members of one or more professional organizations

  17. Necessary Investments • stay up-to-date with what goes on in your profession, your community, your specialty, your world - new subjects, new technologies, new terminology, new everything and anything for EVER! At some point you will have to interpret or translate it!

  18. Ethics and practices - ATA • As a Translator or Interpreter, a bridge for ideas from one language to another and one culture to another, I commit myself to the highest standards of performance, ethical behavior, and business practices.

  19. Ethics and practices • A. I will endeavor to translate or interpret the original message faithfully, to satisfy the needs of the end user(s). I acknowledge that this level of excellence requires: • 1. mastery of the target language equivalent to that of an educated native speaker, • 2. up-to-date knowledge of the subject material and its terminology in both languages, • 3. access to information resources and reference materials, and knowledge of the tools of my profession, • 4. continuing efforts to improve, broaden, and deepen my skills and knowledge.

  20. Ethics and practices • B. I will be truthful about my qualifications and will not accept any assignments for which I am not fully qualified. • C. I will safeguard the interests of my clients as my own and divulge no confidential information. • D. I will notify my clients of any unresolved difficulties. If we cannot resolve a dispute, we will seek arbitration.

  21. Ethics and practices • E. I will use a client as a reference only if I am prepared to name a person to attest to the quality of my work. • F. I will respect and refrain from interfering with or supplanting any business relationship between my client and my client's client. As amended by the ATA Board of Directors in March, 2002.

  22. Ethics codes for judiciary/court interpreters • See: • the National Center for State Courts • The Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington, DC (federal) • NAJIT – National Assoc. of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators • Local/state judiciary interpreter associations

  23. Ethics codes for medical interpreters • See: • National Council on Interpreting in Health Care – NCIHC

  24. Professionalism means ... • Being totally accountable for our work • Doing the absolute, best job each and every time • Making sense and asking the right questions and providing cultural comments, when appropriate

  25. Some Rewards are... • We get to transmit vital and important information -- sometimes, inane things! • We act as cultural and language bridges • We help people • We learn new things all the time • We make friends all over the world • Our minds are constantly stimulated and forced to expand

  26. Some Interpretation Specialties • Community • Court/Judiciary • Medical • Conference (small or large -- many subjects, international business) • Escort or seminar (State Dept.) • Diplomatic/Consular (State Dept.)

  27. Some Translation specialties • Literary • Journalistic • Technical (many, many fields) • Legal • Scientific (many fields) • General business • Computers / localization

  28. Other Specialties for Bilinguals • UN précis writers • Terminologists • Typesetters (foreign languages) • Desk-top publishing - DTP • Proof-readers • Editors (foreign language books) • Any and all jobs can be made bilingual for the benefit of the employer!

  29. A student’s comment ... • Being bilingual, I had just always assumed that I had all the skills necessary to translate. However, as I began receiving feedback on my translations, I realized that I had never truly appreciated what it takes to produce an accurate translation. Nicole Behrendt

  30. Traps and pitfalls • Neophyte translators approach their task from a word-for-word perspective • Experienced translators concentrate first on the meaning, then on the words. • The expert has a variety of strategies to solve complex problems, which the inexperienced do not know yet.

  31. Decimal separator • Comma (6,7%) • Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela • Period (6.7%) • Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States

  32. Other number differences • Conversions to and from the metric system • Billion in English (1,000,000,000.00) • un mil millones o un millardo • Billón in Spanish ( • one trillion or one million millions

  33. Know your subject • … all of my rights and duties with respect to the minor will be extinguished and all aspects of the legal relationship between the minor child and the parent will be terminated. • Wheat, corn and pork bellies are traded on the commodities exchange.

  34. Know your subject • Echo cancellation is a technique that allows isolation and filtering of unwanted signals caused by echoes from the main transmitted signal. • Blow-fly infestation of the breech can be effectively controlled for 6-8 weeks by tagging or crutching.

  35. Know your subject • The echocardiogram showed left ventricular dilatation with normal left atrium, shortening fraction of 23% and ejection fraction of 30% with moderate mitral failure, normal pulmonary artery pressure and global diffused hypokinesis, with paradoxical septum.

  36. Conozca su tema • En Paraguay, un 45% de la población es monolingüe en guaraní, y un 7% es mono-lingüe en español. El 48% restante es bilingüe en español y guaraní. • El empeoramiento de las condiciones eco-nómicas y monetarias provoca oscila-ciones cada vez más violentas de las coti-zaciones en los mercados monetarios y de capitales.

  37. Conozca su tema • Una mujer alta y escuálida con un pañuelo enrollado en la cabeza le saca brillo a un pomo redondo de bronce de la puerta de hierro y madera del portal. • Los enterovirus se encuentran en todas las poblaciones porcinas del mundo; muchas de las cepas no son patógenas y existen 11 serogrupos enterovirales porcinos.

  38. Conozca su tema • Al administrar ecoestrés-dobutamina hay mejoría de la contractilidad ventricular, sin claro incremento del sinergismo ventricular. • Durante su internación se efectúa cintigrama miocárdico de esfuerzo que no documenta evidencia de isquemia.

  39. Other E-S traps and pitfalls • The many meanings of “su” • Dijo que sus primos eran profesores. • Sus finanzas andaban mal. • Prepositions • 65 in English vs 20 in Spanish

  40. Other E-S traps and pitfalls • Passive voice - reflexive form • English present participles vs. Spanish gerunds • Multiple uses of “for”

  41. Other E-S traps and pitfalls • False cognates • Check exact meanings in monolingual dictionaries • Look up Hamel’s Comprehensive Bilingual Dictionary of Spanish False Cognates, 1998. ISBN 1-886835-06-3

  42. Other E-S traps and pitfalls • Actual vs. actual • Actually vs. actualmente • Consistent vs. consistente • Sensitive vs. sensitivo • Ignore vs. ignorar • Assume vs. asumir

  43. Other E-S traps and pitfalls • Elaborate vs. elaborar • Figure vs. figura • Regular vs. regular • Relevant vs. relevante • Suppose vs. suponer • Editor vs. editor • Eventual vs. eventual • Etc.

  44. Professional organizations • American Translators Association (ATA) • Local chapters or associate groups of ATA • The National Assoc. of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators – NAJIT • Local judiciary/court interpreter associations • National Council on Interpreting in Health Care ( • Local medical interpreter associations

  45. Subscribe to: • GLOSAS • Academia norteamericana de la lengua española • GPO Box 349, New York, NY 10116 • $24/año (4 números)

  46. Subscribe to: • Intercambios • Quarterly newsletter of SpanishLanguage Division of the ATA • Publications of other ATA Divisions of interest to you (medical, interpreters, literary, scientific, etc.)