Language Access in the Spotlight – Meet Yasmin Al-Kashef & Piyawee Ruenjinda

As we are all trying to navigate our way through the disruptive changes that have taken place in our lives in the past year, it is particularly important to highlight the efforts of those making a difference in the day-to-day. In this article, the focus will be on two interpreters from Oregon working on language-related initiatives within their communities and networks.

Yasmin Al-Kashef is an Arabic interpreter, originally from Egypt, where she obtained her B.A. in English and Translation and M.A. in Translation and Linguistics and worked as a conference interpreter. Yasmin recently traveled back to Egypt to defend her dissertation as the final requirement for her Ph.D. in Interpreting Studies. Her dissertation looked at variations in individual interpreters’ styles in the various modes of interpreting.

In Oregon, Yasmin is an ATA-certified translator who has also worked in localization and healthcare interpreting briefly. She is now a registered court interpreter with the Oregon Judicial Department, where most of her work is focused on translation and court interpreting.

In our conversations, Yasmin highlighted some of the challenges that healthcare interpreters face in their profession and she hopes to direct her efforts on training for Arabic interpreters in the U.S., focusing on the practical rather than just theoretical aspects of interpreting. Inspired by the Paris Interpreters Practice Sessions (a program for conference interpreters), she has begun her work with a court interpreter practice group for peers to interact and practice together. She hopes to highlight the importance of education as a lifelong professional development endeavor beyond the goal of passing certification exams.

The study group meets virtually and, using videos of court proceedings found online, interpreters take turns acting as speakers, work in pairs, and give each other feedback, as well as discussing challenges. Yasmin emphasized the importance of making these sessions a safe space for peer training, where interpreters can feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback and just practicing. Such practice can also help ease anxiety and bring performance back up to speed when interpreters are out of practice for some time.

Yasmin reports receiving very positive feedback from study group participants and that these have helped Arabic interpreters not feel isolated when they do not know others in the profession. In locations where there are not many interpreters for a specific language, this practice also provides an opportunity for newer and more experienced interpreters interact and discuss practical aspects and to know what to expect during assignments. In the future, Yasmin hopes to compile resources for Arabic interpreters, as well as to speak at professional conferences in our field.

Piyawee Ruenjinda is a Thai interpreter who obtained her M.A. in Thailand, where she had also worked in management. Piyawee found the interpreting profession after coming to the U.S. and participating in organizing and leadership development workshops in her city. Her experience at these workshops provided her with perspective on the marginalization of immigrants who lack formal education and have limited English proficiency (LEP). This sparked her interest in working with the community, and she then took a medical interpreting course.

Being from a community with a language of lesser diffusion, she described the relief that many LEPs expressed with having someone who spoke their language and understood their culture. Many had often been sent interpreters who spoke other languages from the area, which they had difficulty understanding. Many had been refugees from nearby countries who had grown up in refugee camps and had learned Thai but were not fluent in medical terms. She found that such issues often caused immigrants to not seek medical care and often “lay low.” In that sense, she also acts in her role as an advocate, bringing awareness to providers about language differences and informing community members about language services, as well as helping connect people with services.

Piyawee points out that the medical interpreting field could benefit from more structure, including a mentoring or observer program similar to those available to court interpreters.

With respect to COVID, Piyawee indicated that most in the Thai community receive news and information from Thailand and from information shared on their social media networks. She highlighted the many challenges that freelancers face, which translate into challenges in ensuring effective language access. For this reason, she also contributes by advocating for the profession with regard to fair pay rates and status of the interpreting profession.

Do you have someone in the profession who inspires you or you feel is really making a difference? Tell The Savvy Newcomer about them! We would love to hear other stories and celebrate our colleagues.

Author: Andreea Boscor

Small Talk Tips for Translators

This post originally appeared on The ATA Chronicle and it is republished with permission.

The old industry adage might be spot on: most interpreters are fairly extroverted, while most translators tend to be introverts. That’s an oversimplification and I know that there are always many exceptions, but during my years in the industry, I’ve noticed that translators struggle more with one important thing than interpreters do: small talk.

Do you hate small talk? If yes, read on. I know small talk can be painful, but you can make it easier on yourself by keeping a few things in mind.

Keep it short.

At networking events, no one wants to hear long, complicated stories. Be succinct and interesting, but resist the urge to tell your life story.

Work on your conversation starters.

The easiest way is to introduce yourself and say something simple along the lines of “I’m new to this event” or something similar. Experienced networkers will get the hint and will introduce you to others. Another good way to start a conversation is to ask questions: about the organization, about that particular event, and about the person to whom you’re speaking.

Learn to listen.

The best relationship builders are people who truly listen and who are not obsessing over what they can sell, but rather how they can help the other person. It’s a powerful thing to think long-term and big picture rather than short-term and project-based.

Don’t monopolize people.

Once you get comfortable talking to one person and your nerves settle down a bit, you might want to hang on to that person for dear life because it’s scary to start over with another person. However, remember that everyone is there to mix and mingle and that you are not the only person to whom they want to speak.

Brush up on current events (including sports).

Even if you don’t like baseball, you’d better have something to say if you’re at an event during the World Series. And while local politics might not be all that interesting (mostly), it would still be good to know that a big new company is investing $100 million in your state. You don’t have to know everything, but the bottom line is to be informed so you can participate in conversations.

Avoid certain topics.

It’s usually best to steer clear of politics, religion, and highly personal matters. Sure, there’s always an election around the corner, and it’s perfectly fine to have an opinion, but I prefer to talk about more neutral matters with people I don’t know or barely know.

Get the introductions out of the way.

It can be awkward when another person walks up when you’re already engaged in conversation and you don’t know the names of either the first or the second person. In my experience, it’s usually best to be honest and say “I’m sorry, we just met, would you mind telling me your name again so I can introduce you to ….” It’s horrifying to stand next to people all evening without knowing their names, so it’s good to get the introductions out of the way early. And it’s fine to admit you don’t remember the person’s name. Just ask again. Get a business card and try to remember one particular thing about the person to help you remember (e.g., her purse, his shirt, her cute earrings, his Boston accent).

Small talk is similar to translation in one way: it’s art, not science. And just like translation, it usually gets easier the more you do it. Happy small talking!

Author bio

Judy Jenner is a court-certified Spanish interpreter and a Spanish and German translator in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she runs Twin Translations with her twin sister. She is a past president of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association. She hosts the translation blog, Translation Times (www.translationtimes.blogspot.com). You can also find her at http://www.entrepreneuriallinguist.com. Contact: judy.jenner@twintranslations.com or judy.jenner@entrepreneuriallinguist.com.

ATA’s Back to Business Basics – Effective and Pitch-Perfect Marketing during and after COVID-19

Marketing is a task that even experienced translators and interpreters dread, and it can feel especially daunting during difficult times, like the current pandemic and financial crisis. Should you still be marketing your services to clients? And if so, how can you do that without coming off as salesy and opportunistic? What if your clients are in an industry that was hit hard by the crisis?

You will find answers to these and many other questions in ATA’s Back to Business Basics webinar “Effective and Pitch-Perfect Marketing during and after COVID-19.”

ATA launched its new Back to Business Basics webinar series in September 2020. These webinars focus on a small, practical piece of business advice for translators and interpreters at different stages of their careers. The series quickly became popular: there are usually a few hundred people attending each live session. Members can access these webinars free of charge, and non-members can purchase each recording for $25.

In this first webinar in the series, Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, a freelance ATA-certified translator working from Spanish and Portuguese into English and ATA’s President-Elect, shared how to deliver pitch-perfect marketing during difficult times.

The first step is finding the right mindset: you need to understand what your ideal clients are going through, what their challenges are, what is coming, and how you can help. As with the stages of “new normal” during the pandemic, businesses will be experiencing different stages of reopening and adjustments and will have to reinvent themselves as the pandemic evolves. The key is to stay informed and be able to make projections on what your clients’ priorities will be and how you can support them.

In her presentation, Madalena showed examples of how some areas that have been hit the hardest (for example, travel and hospitality, education, immigration) are adapting, and how some translators and interpreters have successfully responded to the needs of their clients.

Madalena demonstrated how checking in with clients and offering to help can be done in a tactful and non-obtrusive way. She also gave some ideas on reaching out to both current and new clients during difficult times.

When so many people have been affected by the global pandemic and economic crisis, it may feel that marketing your translation or interpreting services is not a priority. But it is important to continue growing your business, and you can (and should) continue marketing. You may just need to adjust your approach, and this webinar will give you some great strategies on how to do that.

Check out the recording of this webinar and share it with colleagues who may be interested!

Author bio

Veronika Demichelis, CT is an ATA-certified English>Russian translator. She is chair of ATA’s Professional Development Committee, member of ATA’s Membership Committee, blog editor for ATA’s Slavic Languages Division, and co-host of the Smart Habits for Translators podcast.

Remote Interpreting (RI): Professional Standards and Self-Care for Interpreters

This post originally appeared on ATA TCD News (Newsletter of the Translation Company Division of the American Translators Association), Volume 2 | Issue 7 | Winter 2021, and it is republished with permission.

In this article we will focus on the importance of following professional standards even in remote interpreting settings, self-care for remote interpreters and interpreters at large, and tips to help you deal with interpreter trauma.

Now more than ever before, language service companies are providing language solutions that empower companies to communicate with their clients wherever they may be and/or do business globally, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic by bridging the gap of language barrier through remote interpreting (RI) in various settings.

THREE MAIN TYPES OF RI

To provide an understanding of what types of interpreting fall under this umbrella term, and how they differ from one another, the next sections will discuss the three ways in which virtual interpreting can be performed or delivered: over-the-phone interpreting (OPI), video remote interpreting (VRI), and remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI).

It is worth noting that there has been more demand for RSI (on different platforms) since the beginning of the current pandemic with the cancellations of conferences. It is used for virtual meetings such as Multilingual conferences, corporate events, meetings, workshops, training and/or daily briefings. For more details see this Nimdzi article on the subject: The Virtual Interpreting Landscape.

Telephone & Video Remote Interpreting (OPI & VRI): Consecutive

Mostly used in these main settings:

  • Medical (telemedicine and in person health care)
  • Legal/Court (depositions or general court proceedings & Immigration)
  • Educational: Parent-Teacher conferences, other IP meetings, and more
  • Business: customer service, meeting and more

WHY ARE PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS IMPORTANT EVEN IN REMOTE SETTING?

The main reason is that, like in any other profession, professional interpreters are required to abide by the standards governing their profession whether they are working on-site (face-to-face) or remotely.

Observation: During this pandemic, we have noticed a new trend of different actors in our industry relegating standards to the sidelines or completely ignoring them, including language companies, interpreters and clients. We should always uphold them. For reference, check out the following links:

WHY OPT FOR TEAM INTERPRETING IN LEGAL SETTINGS?

  • Practical (helps with interpreter fatigue): We know that conference and sign language interpreters work in pairs, taking turns every 20-30 minutes to relieve one another. Team interpreting is also used in court proceedings— notably trials and depositions—but not all courts use it.
  • Essential to accuracy and completeness of the message: The quality of the interpretation depends on it. Given the responsibilities associated with performing this complex task of interpreting that leads to fatigue, it is crucial that both interpreters work as a team to deliver the message accurately. See the recent NAJIT Position Paper on Team Interpreting In Court-Related Proceedings.
  • Advocacy and client education: Interpreters need to advocate for themselves when needed, and inform the clients or end users of the benefits of team interpreting. They also need to follow the relevant code of ethics for the best outcome possible for all parties.

SELF-CARE FOR REMOTE INTERPRETERS

FAQ: Do remote interpreters experience trauma while performing their duties?

A: Yes, they do, and so do all interpreters. Thus, the importance of self-care.

Workspace

Generally remote interpreters work with one or more language services companies. They log into their servers or take calls using a landline (recommended) or a mobile phone.

Tip: Have water with you. You will need it! If you need water while on a long call or if you start coughing and choking for some reason, inform the client: “This is the interpreter, and the interpreter needs a water break” or “The interpreter needs to be excused,” if you need to relieve yourself.

TRAUMA: Tips to cope with work related trauma As we all deal with the anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we want to take a moment and acknowledge all the brave interpreters who help ensure equal access to vital community services such as health care, justice, and education. Interpreters are essential workers too. You can download the safety tips for Providing Interpreting Services During COVID-19.

I trained professional interpreters to be neutral, impartial, strong emotionally, and not to be attached to the story they are interpreting. Still, interpreters are human like everybody else, so these stories can affect them emotionally and even physically at times.

Tips for Coping with Interpreter Trauma

  • Breathing: Take a deep breath (you can stop and breath even on a call).
  • Debriefing: Talking to a professional or another colleague can be extremely helpful. Note that some companies have debriefing protocols in place, but they are very few.
  • Exercise: Studies have shown that exercise is good for our emotional wellbeing and balance.
  • Laughter therapy: Humor is good for you. See this article on the topic: Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke.
  • Breaking the isolation: “Physical distancing is not social distancing.” Make the call! You might consider joining a professional organization if you do not belong to one yet, which affords you the opportunity to network. Safely spend time with others, friends and families.
  • Anything else (cooking, dancing, singing, yoga, meditation, mindfulness) that works for you.

Learn critical self-care techniques for remote interpreters in this webinar. You’re Worth it! Selfcare for Remote Interpreters: An Urgent Priority by Marjory Bancroft.

Author bio

Adjo aka Mireille Agbossoumonde dreamed of becoming a Journalist because she admired a native Ewe Journalist growing up in Togo. Because of her love of languages, she went on and graduated from Université de Lomé, Togo, with a Bachelor in English and Linguistics and a Master’s degree in Translation English-French and became a Sworn (Certified) Translator and Interpreter in 2000. She also obtained a Certificate in Pedagogy from the National Institute of Education Sciences (INSE) and a Professional Development Certificate/Badge for Simultaneous Interpreting from NYU, New York university in 2016. Before moving to the US, she was a high school teacher and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) for 6 years and here in the US, she taught French as a Second Language in Atlanta Public Schools, GA-USA for 4 years. She is currently an experienced French Conference/RSI and remote interpreter (French, Ewe & Mina) and has been a full time interpreter since 2009 specializing in medical, legal and immigration court interpreting. She is also a federal Language Consultant as a Member of the NLSC, National Language Service Corps. She also served as Contract Interpreter Monitor for USCIS (2010-2017). Adjo likes singing, dancing and cooking for her family and friends (now for friends impacted by COVID-19) when she is translating, interpreting or running her company, Le Pont Translations LLC (Founder and CEO) based in Atlanta where she resides. Email: info@leponttranslations.net

Savvy Diversification Series – Multilingual SEO: A booming niche for tech-savvy translators

The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.

With this in mind, we’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!

Finding your niche is a process. And sometimes, your niche finds you.

That’s how I came to be a specialist for search engine optimized (SEO) translations. Like many of us, I started my career in translation as a generalist, accepting any decent job that fit my English-German language pair. In the early years, I translated everything from a website for a surface coating manufacturer to juicy copy for some sort of BDSM series.

After a few years in the business, during which I became more immersed in the industry side of our profession through ATA conferences, webinars, and association memberships, I began to realize my passion and talent for creative translations. I narrowed my focus on marketing, advertising, and transcreation. That’s where I came across the need for multilingual SEO.

Rising demand for SEO in translation

A few years ago, I started receiving more inquiries for SEO translations. Some clients would simply ask for a list of keywords to be translated. Others wanted specific keywords included in the translations. Most of them provided little guidance, which made me curious about best practices in modern SEO content writing.

Before starting my translation career, I had spent about half a year as an SEO copywriter for an organic content marketing enterprise. At the time, SEO writing was very formulaic, and many practices employed then would be punished by Google and other search engines today. I knew I needed to catch up on current trends in search engine optimization, so I started immersing myself in the topic through books, webinars, and online courses.

I quickly realized that in many cases, both end customers and translation agencies had at best a basic understanding of SEO. As my expertise grew, I frequently ended up educating my clients about the finer nuances of SEO content writing.

About two years ago, I was contacted by a translation agency that had come across my LinkedIn profile. They were interested in bringing me on board for an account that included a lot of content marketing. Some of it would be transcreation, some would be original content writing, but almost all of it would include search engine optimization. Refreshingly, this agency was truly knowledgeable about SEO and even provided training for their translators. I’ve been working with them ever since, and it’s been one of my most fun and rewarding opportunities.

Need for qualified specialists

While working in this field, I noticed that there is a lack of truly qualified SEO translators. This is dangerous for the client, because incorrectly implemented SEO can result in the opposite of their desired effect: Instead of improving their search engine ranking, they will be penalized by the search engine or, in the worst case, removed completely from the results.

That’s why I decided to share my knowledge with my colleagues. I gave my first presentation at the BDÜ (German Translators Association) Conference in Bonn, Germany, in 2019, and the feedback was overwhelming. Last year, I presented a session at the ATA 61st Annual Conference, and again, it was obvious how much interest there is in this field. I currently offer an on-demand webinar for German speakers on the basics of multilingual SEO, and am in the process of creating two follow-up courses focusing on keyword localization and optimized writing.

Why SEO translations are different

SEO translation is so much more than simply plugging translated – or even transcreated – keywords into the final copy. It requires an understanding of keyword analysis, content marketing, and web writing.

Here are a few common mistakes and misconceptions surrounding multilingual SEO:

  • Translating or transcreating keywords without checking their relevancy in the target market. This requires the use of an SEO tool, such as Ubersuggest, Ahrefs or Semrush. The free Keyword Planner through Google Ads is only helpful to a limited extent, as it does not provide detailed search data. If you’re serious about offering SEO services, you won’t get far without a paid subscription of some sort.
  • Keyword stuffing. Modern SEO is no longer about using the same keyword or keyword phrase as often as possible on the page. In fact, this practice is now frowned upon by search engines and can lead to penalties.
  • Neglecting semantic optimization. Search engines have come a long way and are increasingly able to understand context and natural language. That is why well-optimized copy should include lots of synonyms, word variations and related terms to signal that the content is relevant to the search inquiry.
  • Ignoring the importance of meta elements. The content on a website is important, but to signal its relevancy to search engines, it also needs to have optimized meta elements. These include the page title, URL, ALT descriptions for images, and the meta description that is displayed in the search results listing.
  • Not optimizing for the right search engines. Yes, Google is the primary search engine across the globe, but not all countries use Google, and not all target groups within a country where Google is the market leader may prefer it. For example, Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia, and the largest search engine in China is Baidu. Microsoft’s Bing tends to be particularly popular among older audiences. And don’t forget that YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon are also search engines! Each search engine has its own algorithms and looks at different elements.
  • Writing paper prose for digital formats. People read differently on screen than they do on paper. That’s why web writing is its own art and science. It is designed for easy readability and requires an easily skimmable structure, short sentences and paragraphs, lots of subheaders, lists, etc.

Not all SEO writing is created equal

Even within SEO writing, there are differences. In addition to writing and translating optimized web copy and blog posts, I’ve recently started adapting English Amazon listings for the German market, which required me to learn yet another approach to SEO. For example, there are character restrictions to adhere to and keyword repetitions to avoid. In addition, Amazon has its own product listing guidelines that sellers need to follow.

One of the most important points about translating or writing multilingual SEO copy is that you must stay on top of the latest developments in the search engine world. What gets you on page one of Google today may cost you your ranking in a few months. Anyone interested in pursuing this niche needs to be willing to put in the time and effort to invest in continuous education and self-study.

Author bio

Marion Rhodes is an ATA-certified English to German translator, certified copywriter and multilingual SEO specialist. A native of Germany, she immigrated to the United States straight out of high school in 2001. Before starting her translation career, Marion worked as a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska and as a freelance writer for various English- and German-language news publications. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications. When she’s not crafting copy for her clients or volunteering for ATA, she can usually be found riding one of her two horses around her home in San Diego County. For more information, visit www.imctranslations.com.