Interpret America Summit, Reston, Virginia, June 14-15: Three Points of View

by Tony Guerra, Maria Weir and Monique-Paule Tubb

Interpret America

Recently, three members of the Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA), including CETRA's Director of Interpretation, Tony Guerra, traveled to Reston, Virginia, to attend the fourth annual Interpret America conference. This year’s theme was “The Cutting Edge: Bringing Interpreting to the Forefront.” 

For the past four years, this conference has brought together interpreters and language industry professionals from multiple levels and sectors from around the US, South and Central America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. It was established to create a yearly platform for distributing and exchanging information on trends, technology, and critical issues, as well as to provide a unique networking opportunity. Below are some impressions from Tony Guerra, president of the DVTA and director of interpreting services for CETRA Language Solutions; Maria Weir, DVTA board member and programming chair, and Monique-Paule Tubb, French-English translator and interpreter.

Tony Guerra

I participated in a spirited and dynamic breakout work group to discuss the challenges and priorities of a newly formed coalition made up of the nation's top interpreting organizations. These organizations each have a representative on this coalition to collectively work toward a universally accepted interpreting certification. Moderated by Isabel Arocha, International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) and Dorothee Racette (president of the American Translators Association or ATA), our work group was asked to identify the key challenges and priorities facing the interpreting industry today.

The idea is to create a generalist interpreting certification that would ultimately be recognized across all industries and throughout the nation (similar to ATA’s translation certification). This issue has long been and continues to be deliberated as our profession gains ever-growing numbers; the disparity in interpreters’ qualifications creates confusion and hinders the definition of clear-cut, overarching professional guidelines and ethics.  With representatives from the main organizations that dominate the legal, medical, sign-language, and conference-interpreting communities, we hope to make real progress toward achieving this important and necessary goal.

Among the agreed-upon main challenges to the profession were, primarily, misconceptions and a lack of understanding about the profession from clients, interpreters themselves, and language companies and the need for a steering committee to establish best practices and standards and to govern as an authority."

Tony Guerra at Interpret America

Maria Weir

This was the first time I ventured to the Interpret America Summit, and it was interesting to see the tremendous influence that technology and social media continue to exert on the language services industry and the call for change in the way we work as interpreters.

 A group of startup companies exhibited their products at the Summit, and a few of them captured my attention.

Capiche, a mobile video-interpreting platform accessible to clients and interpreters via smartphone, was founded by industry experts and investors in Atlanta, Georgia. Capiche is in a beta stage and will be launched this summer. Some of the advantages it offers are working from home and scheduling sessions in advance; if the client likes your work, he or she can connect with you for future jobs. Payment is by the minute and the interpreter receives two-thirds of the total compensation. 

Stratus Video, another video-interpreting platform, offers services to healthcare providers. They have an average of 50,000 video calls a day. If you are curious about it, visit the Stratus website.

Other mobile video providers that you might want to check out for opportunities are:

Interpret America

Monique-Paule Tubb

I have attended all four summits, and since the word “summit” has been replaced with the more common designation of “conference,” I have noticed a distinct shift in the attendance.  While the first summit was overwhelmingly attended by freelance interpreters, there is now a noticeable shift in the attendance toward fewer freelancers and more providers—in particular, technology-oriented companies. This year’s conference definitely made its point that technology is here to stay, that it will impact the way interpreting is delivered, and that only those on board the tech train will survive. This is true and important to stress. However, I feel that this conference is moving away from catering to the independent interpreters and closer to helping companies deal with the shift. There were fewer strictly educational sessions and more general and tech sessions.

One discussion group I participated in that I felt was very interesting dealt with how interpreters can protect themselves, and/or repair the damage to their psyche, after particularly difficult assignments (for example, when death and dying are involved, or refugee are recounting atrocities).  We first described what happens in such cases: we may become sad, depressed, or cold and unresponsive. All types of solutions were offered, from physical activities (walking, sports, etc.) to meditation, debriefing with friends and family (while preserving confidentiality), and, when possible, participating in support groups. Someone even suggested organizing a help line at the national level.

Another point made during this conference was the importance of social media in establishing our presence, from Facebook and LinkedIn to Twitter, blogs, and other dynamic means. Static websites are now things of the past and useless in promoting our services. We must incorporate a dynamic component that is constantly updated and brought to the attention of our target readers by alert systems.

On the whole, I agree with Tony that, while no earth-shattering information was shared, there was a lot of good information available to all attendees. It is a good idea to attend to keep up with trends, offer suggestions, and especially to network and get together with some old friends we would not see otherwise.  As a former company owner, I am always interested in keeping up with who is around and what challenges they face. As a current freelance interpreter and editor, it is a good venue to remind everyone that I am here and ready to offer my many years of professional experience.