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My Day at a Commercial Shoot with an International Celebrity

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, January 2021, pages 10 to 13.

Yes, you too could get new linguistic gigs based on your background experience!

In November 2020, I was reading the monthly newsletter of one of the local translation/interpretation agencies I have been working for - mainly as translator but occasionally also as editor/proofreader and interpreter - since 2004, when I came across the following sentences: “We were asked to source a French-Canadian accent coach to train a celebrity in the French-Canadian accent. A film industry experience helped the translator get the assignment.” I realised I was the “translator” referred to!

Between May 2009 and December 2012, I took courses toward a part-time Digital Film Production Certificate at Langara College, graduating in March 2013 after completing my final projects - two short films I had directed, filmed, and edited myself. It had seemed to me at the time to be the logical progression after completing a Certificate in Photography from the same institution. I then took part in a number of other short films: first as a stills photographer, then (in no particular order) as director, camera operator, post production editor, actor, extra, stand-in, boom operator, grip, lighting, production assistant, etc. etc. - you get the picture, I'm sure. Ergo, I have had a rounded education in the film industry. I also wrote a couple of scripts for short films, though I never got around to making them.

Therefore, when I was contacted by my agent at the end of October 2020, I was at first reluctant, wondering if I had the necessary skills. The request was as follows: “We have a potential project requiring a French (Canadian) native from Quebec to go onsite and teach a male Canadian talent/celebrity to speak some lines . . . in an authentic Quebecois accent.” The e-mail continued with more details: it was for a one-day commercial shoot in the Lower Mainland, I would need a car, and it would probably last from 10 to 14 hours. The only requirement was “the translator (sic) needs to be comfortable working with celebrities and teach them how to pronounce in an authentic Quebecois accent.” My agency also asked, if I was not available, could I recommend a Quebec-French native speaker from the Lower Mainland?

Although tempting, my gut reaction was, well I'm not a “Quebec-French native speaker” but I do know a colleague at STIBC who is. I called her, left a message on her phone, but never heard back from her. At the end of the day (literally), not wanting to leave my agent hanging, I thought, why not? I've been translating and interpreting for Quebeckers for years, I've lived and studied in Quebec, I've been listening to webinars from OTTIAQ recently in “Quebec French” and with my long experience as a linguist, I should be able to bone up on the “Quebec” accent through videos and my huge collection of Quebecois music. Anyway, it's a one-day commercial shoot so there probably won't be that many lines, I can always do some extra study once I receive the script, and I can get help from other Quebec colleagues if necessary. So I accepted. The more important requirement - experience with the film industry - I clearly had in spades.

The next step was to talk to the film production manager over the phone and convince her of my experience with French - and Quebec French especially. I passed the test. The shoot was in one week so I started studying the celebrity, watching his videos and listening to all his songs on YouTube (yes, he's a singer) and viewing his commercial from last year for the same sponsor. I was particularly listening out for any instances where he spoke or sang in French to see what his accent was like. As it happened, the commercial from last year I managed to find was in English and most of his songs are in English. However, he did record one song in Italian and another in Spanish, both languages I have studied and can speak, and his accents sounded quite impressive to me. I was, I must say, particularly impressed by an ad he had acted in for the BBC in disguise where he was speaking in a very convincing South African accent. I found only one song in French - a bilingual duet with a Francophone singer - and in my professional opinion he clearly had some difficulty pronouncing the French “r,” but that's quite usual for most English-speakers anyway.

After studying the artist - and by the way, I love his voice and the types of songs he sings, so quite frankly it was a very enjoyable homework assignment - I then started listening to Quebec songs on my iPod. I have collected masses over the years. Moreover, I looked up a number of YouTube videos to get myself up to date with the latest Quebecois expressions, local slang, and comparisons of pronunciation between French from France and French from Quebec. Furthermore, during those same days, I watched a Quebec television series (full of local slang and whose actors have very thick accents) on CBC Gem.

As the shoot took place during Covid-19 times, another requirement prior to being accepted by the production company was submitting to a Covid-19 test - which incidentally I was paid a very nice sum to do. My agent even arranged for travel pay to the test site and back! I received my negative results within 36 hours. Next, I was asked to complete an on-line safety webinar called “Covid-19 Basic Awareness Course for Film Productions.” I did so and sent the resulting certificate to the production agency as proof.

Then, receiving the final go-ahead and confirmation of the shooting day (but still not knowing where in the Lower Mainland it would take place), and leaving it to my agent to arrange the French accent coaching contract and its cancellation policy for me, I went ahead and rented a car for three days. I knew things would start early on the morning of the shoot and go late into the night, so I rented the car from the day before the shoot until the day after.

I received the script three days before the shoot. Luckily, as I had imagined, it was pretty simple and there were only two words I ended up double-checking for Quebec pronunciation: in France the final “s” of “ananas” (pineapple) is pronounced, whereas in Quebec it isn't! And “pêche” (peach) is pronounced with a noticeable diphthong in Quebec, whereas it has a short vowel sound in France. (Yes, I'm well aware there are a variety of pronunciations in both France and Quebec, but to make things simple, this is finally what I went for.)

Just as I was going to bed at 10:00 p.m. the night before the day of the shoot, I received the call sheet. I was to be at an address in North Vancouver by 7:15 a.m. In the same e-mail, I also received 1) maps to show me where to park my car for the day and where the four different scenes were to be shot so I wouldn't get Lost; 2) the final scripts in English and French; 3) six pages of director board where each shot had been illustrated like a comic strip; and 4) a very long list of all the actors and crew (110 humans - I was listed under the international celebrity's “team” as “French Dialect Coach” - and one animal) involved in the one-day shoot together with all their phone numbers and e-mail addresses (sorry, colleagues, the international celebrity's contact information was left blank! Yes, I know :-(). That evening too, I was required to fill in an on-line “Pre-Production Self Screening Questionnaire” for Covid.

On the morning of the shoot, I was up at 5:00 a.m. telling myself It's a beautiful day and was out the door by 6:00. I had struggled with what to wear. I knew the day would be long but luckily, according to the weather report, it was to be dry. I decided to dress warmly but to take my warm winter coat as well in case I was standing around outside a lot.

Arriving at the assigned parking lot at 7:00 a.m. appropriately masked, I was asked to fill out the self-screening Covid questionnaire once again, this time on the specially-appointed commercial-shoot Covid medical officer's iPhone. Then, after checking in with the production assistant to tell her I'd arrived, I was directed to one of the vans transporting crew to the set. These were large people carriers with lots of space. Some seats had been allocated for sitting on while others had been marked off with an “X” so we could maintain the proper distance. We were off and I could only Hold On.

I arrived at the first filming location - outside a house - together with the script girl, who told me I would be with her most of the day. The script girl sits right beside the director in front of the monitors so they can watch the scenes being shot! I stayed away from that area for the first scene, however, as the only actor involved at that time was a dog called Jasper and he wasn't required to speak any French so didn't need me to coach him! I reminded myself I gotta be patient.

As I was standing across the street from the first scene, I was approached by a representative of the sponsor - a multinational carbonated soft drink producer - and the first AD (assistant director), who, each standing six feet away from me and each other, told me right away that the actor aka melodious bard I was there to coach was so well known worldwide (oh and by the way, did I know who he was? I nodded, smiling to myself and thinking of all the hours of his music I had recently listened to and videos I had watched), and everybody knew he was an English speaker, not a French speaker, so they didn't actually need him to speak with a French-Canadian accent. Instead, they needed him to speak with a “Burnaby French” accent since he's originally from Burnaby. I commented that that would be easy as I too was originally from Burnaby. The AD (another Burnaby-ite) was delighted to hear this! So there you go! I was the right person for the job! All I had to do was coach him to speak in my very own French accent!

Next, I was introduced to the Director (from New York), who had flown in for the shoot. The sponsor representatives, I learned, had flown in from Toronto and the script girl had taken a ferry to get to North Vancouver from the Gulf Islands! They and other foreign crew were staying at a hotel in downtown Vancouver.

As I maintained my observation from across the street during that first hour or so, while the set was being prepared and the dog was taken through his lines (woof, woof), I kept trying to guess where the “international celebrity” was. I told myself I just haven't met you yet! One of the parking lot attendants on my arrival had told me he had already arrived and pointed out his very fancy sports car. However, I kept my cool and just watched all the activity, fascinated - this was by far the largest shoot I had ever been on - and didn't ask too many questions. After about an hour of standing around watching, I was finally invited to join the director and the script girl in the open car porch where the monitors had been set up. I had been supplied with “cans” - a headset through which I could hear Everything going on in the shoot itself - and once the crew had finished setting up, I heard through said headset that the “Megastar from Burnaby” (they actually said his name but you know what I mean) was “on the move.” This meant, I gathered, he was coming out of his trailer, parked a few blocks away, I supposed, accompanied by his assistant, hairstylist and makeup person, and was on his way to the location where we were and where he was to start filming his first scene.

When I was introduced to him as his French dialect coach, he tried out all the French he knew, which was “Bonjour, mon petit chou, voulez-vous coucher . . .?” then to my relief he stopped mid-sentence, perhaps realizing he was about to say Something Stupid that wasn't really appropriate. (Muy bien, his wife would probably have said). Well, il musicista bello made me laugh, which I think was his aim. I should probably point out that due to Covid precautions, we had all been told in an e-mail that we were to be very hands off with this recipient of both the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia as he had an immune-compromised child at home. Nor were we allowed to take any selfies with this multiple Grammy and Juno award-winner, to the chagrin of myself and my agent, who had no doubt been hoping for a souvenir shot of the both of us for her newsletter.

I later “met” one-on-one with the man of the méchamment belle voix to practice his French lines with him, once via Facetime using the second AD's iPhone, and once by walkie-talkie. However, to my surprise, I was also asked to coach the minor actors in French. As I had been told their lines would be dubbed in the French version of the commercial, I wasn't expecting to be asked this. Nonetheless, of course, it was no problem and I took them through their French lines just before the French version was to be shot. (For each scene, first the English version was filmed and then the French version.) One of the actors, an Asian whose second language was Chinese, caught on to the French accent quite quickly while the two teenage actors did require a bit more coaching from me but managed in the end. In any case, as pointed about above, the director wasn't really that concerned due to the later dubbing. The two women actors in the commercial were already familiar enough with French they did not need my coaching.

Around noon, production was stopped and caterers came round with trays offering us individualized boxed lunches with a choice of salmon or chicken. I ate mine alone (Nobody but me) well distanced, standing across the street from the third film location, which had just started being set up.

To sum up my day, I will say that overall, it was an exciting opportunity, everyone was really nice and friendly, Covid-restrictions were carefully observed - only the actors were unmasked and only when they were being filmed - and I even got to try out the very swanky trailer washroom once. As for my part, everyone seemed to appreciate my help. There was a lot of standing or sitting around, sure, and yes, I was provided with a chair. I felt honoured to be seated at the monitors with the director where I could see everything and hear everything. I was finally dismissed by the sponsor around 5:30 pm, got the shuttle back to my car by 6:00 and arrived Home at 7:00. I was sooo glad I had decided to bring my warm winter coat as I had been outside all day.

I received payment for my work very quickly and it's probably the most I've ever made in a day as a freelance linguist (but then there was all that arduous studying beforehand!) The day after the shoot, I remember feeling quite exhausted, so it's not something I'd agree to do every day. Once in a while though, sure! Perhaps even Someday soon.

If you'd like to see the resulting commercial yourself, I am led to believe it will be aired during a major internationally-televised American college football event on Sunday, February 7, 2021. Not having a TV or being a fan of football myself, I'll probably miss it. (Anyway, it's likely only the English version will appear in B.C.) However, no doubt, a few months later, both the English and French versions will be available to watch on YouTube. Listen out for the main actor's “Burnaby French” accent and let me know what you think! And one final piece of advice: The next time I call you to offer you a gig, answer the phone! Otherwise, You'll never know! That's all!

Angela Fairbank, M.A., C.T.
STIBC-Certified Spanish to English Translator
ATA-Certified French to English Translator
Registrar, STIBC Board of Directors, 2019-2021
STIBC Voice Editor, 2019-2021
CTTIC Vice-President, 2019-2021

How to Earn Continuing Education (CE) Points

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, October 2020, pages 11 to 13.
The other day, I was asked by one of my STIBC colleagues to suggest ways of earning CE points during these months of Covid-19. (As a reminder, after becoming certified and in order to retain that status, you must keep on learning and, to prove this fact, you are obliged to submit Continuing Education credits every year at the time you renew your STIBC membership.)

My quick answer is that opportunities to earn CE points are even more abundant these days. In addition to serving on STIBC's Board of Directors, attending or giving workshops through our Events program, attending our AGM or even becoming involved in the STIBC Voice by writing articles or offering to proofread, for instance, there are numerous online webinars offered by other organizations now accessible to a much wider audience then ever before Covid-19. Through my LinkedIn and Facebook feeds, I learn of new online webinars and conferences almost daily. In addition to STIBC's own online workshops, CTTIC, ATIA and ATIO are parent and sister sources of Canadian-based translation- and interpretation-specific webinars. Recently, CTTIC arranged a partnership with Magistrad, which offers T&I courses online - both live and recorded. As an additional incentive, thanks to CTTIC, STIBC members are currently eligible for a 15% reduction. (Courses must be paid for by December 31, 2020 but can include courses held in 2021 as well). Moreover, universities in Eastern Canada are now offering translation and interpreting programs online: Glendon College (for interpreting) and the University of McGill Continuing Education (for translation) are two that come to mind.

Further afield, but also accessible, are numerous online webinars (old and new) offered to ATA -members and non-ATA members alike. Added to these are manifold courses and conferences offered in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. All you have to do these days is Google your keywords and you will be offered a plethora of information and courses. Then, don't forget to present your certificate of attendance or your receipt when you hand your CE credits form to our Membership Coordinator when you renew your membership for 2021. I assure you it's not difficult to come up with a minimum of eight (8) CE credits these days.

There are other options, too. Have you been involved in a large translation project - perhaps recently translating a published book of over 50,000 words, for instance - or interpreted during a significant conference at national or international level? Have you subscribed this year to a linguistic magazine? I personally subscribe to Multilingual, which is relevant to the machine translation industry so that I can keep up with new technology but you can also subscribe to magazines, reviews or journals in your field of translation or interpreting such as life sciences (the top field for linguistic work these days), law, finance, real estate - the world is your oyster. And if oysters are your world, you need only type “aquaculture” into Google to find a relevant journal. You can also gain CE points if you select texts or mark STIBC's admission and practice exams or CTTIC's certification exams. There is an obligatory training course to learn how to mark, but there is also a small honorarium for each exam you do mark! Income and CE points - a winning combination!

You can also become a member of ATA or any of our CTTIC-sister organizations across Canada or OTTIAQ (though OTTIAQ does require a good level of French). Last but not least, if you pass a CTTIC certification exam (translation or interpreting) in an additional language combination or an additional type to what you are already certified in, that accomplishment also earns you a CE point!

With all the things I do already for STIBC and CTTIC, I had 72 CE credits last year! It's simply a choice of how I dedicate my time. And if your income was not great this year, not to worry. Not everything costs money. Most of the online workshops I have attended this year have been free! To illustrate my point, just these past two weeks, I attended some excellent T&I related webinars that I'd like to mention and all were free! On September 30, International Translation Day aka St. Jerome's Day, in line with the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs/International Federation of Translators (FIT)'s theme for this year “Finding the words for a world in crisis,” I attended an online presentation by OTTIAQ about how Covid-19 has actually improved the professional lives of translators and interpreters in general. Not only has it provided much more work for translators and interpreters worldwide - since there has been a vital need for colleagues in both professions to transfer and disseminate news about the virus and how to keep healthy and safe everywhere - but also in so doing it has highlighted the importance of our professions within the global village. We are considered essential workers. Covid-19 would be a far worse pandemic had translators and interpreters not been called upon to do this work.

Next, on October 1 and 8, I attended CTTIC's free two-part series on the history and future of Translation and Interpreting presented by OTTIAQ's President, Donald Barabé. If you have not yet seen this presentation you really are missing out. Donald presents this same information to OTTIAQ members every two months, so I have now seen it in English and French! When he presents it in French, it is three hours long, but at my suggestion, CTTIC asked him to divide it into two distinct parts. Due to copyright reasons, I cannot repeat all of it verbatim here, but I can give you a hint of some of the information I retained.

First of all, Donald presented statistics on languages in general, largely based on information provided by the Common Sense Advisory (CSA). For instance, he told us that of the between 200,000 and 700,000 language professionals in the world, 17,420 are in Canada (representing 2.5% to 8.7%), and 8,650 are in Quebec (1.2% to 4.3% of the world and 50% of Canada). Between 2009 and 2019, i.e. over a space of ten years, the language market grew from a US$23.5 billion to a US$49.6 billion business. Forecasted growth from 2020 to 2025 is US$57 to US$77 billion.

Here is the translation market presented by region: 54.3% Europe, 29.9% North America, 10.6% Asia, 2.2% Australia and New Zealand, 1.7% Africa and 1.4% South America. In terms of Global Human Translation versus Global Machine Translation, the human translation market, which was US$49.6 billion in 2019, is projected to reach US$56.2 billion in 2021, while the global machine translation market is projected to be US$983.3 million by 2022. This translates into a projected increase in the recruitment of translators and interpreters of 46% in the USA.

Donald's presentation next covered the history of our professions and how world events triggered their growth. He went on to say that today's modern economies are based on three major industries: telecommunications, information technologies and tourism. All three contribute to globalization and all three require a huge amount of translation and interpretation.

Some more statistics for you: There are currently 7,097 living languages - 2,296 in Asia, 2,139 in Africa, 1,313 in the Pacific, 1,062 in the Americas and 287 in Europe. While 600 of these languages have a written system, 49% of the world population speaks 15 languages. One hundred languages are spoken by more than ten million people, 20 languages are spoken by more than 50 million people and five languages are spoken by more than 100 million people. Canada alone has a total of 200 spoken languages, of which 70 are indigenous. Part one of Barabé's presentation ended with a list of six paradoxes related to the Translation and Interpreting professions.

A week later, I was back in front of my computer watching part two, which concentrated on today's challenges, such as the deficient status of our profession, changes in demand for translation, and social ethics, along with Barabé's proposed solutions. However, I'll leave those for you to experience yourself. I suggest you run, not walk, to find out when he is next scheduled to present this fascinating talk. It is a totally uplifting experience for all translators and interpreters experiencing uncertainty about the future of our professions.

Do let CTTIC know if you would be interested in having Mr. Barabé speak again to STIBC and our sister organizations. CTTIC is also open to ideas for other subjects pertinent to our professions. Perhaps you would like to make a presentation yourself, or suggest a speaker you found illuminating in the past.

In between these two presentations, on Saturday October 3, I attended ATIA's International Translation Day symposium. This began with a very detailed presentation on cognitive models by Debra Russell, PhD, a Canadian certified interpreter, educator and researcher at the University of Alberta. I admit it was a teeny bit too highbrow - or perhaps I mean academic - for me. I'm more interested in hands-on interpreting than in learning how my brain functions when I'm in interpreting mode!

After lunch, I listened to a very interesting presentation by Houssem Ben Lazreg, a PhD candidate in Translation Studies from the University of Alberta, who specializes in media translation. I was not even aware that UofA had a translation program! Taking examples from his draft PhD thesis, Lazreg showed clear examples of how translation becomes a weapon when news is manipulated by Journalators (Journalist/Translators). Houssem showed us how information is, shall we say, “poetically” translated to suit the needs of the particular bias of newspapers. Since this involves errors, omissions or, at times, a total change of facts to suit the purposes of the editors and the factions they support, audience participants raised a number of questions regarding ethics.

For the remainder of the afternoon and into the early evening, I was pleasantly entertained by ATIA's “Works in Translation” event, touted as “a casual virtual soirée of literary readings in translation by TransLit contributors and friends” with “speakers offer[ing] readings, reflections, anecdotes and dialogue that range from the technical to the romantic to the humorous.”

As Zoom presentations are also another means to network via the chat function, it was through the bias of this afternoon's enjoyable poetry-in-translation readings that I met virtually our interviewee for this month's STIBC Voice: Wioletta Polanski. So now on to the interview. Take it away Wioletta!

Angela Fairbank, M.A. C.T.
Editor, STIBC Voice, 2019-2021

Letter from a High School Student

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, July 2020, pages 13 to 17.
The following letter was sent to the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC) office in Ottawa. It was then forwarded to the President of the Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia (STIBC), Stefanie Kennell, since the student was located in British Columbia. Stefanie then contacted me because French and Spanish are also my languages and asked if I would like to reply. I was delighted to accept the challenge. By publishing a somewhat pared-down version of my responses to the student here, I hope that my answers will encourage others--students and non-students alike--contemplating a career in translating and/or interpreting to follow their dream.

“Greetings. I am a High School student currently attending Grade 11 at Thomas Haney Secondary School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. I was recently assigned a project for my CLE (Career-Life Education) 11 course to report on a career I am interested in. I am passionate about languages and linguistics as I am taking French 11 and Spanish 11 and I plan to continue improving my Spanish learning and skills post-secondary. My passion stems from my personal history as I have dual Canadian-Mexican citizenship and I took French immersion from Kindergarten to Grade 5.

I was wondering if anyone at the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council would be willing to speak to me about possible future career opportunities in translation services and answer my questions below. Thank you, D.P.”

1. What is your job title?

I am currently a freelance certified Spanish to English translator (Society of Translators and Interpreters of BC (STIBC) and Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ)), a certified French to English translator (American Translators Association (ATA)), a community, health and immigration interpreter, as well as an editor and proofreader (among other things). However, I also volunteer my time as Vice-President of the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), as Registrar of STIBC and as Editor of STIBC's quarterly newsletter, the STIBC Voice.

2. What are the duties and responsibilities of your job?

If we concentrate on what I do in my two major, paid occupations as translator and interpreter, I render written documents from one of my professional foreign languages into my mother tongue (English) and I render oral utterances between two of my three working languages at a time. In upholding the code of ethics of these two professions, I must be accurate and faithful to the source language without addition, distortion, omission or embellishment of the meaning; I must maintain confidentiality of any information entrusted to me during the course of my work; I must be impartial by showing no preference or bias in the performance of my duties; I must maintain the boundaries of my role; I must be accountable for the quality of my services and only accept assignments within my competence; I must be professional and ethical at all times; and I must continue my education so as to be up to date with all the latest trends and technologies in my profession.

3. How many hours per day or week do you work?

As a freelancer, the hours and days of the week I work vary greatly as they depend on how many assignments I have and their deadlines. I often find myself working evenings and weekends but there are other periods of time when days go by without any assignments and this gives me a chance to catch up on other projects, such as attending webinars as part of my continuing education, or updating my website or LinkedIn profile, etc. Of course, a great deal of my time is also spent fulfilling the voluntary duties mentioned above, answering e-mails, participating in various committee meetings and board meetings, and reading through documents submitted for on-dossier certification.

4. Can you tell me about your background and how you got into this field?

Born into a monolingual family of British parents, I discovered my affinity for languages in high school. I started learning French at age 13, Latin and German at age 14 and attended a summer French-immersion program in Penetanguishene, Ontario as well as courses in Amboise and Caen during Spring and Summer holidays in France as a high school student. I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at UBC, graduating with a double major in French and Spanish. (I had only started learning Spanish at UBC at age 18, and after spending two summers working in Germany, at the age of 20, I had to decide whether to concentrate on German or Spanish as my third language). I spent the third year of my four-year course at Université Laval in Quebec, where I was not only enrolled in the French program but also continued my studies in Spanish. In the summer after my time in Quebec, I studied Spanish in Valencia, Spain as part of a program offered by the University of Chicago. Next, after taking a year out to work as a freelance translator, English-programs administrator and multilingual receptionist, as well as gain some experience as a voluntary translator and interpreter in Vancouver and Honduras, I enrolled in the Master's in Translation and Interpretation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California as it was the only university in North America at that time offering a Master's in Conference Interpreting in French and Spanish. (My goal then was to become a United Nations Conference Interpreter!) As my studies at MIIS also included a number of courses in Sight Translation as well as Consecutive and Simultaneous Interpreting, it fully prepared me to work in both disciplines. During that summer and the autumn of my second year, I studied Spanish translation and interpreting at Estudio Sampere in Madrid, Spain and then was an exchange student at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (ETI) at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. I finally ended up with a Master's Degree in Translation from MIIS, which enabled me to start the first twenty years of my career as an in-house translator and interpreter, among other things, in Belgium, Hong Kong, Central West Africa and the Caribbean. Perhaps that (adventurous) part of my life can be narrated in a separate Voice article.

5. a) What do you like most about your work?

As a freelancer now, I love the freedom I have. I can travel when and where I want to and work from almost anywhere in the world! I am also at liberty to turn down work if I am too busy or just need a break. Furthermore, I enjoy spending time with fellow translators and interpreters in my capacity as a board member of STIBC and CTTIC. However, the greatest reward is meeting clients face to face and helping them communicate.

b) What do you like least about your work?

Some days when translating for long hours at my home office, I feel somewhat isolated. Then when I get too busy, I have no time to exercise, or even shop for groceries! At other times, I feel stressed when rushing between interpreting assignments--which could be several kilometres and therefore several bus and skytrain trips apart--and anxious about arriving at the right place and on time to help my clients.

6. a) What education or training did you need for this job?

From the description in question 4 above, you will see that I concentrated my early years on learning and immersing myself in languages. In addition to language training and, of course, specialized courses in translation and interpretation, I took personal trips to study the culture of other countries and I was trained onsite in specific fields: health care, immigration, law, agriculture, tourism, forestry, etc. If you have a choice between theoretical and practical courses in translation and interpreting, I'd say go for the practical ones as they are much more useful. As you will hear frequently, it is not enough to be bilingual or multilingual and expect to become a translator or interpreter, you have to learn exactly how to translate and interpret. In Canada alone there are 12 universities offering degrees in Translation; seven of them are in Quebec: Université Laval, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Université de Sherbrooke, Concordia University, Université de Montréal, McGill University, Université du Québec en Outaouais, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, York University, Université de Moncton (New Brunswick), and Université de Saint-Boniface (Manitoba). Furthermore, Glendon College in Toronto has an excellent program for Interpretation. Unfortunately, here in BC, programs in the field are somewhat limited. Currently, UBC and SFU only offer translation certificate or diploma programs in Chinese. Of course, if you would like to study outside of Canada, there are also excellent (and some quite famous) translation and interpreting schools all around the world. Fairly extensive lists of translation and interpreting schools can be found at the following two websites: and

b) Is there any training you have done since starting the job?

Absolutely! I am constantly learning new things to update my skills. I have earned certificates in a smattering of other languages as well as web design, business, film, photography, tourism and others. I have learned a variety of software so as to tackle almost any type of translation project. Over the last few years, I have attended ATA conferences as well as online workshops and webinars offered by ATA, STIBC, other CTTIC member societies and OTTIAQ in addition to those I come across via my LinkedIn network. In 2016, I attended a summer school in Antwerp, Belgium to learn a few CAT (Computer-assisted Translation) tools. A few years ago, I took an in-classroom certificate course in Community Interpreting while more recently, I took online training in Health Care Interpreting and Legal Interpreting. In addition to formal training, whether in a classroom or on line, I also make it my personal goal to travel to a few new countries every year in order to widen my cultural knowledge and learn variations in vocabulary and accent among French-, English- and Spanish-speaking countries. I even obtained a TESOL/TEFL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages/Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate recently in order to teach English in Italy for a year. I embrace new challenges.

c) What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in this job?

The first few characteristics that come immediately to mind are being organized and self-disciplined, having a good memory and being curious. For a translator, time management is key so that all projects, once accepted, can be completed on time. A good memory is necessary for interpreting. I offer consecutive interpreting as opposed to simultaneous interpreting--which are quite different skills--but memory is important for both. A consecutive interpreter listens to the client speak for a longer time before interpreting than a simultaneous interpreter does and then has to remember everything that was said. A consecutive interpreter learns how to take notes using a special system of symbols while listening to the client talk in the source language. These notes are then used as an aide mémoire when rendering the speech into the target language after the speaker has finished talking. Furthermore, it is important for an interpreter to be calm, eat healthily and get enough sleep, to keep the brain fresh and focussed so as not to miss anything that has been said. As far as curiosity is concerned, if there is a word in the translation--or interpretation--that you can't immediately identify, you may need to consult various dictionaries, thesauruses or colleagues to find just the right word, and then remember it the next time it comes up in your work!

7. Is there a steady demand for workers in the field? How much job security is there?

As the world evolves, knowledge of more than one language (especially rare languages) is becoming more and more important for communication. There will always be a need for human translators and interpreters. Machine Translation has been on the rise for a few decades now and is seen by some in the profession as a threat to the industry. However, in reality, it still has a long way to go; humans are still required for the important stuff, such as reading between the lines, noting body language and being aware of cultural references--subtleties that I believe machines will never learn.

8. What other jobs could you do with the skills/education you have gained in this field?

Speaking for myself, over my 38-and-a-half-year career, I have used my languages as a language teacher; tour guide; travel writer, photographer and videographer; subtitler; transcriber; voice-over artist; cruise ship hostess; escort, liaison, community, court and medical interpreter; international sales and marketing manager and more. However, there are many other jobs I have not pursued and today's Translation and Interpreting School graduates are faced with a plethora of career choices such as Bilingual (or Multilingual) Assistant, Conference Interpreter, Cultural Expert, Customer Support Manager, Flight Attendant, Global Merchandiser, Globalization Manager, International Business Development Manager, International Buyer, L10n (Localization) or I18N (Internationalization) Engineer, Linguistic Tester, Localization Project Manager, Multimedia Specialist, Overseas Account Manager, Recruiter, Remote Interpreter, Reviewer, Terminologist, Transcreation Specialist, Translation and Localization QA (Quality Assessment) Manager or Translation Project Coordinator, to mention only a few.

No matter what career you choose, the secret to job satisfaction is finding a job that you love. If you are not comfortable working for others--in an office role for instance--then why not create your own business in a sector that excites you? It may take a while to find your specific market niche but be ready to explore as many opportunities as you can and enjoy your time as you do so. If nothing else, you will learn a great deal and should meet some pretty amazing people along the way.

9. How are new employees hired for this position?

I am not currently an employee, but when I was one--in Belgium, in Hong Kong, in the Caribbean--I either worked with agencies, responded to ads or heard of jobs through word of mouth. Now, as a freelancer, I obtain most of my work through my website, LinkedIn, the on-line directories of ATA, STIBC and OTTIAQ or from past client referrals, family and friends. I also offer my services directly to LSPs (language service providers) throughout the world.

10. What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue this career?

First of all, never stop learning: a) practice your languages: watch TV shows and films, read books and newspapers and listen to the radio in your foreign languages as well as your mother tongue; b) work on your translating and interpreting skills at every opportunity; c) travel as much as you can to gain knowledge of the cultures of the countries whose languages you speak. Secondly, join and get involved in the activities of your local T&I association. In Canada, eight out of the ten provinces offer membership to qualified translators and interpreters: STIBC, ATIA (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta), ATIS (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Saskatchewan), ATIM (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Manitoba), ATIO (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario), ATINS (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Nova Scotia), CTINB (Corporation of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of New Brunswick), all of which are under the CTTIC umbrella, and OTTIAQ. These associations, some of which offer student membership to those in university T&I programs, provide mentoring opportunities, social events, workshops and webinars as well as multiple opportunities to network. Thirdly, create a website for your services and keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Fourthly, once you have completed your education in T&I, and have four or more years of translation and/or interpretation experience under your belt, become certified through one of the above associations. As a certified translator or interpreter, even more doors will open to you because you will finally be recognized as a professional.

11. Is finding work for translation services easier in some parts of the country compared to others? (provinces, municipalities, communities, etc.)

The pandemic period aside, if you want to be a medical, immigration or court interpreter, more assignments are available in large cities at hospitals, federal agencies and courts, etc. If your goal is to be a conference interpreter, you should either live by an airport so as to travel to work or move to a UN agency city: However, if your preference is to be a freelance translator, you can live virtually anywhere that has an internet connection as most of your work will arrive through e-mail while most translation platforms you are asked to work with will be online.

Angela Fairbank, M.A. C.T.
Editor, STIBC Voice, 2019-2021

The Sixth Interview of the Interview Series by Angela Fairbank

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, July 2020, pages 4 & 5.
VI. A UN Conference Interpreter Abroad

Due to the political situation in the country where this interviewee is currently working, I was asked to keep the name and region anonymous. We are lucky in Canada that we are free to speak our mind. I had asked this person for an interview many moons ago and the answers would probably have been a lot more revealing and interesting back then, while those of today are fairly straightforward in an effort, no doubt, to avoid saying anything that may be considered volatile or more importantly, that could identify the interviewee. Nonetheless, I hope these replies will still be of interest to our readers, since this person began language studies in Canada before pursuing freelance work with the United Nations abroad. Working at the United Nations is always interesting (and it is a level to which many conference interpreters aspire). However, we must keep in mind that not all UN interpreters are working in safe and secure areas of the world and we thank them for the risks they are taking on our behalf.

1. Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter--which of these three professions do you identify with?

Conference Interpreter. [Ed. This interpreter's language combination is French A, English B and Spanish C. For readers unfamiliar with this lettering, “A” designates the interpreter's mother tongue, “B,” the first foreign language and “C,” the second foreign language. In conference interpreting, interpreters may be expected at times to interpret into their B language but never into their C language. The six languages used at the UN are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.]

2. Please provide a brief synopsis of your education--including language education--and background related to how you came to be a Translator, Interpreter or Terminologist. For example, immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship/menteeship, internship, etc.

I studied Political Science and Conference Interpretation at an EMCI-(European Master's in Conference Interpreting (Switzerland)) affiliated Interpretation School. I grew up in a bilingual environment in Montreal, high school in French and university in English. To improve my C-language (Spanish), I traveled to Spain twice. I also had a fellow AIIC conference interpreter as my mentor for many years.

3. How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

15 years.

4. Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

I am presently working as a freelance interpreter. I prefer freelance work by far as the diversity of meetings (subject matter) I cover is enriching. The downside, of course, is the precariousness one can face in a COVID-like context.

5. Where do you currently exercise your profession?

[Information withheld].

6. Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s), and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately or substantially?

I am not sure if being accredited to the UN counts, but I did sit a UN examination and passed it successfully. It did not increase my income directly but it helped me become recognized as a competent interpreter and allowed more employers to call upon my services.

7. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

I believe interpreting bilateral meetings between Heads of State and government really stands out in my memory. The content of the exchanges is not what made them so special but these encounters magnify the importance of our role in terms of communication.

8. Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?

Remote Simultaneous Interpreting is a disruptive evolution of our profession that all interpreters are facing today. The question of accepting or refusing to work with such platforms is no longer relevant. How we will work using these platforms will determine the future of conference interpretation.

9. Are you a member of a local T&I association in your area? If so, what do you get out of it - e.g. workshops, social events, annual conferences, etc.?

I am an AIIC member and I am greatly involved in the activities of our region.

Questions by Angela Fairbank M.A. C.T.
Editor, STIBC Voice 2019-2021

The Fifth Interview of the Interview Series by Angela Fairbank

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, April 2020, pages 3 to 5.
V. An Interview with Senegalese Conference Interpreter Malick Sy, President of AIIC from 1994 to 2000

Malick Sy

  1. Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter - which of these three professions do you identify with?

MS: Conference Interpreter. I insist on this term because it's very important to define the profession of conference interpreter clearly and accurately. In my humble opinion, the terms interpreter - which is too generic - and the derivative expressions court interpreter, escort interpreter, and community interpreter, have led to quite a misleading mixture.

2. Please provide a brief synopsis of your education - including language education - and background related to how you came to be a Translator, Interpreter or Terminologist. For example, immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship/menteeship, internship, etc.

MS: Primary school in Guinguineo, a village in central Senegal.
High school at a public boarding school: Lycée Van Vollehoven in Dakar.
Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal: Literature (English and Spanish).
Sorbonne Universit√© then ESIT (École supérieure d'Interprètes & de Traducteurs in Paris): Literature and then Interpretation.
Various stays in England.
I have had the immense privilege of having had historical figures in conference interpretation, such as Danica Seleskovitch, Christopher Thierry, Gérard Ilg and Marc Moyens, as master teachers and mentors.
Staff interpreter with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and freelance interpreter since 1985.
Active Member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) since 1974.
President of AIIC from 1994 to 2000.
After completing my two terms as AIIC's President, I enjoyed the privilege of heading AIIC's negotiation delegation on three different occasions to renegotiate the terms of various five-year agreements we have had with the United Nations Organization since 1969. During the most recent negotiations, we very fortunately managed to come to a permanent arrangement. I do hope that Covid-19 does not force us to reconsider this Agreement.

3. How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

MS: Since 1971, so that will make it 50 years next year. Like they say, I turned grey in the service.

4. Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

MS: I am currently a freelance conference interpreter, although I was a staffer for the first 15 years of my career. Which of the two types do I prefer? I will answer just like a child would when asked which parent he prefers: “both.” Each has advantages and disadvantages and, I would even say, its own charms. Perhaps also age and experience are my own determining factors in preferring one over the other.

5. Where do you currently exercise your profession?

MS: Mainly in Africa.

6. Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s), and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately or substantially?

MS: What do you mean by certified? In most countries around the world the profession of conference interpreter is not legally defined. It is therefore neither recognized nor protected - unlike the professions of a lawyer or doctor, for instance. The coronavirus crisis has raised the question of which professions are useful to the community and therefore deserve greater recognition. Are conference interpreters part of that, I wonder?

If by certified you mean “sworn,” I would say that in Africa in general, only court interpreters are sworn, but court interpreting is not carried out by conference interpreters. This is certainly something to be explored, however, because I believe that certain issues discussed in the courts are so important (the defence of human rights, for instance) that interpretation should be provided by conference interpreters. In fact, interpretation at international courts is provided by conference interpreters.

7. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

MS: Obviously my role as president of AIIC from 1994 to 2000. However, I am also very proud to have trained, along with other Senegalese colleagues, 21 conference interpreters in six of the national languages of Senegal (Wolof, Pulaar, Mandinka, Joola, Soninke, Serer and Siin). As a result, for the last five years, the National Assembly of Senegal has held all of its plenary sessions with simultaneous interpretation into French and into these six national languages. In a country like Senegal, where 65% of the population doesn't speak French, the use of national languages makes it possible to strengthen democracy and human rights by ensuring the right of all citizens to understand and participate in managing the country's business affairs.

8. Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?

MS: Yes, the case of the USA FTC (Federal Trade Commission). I inherited the FTC file when I was elected President of AIIC in 1994. The FTC had written to AIIC accusing it of being a cartel and ordering it either to sign a “consent order to cease and desist from our professional practices” or to be prosecuted at the FTC's administrative court. The target of this FTC injunction was an agreement regarding the principles governing fees, compensation, travel days, per diems, professional standards (at least two interpreters per booth, the duration of sessions, etc.). In short, this injunction shook AIIC and the entire profession because its foundations were called into question.

It needs to be said that other professional translator and interpreter associations approached by the FTC did agree to sign this consent order.

AIIC's office and Board chose not to maintain an empty-chair attitude towards the FTC, as suggested by some of our members, who were understandably afraid. We also chose not to sign this consent order and instead opted to defend ourselves before the FTC. Obviously, it was not easy. AIIC was immediately stressed by the thought that everything could collapse: its unity and survival were threatened. Fortunately for the profession, AIIC's Board Members and office staff back then maintained a calm demeanour and courageously made the right decision, i.e. by choosing to defend our profession despite personal attacks by certain members, who were more often inspired by fear and resistance to change than by principles. As it happens, we had no trouble defending ourselves when it came to the accusation about fee agreements since AIIC had already decided to abolish and prohibit all fee agreements in the private market.

In order to pay the lawyers who defended us before the FTC, we proposed a voluntary flat-rate contribution of US$400 per member so as not to reduce any of AIIC's activities. Happily, the administrative tribunal agreed with us and we were able to uphold our working conditions and our professional standards. We were also able to preserve our right to sign agreements and conventions with consenting organizations. Furthermore, we had notified DG IV (Directorate General for Competition) of the European Union about our texts, thus protecting ourselves from being prosecuted for alleged violations of the competition law. AIIC emerged from this ordeal a stronger and more unified body.

This action proved our ability to mobilize ourselves and defend our profession during a particularly difficult time in the life of our Association. Interestingly enough, this same challenging period also gave birth to a number of initiatives such as the publication of a book, organized by Wadi Keizer, and then by Christopher Thierry, on the history of AIIC and the profession of conference interpreter. Birth of a Profession was published in English and French (Naissance d'une profession). I would also like to mention the “Survey on expectations of users of conference interpretation,” which was masterfully led by Jennifer Mackintosh.

9. What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting - or thinking of starting - in the profession today?

MS: I would tell them that conference interpreting is a very fine profession, but one that requires rigour and professionalism. A successful future lies ahead as long as it stays organized within AIIC so that technological advances can be anticipated, learned and used to serve the profession.

10. Are you a member of a local T&I association in your area? If so, what do you get out of it - e.g. workshops, social events, annual conferences, etc.?

MS: We don't have a National Association of Conference Interpreters in Senegal. We're afraid that such an association might decide to limit the practice of the profession to nationals only. An attempt of this kind, made in a neighbouring country, luckily failed. Had it been successful, it would have seriously harmed the professional mobility of conference interpreters. On the other hand, we did manage to set up an informal sub-region within AIIC's Africa section to manage our local problems and organize our solidarity and social activities.

Translated from French by Angela Fairbank M.A. C.T.
STIBC-certified Spanish to English Translator
ATA-certified French to English Translator
STIBC Voice 2019-2021

AILIA Annual Conference, Ottawa, Ontario, February 28, 2020

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, April 2020, pages 11 to 15.
In my capacity as Vice-President of the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), I was invited to attend the annual conference in Ottawa, Ontario held by AILIA Language Industry Association. This association mainly consists of Language Service Providers (LSPs aka translation agencies). ATIO (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario) is a member, though STIBC is not. I provided a report on this conference to the CTTIC Council and Board in March and thought that there may also be some topics of interest in it for STIBC members. At the very least, it will introduce many of our members to AILIA, to providers of potential translation and interpretation work, and to new vocabulary, innovations and websites to check out.

Opening Keynote address: Loc 2020: Technology and Trends Shaping the Language Industry

The opening keynote was presented by Esther Bond, Research Director at Slator, which studies, among many other things, the business of Language Service Providers and technical markets.

To start, Bond introduced some of the topics that Slator researches related to the language industry: rates regulations, translation devices, information about Google translate, new EU regulations concerning medical devices, and recent LSP M&As (mergers and acquisitions). The public can subscribe to Slator and/or read their reports online.

Bond also showed us Slator's Language Service Provider Index, an annual index rating 130 LSPs earning over $1 million. In 2019, they grew 15% to reach a combined revenue of $7 billion. The Slator index divides these companies into 4 groups: 1) super agencies ($200+ million revenue) comprising 5 companies, 2) leaders ($25 - $200 million), 3) challengers ($8 - $25 million) - these three groups are the fastest growing among the larger ones - and 4) boutiques, with revenues of between $1 and $8 million. The entire report can be read here.

Bond added that there had been a number of consolidations in 2019 and six more LSPs were acquired. Between 2016 and Feb 2020, 179 LSPs were bought by other LSPs, which tend either to diversify or specialize or offer premium services or automate, as they can't do all four.

Translation Bureau: How to turn on a dime with an eighteen-wheeler

Lucie Séguin, CEO of the Translation Bureau (TB) spoke about this Canadian government LSP, created in 1934. It is the largest employer of linguists (Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters) in Canada. Although it has 1,213 employees nationwide, translating 375 million words and providing 5,685 days of conference interpreting per year, it also outsources 47% of its volume to the private sector. Termium Plus® is one of its products: “one of the largest terminology and linguistic data banks in the world, [giving] access to millions of terms in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. [On it, one] can find terms, abbreviations, definitions and usage examples in a wide range of specialized fields.”

The Translation Bureau also invests in innovative technology and is developing a number of pilot projects. It currently employs students at various T&I universities in Canada to provide updates on emerging marketing trends. Another topic in Lucie's presentation was GCLingua, a new linguist services request management system, to be implemented in the Spring of 2020 in a phased approach starting with Canada's Heritage Sector. It will aim to provide end-to-end Translation, Terminologists & Interpreting services, prices and activities faster, cheaper and better while matching high quality standards. Access to TB's system will be given to its providers so that everything can be completed on the platform. There will be a two-year phase-in and training provided to freelancers. The expected revenue from this project is $200 million/year.

Another useful tool from the TB that I learned about is the Languages Portal of Canada, which, along with Plunet, SDL, Orion and memoQ, among others, had a booth at the conference. Language professionals who use English and French can subscribe to a weekly newsletter called Portal Weekly, which offers a blog, news, activities and a quiz in both official languages.

Post-Editing: A Theoretical and Practical Challenge for Translation Educators

Dr. Maria Sierra Cordoba Serrano, an Associate Professor at McGill University, told us about the School of Continuing Studies at McGill, which is planning to offer a new online degree - an applied M.Sc. in multilingual communication technologies - provided the Quebec government approves.

Although the SDL CAT tool is the focus of the course, due to the fact that the instructor also works for SDL, students are expected to transfer the skills they learn to other CAT tools. They will be hiring OTTIAQ members to provide teaching assistance throughout the course curriculum.

Panel Discussion: Machine Translation: To disclose or not to disclose - Legal Implications.

Panel members, in addition to myself, were Renato Beninatto, CEO of Nimdzi Insights, Elliott Macklovitch, MT Consultant and Lecturer, and Fred Pinto, Attorney, Pinto Legal. Our moderator was Lola Bendana, Director of Multi-Languages Corporation. As she had kindly provided us with the subjects to be discussed a week or two before the conference, I was able to prepare answers with the help of our CTTIC Council members.

The questions that the panel looked at were:
  1. Should translators/LSPs disclose usage of MT (machine translation) to clients? Should clients be privy to the process used to obtain the final translation output?
  2. Should MT usage be part of the legal agreement between the contractual parties (TSP (Translation Service Provider)-Client)?
  3. How would MT usage disclosure affect rates and working conditions? Should the industry move from per word rates to hourly rates?
  4. Should the disclosure of MT be added to professional Codes of Ethics?
  5. How do you explain the difference between revision and post-editing if the output is expected to have the same quality and the work is to be carried out by translators with similar credentials?
  6. ISO 18587 states as one of the criteria for post-editors to be experienced translators; the Annex in the standard describes the ideal training. Most experienced translators don't have training in post-editing and new translators lack the experience. How can universities, training institutions and professional associations catch up with technology? (We ran out of time before we got to this question. However, the above presentation by Cordoba Serrano would seem to provide a possible solution).
When asked to provide CTTIC's answer to the first couple of questions, I talked about certified translator “ethics” and stated that “as long as a certified translator follows the code of ethics (accuracy, confidentiality, impartiality, accountability, professionalism etc.) and provides a top-notch translation, then he or she is not obliged to tell the client how the translation was done.”

Panel Discussion: How to stop the rates from falling


From left to right on the stage: Renato Beninatto, Martin Montreuil, Serge Bélair, Robin Ayoub, Fabien Côté, Angela Fairbank, Maryse Benhoff
We were six on this panel and Renato Beninatto, CEO Nimdzi Insights, was the moderator. The other panelists were Robin Ayoub, VP Sales Lionbridge - and the new AILIA President - , Maryse Benhoff, President of BG Communications - one of the organizers of the conference - , Fabien Côté, President of Stoquart Amériques, Martin Montreuil, Director of Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Serge Bélair, President of TRSB.

The questions we had been provided by the organizers a day before the conference were the following:
  1. What are the factors that affect the huge discrepancies of the price per word of translation?
  2. Should quality be a part of the equation when it comes to the cost of translation?
  3. When it comes to government clients, should they set the tone for keeping translation activities in Canada?
  4. Should remuneration be commensurate with skills/experience?
  5. Is outsourcing to Third World countries acceptable if the price towards the end-client is maintained?
  6. How do we encourage disloyal competition to understand that they are ruining the market?
  7. Should AILIA issue a white paper on recommended rates for translation services?
The discussion was lively, and I remember giving an emphatic “Absolutely” to number 4. I also mentioned ATIO President's “added value” idea, whereby the translator would negotiate with the client to be paid an amount commensurate with the translation's market value. This would work for advertising, for instance. The translator would be paid based on a percentage of sales in the market in which the translation was used. The higher the sales of the product that the translation was made for, the higher the translator's compensation! Panelists and the audience seemed to like the idea.

However, the main consensus we all came to was that in all our combined experience, clients are more prepared to pay higher fees for speed than for quality. I remember telling one audience about a client who contacted me at 7 p.m. one evening telling me he needed a (one page) translation right away. I had told him, “Sorry, it's now the end of my day, but I'd be happy to do it first thing tomorrow.” He said, “I will pay you three times your regular rate if you can do it tonight.” Of course I obliged! I actually learned from that experience what to charge as my “rush fee!”

Another illustration of this fact was the question: “If after giving your client a quotation he replies by saying 'can you do it for 10% less?' what would you reply?” I said, “I would tell him OK, but I will put it at the bottom of my pile and you'll get it sometime next week.”

Localization Mini-unconference

As the next subject in the main conference room was about how to set up a business financially and legally and was presented by a wealth management consultant and a lawyer - not something I felt was particularly of interest to me - I headed over to the other conference room where there was an unconference going on under the topic of “Localization”. The moderators were Oleksandr Pysaryuk, Localization Manager, Ceridian and Richard Sikes, Senior Solutions Architect of memoQ. This round-table discussion also included Sophie Halbeisen, Director of Business Development, Plunet, who had flown in from New York.

I especially remember being surprised (and shocked) at a discussion about an LSP being asked by a client to translate something for their company's internal use right away, and the LSP offered them three prices: 1) we run it through our machine translation system for X amount in 24 hours but it will be far from perfect; 2) we run it through our machine translation system and then have a human editor (not necessarily someone who knows the source language) revise the target language for XX amount in 48 hours; or 3) we have a human translator translate it for XXX amount in 72 hours. The client would inevitably go with choice A - cheap and imperfect. Naturally I complained: “Ethically speaking, how can you let your client buy an imperfect translation?” The LSP responded that it happened all the time but understood that as a certified translator I would be uncomfortable at the idea!

Panel discussion: Standards - reach and impact in the Canadian landscape

Rather than a panel discussion, this was more of a series of presentations: Maryse Benhoff, President, BG Communications International, on ISO TC 37; Lucie Séguin, CEO, Translation Bureau, on CGSB (Canadian General Standards Board) 131.10; Julio R. Montero, Regional Director, Megalexis Communications, on ISO TC 37/SC5; and Lola Bendana, Director, Multi-Languages Corporation on the Ontario Council on Community Interpreting (OCCI), the body that oversees and regulates the accreditation of interpreters working in the community and public service sectors in Ontario. The latter mentioned that the Health Interpreting Network had recently dissolved to become the health care sector of OCCI, which has 120+ accredited community interpreters. The spokesperson for Orion spoke next about his language accreditation organization and mentioned a new acronym for the day: ISPs (Interpretation Service Providers).

There were also short presentations from members in the audience, including Editors Canada, and Plain Language. A final take-away from today's conference was Intento, which can help translators find the best CAT tool for a source text, language pair, and subject matter.

Closing Keynote: Future-proofing your business

Renato Beninatto, CEO, Nimdzi Insights closed the conference by talking about reducing fear of the future and advised the audience to check out his book The General Theory of the Translation Company. He talked about Project Management and Vendor Management and emphasized Relationship, Referral and Reputation. He also spoke about the huge influence and rise of Netflix - now in 120 countries and 27 languages - which had spurred great business for subtitlers and voice-over actors. He mentioned another company's website, now in 32 languages - 10 more than last year - and Uber which, by adding five Indian languages out of the 47 that exist in India, has seen its growth rate increase 10-fold.

Beninatto closed with some advice about what to tell your clients to convince them to use your services instead of someone else's: “Tell them one thing they don't know about their competition, one thing they don't know about their own company, and one thing they don't know about your company.” He also suggested we add the title of “localization manager” to our LinkedIn profiles and hinted that 5G will be the next big change on the horizon.

Angela Fairbank, M.A. C.T.
CTTIC Vice-President, 2019-2021

ATA Annual Conference, Palm Springs, California, Oct. 23-26, 2019

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, January 2020, pages 15 to 17.
During the third week of October 2019, four STIBC-certified translators - Peter Szikinger (English/Hungarian), Kathryn German (Spanish to English), Olivia Ocana-Quintana (English to Spanish, French to Spanish) and I (Spanish to English) - flew to sunny and warm Palm Springs, California for the American Translator's Association annual conference. Each of us proudly wore ribbons on our name badges: Olivia, as a first-time attendee, wore a bright pink “Newbie”; Peter and I had green “Certified” and Kathryn's ribbon was a burgundy “Presenter”. As you may have surmised, Peter and I are also ATA-certified translators and Kathryn presented a workshop (one of 174 offered at the conference) ... but more about that later.

We all began the conference by attending the Wednesday evening Welcome Session, a cocktail party held in the open air among stately palms against a backdrop of beautiful mountains appearing to be closer than they were.

The next morning, at the Opening Session, out-going President Corrine McKay and other board members talked in turn about various issues, such as:
1) the first FIT (Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs) forum in Vienna attended by a couple of ATA board members; (for those of you not aware of FIT, it is an umbrella organization of about 130 associations representing about 85,000 T&I professionals around the world);
2) ATA's upcoming new website;
3) benefits to ATA members such as the online directory, leadership opportunities, an annual conference, a multitude of webinars (including one free one every month), liability insurance, discounts on computer tools and software, twice monthly newsbriefs, access to 37 episodes (so far) of ATA podcasts, the bimonthly magazine The ATA Chronicle, school outreach (where T&I professionals speak to school students about careers in T&I), results of a survey on rates charged by members, a mentoring program, CE credits, and a blog for industry newcomers, among many others;
4) conference offerings, including 174 workshops (pared down from the 391 proposals received), 67 exhibitors, 30 agencies eager to meet with freelancers at the two-evening job fair, and one professional headshot photographer offering a deal at $30.00!;
5) public relations involving ATA's board members throughout the year clarifying T&I issues to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, US News, the New York Times, Multilingual, etc.;
6) ATA's social media on Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram;
7) ATA's charity arm providing scholarships to T&I students and conference attendees;
8) an annual prize given to a book translator and an award for outstanding service to T&I, this year presented to Kent State University in Ohio.

After a coffee break, the candidates for election presented themselves, answered questions from the floor, and those attendees able to vote, did so; the results were posted that same evening.

Some additional facts: 1) the almost 1,400 conference attendees this year came from 52 countries and 2) results from a survey taken this year about who ATA members are: 42% are full-time interpreters and translators while 29% are part-time; 10% are companies, while 9% are employees at private companies and 6% are academic institutions. ATA's online directory also indicates that 250 ATA members live in Canada, 61 of whom are ATA-certified translators while four are credentialed interpreters.

ata60 badge ATA60 attendees from STIBC

As for the workshops held over the next three days, there were 12 language combinations possible, divided into 11 divisions: Audiovisual, Education, Financial, Government, Interpreting, Literary Translation, Legal, Language Technology, Medical, Science & Technology and Terminology. Each attendee was able to choose a maximum of a dozen workshops as there were twelve hourly sessions available.

On Thursday, Kathryn German gave a presentation on “Inside IVs and Injections: Prickly Problems in Spanish to English translation” and provided participants with a glossary of terms related to the subject. OTTIAQ (Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec) President Donald Barabé's workshop was entitled “Enhancing the Professional Status of Translators.” Having left CTTIC (Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council) in 2012, OTTIAQ certifies its members via an on-dossier method. Donald informed attendees that there are 12 universities in Canada teaching translation, six of which are located in Quebec!

On Friday, two sessions of “Confidentiality and Security Requirements for the Global Translator” were presented back to back by Monique Longton from Belgium. She taught participants how to back up data, when and where to save files and when to delete them. She also advised us never to use free wifi or leave laptops or phones in hotel rooms and to read the small print when transferring large files on DropBox, WeTransfer or Google, etc.!

“Authentic Networking for Introverts” held at the end of Friday afternoon by Anne Goff was packed full of good advice and information based on research Anne has collected in order to write a book about Introvertism! Anne recommended reading Dale Carnegie's “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and Susan Cain's “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.”

On Saturday, “Moving Sideways: Breaking into Book Translation and Working with Publishers” was presented by Ruth Martin, who suggested attendees first look for a book they liked among “long lists” (as opposed to the short lists) of book prizes and then send a 30-40 page sample translation to publishers. One way to meet publishers is to attend the major book fairs in New York, London and Frankfurt. Another idea is to hang out with other literary translators and join associations such as the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), or the Literary Translators' Association of Canada (LTAC), and to contact cultural institutes. Members of the UK literary translators association, The Society of Authors, are provided with a team of experts who will look over contracts and advise on what to accept, what not to accept and what to ask for. Another recommendation by Ruth was to look at the model contract on the Pen America website. For instance, during negotiations, royalties and retaining copyright of the translation are absolutely key and should never be relinquished!

At “What is the Future of Translation and Interpreting?” Judy Jenner suggested “future-proofing” our jobs by emphasizing cultural expertise and the ability to act as an educator and advocate. She stated it was important to demand professional working conditions and always adapt to change. She also suggested that participants add “cultural consultant” to their list of skills on LinkedIn, as well as “post-editing machine translation” and “localization”, if pertinent.

“Demystifying Medical Record Translation” by Soula Kokotinis-Rozic taught participants how to save time when trying to figure out doctors' shorthand and use of abbreviations by recommending pertinent dictionaries and glossaries, while “Interpreting for Palliative Care in Pediatrics” was presented by Daniela Obregon, who calls herself a “Language and Cultural Specialist” and works as a Certified Healthcare Interpreter at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.

For me, the highlight of the day, and perhaps even of the conference, was “Interpreting at a Detention Center for Asylum Seekers” by Robin Ragan, who talked about her experience as the instructor of a preparatory course in interpreting for immigration scenarios. After completing the course, her students experienced an intense week of interpreting at a family detention facility in Southern Texas. At the end of Robin's presentation, the audience was divided into teams of three who worked together from a real-life script. My own team mates, both young male interpreting students from Utah, read the script of an interview involving a detainee mother with three children and a lawyer's assistant, and I - not having seen the contents of the script beforehand - served as interpreter! It was actually quite fun and I learned at least one new word in Spanish!

Another benefit of the ATA is that there are divisions - of languages and sectors - that members may join at no extra cost. As many of these divisions held their annual meetings at the conference at the same time, it was difficult for someone like me, who had joined five divisions - French, Spanish, Medical, Legal and Interpreting - to attend all of them. However, I did manage to sit in on the interpreting and Spanish division meetings (the latter together with Kathryn German), both of which I found interesting if rather rushed in the allotted hour.

We look forward to seeing more STIBC members at ATA61 in Boston in October 2020!

Angela Fairbank, M.A. C.T.
ATA-certified French to English Translator

The Fourth Interview of the Interview Series by Angela Fairbank

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, January 2020, pages 7 and 8.
IV. An Interview with a Conference Interpreter in Bangkok, Thailand

The answers in this fourth interview were provided by an Asian colleague who wishes to remain anonymous. I find his answers very interesting as they are coming from a third-world perspective. Despite the fact that his language-learning opportunities as a youth were more limited by where he was living at the time, he nonetheless managed to achieve his dream career. I hope you are as inspired as I am by his responses.


  1. Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter - which of these three professions do you identify with?


2. Please provide a brief synopsis of your education - including language education - and background related to how you came to be a Translator/Interpreter/Terminologist - for example, immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship/menteeship, internship, etc.

I spent a lot of time listening to various radio programs in French, Portuguese and Spanish as I didn't have the opportunity to travel abroad initially, due to a lack of financial resources. Of course, I read a lot, especially editorials and current affairs, news clippings, etc., to acquire the correct terms in the various languages I use. I resorted to the use of tapes and recordings and, at times, even practised with TV programs or newscasts. Back in the day, there were fewer opportunities or platforms one could turn to, such as YouTube, etc. Once my career took off and my finances improved, however, I began traveling to various countries where my languages are commonly used.

3. How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

It has been 30 years now and I've had eight professional domiciles thus far. It's been very fulfilling changing domiciles and beginning again each time, albeit very challenging, as I have had to build up a new clientele each time. I've always been fortunate to obtain enough work at the start at each new domicile and not have to live under a bridge or turn to the Salvation Army for help!

4. Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

I've always been a freelancer and it suits my personality.

5. Where do you currently exercise your profession?

My professional domicile is currently Bangkok, Thailand and I cover the Asia-Pacific region.

6. Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s) and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately or substantially?

I graduated from an interpretation school in Paris, France and a couple of years later became a member of AIIC, the Geneva-based International Association of Conference Interpreters. With time, and definitely due to the fact that I was a fully-fledged member of AIIC, I began to receive many more offers, which were also thanks to recommendations from senior colleagues.

7. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

I've had the privilege of working in an international conference with Pope John Paul II, and accompanying the former Brazilian President Inácio Lula da Silva and Prince Edward of the UK. Yet, what I enjoyed most were the meetings I interpreted for the EU former heads of state, who focused on the future of Europe. I have also enjoyed working at a number of conferences on philosophy, where philosophers from various parts of the world gather together. These types of conferences were extremely difficult, yet highly rewarding.

8. Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?

I have certainly had some very challenging moments ... moments when I scarcely understood what the speaker was saying and had to fall back on my preparation. Preparing for a meeting is of vital importance. I've also faced accent or poor speech quality challenges where all the knowledge I've gathered over a lifetime has come to my rescue. It's quite crucial to have a broad knowledge of the subject under discussion, yet even having whatever scraps of knowledge that have little to do with the subject at hand could come in useful, because you never know what might be thrown at you, out of the blue, and how it could hamstring you if you're not quick enough.

9. What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting - or thinking of starting - in the profession today?

On the supposition that you have been given enough guidance by your teachers and other professionals, my advice would be to make sure you don't let one bad performance deter you from continuing. If you keep preparing and work constantly at honing your skills while at the same time being totally aware of your strengths and weaknesses, then you're on the right track. Remember that every conference is a new opportunity to excel or fail or just deliver on what is required of you.

10. Are you a member of a local T&I association in your area? If so, what do you get out of it - e.g., workshops, social events, annual conferences, etc.?

No. I move a lot and don't have much time to get involved with such events or local associations. However, I'm sure there are T&I associations that organize programs that could be useful for their members.

11. Is there anything I missed that you would like to add?

Consider this journey like any other, where it's about a process and not the final destination. It's a learning curve and if you can achieve a state where you can be relaxed and alert at the same time, either through breathing exercises or yoga or what have you, you'll set yourself up for an enjoyable journey. Otherwise, it may prove too stressful to make it worth the ride.

Interpreting “In Flanders Fields” and Other Medical Anecdotes

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, October 2019, pages 10 and 11.

Since I began working as a peripatetic health care interpreter in the B.C. lower mainland, I have experienced not only situations I was prepared for, i.e. appointments that go pretty much as planned, but also some challenges. For this type of job, apart from excellent language skills (including an ability to adjust to dialects) and a thorough understanding and knowledge of medical vocabulary, one also has to be extremely flexible.

Health care interpreting opportunities vary widely. I have interpreted mere hours after birth and probably a few hours before death (other people's births and deaths, mind you, not my own). I have worked in some psych wards behind protective glass or standing between security guards and in others walking freely among patients. I have been seated in swank palliative care suites with marvellous views over the city, and in some rather cluttered private homes. I have assisted communication in schools between social workers and children during interviews about domestic violence. I have been placed at the foot of a dentist's chair while my client's teeth are being cleaned. I absolutely love the variety - of venue, of subject matter, and of people.

I was a young 20-something, a recent graduate of UBC with a double major in French and Spanish, when I had my first health care interpreting gig. I accompanied my father, a general practitioner, on a two-week medical and dental mission to Honduras as a volunteer interpreter. As a team, led by North American doctors and student dentists, we would set up improvised clinics at schools in a different town each day. Whenever we arrived at a new place, we would find mums, dads, grannies, granddads and kids from neighbouring villages who had taken the day off work or school to queue up from early morning to dusk waiting to consult with us “gringos” and be cured of real or imaginary ailments that they had accumulated since the last time foreigners like us had come. One volunteer's job was to take the children out of the queues momentarily and dose them with de-worming medicine, while their parents, men and women with bent backs and bowed legs from hard labour in the fields, waited patiently to list their aches and pains and perhaps take away a pill or two, a donated pair of glasses, or some general medical advice.

I can still remember three highlights from that experience: once when we were holding the clinic in a darkened school room (no electricity available), the doctor asked me to aim the flashlight onto a middle-aged woman's private parts so that he could see to do a pelvic exam; on another day, I was there to assist the same young doctor as he removed a mole from a young woman's arm - my first surgical experience as an observer; and on the day I worked with the dentists, an ancient granny begged them to remove almost all of her remaining teeth (about 4 or 5 I think) leaving her with just one central lower incisor. I still remember her smile of pain-free glee - with the glint of that one remaining tooth - after it was all over.

Later that same year, when I returned to Vancouver, I continued volunteering as a linguist and my most memorable experience was interpreting during the 25-hour labour of a 16-year-old Salvadoran refugee. I'll never forget the image (and sensation) of having her bare left foot braced against my chest as I encouraged her (in Spanish) to push. Now forward some thirty years, and I am actually paid for the privilege to interpret. I travel by bus and Skytrain as far north as Garibaldi Highlands, as far south as Crescent Beach, as far west as UBC Hospital and as far east as Eagle Ridge Hospital, including many places in between. I have not witnessed any surgeries or births lately, though I have interpreted during surgery prep and before and after colonoscopy procedures. I also interpreted for a mother a few hours after birth, while the doctors were monitoring her newborn in the ICU.

However, on one occasion, in November 2018 actually, I was asked to interpret for parents whose young adult child was dying of leukemia. It was just before the November 11th weekend and the parents, who had flown to Vancouver from their country especially, knew next to nothing about Canada. They asked what the holiday was all about. This question prompted the doctor to launch into a short history lesson about the First World War, Armistice Day and the Canadian troops' role in it. Then she began quoting John McCrae's “In Flanders' Fields.” Of course, not only was it my duty to interpret the history lesson, but also the poem as the doctor read it off her mobile phone. An unexpected request? Sure! Did I enjoy the challenge? You bet! Incidentally, the doctor used this same cell phone a few minutes later as a means to shed light into her patient's mouth to check for ulcers. Alas, gone are the days when a doctor asks me to hold the flashlight!
The above article was reprinted - with some adaptations for an American audience - in the ATA interpreters division blog in December 2019.

Angela Fairbank, M.A. C.T.
French<->English & Spanish<->English Healthcare Interpreter

The Third Interview of the Interview Series by Angela Fairbank

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, October 2019, pages 4 and 5.
III. An Interview with Alice Joncheray-Honneysett, Sworn Translator and Interpreter specialized in Legal Translations St. Barts, French West Indies

I met Alice Joncheray-Honneysett at the “French Division” table during the first night reception at the American Translators Association's annual conference in New Orleans in October 2018. I felt Alice's experiences would be of interest to this interview series, not only because she represents the Caribbean region, but also because France (and its dominions and territories overseas) has a system of “sworn translators and interpreters,” a concept with which, I believe, most Canadians are unfamiliar.

Alice Joncheray-Honneysett

  1. Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter - which of these three professions do you identify with?

I am a sworn translator and interpreter specializing in the legal field. That is how I usually introduce myself.

2. Please provide a brief synopsis of your education - including language education - and background related to how you came to be a Translator/Interpreter/Terminologist - for example, immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship/menteeship, internship, etc.

I originally obtained a French Master's degree in languages and business. I have also studied in several countries such as the US, the UK, Mexico and Puerto Rico. However, thanks to extensive travel and various professional experiences abroad, I developed a special interest in translating.

3. How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

I have been translating and interpreting on a daily basis for about 10 years now. I ran a Language Centre for many years and we were given a lot of translation work, so it is now a full-time job.

4. Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

It is sort of both since I translate every day but also manage translations in different languages. I am self-employed but I work with translators and proofreaders when the job requires it. Since I am in charge of several projects at the same time and deadlines are often short, I really enjoy working with other professionals on a regular basis. They are quick and efficient and make me feel safe and confident every time “we” submit a translation.

5. Where do you currently exercise your profession?

For the past 10 years, I have been doing most of my work out of my office in St. Barts in the French West Indies. However, during the Caribbean hurricane season, I now also work from France.

6. Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s) and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately or substantially?

I am a French “Traductrice et Interprète assermentée,” meaning a Sworn or Court Translator and Interpreter. In order to justify my position and to stay current, I take several training sessions every year in my profession, in France, online or abroad. I received this certification in 2010, I think, and it definitely helps me get work. It is also the reason why I specialized in the Legal field. I mainly work with lawyers and notaries.

7. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

One of the first jobs I had that got me hooked into the language/translation field was teaching French at the University of Swansea, Wales, right at the time when I was finishing my Master's degree. I was asked to help teach some of the Master's in Translation classes and I really enjoyed it. I was then hired to run the language school in St. Barts, which was supposed to be temporary, because I didn't see it as a “real” job, being on a tropical island. Looking back years later, it is quite amazing to think how much this little job has evolved and taught me.

8. Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?

I will always remember the long hours and sleepless nights I spent at the beginning of my career, reading the same things over and over, carrying out research on every single word or expression in order to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I still work long hours and have sleepless nights, but I am definitely a lot more confident and efficient!

9. What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting - or thinking of starting - in the profession today?

Many people without any experience ask me how they can have my job. I try to tell them that it is harder than it looks, but I don't think they understand most of the time. You can't become a translator overnight. It takes excellent writing skills and endless curiosity! I think two of the starting points, apart from a true interest, are education and hard work.

10. Are you a member of a local T&I association in your area? If so, what do you get out of it - e.g. workshops, social events, annual conferences, etc.?

I am a member of the Association des experts de justice de Guadeloupe (Association of sworn experts of Guadeloupe). They organize training sessions for all experts, which I try to attend as often as I can.

The Second of the Interview Series by Angela Fairbank

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, Summer 2019, pages 4, 5 and 6.
II. An Interview with Emanuela Gini, Translator, Conference Interpreter, and AIIC member, from Como, Italy by Angela Fairbank, Emanuela's fellow student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (California)

Emanuela Gini

  1. Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter - which of these three professions do you identify with?

I identify with all of them because they all pertain to my most important working tool: words. In my professional life, words are the “IT-THING.” I find them, take care of them and protect them. I work primarily as an interpreter, but I also translate. I love to write. When I write, I choose words carefully and this improves and expands my vocabulary significantly. I also consider myself a terminologist, because whenever I am asked to interpret at a conference, I collect as much documentation as possible and prepare a detailed glossary of terms. To me, word scouting is one of the most interesting aspects of my work.

2. Please provide a brief synopsis of your education - including language education - and background related to how you came to be a Translator/Interpreter/Terminologist.

I graduated in Translation and Conference Interpreting (English and German) from the University of Trieste. As a Rotary Foundation Scholarship winner, I also attended the Monterey Institute of International Studies (now Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California), where I was awarded a Certificate in Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpretation EN/IT and IT/EN.

3. How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

I have been working for almost thirty years now.

4. Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

When I finished university, I was offered permanent jobs, but I have always been, and am currently, a freelancer. It is very challenging and demanding, because I am faced with difficulties and uncertainties almost daily. However, it forces me to reinvent myself, to discover and learn new things and in so doing, I feel the excitement of stepping out of my comfort zone and testing myself.

5. Where do you currently exercise your profession?

I work primarily in Italy, in the Como/Milan area, but I also travel to neighbouring countries for work.

6. Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s) and for how long have you been certified now?

I'm a member of AIIC, the Geneva-based International Association of Conference Interpreters. I joined AIIC in 2012.

7. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

In my professional life, I have had the chance to meet a very diverse number of people from all walks of life. One of the most enriching and rewarding experiences I ever had was to work at an international conference on the Arctic, where I came across representatives of indigenous populations like Athabaskan, Gwich'in, Inuit, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and Sami.

In general, the conferences I work for deal with a variety of topics, but there are two conference themes I particularly enjoy: philosophy and physics. I was lucky enough to interpret for three directors of CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) and Physics Nobel laureates such as Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Shuji Nakamura, and Martin Chalfie. I have learned how atoms are trapped and how blue LED and green fluorescent proteins were discovered. In addition, for quite a few years now, I have been working at a three-day conference that deals with Plato and Aristotle, matter and anti-matter, pulsars, supernovae and neutron stars, as well as Golem and Bodhisattvas. When I'm there, I lose track of time and space. It's like soaring to new heights and I become so absorbed in what I'm doing that I'm not aware of time passing. This is what I call τελεια ευδαιµονια, or perfect happiness.

8. Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?

As I mentioned earlier, challenges are a permanent presence in my profession, but there is one I would like to share with your readers. A couple of years ago, a very good friend of mine who owns the Mozart vineyard ( asked me to translate the libretto of Barbatelle, his opera buffa, into English. I had a wonderful time creating that libretto. I came up with an enormous range of vocabulary which I had to put into a rhyming scheme. It felt like I was sculpting words. While I was translating, I realized that so many long-forgotten words and expressions were coming back to me without any effort, just because of the music and of Mozart!

9. What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting - or thinking of starting - in the profession today?

My advice is very simple: be passionate, curious and humble, be willing to study hard and learn, and be ready to support and share your knowledge with your booth mates. Team spirit is key if you wish to succeed in providing an excellent interpreting service.

Vancouver French and Spanish Certified Translator and Interpreter

Published in Lingostar's blog on May 2, 2019
Lingostar interview

Click on this link for the full interview I gave regarding certified translations to the CEO of Lingostar, one of the translation agencies I work for.

An Introduction to the Interview Series by Angela Fairbank

Published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, April 2019, pages 6, 7 and 8
Late in 2018, when the STIBC Voice launched an appeal for articles of interest to STIBC members and the community, I began thinking, “What could I write to attract new members to our society, and how then to encourage Associate Members to become CTTIC-certified?” Personally, by being a member of STIBC, I feel acknowledged by the profession as a whole and thought it might be interesting to show how members of our profession elsewhere work. What's the job situation for T&I professionals in other countries? What are their specific challenges? Do they have local T&I associations where they live and work? How do they go about getting certified?

I decided to contact people I had come across both during my education and in my career. I started by writing to three friends on three different continents - one in the USA, one in Italy, and one in Ethiopia - and received enthusiastic answers from all of them. My first idea was to conduct Skype interviews, but in light of the time differences (3, 9, and 11 hours respectively), I decided it would be easier to send them my questions and let them reply at their leisure, in their own way.

Here is the first. Diana Rhudick, President of the New England Translators Association and an ATA-certified French to English and Spanish to English Translator, was a classmate of mine during the two-year Master of Arts in Translation programme at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, now called the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

I. An Interview with Diana Rhudick, M.A., C.T., ATA-Certified French to English and Spanish to English Translator and President of the New England Translators Association by Angela Fairbank.

Diana Rhudick

  1. Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter - which of these three professions do you identify with?

I definitely consider myself a translator. I discovered early on that I wasn't a good interpreter, and terminologist is something I'd never considered.

2. Please provide a brief synopsis of your education - including language education - and background related to how you came to be a Translator/Interpreter/Terminologist. For example, immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship, internship, etc.

I wish I could say that my family is half French and half Spanish, and that I grew up in countries all over the world. But the boring truth is that I was born and raised in a monolingual household and attended monolingual schools. However, I've always been fascinated by other cultures, and when I had my first French class at age 13, I knew I wanted a career in languages. This insight led me to attend Middlebury College in Vermont to major in French and Spanish. Then I went to the Monterey Institute in California to get my master's degree in translation. Along the way, I studied in France and Spain for my third year of college, worked as an au pair in Barcelona, attended graduate school in Belgium for a semester--all necessary preparation for my profession.

3. How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

Over 30 years now.

4. Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

For most of those 30 years, I've worked as a freelancer, but just last year I took a part-time position as a project manager/translator for a small translation agency. If I had to pick only one, I would definitely choose freelancer. Business offices are not my preferred milieu.

5. Where do you currently practice your profession?

Just north of Boston, Mass. I've moved to a house where I have my own, separate office that I'm quite pleased with.

6. Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s) and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately, or substantially?

I am certified in both French and Spanish to English by the American Translators Association. I do get the occasional job through my membership and certification with them, but I think the true benefit of joining an organization is that it shows you are serious about your profession. And the professional interaction is wonderful.

7. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

I have a favorite client (sshhhh!), who gives me very challenging, very interesting work in the advertising field. So it's actually transcreation. One particularly fun job was writing ad copy for a French clothing line that played with expressions containing the word “look.” With this same client, my translation on the history of a modern art museum was published as well.

8. Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?

One of the hardest aspects of this job for me is accepting criticism of my work. My secret conviction is that we all think we're the best translator in the room, so when an agency sends back my translation edited by someone else, especially when that editor finds actual improved solutions, I have to remind myself it's an opportunity for growth.

9. What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting - or thinking of starting - in the profession today?

This is a tricky one. Some in our profession are foretelling the End of Days due to the advent of neural machine translation, while others predict that all future translators will in fact just be post-editors of machine translation. The positive ones say there will always be a place for translators who write very well and go beyond what a machine can do. My advice would be to proceed with caution and have a backup plan.

10. Are you a member of a local T&I association in your area? If so, what do you get out of it - e.g., workshops, social events, annual conferences, etc.?

I'm the president of the New England Translators Association. My relationship with the association, spanning decades, has given me regular clients, friendships, learning experiences, opportunities to get involved, and so much more. Not to sound like a paid advocate, but I think it's essential for translators and interpreters to join a local T&I group.

11. Is there anything I missed that you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity, and good luck to your organization.

The ATA 59th Annual Conference, New Orleans LA, October 24 - 27, 2018

by Angela Fairbank, Certified Translator (Spanish to English) and published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, January 2019, pages 4-5
In October 2018, I travelled to New Orleans to attend the 59th conference of the American Translators Association (ATA). As the ATA is much larger than STIBC, I was curious to see how they ran things, and wondered if I could bring back some ideas for our own, smaller, organization. For a bit of background, ATA and the CTTIC - STIBC's umbrella organization - are both members of the International Federation of Translators (known by its French acronym FIT), which now represents 100,000 translators and interpreters in 130 countries on five continents, according to its President, Kevin Quirk of Norway, one of the speakers opening the ATA conference. Now 65 years old, FIT will hold its next conference in Varadero, Cuba in 2020.

According to its president Corinne McKay, the ATA currently has a stable membership of 10,000-plus members worldwide, of whom 83% renew annually. If you live and work in the USA, you become an “active” member once you are certified, whereas if you live and work outside of the USA, you will be a “corresponding” member upon certification. About 1,800 members are currently certified. The ATA holds certification exams several times a year in various parts of the country (and the world), including computer-written exams (bring your own laptop) since 2016. As of 2018, English to Arabic and Chinese to English are now among the 30 exam language combinations offered; 130 certified graders mark about 500 exams a year, of which, on average, only about 20% achieve passing marks. The September/October 2018 issue of the ATA Chronicle, the association's bi-monthly magazine, lists 44 newly-certified members in 13 language combinations. To pass the ATA certification exam, you need to achieve 83% in each text (no more than 17 points deducted). If the markers deduct 18 points or more, you fail. Nevertheless, for each language combination you do pass, you will receive a seal to certify your translations. In comparison, STIBC only issues one seal per person, with no language combination mentioned on it.

In 2018, the cost of each 3-hour exam was only $300, but as of January 1, 2019, this fee was raised to $525! The exam offers three passages of 225-275 words each, all presenting some challenges, of which you must translate only two. All texts are general interest, needing no special dictionaries. The instructions preceding each passage indicate the text's source and purpose of the translation, such as publication or professional use.

ATA59 logo ATA59 badge

The ATA's size means members have more benefits at no extra charge by joining divisions, some language-specific (French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Nordic languages, etc.), others subject-related (education, science & technology, interpretation, literary, medicine, government, etc.) New divisions for law and audiovisual were added in 2018.

Besides the many networking opportunities, perhaps the main reason why people go to the ATA annual conference is the large range of continuing education and learning opportunities available. This year, 375 session proposals were received, then whittled down to 175 for presentation over three days in 1-hour segments, with 15 presentations held simultaneously each hour. Subjects varied widely, as did language concentration and target audience. A colour-coded guide in the conference handbook helped us decide which ones to choose.

In addition to a job fair held by 31 recruitment agencies in two 2-hour evening sessions, a conference-long exhibition took place. Sixty-seven booths were staffed by translation and interpreting agencies, schools offering courses in translation and interpreting, US government agencies, CAT tool software vendors, and interpreting associations such as NAJIT, among others.

ATA board podium ATA59 literature ATA reception

The first day, Wednesday, was an extra “Advanced Skills and Training Day” with morning and afternoon sessions. The more useful of the two courses I took was on how to pass the ATA Spanish into English exam, held by two former instructors from my Alma Mater in California. One of them was ATA-award-winning Holly Mikkelson of Court Interpreting fame, now nearing retirement, and author of several celebrated books and articles on this profession. That evening, a “Buddies Welcome Newbies” session helped first-time ATA-conference-goers like myself meet those who had been to ATA meetings before and get tips on how to make the most of the four days. Following this meetup was a cocktail party that included a free drink and nibbles, with tables set up specifically for meeting people in the various divisions.

The Thursday and Friday mornings started early for attendees lucky enough to be staying at the conference hotel, with Zumba and Stretching classes, as well as a continental breakfast where you could meet the ATA board. Thursday's opening session began with a welcome speech from New Orleans' mayor, then board members were introduced, and we had a general introduction to the ATA. Another general session focused on presenting awards, for school outreach (where members visit schools to talk with the youngest generation of linguists about careers in T&I), for excellence in literary translations, and for outstanding service to the T&I profession. This year the recipient of the ATA's highest honour was a pioneer of simultaneous interpreting born in 1924 who interpreted during the Nuremberg Trials.

I attended five lectures during the Thursday and Friday sessions, ranging from the use of gender-neutral language in France and pitfalls to avoid while subtitling films in Spanish using on-line dictionaries from Spain's Real Academia (Royal Academy), to modern careers available to linguists and how to set freelance translation rates. I also learned a bit about how medical interpreting was arranged in the USA.

horse and carriage man playing tuba Bourbon Streeet sign

On Saturday, however, I could not attend any of the almost 70 presentations on offer as I was busy writing my ATA certification exams. Better to try them now, I figured, than next year, when they will cost almost twice as much (I have just found out that I passed my exam, so am now ATA-certified for French to English!).

For STIBC members interested in attending an ATA conference, the following cities will host the event over the next five years: Palm Springs (2019), Boston (2020), Minneapolis (2021), Los Angeles (2022) and Miami (2023). Perhaps I'll see you at one of them!

Now That I'm a STIBC Associate Member, How Do I Get Work?

by Angela Fairbank, Certified Translator (Spanish to English) and published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter September 2018, page 3
This was my question when I rejoined STIBC after many years away. My multifaceted freelance business constantly evolves, and in September 2017 I decided to make my translation and interpretation work more full-time. I certainly didn't become flooded with work on joining STIBC: no job referrals came from STIBC itself since I wasn't a Certified Member yet. And I didn't expect to write the certification exams until May 2018. So what was I to do in the meantime?

STIBC logo

As one suggestion from STIBC was to apply to become an ICBC Approved Translator/Interpreter, I went to my local driver's licensing office and asked them what they needed besides a copy of my STIBC membership card. They gave me a form to fill out, an ethics code to sign, and asked for copies of my M.A. in Translation (for approval in French) and my Community Interpreting Certificate from VCC (for approval in Spanish). Then I waited for about a month for ICBC to add my name to their on-line approved translators and interpreters list as they only update it periodically. Although they have different translation needs for driver's licences, marriage certificates, driving histories, and so on, it gets easier once you get the hang of it, and when your clients come in person to pick up the translation package, you get to meet them face to face!

ICBC logo

Next, I Googled, then called Vancouver-area translation and interpreting agencies, sending out my CV to any who expressed interest. Truth be told, I was more successful with agencies in the USA and Europe. One agency in Vancouver turned me down flat (despite 35+ years of experience and STIBC and ATA affiliation), saying they only accepted Certified Translators/Interpreters in my language combination.

So, what next? Since I felt comfortable interpreting in health care situations, I sent my CV to the Provincial Language Services (PLS) of the Provincial Health Services Authority and waited. It took a few months to hear from them, as they only recruit when they are short of interpreters. They interviewed me and I had to fill out several forms, in addition to paying for a police check and buying WorkSafe BC insurance. Their contract is extremely long and they have many rules and regulations, but now that I've managed to figure out their system, I have been working pretty steadily for them. They only require that you be available to them for 20 hours a month, so that leaves time to work for other agencies at perhaps slightly higher pay - if you are lucky and good at negotiating!

PHSA logo.jpg

I began attending online free monthly sessions with Through them I heard about the non-profit Abbotsford Community Services' Interpretation & Translation Services (ITS) and DiverseCity in Surrey, and signed up with both of them. Although the pay isn't great in any of these organizations, I've become more familiar with the healthcare system in the Lower Mainland. Working a few hours a week, mostly with new Canadians, is rewarding - people are all very friendly and very grateful for the linguistic help.

ITS logo Diversecity logo

Now, after almost a year, with a mixture of work from these and other interpreting agencies, translation assignments from my long-term contacts in Europe, the USA, and Vancouver, plus direct clients through ICBC, along with the translations I do as a volunteer for Translators Without Borders and other non-profits, I was kept fairly busy while I was awaiting the results of my certification exams.

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If you've just joined STIBC as an Associate Member and haven't decided what to do next, I hope that these ideas will help you organize your freelancing better until you become certified. Once that happens, doors to more work (and hopefully higher income) should open for you!

Interview with Angela, Interpreter and Translator from French and Spanish to English

This was an interview published online in July 2011, by one of the agencies I work for.

First things first, we would love to learn more about you: why and when did you decide to become a translator/interpreter? Where did the idea stem from, and have you ever considered doing anything else?

I took a course in high school regarding career choices and wrote my final project about those options in which foreign languages (as these were my strongest subjects at school) could be used. Of all the professions I researched, I liked best the idea of becoming a conference interpreter at the United Nations, as it offered the opportunities of a great deal of travel, a good salary, meeting important people who could change the world for the better (by preventing war and promoting peace) and, more importantly, I would be using my language skills to help people communicate with each other. I then planned my university curriculum around obtaining this goal. It involved studies in Vancouver, Quebec, California, Spain, France and the École de Traduction et d'Interprétation in Geneva, Switzerland.

If the language career had not worked out for me, I did have a few back-up options. The first of these was as a classical musician since I studied piano up to the A.R.C.T. (Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto) performance level. More recently, however, I have added language teaching, editing & proofreading, photography, videography, writing, marketing & sales, website creation & design, tour guiding and other skills to my own company's business package, so as to keep things fresh and stimulating, to exercise different parts of my brain, and to offer a wider range of products and services to my clients.

How different is being a translator/interpreter from what you had expected?

Well, I never made it quite so far as becoming a UN conference interpreter, although I did write the UN translation exam after completing studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California - at the time, the only university in North America that offered a Master's Degree in Conference Interpretation. Moreover, I did contract work for the European Communities for four years so had the chance to experience being part of a large multi-governmental organization. However, I am much happier in my current situation, since, as a freelancer, I own my own company, enjoy traveling for business all around the world and am at liberty to choose when, where and for whom I work. However, interpreting for business meetings can be stressful as I am more often than not the sole interpreter for these assignments that can go on for several days in a row and include interpreting during meals as well as tour guiding!

In your opinion, what is the best way to learn a foreign language? How did you learn your languages?

The first way to learn a foreign language is to be born into it - i.e. to be born to bilingual or multilingual parents or into a community where the language of communication is different from that spoken by your family at home, and consequently to hear both (or more) languages around you constantly from a very young age. Languages are much easier to learn when you are young.

The second way is take courses in the language. I studied French, German and Latin, in addition to English, in high school, and started Spanish and Swedish at university, ending up with a B.A. in French and Spanish. After my post-graduate studies at Monterey, I worked in Belgium for six years and took some courses in Dutch. I later worked in Hong Kong for eight years where I picked up a little Mandarin and a little Cantonese. On my return to Vancouver, I studied Italian, and the addition of this language to my linguistic portfolio enabled me to work in the Caribbean on cruise ships catering to European passengers. Portuguese has been my latest language acquisition as I now work with the Portuguese and Brazilian markets for a couple of clients so need to be able to communicate with them and/or their customers.

The third way to learn a foreign language is to become completely immersed in it by living, working and traveling in the country where the language is spoken and, consequently, being forced to speak it. Living in Hong Kong as I did when it was still under British rule, I was never really obliged to learn Chinese as all my colleagues spoke English as did most shop people I came in contact with. Today things are different and were I to live and work in Hong Kong today, I would probably have to work harder to learn Cantonese and Mandarin.

What are the challenges of being a translator/interpreter? What are the perks?

The principal challenges are finding enough work to keep the bills paid and enough variety of work to keep the brain stimulated, but this is probably true of any freelancer and is mainly why I personally offer a diversified portfolio of skills to serve a number of markets and a range of clients. The extra challenge in a polyglot is managing somehow to compartmentalize all your languages in separate areas of your brain, not to mention to be able to call instantly upon the specialized vocabulary that you have built up in your memory throughout the years.

The perks of a linguist in general are multiple: you understand a lot more of what is going on around you when you travel or when you are in multilingual situations, such as conferences and trade shows. You get to travel a lot for business and have interesting conversations with people you would not ordinarily meet if you did not speak their language. Your world of possibilities widens exponentially every time you learn a new language. But the main perk is still, ultimately, the satisfaction you feel when you do help two or more people who don't speak the same language to communicate with each other.

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