March workshop attendees learn about the techniques, standards, risks, drive and passion required to excel at conference interpreting. BY STELLA HECHT

It was late winter—March 31st—the date of the Introduction to Conference Interpreting workshop. Driving to San Francisco in rain falling non-stop, I was a little apprehensive, imagining whether attendance would be affected by the weather. My colleague and I arrived at SF State ahead of time and were warmly greeted by the presenter and Sarah Llewellyn. Everybody in the packed room wanted to hear what Jacki Noh had to say! → continue reading



Our profession was up for interpretation at the 2012 Summit. Is it a matter of education? Certification? Organization? Conversation? Or is it something much, much more?


If someone were to ask you: What makes an interpreter, and what does an interpreter make, how would you answer? Is there such a thing as “the interpreting profession”? We all agree that interpreters work to bridge the language barrier in communication between parties who would otherwise not understand each other. But how interpreters perform this noble task is not the same: some interpret without previous training; others have a masters degree in it. Some are conduits, while others contribute as cultural brokers.  → continue reading



Aleira Salguero and Fanny Suárez discuss the challenges of medical and legal interpreting.

In a room full of interpreters, already accustomed to work that many would find unnerving, two veterans highlight the greatest challenges and outline the rules to overcome them. BY ANA BAYAT KING

According to Toastmaster’s International, a majority of the population considers fear of public speaking to be one of the worst fears in life, even worse than that of death. That notwithstanding, what happens when public speaking is accompanied by the responsibility of accurately rendering one language to another either in the medical or legal fields? → continue reading



An informative overview of how to succeed in the interpreting profession. BY DOMENICA NIEDDU

On Saturday, January 29, at the San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, Julie Burns presented a workshop on how to get started as interpreters and discussed the tools and resources necessary to succeed in the profession. She also provided the participants with a general survey of the status of the trade.

Julie is a well-known interpreter trainer, California Worker’s Compensation Certified Spanish interpreter, and ATA-certified translator. She provides professional trainings to prepare bilingual individuals to work as interpreters in hospital and clinic settings, and offers continuing education workshops for linguists’ professional development and stress management.

There were 21 people at this four-hour workshop; among them were two representatives of Accent on Languages, a translating/interpreting agency in Berkeley, interested in recruiting new interpreters for its roster of linguists. → continue reading



Medical interpreters are a critical link between patients and providers. BY CARLOS L. GARCÍA, CMI

Medical interpreters are those language specialists that help patients and providers communicate when they do not speak the same language.

This critical link that needs to be established between health care providers and patients has gone widely unchecked since 1964, with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, which goes on to say in its Title VI, Section 602 that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” → continue reading



Ines Swaney demonstrates improvisation techniques.

Stretching memory muscles and playing with words a great workout for language professionals. BY NORMA KAMINSKY

Allow me to introduce myself. You may have seen my name occasionally in this publication or in connection with NCTA Continuing Education, but, on May 8th at the behest of Ines Swaney, in her “Improvisation Techniques for Language Professionals” workshop, I proudly renamed myself No-Nonsense Norma. As participants we had to introduce ourselves by matching our names with adjectives that began with the same letter as our names and that revealed something about each of us. Thus, we met Sunny Sarah, Romantic Rebecca, and Exuberant Emilia. → continue reading



National Medical Interpreter Certification was a hot topic at the  2009 ATA Conference. BY LINDA JOYCE

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters was very pleased to participate in the  ATA 50th Annual Conference, held in New York City on October 28-31, 2009 and to introduce conference attendees to the nation’s first National Medical Interpreter Certification. → continue reading



Supervisor Chiu was  NCTA’s General Meeting guest in May.May GM speaker, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, stressed the importance of making city government business and services accessible to all residents. BY MICHAEL SCHUBERT

On a gorgeous spring day in San Francisco, a few dozen dedicated local translators and interpreters eschewed the outdoor pleasures to come together for NCTA’s May general meeting. Former membership director Paula Dieli and new membership director J. Mónica Pérez welcomed new members. Events director Raffaella Buschiazzo announced our upcoming activities, continuing education director Norma Kaminsky outlined our spring and summer workshop calendar, and president Tuomas Kostiainen talked about ATA-related news and other local events of interest.
NCTA Secretary Stafford Hemmer then took the floor to introduce our featured speaker: David Chiu. Mr. Chiu was elected in November 2008 to represent San Francisco’s District 3, which includes the northeast neighborhoods of North Beach, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Union Square, the Financial District and Fisherman’s Wharf. In January 2009, Mr. Chiu was elected President of the Board of Supervisors.
Before joining the Board, Mr. Chiu was a founder and Chief Operating Officer of Grassroots Enterprise, an online communications technology company. Prior to that, he worked as a criminal prosecutor at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and as a civil rights attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.  David Chiu grew up in Boston as the eldest child of Taiwanese immigrants, and received his undergraduate degree, law degree and master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University.
A resident of District 3 for over a dozen years, David Chiu has been a hands-on leader in San Francisco as, among other things, board president of the Youth Leadership Institute, board chair of the Chinatown Community Development Center, judge-arbitrator for the Polk Street Community Court, and president of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area. Mr. Chiu also previously chaired California’s 13th Assembly District Democratic Committee.
In his legal career, Mr. Chiu saw both the immense value of language services and the problems caused by their absence. As the first supervisor of Chinese ancestry to represent Chinatown, he has seen firsthand the problems that language barriers create within his own district. A strong mandate for government foreign-language services began emerging during the Civil Rights Movement. The road has been a bumpy one, however, given the expense  and the fact that most of their beneficiaries cannot vote. Two examples he cited of the hostility among the electorate to the idea of accommodating California’s large and growing foreign-born population are Proposition 187 in 1994 and Proposition 227 in 1998. Proposition 187 required that all those wishing to access social services, health care, and public education in California prove citizenship or legal immigration status. Passing with nearly 59% of the popular vote, it was eventually found unconstitutional. Proposition 227, passed with a 61% majority, ended bilingual education programs.
San Francisco bucked this statewide trend in 2001 with Chapter 91 of its Administrative Code, known as the “Equal Access to Services Ordinance,” which defines broad language services that the city’s defined “Tier 1 departments” must provide to “limited English speaking persons” of any language community constituting more than 5 percent of the city population.
In April, Mr. Chiu introduced Ordinance 090461, which would expand the scope of Chapter 91. Key changes of this “Language Access Ordinance” are: expanding Tier 1 departments to include most city/county departments that interact with the public; requiring all city business meeting minutes to be translated if requested and informing  limited English speakers in their native tongue of their right to request language services; requiring Tier 1 departments to work with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to include language service protocols in annual compliance plans and report their language service budget and compliance methods.
In response to questions, Mr. Chiu noted that:  the city’s 311 information line already refers foreign-language calls to telephone interpreters and this accounts for about 1 percent of calls; he hopes to eventually expand the mandate for language services below the 5 percent threshold, as, currently, only Chinese, Spanish and Russian qualify; interpreters will be provided at city meetings if requested and available—otherwise, a written translation of the minutes will be provided. It is not possible to say to what extent city translation assignments will go to local translators. Mr. Chiu noted that San Francisco currently contracts some $1 billion annually in services, and the vast majority is outsourced out of the Bay Area.Supervisor Chiu’s proposed amendments are at http://tinyurl.com/pm9owo.
The NCTA thanks Mr. Chiu for his  informative and interesting presentation.a

On a gorgeous spring day in San Francisco, a few dozen dedicated local translators and interpreters eschewed the outdoor pleasures to come together for NCTA’s May general meeting. Former membership director Paula Dieli and new membership director J. Mónica Pérez welcomed new members. Events director Raffaella Buschiazzo announced our upcoming activities, continuing education director Norma Kaminsky outlined our spring and summer workshop calendar, and president Tuomas Kostiainen talked about ATA-related news and other local events of interest. → continue reading



California Senate Bill 853, passed in 2003, mandates language assistance for health plan enrollees. How does this impact the translators and interpreters in California? BY GEORGE RIMAFLOWER

California Senate Bill (SB) 853, passed in 2003, mandates that health plans provide Limited English-Proficient (LEP) enrollees with language assistance services at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare locations that accept plan insurance.
About 100 insurers, including UHC, Health Net, Cigna, Aetna, Kaiser and Blue Shield, offer healthcare coverage in California. In many cases, it is difficult for English speakers to understand medical and legal jargon but it is even more difficult for those with a limited understanding of English. SB 853 was designed to help alleviate language and cultural barriers when LEP enrollees need medical care.

→ continue reading



At the NCTA February meeting, Iraqi interpreter Haitham Jasim was interviewed by Steven Goldstein and shared some of his experiences working for U.S. Forces in Iraq. BY SARAH LLEWLLYN

Haitham Jasim answers Steven Goldstein's questions.

Haitham Jasim answers Steven Goldstein's questions.

The first meeting of 2009, held February 7th, began with a presentation by NCTA President Tuomas Kostiainen of current Association data and was followed by the announcement of the results of the 2009 Board elections. Re-elected to the Board were Tuomas Kostiainen as President, Yves Avérous as Vice President, and Raffaella Buschiazzo and Sonia Wichmann as Directors. J. Mónica Pérez was newly elected as Director. → continue reading



The NAJIT conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a huge professional and social success. BY CURTIS DRAVES

The NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators) conference was held this year on the weekend of May 16-18 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and since I grew up in that area, I decided it was the perfect time to attend my first NAJIT annual gathering. I’ve been interpreting in state court for only a couple of years, and am continually amazed at how the more I learn, the limits of knowledge in this field just seem to keep receding into the distance. So I booked my flights, arranged to see my family still in the area, and soon found myself at the William Penn Hotel in the “Burgh”. → continue reading