ATA Antitrust Policy Update and Commentary
The ATA Board of Directors has approved a new antitrust policy to ensure the Association's compliance with federal laws. What might seem like just another policy to some members is actually a very important document to all members. You are encouraged to read the policy and the accompanying commentary. Questions? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justice Moves Slowly for Those Who Need Interpreters
ABA Journal (IL) (03/01/16) Davis, Wendy N.
Advocates around the country say that people who need interpreters for less commonly spoken languages in the U.S. often face significant hurdles in court. According to the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City, as of 2014, Alaska, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming still don't require interpreters in all criminal and civil cases. Even where states require interpreters, many simply don't have people on staff who can interpret in less-common languages. Amy Taylor, director of legal services for Make the Road New York, a nonprofit advocacy group for Latinos, says it isn't uncommon for some cases to be delayed for up to a year because interpreters aren't available on the court dates. So, who is responsible? "Historically, states did not prioritize this type of work," says David Udell, executive director of the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School. He explains that in the past, some state courts would simply post signs telling people to bring their own interpreters. Nationwide, the attitude toward interpreters started changing about six years ago, when the U.S. Department of Justice took a more aggressive approach. In 2010, then-Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez sent a letter to the courts stating that failing to provide interpreters in all cases was a form of national origin discrimination. Since then, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has forged agreements with officials in states such as Colorado, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, which have agreed to provide comprehensive language assistance in court. "Our whole system of justice depends on the adjudication of facts, and you want that to be accurate," says District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge Vanessa Ruiz, who is a native Spanish speaker. Ruiz chaired the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, which created the Standards for Language Access in Courts. "We have some terrific certified interpreters, but we need more interpreters and more language access without sacrificing quality," says Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar of the California Supreme Court, who chairs the Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force of the Judicial Council of California. Complicating the issue is the fact that each state has its own system of vetting court interpreters. Despite the hurdles, Cuéllar believes the court system will eventually be able to meet the goal of providing interpreters in all cases. "We have to turn our ingenuity and our human resources--and our interpreters and our judges--into [assets], so that language access is not a bottleneck."
Audubon Translating Magazine, Field Guide Into Spanish
Nieman Journalism Lab (MA) (03/02/16) Wang, Shan
The National Audubon Society has begun translating its flagship bimonthly magazine as well as many of the articles published on the main Audubon.org site into Spanish. "With a growing Spanish-speaking population, the organization has been looking at the Latino audience for a long time," says Jose Carbonell, chief marketing officer for the historic conservation society. Carbonell says surveys conducted by the society indicate that Hispanics are concerned about the tangible consequences of climate change. "Here's this audience that is really passionate about the environment and about wildlife, and then when you look at the stats and see how many people also speak Spanish at home--this is an even bigger number of people who could share our passion and mission," Carbonell notes. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 36 million people speak Spanish at home in the United States.) "Over a year ago, we recognized what the implications could be if we were able to translate the content we've been producing for so long into Spanish," Carbonell explains. Another motivation for providing Spanish translations is the fact that about 80% of the birds listed in the Audubon field guide can also be found in Latin America and the Caribbean. Given the presence of these bird species outside the U.S., Audubon has also decided to translate its field guide online. "We realized that if you're a Spanish speaker and wanted to look up birds in Spanish, there was really nowhere online to go and search for that information," Carbonell says. For now, articles on the Spanish edition of the site are strictly translations, although original Spanish-language content could be a possibility eventually. Audubon will continue to expand the number of online articles that are translated. "For the people who are looking for that information and going to Google, we want to be front and center and make sure it's easy to find us," Carbonell says. The initiative is entirely funded by Audubon.
U.S. Army Foreign-Language Regulation Update Emphasizes Proficiency
Army Times (VA) (03/03/16) Tice, Jim
The U.S. Army's principal regulation for the management of military and civilian linguists has been updated to include several changes affecting policies and procedures for enabling linguistic support to military operations. Included in the update are provisions that require active commanders to flag soldiers who fail to achieve the minimum passing score on the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT). Soldiers whose records have been flagged will generally be ineligible for promotion and re-enlistment. In addition, reserve component commanders will be required to change a soldier's military occupational specialty to "not qualified as an MOS 09L" [the specialty designation for native-language interpreters or translators] after a failing score on a post-remedial DLPT. The update also defines policies relating to foreign-language proficiency bonuses for special operations soldiers, as well as Army-funded English-language training for heritage and native-speaking soldiers in military intelligence specialties. For example, commissioned officers specializing in "human intelligence" will now be eligible for foreign-language proficiency bonuses. This change addresses an earlier administrative error that resulted in all military intelligence specialties being designated as language-dependent for bonus purposes. The new policy also clarifies policies governing the award of foreign-language proficiency bonuses to Army civilians. The policy updates takes effect March 18.
Wikitongues Aims to Record and Preserve the World's Languages
Public Radio International (MN) (02/23/16) Goyette, Jared
Wikitongues, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and recording linguistic diversity, wants to build a tool to share and document world languages. Founded in 2013 by Federico Andrade and Daniel Bogre Udell, Wikitongues boasts volunteers in 40 countries. Most record videos of people telling stories in their native languages. To date, volunteers have made about 300 videos in more than 180 unique languages. "There are lot of very beautiful words and expressions that have started to fade away. A lot of people tend to use simpler language, and I think that's a shame," says Plator Gashi, an Albanian speaker who has recorded 45 videos for Wikitongues so far. "I think we owe it to one another to record our own ways of speaking and to give it to the people. That’s what drives me to keep going," he says. While recording videos of rare languages or unique dialects is valuable, such videos are always going to have a limited audience unless they come with subtitles or translations--work that can be both challenging and time consuming. To solve this problem and facilitate crowd-sourced documentation and learning, Wikitongues has launched a campaign to develop an open sourced software program called Poly that would make it easy to create multimedia dictionaries on the fly. With Poly, users would be able to create a dictionary between a target language and source language, then add phrases and meanings using text and video. So far, the campaign had raised more than $48,000. "What I think we bring to the table is this potential of having all sorts of different communities coming together in their own little space, but in a common market," says Wikitongues co-founder Federico Andrade. Fellow co-founder Bogre Udell feels Poly could become an important tool for grassroots efforts to preserve languages. "We have tons of these language communities around the world where people are not really able to teach it to their kids, where their kids are learning another language in school, consuming another language in the media, and so what you are really looking at is forced linguicide." In his work with Wikitongues, Gashi has traveled throughout Kosovo and the Balkans to conduct interviews. It's a region that has a rich culture and history, and also historically bitter political divides. "I think that it's going to take a lot of work for people to get closer to one another, culturally speaking, and what I've learned is that a lot of people do want to do that--a lot of people are very enthusiastic to learn, to share."
Debate Rages in Hong Kong Over Simplifying Chinese
Channel NewsAsia (Singapore) (03/08/16) Du, Wei
Hong Kong television station TVB has been criticized for running simplified Chinese subtitles in a Mandarin news program. Hong Kong's Communications Authority received 10,000 complaints from residents who say the station ignored their needs and betrayed their trust. Unlike mainland China, Hong Kong has always used Cantonese as its official spoken language and traditional Chinese as its writing system. "It's extremely alarming and totally unacceptable for a TV station like TVB, which is 100% locally licensed, to use simplified Chinese words," says Albert Chan, a pro-democracy legislator in Hong Kong. TVB responded with the argument that simplified Chinese subtitles make sense because most of the program's audience are new immigrants from mainland Chinese. Hong Kong residents have learned to speak Mandarin Chinese in recent years so they can work with mainland tourists and businesspeople, but the divide between the two writing systems--simplified Chinese on the mainland and traditional Chinese in Hong Kong--remains a highly charged issue. Many in Hong Kong have called simplified Chinese "butchered Chinese," saying that the simplified script is a by-product of the Communist Party's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to eliminate Chinese traditions. Experts say that while Beijing launched a top-down campaign in the 1950s to simplify the Chinese script, it was not the first one to do so. "Ever since the inception of written Chinese, there's been a need to simplify the script," says Y.C. Chan, an associate professor at Hong Kong University who has done extensive research on the Chinese writing system. Chan explains that it made sense for the mainland government to simplify the language. When China emerged from civil war in 1949, the country had seen half a century of conflict. The majority of the population had no proper education and the illiteracy rate was close to 90%. The new government needed a simpler writing system so more people could learn to read and write. Today, China's literacy rate stands at 95%, a crucial factor behind its economic development. Chan feels the adoption of simplified Chinese in Hong Kong may be inevitable because it is easy to use and the differences between the two scripts are not as big as most people believe. He says many in Hong Kong already use some simplified Chinese. Meaghan Morris, an adjunct professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, feels the current language debate stems from "a series of overblown symbolic examples that people latch onto because Hong Kong people feel they are not the priority of the government."
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School Outreach is now
Make this the year you participate in the ATA School Outreach contest! This is not just an opportunity to win a free registration to this year's ATA Annual Conference in San Francisco. It's also an opportunity to give back to the profession, to show students a career they never knew about.
Birgit Vosseler-Brehmer, the 2012 School Outreach Contest winner, says it best: "It was important to me to show that translation is a real career and that you need to be professional if you want to succeed."
Learn more about the contest, check out the ready-to-use presentation resource materials, and read what contest winners have to say about how they did it. Hint: There is no one right way to do this!
Coming up in the March/April issue of The ATA Chronicle
The Art of Speaking Boldly
Learning to be a bold speaker can help you develop your business, whether you’re talking to a fellow volunteer at a local event, presenting to your local chamber of commerce, or meeting with a potential client. (Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo)
Adventures in Remote Interpreting at a Rural Hospital
This is the story of how a hospital in South Lake Tahoe, California, is trying to improve the range of its services by implementing an innovative remote interpreting system. (Tracy Young, Judy Jenner)
How to Find and Approach Your Ideal Clients through LinkedIn
Wondering why you’re not getting the results you expected from LinkedIn? Maybe you should take a closer look at your profile. (Catherine Christaki)
The International Human Rights Arena as an Opportunity for Language Professionals
The international human rights arena is desperate for qualified specialist translators and interpreters. Find out if you’ve got what it takes. (Paula Arturo)
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