You may have seen some interpreters around the courthouse wearing a white button that bears their credential—Master Licensed Court Interpreter (MLCI). The slogan across the top reads Fiat justicia — “Let justice be done.”
As we open a new year here at Preciso, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude for 2014–a truly amazing year. Here are some highlights:
- The University of Arizona’s National Center for Interpretation selected me for a scholarship to attend the Agnese Haury Institute of Court Interpreting, and I got to complete 125 hours of advanced, hands-on professional training in Tucson, AZ.
- My interview with Javier Becerra was chosen for January 2015 publication in the American Translators Association Chronicle.
- I was privileged to attend the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translator conference in Las Vegas, NV.
- I helped organize a monthly meet-up for court interpreters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We have had great turnouts and everyone wants these special times to relax and talk shop to continue.
- Preciso partnered with Human Rights Initiative of Dallas and Camp Summit to provide pro bono translation services for these great local non-profit organizations.
And, last but not least, the American Translators Association notified me that I passed its notoriously rigorous certification exam to earn the title of Certified Translator for Spanish>English. I can’t wait to update my business cards to display my Certified Translator seal.
In short, it has been an incredible year. I am grateful for every opportunity and to my wonderful clients and colleagues for your continued support. Here’s to an even better 2015!
Each year, Mexico City’s Escuela Libre de Derecho announces a law-school elective course inconspicuously titled “Legal English Workshop.” Now approaching its twenty-fifth year, the course is still taught by attorney, professor, and author Javier F. Becerra. The professor has written two legal dictionaries, the Dictionary of United States Legal Terminology (with Spanish explanations) and the Dictionary of Mexican Legal Terminology (with English explanations), each more than 1,000 pages, that are prized assets in many legal translators’ collections.
The Walking Dictionary
To understand Becerra’s dictionaries, however, we must leave the professor at his lectern for a moment and find him as a young Mexican lawyer, Continue reading
I’m always glad when a potential client calls me for the first time to check availability and rates. And I really like it when they also ask, “By the way, you are court certified, right?” This tells me the client is interested in doing things right—my kind of client. But, before I answer that question, I always have an internal debate over how detailed my answer should be. Normally, I conclude that they just want to know if I’m qualified to interpret for the assignment they are asking me about. So, I just say, “Yes.”
But, at least here in Texas, this seemingly straightforward question is actually quite complicated. I hope this post will shed some light on qualifications for court interpreters in Texas. Continue reading
When I posted about my first experiment with paperless interpreting a few months back, I heard from interpreters around the world who had come to the same conclusion: the iPad is great for accessing references, but not for taking notes while interpreting.
But I’m happy to announce that I have since gone (nearly) paperless, thanks to the Galaxy Note Tab 10.1.
First the summary, then the details. Click on any photo to see a larger version.
While it’s still not a perfect device, the Galaxy Note fulfills my requirements and continues to delight me. I still bring half a reporter’s pad to interpreting jobs out of paranoia (and to jot down unusual spellings for the court reporter), but I’ve now successfully used the Galaxy tab rather than paper for notetaking for several months.
Hardware: Samsung Galaxy Note Tab 10.1″ + integrated stylus
- S-Note (included)
- iAnnotatePDF (free)
- Dolphin Browser (free)
- Interpeting Notes. PASS
This is the first tablet I’ve found that is actually designed for handwriting. l like that the tablet will register my actual handwriting for interpreting notes, as opposed to converting handwriting to typed text.
The Note integrates its stylus in a lot of neat ways, with the Android customizability that I’ve grown to love. l can set a shortcut so that a program of my choosing opens automatically when I dislodge the stylus from its nest. Also, when the stylus is disconnected, certain programs turn off recognition of my hand or fingers entirely, rather than masking certain parts of the screen à la iPad.
My fingers do occasionally hit the OS taskbar and open menus unintentionally, but I fully expect to find an app that allows me to customize the taskbar as I did with my Android phone (which I’ve set to hide the taskbar that shows battery, network, etc. until I pull down from the top of the screen with two fingers).
- Reference: PASS
Glossaries and apps are equally accessible as with iPad but this tablet has a couple of additional capabilities that knocked my socks off:
Split screen. The Note allows true multi-tasking, with split screen or moveable floating windows.
iAnnotate. This app allows me to overlay handwritten notes on a PDF. I can export the whole thing to a PDF and store it in Evernote, email it, or print it.
- Work during downtime: FAIL
It was only fair to fail the Note in this area because it won’t replace my laptop entirely. However, I definitely use the Note for word processing much more than the iPad.
Composing documents using handwriting recognition has enabled me to get more done during those little lulls between interpreting jobs that are too short to go back to the office. The handwriting recognition engine is the best I’ve seen, by far. Rather than recognizing strokes or letters, the engine recognizes the whole word as I write, even if I go back and add a letter in the middle of the word. The latest update also fixes an annoying need to manually add a space after each word.
Note: The photos show an inaccurate conversion because I took the photos while the handwriting was still visible to show the engine at work. Once I stop writing, the recognition engine finalizes its choice, which is usually correct, but by that time the handwriting is no longer visible.
The downsides to real work on the Note is that it requires a Microsoft-compatible app rather than allowing me to actually use Microsoft Office. This means that formatting sometimes gets messed up after I open a document in the tablet. Interacting with Word and Excel documents is definitely easier with the Note’s stylus compared to the iPad, though.
If this were my top priority l would buy the Surface, which offers the real Microsoft Office and very sleek external keyboards.
- Entertainment: PASS
As l mentioned last time, my criteria are low for this, but l can use Twitter and read the Economist.
So there you have it, a perfect excuse to justify a new gadget as a business expense and save some trees at the same time. What do you say?
Language Reads is a series designed to give a brief book review from a language professional’s perspective. Fellow translators, interpreters, and language lovers are welcome to submit guest reviews.
- Title: Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language
- Author: Katherine Rich
- Pages: 384
- ISBN: 9780547336930
Dreaming in Hindi traces the author’s personal journey as she learned Hindi while living in India. This book delighted me because it brought back so many memories of my own experiences as I acquired Spanish as a foreigner in Mexico, including the tumultuous dismantling of my own first-language identity. Learning a language in a foreign country is a task that is all-consuming, exhausting, and fraught with cultural pitfalls. Rich lets us live through this experience with her. She also presents a healthy dose of fascinating linguistics research, in brief summaries and anecdotes that should be quite accessible even to those without a linguistics background.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who is interested in language acquisition or intercultural interactions.
Yesterday, registration opened for Phase II of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam. Since I was fortunate enough to pass Phase I (Written) last year, I registered right away to (hopefully) test for Phase II in my home city. This way, I can avoid combining travel stress with the stress of a test that won’t be available for another two years if I fail it. Which won’t happen, of course. (Positive thinking…)
FCICE has announced that the exams will be administered the week of July 15th, but it seems we won’t have a firm date until after the registration period closes on May 17th.
After the exam, FCICE warns us that Spanish applicants may have to wait up to 13 weeks for results. Applicants for other languages may have to wait even longer. Which means that I will probably check my mailbox at least 78 times from July to October, or 65 if Saturday delivery is canceled.
Did you also pass Phase I last year? Go straight to the Phase II registration page here. Thinking of starting the FCICE process when the written exam is administered next year? There are some materials available, including a practice oral exam.
Many websites offer speedy, inexpensive translations of official foreign documents such as birth certificates. This is not one of them.
Personally, I find these documents interesting to translate because each country’s documents are so different. For people belonging to an earlier generation than mine, for example, their birth certificate might be a narrative written by a priest in the official municipal registry.
But, I don’t do this type of work often because it can take me a full hour to translate a one-page certificate, between deciphering handwriting and tracking down the meanings of obscure abbreviations (sometimes from government entities that no longer exist). I give a customized estimate for each document and I don’t believe my rates are unfair for the thoroughly researched translations that I provide, but my rate for an hour of translation is still higher than what I see at the pre-paid, one-price-fits-all sites. Of course, quality might suffer with one of these more economical alternatives, but a quick-and-dirty translation may be sufficient as long as the vital statistics are right (though it’s unethical to certify such as a “complete and accurate” translation).
Something that does raise caution flags in my mind, however, is the practice of providing a translation as a formatted replica of the original document. Once, responding to a question on whether to format such translations, my beloved translation professor, a sworn translator from Spain, responded:
Soy traductora. No soy diseñadora gráfica.
(I’m a translator, not a graphic designer.)
Six years later, I still hear her voice and the simple conclusion she impressed on her students. It seems obvious, but sometimes in our eagerness to please our clients, we forget our real function. We translate the meanings of words. Generally, I don’t believe a translator should spend a lot of time messing with text boxes and images unless this work is contemplated as part of a service package (with a higher rate than translation alone) or paid as an hourly add-on service.
More importantly, replicating official documents could bring a risk of allegations of producing false documents. I learned that in Spain, sworn translations are text-only and fully justified, with dashes filling out any unused space on each line to prevent tampering. The only graphic elements in the translation are the translator’s seal and signature. Seals, signatures, logos on the original are described in bracketed translator’s notes: [This document is printed on official watermarked paper. There appears in the upper left-hand corner a seal that reads…]
Now, such sworn translations (and sworn translators) must fulfill much more rigorous standards than certified translations in the U.S., it’s true. But I think it’s in our best interest to play it safe by providing written translations, not replica documents. I have never seen a requirement from any government entity that the translation resemble the original, so why take the risk? At Preciso, the policy is to provide a translation clearly marked as a translation, with a certificate that bears the translator’s name and the title, in Spanish, of the original document.
What do you think? Am I missing an important reason to replicate the original document?
This little business has me doing fantastically interesting and varied work all over Dallas/Fort Worth and sometimes beyond. And it just keeps getting better. This year was off the charts and I am thankful.
Inspired by this article in the Harvard Business Review, rather than specific goals I’m going to look at what I want to spend time on in 2013:
- Continuing education. From a course on advanced legal editing to a workshop on improving my speaking voice, regular continuing education has been worthwhile both to improve my skills and, best of all, to get to know more people. Interpreting is solitary work most of the time so these relaxed learning days are refreshing and a great way to keep improving my game.
- Pro bono services. This year I got to provide almost four weeks of conference interpreting and bilingual multimedia services for nonprofit groups.
- Mentoring. I believe that we are all able to reach back and help someone who is not quite as far down the road as we are. This year I got to help two local interpreters improve their skills and earn higher rates, share advice with a translation student at my alma mater, and continue providing real-world practice for my intern.
- Criminal cases. Although I’ve interpreted hundreds of hours in administrative courts and almost as many in civil cases, so far I’ve been timid about criminal matters. But the criminal cases I have taken have gone great, with very good feedback from defendants, attorneys, and judges, so for 2013 I’ll stop giving preference to civil cases.
- Translation. Interpreting is exhilarating but even after extensive preparation you always drive home from an interpreting job thinking about things you could have expressed better. Translating documents, on the other hand, affords me the chance to be a writer, mulling over the best way to phrase a sentence, researching a little more, sleeping on it and tweaking the text till I’m totally satisfied.
- Non-work. As I ease back from my habitual emphasis on productivity and advancing toward goals, I want to spend more time on spiritual edification and personal interests like photography, guitar, Crossfit, and homemade ice cream.
Does your outlook for 2013 look similar? Is there anything you definitely want to spend more time on this year?
Hat tip to Catherine Christaki, Greek translator, for sharing the Harvard Business Review article on LinkedIn.
This week one question on LinkedIn garnered more than 400 responses:
What are the corporate buzzwords we’d like to banish?
Buzzwords are fascinating because when they’re fresh, people often use them to signal membership in a social group. But, much like fashion trends, when they become ubiquitous the group considers the word pedestrian and moves on. Never one to overlook the opportunity to do some sociolinguistic analysis, I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation to find the top ten offenders:
- at the end of the day
- leverage (as a verb)
- socialize (a project or idea to someone)
- low-hanging fruit
- going forward
- ask (as a noun -”My ask is this…”)
- blue sky (as a verb)
Clearly, being out of the corporate world since forever has kept me out of the loop, because I have never heard several of these. I have no idea what it means to blue-sky something to someone, for example, but it came up a lot. And, although it wasn’t in the top ten, productionize struck me as particularly useless. It turns out, though, that it does have a nuance that produce lacks; productionize means to roll out a new product or service after a pilot period.
Any buzzwords you’d like to go ahead and banish?