Brazil conference speaker interview series: Barry Olsen 3

Barry_OlsenMeet the speaker

The second installment of the Brazil conference speaker interview series features the responses of Barry Olsen – an assistant professor of translation and interpretation at the Monterey Institute’s (MIIS) Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation and Language Education. Barry has worked as a conference interpreter and translator since 1993. He is the founder and co-president of InterpretAmerica, and a member of the Training Committee of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC). Barry is one of the keynote speakers for the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, which will take place on August 24th and 25th.

The interview

MK: How did you get started in translation/interpretation?

BO: I began interpreting at age 19 as a missionary. One day, when the bishop of a congregation found out I was fluent in Spanish, he took me to a booth, sat me down in front of a microphone and headphones and said: “Whatever you hear in English, say it in Spanish.” I fell into it totally by chance, but once I started interpreting, I was hooked. I still get excited every time I put on my headphones to interpret. There is just something about helping people communicate across languages that is tremendously gratifying.

MK: What would you consider the most important challenge facing freelance translators or interpreters today?

BO: We are living and working in a time of unprecedented growth and development. The digital revolution underway is radically changing many aspects of how we live and work, and technology’s influence on what we translators and interpreters do is undeniable. Sadly, its effects are not always positive. So, our most pressing challenge is to find our place in the new digital world—a world where communication is, in most cases, instantaneous and dirt cheap and where there is an explosion in the demand for translation and a pervasive misconception that “THEY have figured out how to have computers translate.”

Translation and interpreting are quintessentially “human” endeavors. While translation technology will continue to evolve and improve, I believe there will always be a need for humans to translate and interpret. The key to making a living as a translator or interpreter will be to identify those areas where human translation will be essential and specialize in them.

MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

BO: Don’t be wedded to the long-standing models of translation and interpreting service delivery as you seek to expand your client base. Sure, you are not going to change the agreements and procedures you have with existing clients, but, put simply, you need to try new things. If there is a new platform for delivering translation or interpreting services, check it out. Experiment. See what works for you. Identify trends and work them to your advantage.

Right now we are seeing an unprecedented number of translation and interpreting startups built by people who are not from our industry. They see the growing need for multilingual communication as well as the amazing opportunities that technology has created to allow people to communicate like never before. There will be new business and service delivery models. There is no way we can avoid that. But we can support those that are good for our industry. What we cannot do is dismiss them all wholesale and hope that things will just continue as they have.

MK: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in translation or interpretation?

BO: Don’t be fooled into thinking that as a translator or interpreter you are only responsible for knowing your languages. Prosperous linguists will be able to add value above and beyond the foundational services of translation and interpreting. For example, learn basic project management skills. Be familiar with basic HTML and coding. Know how to work with multiple file formats. With the advent of the Internet and the trend toward digital everything, the concept of literacy is expanding beyond just language.

MK: You will be giving a session at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, called “Interpreting and Technology: Learning to Ride the Wave of Digital Disruption.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

BO: The whole purpose of my presentation will be to give attendees a big-picture view of how digital technologies are radically changing how people communicate and subsequently, how translators and interpreters will work. Written translation has seen more digitally-driven change than interpreting, but both activities are going through rapid, and sometimes painful, change with the advent of digital communication technologies. My hope is that attendees will walk away with a good understanding of the changes taking place and be motivated to find ways to “ride the wave” of digital disruption.


The event

This is the second installment of a multi-part speaker interview series featuring the presenters of the Fifth conference in Brazil, which will take place on August 24th and 25th in Recife. To register for this exciting event, just visit the conference page:

Guest blog post: “International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) seeks chapter reps”, by Eric Candle 3

Thank you to member Eric Candle for this post on behalf of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA):


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), the only trade association committed to the advancement of professional medical interpreters (MI) as the best practice to meaningful health care access for linguistically diverse patients.

The IMIA has developed the first Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for Medical Interpreters used in many countries all over the world, introduced the first National Certification for Medical Interpreters ( and continues to be the pioneer in the field with its recent work relating to the Interpreter Educators Code of Ethics, National Education Registry and Accreditation for Medical Interpreter Training Programs (

The Association is an official active member of FIT, the Federation of Interpreters and Translators, an international organization comprised of trade associations of interpreters and translators worldwide.

Being represented in many regions of the world by its Country Chapter Reps (, the IMIA is constantly looking for the new active medical interpreting professionals to introduce the Association mission to more countries and areas around the globe.

Medical Interpreting symposium in Japan, over-the-phone interpreting services for non-Spanish speaking patients in Andalusia, or a new Cultural Competence Directive by the Israeli Ministry of Health, all these news, events and developments are being reviewed and presented to the MI field by a growing community of the IMIA International Representatives.

If you are (1) an IMIA member in good standing for at least 3 to 6 months, (2) have medical interpreting experience, (3) possess training and/or interpreting credentials, and (4) willing to lead the way in medical interpreting in your area, please feel free to contact the IMIA at with your letter of intent to become an International Chapter Representative. The required documentation is listed at

So, come join us to celebrate IMIA’s 25th anniversary at the 2011 IMIA International Conference on Medical Interpreting in Boston, MA, September 30th – October 2nd,

The conference is the catalyst for pioneering trends in Medical Interpreting worldwide. You can be a part of the effort to lead in the advancement of professional interpreters.

Medical interpreters save lives in many languages!

Eric Candle,
Member of the Board
New York State Representative


Eric also provides training in Medical interpreting, for example What Every Medical Interpreter Needs To Know To Get Certified, and will be a speaker at the upcoming annual virtual conference on September 30th.

Guest blog post: What is CLAS? by Claudia Brauer 1

I’m happy to announce a second guest blog post from Claudia Brauer, this time regarding Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS).   You can see Claudia’s previous guest post here.

What is CLAS? by Claudia Brauer

CLAS is the acronym for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services. The term was originally born from the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the United States, CLAS Standards for healthcare fall within varying levels of stringency, including federal mandates, general guidelines, and recommendations in three frameworks: Culturally Competent Care, Language Access Services, and Organizational Supports for Cultural Competency.

Although initially CLAS referred to the healthcare industry in America, the concept has acquired a much wider application and has been adopted, adapted and localized by other countries and by many government agencies throughout the world. Additionally, similar standards have been adopted by others in the public and private sectors, including the legal environment, the educational establishment, financial services and the business world in general.

Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services, CLAS, encompasses a group of policies, behaviors and attitudes that allow professionals, companies, and government agencies to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. CLAS also refers to services that are respectful of the beliefs and practices of diverse populations and are responsive to the cultural and linguistic needs of those individuals, requiring workforce and providers to acquire or enhance their ability to understand and respond effectively to multicultural clients and patients.

One of the most interesting definitions of Culture and Competence states that: “Culture refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. Competence implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities.”*

(*)[The Office of Minority Health, U.S. DHHS, “What Is Cultural Competency”. Definition “based on Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis K., & Isaacs, M., (1989). Towards A Culturally Competent System of Care Volume I. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center”]


In an association between and Claudia Brauer, starting August 16 a new Bundle of 5 sessions on CLAS concepts will be provided. These CLAS Online Workshops are intended for working and aspiring translators, interpreters, and linguists working in the Global Village of the 21st Century.

  • August 16: Cross-cultural communication
  • August 23: “CLAS” healthcare standards
  • August 30: “CLAS” – privacy and confidentiality
  • September 6: The Hispanic market
  • September 22: “The Tribal Mentality (in the Global Village of the 21st Century)

Interested individuals may register at:

Podcast: interview with Claudia Brauer on interpreting in the Global Village of the 21st Century 1

Here’s a new podcast. These podcasts are designed to provide an opportunity to hear the week’s news, highlights of site features, interviews with translators and others in the industry, and to have some fun (see announcement).

On August 16, the first online interpreting course in a new series of live online workshops designed for working and aspiring interpreters and linguists will be launched at so I interviewed Certified PRO member and trainer, Claudia Brauer, who will be in charge of some of these online courses to learn more about interpreting in the Global Village of the 21st Century.

At the beginning of the interview we talked about how technology has impacted the interpreting field. Claudia believes that interpreters should embrace technology as a tool to enhance their profession. She explains that today interpreters can provide valuable services of communication via cell phones, land lines and video Web-based technology. Face to face encounters are just one part of this mix.

On the other hand, consumers of interpreting services are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. She explains that interpreters are no longer confined to the face-to-face encounters. At present there are three rapidly growing fields: over-the-phone interpreting, also known as OPI,  video remote interpreting or VRI, which uses high-speed Internet video connections to provide visual access to interpreters in a different physical location and web-base oral communication.

Claudia indicates that the interpreting profession is growing at a rate of 22% per year higher than most of other professions.

She also describes the new series of live online workshops with lessons on a variety of Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) topics, designed for working and aspiring interpreters and linguists that will be available at on August 16. The online workshops will be offered in 15 sessions organized in 5 bundles of progressive knowledge acquisition.

As my last question, I asked Claudia what advice she would give to aspiring interpreters and she indicated that in her opinion to be a good interpreter one should:

  • be fast at making decisions,
  • have great interpersonal skills (including great patience and empathy)
  • be extremely familiar with the cultures of the languages one is interpreting,
  • develop a wide variety of technical skills.

She also believes that at the basis of interpreting a good interpreter should:

  • have full command of at least two languages,
  • be a very creative person and know how to improvise,
  • love learning and seek to learn something new every day,
  • develop their ability to listen, to speak in public and to take down notes,
  • study terminology and  glossaries,
  • enroll in a public speaking group,
  • practise speaking out loud, and
  • develop their memory.

Those interested in learning more about these online interpreting courses can check this link.

Listen to the interview with Claudia here: podcast, 2011-08-12

Feedback and comments are welcome. You can reach me at romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom .

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.



Guest blog post: Interpreting in the Global Village of the 21st Century, by Claudia Brauer 6

Today’s guest blog post is from Claudia Brauer, who writes on the subject of interpreting. See more information about Claudia at the bottom of this post:

Interpreting in the Global Village of the 21st Century, by Claudia Brauer

Let’s start with the basics, because sometimes there is no clear understanding about the fundamental differences between translation and interpretation in today’s multilingual language industry.

Translation is the conversion of a text in a source language to its equivalent text in a target language. Translators must accurately translate the meaning of the concepts represented by written words, with fidelity, coherence, transparency and equivalence. Most translating efforts occur using a computer, they are received and submitted electronically, done with the help of computer-assisted translation tools (CAT) and are edited, proofread, corrected and formatted via computer.

Interpretation relates to the verbal rendering of a message from a source language into its approximate equivalent in a target language; for the interpreter to appropriately convey the message that the speaker is directing to the recipient, he/she must not only transform the spoken words and the immediate meaning of their thoughts or expressions, but must also take into account feelings and intention, as well as tone, register and speed of speech. Most interpreting takes place in real time and in person, be it face-to-face, or by phone or video.

A few months ago, InterpretAmerica Co-President Barry Slaughter Olsen addressed the members of the National Judiciary Interpreters and Translators Association, and stated, “Speech is perhaps the most human of all forms of human expression. And that is what makes human interpreters essential. In an increasingly interconnected and multilingual world, the demand for professional language expertise will only grow, in some cases exponentially…” (*1) This is wonderful news, supported by serious research.

First, let’s talk about speech. It is speculated that there are some 7000 languages in the world, yet only 2000 of them have a writing system and, of these, in many countries less than half the population has acquired functional literacy. Even in some industrialized countries about one in five adults reads at the 1st grade level (*2). Additionally, most humans speak way before they can read and write. It is a fact that all languages existed first as spoken before they ever had a written version, and most of us spend a great deal more of time talking than we do writing or reading (even in our instant messaging world).

Second, let’s talk about interconnection in the Global Village of the 21st Century. In accordance with the Internet World Stats, “the Internet has made distances shorter and the world smaller. However, the great divider that stands in the way of a truly global society is the fact that there are many different different languages spoken in our planet Earth.” (*3) Thus, in an interconnected world, the ability to verbally communicate in “my preferred language” (whatever that may be) has become a crucial component of our world. In terms of interpreting, in less than a decade we have gone from face-to-face simultaneous or consecutive interpreting, to over-the-phone, remote video-interpreting and web-based interpreting (simultaneous or consecutive). Technology is transforming our profession at the speed of light, literally, surprising us with many innovations. The term “video interpreter”, for example, is so new that many in the profession don’t even know of its existence, yet its technology is already commercially available and used in healthcare and court settings, and is sure to change the language services industry.

Third, let’s talk about the demand for professional interpreters. In addition to the business and financial world, and conferences and international events, interpreters are specially in high demand in the healthcare industry and in legal and military settings. Employment is projected to increase 22% across all industries (above average for other careers). As international commerce increases and the interaction of individuals from different parts of the world grows – exponentially – interpreters are every day more in demand. A recent market study identified interpretation as a “high-growth, high-pay profession”. Explaining the results of this study, Katharine Allen, co-founder of InterpretAmerica, stated: “Interpreting is a vastly undermarketed, underpublicized profession, especially within younger generations…Many bilingual staff pressed into interpreting at work may not even realize they are taking part in a professional activity that not only requires training, but which also offers a pathway to a dynamic career. An interpreter might be working one day for a high-profile court case, the next day for a business executive, and the next day in the emergency room of a hospital. The life of an interpreter is certainly never boring.” (*4)

Last, lets talk about training. Interpreting is recognized as a profession, but there is no unified certification process. There are different levels of certification for any given language, in any given industry and specific to each country. Basically there are three categories of interpreters: Certified Interpreters (in different fields like court or healthcare); Professionally Qualified Interpreters; and Language Skilled interpreters. The definition of certification varies widely, program components and structures differ significantly, and test forms used for certification are not consistent. However, any interpreter certification program involves some combination of training and testing, and attempt to provide the skills and abilities to perform professionally in the workforce, along with an evaluation of the knowledge acquired. This allows the interpreter to hold tangible proof that he/she can provide quality interpreting services and is able to interpret with an acceptable level of quality.



Starting in mid August 2011, starts offering its newly developed interpreting training series, conceived and instructed by Claudia Brauer, a 30-year veteran of the interpreting and translation industry.

These Virtual and CLAS training workshops are intended for working and aspiring translators, interpreters, and linguists working in the Global Village of the 21st Century.

Each one of these 15 courses has been designed to be a 3-hour stand-alone session but may also be part of a 5-session bundle of progressive acquisition of practical knowledge. These bundles are brief and intensive, with novel information, emphasizing problem-solving, and packed with ready-to-use tips and resources.

Interested individuals may register at:
for any of the following bundles, or any of their stand-alone sessions:

Supported by infrastructure as the world largest community of translators and interpreters, Claudia aims to foster the development of culturally competent interpreters, translators, linguists, and bilingual individuals in the workforce, and to provide training that improves Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in the healthcare, legal, financial, educational, and business sectors.

Attendees who take the bundles are eligible to receive one or several of the Skills-Building Certificates that will be issued by

– BASIC CLAS KNOWLEDGE in the Global Village of the 21st Century
– BASIC INTERPRETING KNOWLEDGE in the Global Village of the 21st Century
– INTERPRETING TERMINOLOGY KNOWLEDGE in the Global Village of the 21st Century

Additionally, starting in 2012, and Claudia will be launching a series of in-depth interpreting virtual studio classes, designed for working AND aspiring translators, interpreters, and linguists, as well as fully bilingual personnel working in the healthcare, legal, educational, legal, financial or business industries.

The 2012 interpreting studio series will include Consecutive Interpreting, Phone & Video (OPI+RVI) Interpreting, and Healthcare Interpreting. The “ Interpreter” certificates will assure future employers and contractors that the holder has undergone adequate high quality training to perform as an interpreter.

For additional information, visit