The ATA Podcast: Ethics and Professional Practice
An association’s code of ethics defines it as no other description can. It tells the group's purpose; its ideals and values; the standards of professionalism it expects; and most importantly, the real-world ethical dilemmas its members may face.
And it's that "real-world" application where things get tricky.
Listen in as ATA Ethics Committee Chair Ted Wozniak talks with Host Matt Baird about the association's code and the Committee behind the scenes making it work.
Company Accused of Violating Rights of Court Interpreters
Los Angeles Times (CA) (06/01/17) Agrawal, Nina
A complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states that SOS International (SOSi), the company tapped by the federal government to provide interpreters in immigration court, incorrectly classified employees as independent contractors and fired those who spoke out. The NLRB's complaint marks the first time a federal agency has recognized contract interpreters as employees. The complaint alleges that SOSi also engaged in unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act, including coercion and retaliation. The NLRB states that by misclassifying workers, SOSi circumvented labor laws that would require it to pay overtime and to provide certain benefits, such as workers' compensation. The Justice Department awarded a contract to SOSi in 2015 for up to five years and a maximum of $80 million. Although the department directly employs 65 interpreters to staff immigration courts, the vast majority—about 700—are subcontracted by SOSi. The contractors who complained to the NLRB say they should have been classified as employees because SOSi controlled the means and manner in which they worked—a key test in determining whether a worker is an employee. The distinction between employee and contractor is "the dividing line between benefits applying to you and obligations being met by your employer, and essentially no legal protections or mandated benefits," says Seth Harris, a former secretary of labor under President Obama. Employers are legally required to pay workers' compensation and unemployment insurance premiums for their employees, adhere to minimum wage and overtime laws, and allow employees to organize and seek remedy from discrimination. In some circumstances employers must provide health insurance and family leave, and they often offer paid time off, vacation, and retirement benefits. In general, there are no such requirements for contractors. Prior to the complaint being filed, SOSi stated that subcontracting interpreters "is not a new practice" and that the views of "the small handful of disgruntled interpreters who have filed protests in various venues do not represent the majority of qualified professional interpreters." The case, which now goes to a hearing before an administrative law judge of the NLRB, will affect hundreds of interpreters who work in immigration courts nationwide. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, those courts are currently saddled with a backlog of 585,000 cases. That a federal contractor is accused of skirting the law is particularly outrageous, Harris says. "You expect companies that are doing business with the federal government—and carrying out important government functions and getting paid with taxpayer money—would be held to a higher standard."
NYPD Now Required to Use Interpreters in Domestic Abuse Cases
New York Times (NY) (05/25/17) Southall, Ashley
As part of a recent settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit filed against New York City, the New York Police Department (NYPD) will now be required to adopt new protocols and provide training for officers responding to domestic violence incidents involving victims and witnesses who are not fluent in English. The lawsuit was filed by several women in 2013 who claimed the police violated their civil rights by denying them interpreters. "I knew I needed an interpreter and had a right to an interpreter," says Arlet Macareno, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. Macareno says she tried to tell the police that her husband had pushed her down the stairs, but instead of taking him to jail, the responding officers charged her with obstruction of governmental administration after she kept pleading for an interpreter. With little understanding of English or her rights, and in a hurry to return to her seven-year-old son, she pleaded guilty in criminal court to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and was released. "I was denied the right to speak. I was denied the right to express myself. I felt destroyed," Macareno says. Unfortunately, city officials say there are many cases like Macareno's. In a city where more than half the 8.5 million residents speak a language other than English at home, and one in four struggle to communicate in English, it is common for a crime victim to be met by police officers who do not understand the victim's language. Christine Clarke, the civil rights justice director of Legal Services NYC, says the settlement is a crucial moment for immigrants who might be deterred from reporting domestic abuse. The terms of the settlement stipulate that the NYPD train officers over the next 18 months on when to call for an interpreter and how to use department-issued smartphones to reach a city-contracted service providing immediate access to interpreters in more than 240 languages. In addition, officers will have to document whether they employ an interpreter when investigating domestic abuse incidents. Officers will no longer be allowed to depend on bystanders or colleagues who are not certified interpreters to complete incident reports. This will enable the department to evaluate the need for interpreting services, monitor their rate of usage, and check to see if officers follow protocol. The NYPD has had access to phone interpreters for years, but they have long been underutilized. "To have the NYPD accessible to people who don't speak English is a huge step in making New York a true sanctuary city," says Clarke.
Seal of Biliteracy Promotes Multilingual High School Graduates
Washington Post (DC) (06/05/17) St. George, Donna
Maryland recently became the latest state to issue a "seal of biliteracy" to high school graduates who demonstrate high levels of proficiency in English and another language. The idea comes from a national initiative that has picked up momentum, with more than two dozen states and the District of Columbia embracing it during the past six years. Educators say they hope the recognition sends a broader message about the value of language learning, giving a boost to students who excel in a foreign language as well as those who arrive speaking other languages and then learn English. "It may be one of the game changers that will help us turn the tide in this country and help us focus on raising a multilingual citizenry," says Marty Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Maryland lawmakers passed legislation to create the program in 2016, and it has taken shape in the intervening months. Seven of the state's 24 school systems signed on for this graduation season, including those in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. More are expected to follow. "We see enthusiasm for adding it in other counties," says Susan Spinnato, director of instructional programs for the Maryland State Department of Education. To qualify for the honor, students must do well on the state's standardized English exam as well as language tests approved by the state. The Montgomery County school district, the state's largest, awarded the seal to 770 students this year. "It's a good number for the first year, and I'm hoping that the numbers will grow exponentially," says Françoise Vandenplas, the school system's world languages supervisor. Vandenplas says the program rewards the hard work of becoming biliterate and underscores the value of native languages. It also may help colleges as they place students in courses, or provide future employers with an indicator of language skills, she says. "It's powerful to speak another language," says Maria Flores, supervisor of world languages for Prince George's County schools. "That opens new doors for students in job searches and at universities." Gabriella Armonda, 18, was among the students to receive the seal during graduation ceremonies at Northwood High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. "It means a lot because language is something that has always been important to me," she says. "I think it will definitely help throughout my life." Maryland State Delegate Ana Sol Gutiérrez (D-Maryland) says the large population of students qualifying for the biliteracy seal represents "a huge step for recognizing the value of multilingualism."
Appeals Court Considering Texas Voting Law Limiting Interpreters
Texas Tribune (TX) (06/08/17) Ura, Alexa
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments concerning a legal challenge to an obscure provision in the Texas election code that requires interpreters to be registered voters in the same county in which they are providing assistance. Critics say the provision makes it harder for Texans not proficient in English to get assistance while voting. The state's voter identification law has been on hold since last year after a federal district judge ruled it violated the federal Voting Rights Act under which any voter who needs assistance because of visual impairments, disabilities, or literacy skills can be assisted in casting a ballot by the person of their choice, as long as it's not their employer or a union leader. One provision of the state election code allows voters to select an "interpreter" to help them communicate with an election officer and "accompany the voter to the voting station for the purpose of interpreting the ballot to the voter." A separate provision governs "assistors" and says voters can receive help reading or marking a ballot and states that assistance "occurs while the person is in the presence of the voter's ballot." However, the interpreter, unlike an assistor, must be registered to vote in the same county. The state has argued the interpreter provision of the state law is constitutional and "supplemental" to the minimum requirements set forth by the Voting Rights Act. That distinction "arbitrarily" restricts voters with limited English proficiency and is "illustrative" of "why particular words matter," U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said in an August ruling against the state. He added that the Texas interpreter restrictions "flatly contradict" the Voting Rights Act. After Pitman's ruling, two Democratic lawmakers sought to simplify the issue by removing the interpreter section of the state law altogether—a proposal endorsed by the Texas Association of Election Administrators, League of Women Voters, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Texas Democratic Party. But their peers showed little interest in addressing the issue. "I don't see how we could, in legislative action, place a criteria that would limit it more than a constitutional standard," says State Democratic Senator Sylvia Garcia, who filed one of the measures during this year's regular legislative session that would have only left the assistor provision in place. Garcia says her proposal to align Texas with federal statutes languished in the Senate State Affairs Committee after colleagues warned it would allow voters to get assistance from non-citizens. "I just don't think the state is serious about the right to vote or access to the election box," she says. "We just seem to bend over backwards to place barriers instead of working to increase voter turnout."
Argentine Comic Translated into Paraguayan Language
Telesur (Venezuela) (05/30/17)
According to an announcement from the Argentine embassy in Paraguay, the Mafalda comic strip will be translated into Guarani, an official language of Paraguay, beginning in June. "We hope that the children will enjoy reading in Guarani, and that they will find a space in Mafalda that will introduce them to a friendly, funny Guarani," says Maria Gloria Pereira, a translator with Paraguay's Ministry of Education and Science. Created in 1964 by Argentine artist Joaquin Salvador Lavado, Mafalda is currently being translated into 27 languages. "I'm a native speaker of both official languages in Paraguay—Spanish and Guarani—from the cradle, and I realize that there are some things that Mafalda can say with more grace in Guarani," Pereira says. Of all the characters in the comic, the one Pereira found the most difficult to translate was Mafalda. She says this is because Mafalda is "deeply philosophical, she questions a lot, and she has a very refined, subtle sense of humor." Since its creation, Mafalda has become a universal character, a cultural reference that Pereira says has not lost its relevance in over 50 years of publication. "Mafalda continues to provide a key analysis of childhood, education, and politics in the world." The Argentine embassy in Paraguay says the Guarani version of the comic strip could also reach Argentina, since it is spoken in the northern provinces of the country by many Paraguayan immigrants.
Join the Conference Crowd on Facebook
The National Mall is not for shopping, Georgetown is not named for George Washington, and Foggy Bottom is rarely, if ever, foggy. But they're all in Washington, DC, host city of the ATA 58th Annual Conference (October 25-28, 2017).
Will you be there? Yes? Then stop by the ATA Conference Event Page on Facebook to let everyone know. And while you're there, check out who else is going. Finally, don't forget to share the event in your FB News Feed.
Don't wait for registration to open in July. Get psyched for ATA58 now!
Stay and Win at the Washington Hilton
Five lucky winners will receive one free night's stay at the Washington Hilton, the host hotel for ATA’s 58th Annual Conference (October 25-28, 2017). Room reservations made before October 23 will automatically be entered to win.
And be sure to book your room early! It's not unusual for ATA's room block to be sold out before the Conference.
Looking for a way to stay in the Conference hotel and save money, too? Why not share the expense with a roommate. The ATA Roommate Forum can help you connect to other conference attendees. Give it a try!
One Month Left to Enter the School Outreach Contest
Just think—you could be the winner of this year's ATA School Outreach Contest! Not sure what this is? Get all the details in Episode 11 of The ATA Podcast. Listen now.
But don't delay! The contest deadline is July 18, 2017.
Did You Miss This Webinar?
ATA on-demand webinars make it easy to fit continuing education into your schedule—any time, any place. So plan to learn a little this summer with one of these webinars from earlier this year.
Remember, members save 25% on ATA Webinars!
- How to Make a School Outreach Presentation
Since 2005, translators and interpreters have shared their careers in classrooms around the world with the help of ATA's School Outreach Program. Learn how you can make your own presentation with this step-by-step guide. [more]
- Transitioning from Classroom to a Translation Career
Do I need a website? How do I find clients? What services should I offer? Can I really make it as a freelancer? Get answers from someone who made her own transition to freelance translation.. [more]
- Specialization: Why and How, and What's the Big Deal?
Examine the benefits of specializing, get an inside look at a specialized translation practice, and then learn how to develop your own plan for becoming an expert in your field. [more]
- Entering the Changing Interpreting Market
You can't afford to miss Katharine Allen's take on current hiring and recruiting trends in today's interpreting market! [more]
- Translating for the Courts
Observe like a detective, be faithful like a court interpreter, and decide like a judge. These are the three basic skills every translator needs to work in U.S. courts. Why? [more]
- Creating and Optimizing a Website for Your Freelance Business
When it comes to attracting serious clients online, it's hard to beat a well-designed website with search engine optimization. You might be surprised to learn you can do it yourself! [more]
- Translation Contracts: Beyond the Basics
You've got the contract, but should you sign it? Let lawyer-linguist Paula Arturo walk you through standard—and not so standard—contract clauses. [more]
- Transcreation: Translation with a Twist
The idea of "transcreation" usually generates a lot of curiosity. But have you ever thought about taking it a step further? Could this be a service you want to offer clients? [more]
- Why Can't I Raise My Rates?
Freelancers often set their rates based on costs and competition. What they fail to consider is the effect of market forces on their ability to charge. [more]
- More Tools and Toys for 'Terps
As an interpreter, your performance skills are critical to getting your next job. Learn how you can strengthen those skills using inexpensive apps available in the iTunes store. [more]
XXI FIT World Congress—Disruption and Diversification
ATA members are eligible for FIT member registration rates!
The International Federation of Translators will hold its XXI World Congress in Brisbane, Australia (August 3-5, 2017). The Congress is open to all language professionals.
This year's meeting will explore the rapid rate of technological change within the industry and the current challenges it creates for translators, interpreters, terminologists, and language services providers. Experts from around the world will discuss trends, developments, and solutions.
Register now and get ready to connect with colleagues from across the globe.
In the May/June Issue of The ATA Chronicle
Unraveling Translation Service Contracts
If translation is such a specialized professional service, where so much is at stake for the end client, why are so many translators operating without the protection of a solid contract? (Paula Arturo)
Remote Interpreting: Feeling Our Way into the Future
While it’s probably impossible to quantify exactly how much mobile technology has influenced and expanded human communication, it has completely changed how just about everyone on the planet communicates. (Barry Slaughter Olsen)
Tablets for Interpreters: The Device You Didn’t Know You Wanted
You may already be using an Android mobile device or iPad to browse the web, play games, or stream video. But did you know that tablets also make great companions for interpreters? Read on for some great tips to get started. (Holly Behl and Alexander Drechsel)
Key Components of Successful Translator Recruitment
A fundamental tenet of language services is that an organization’s translation product will only be as good as the translator who provides the target content. That’s why vendor recruitment must be counted among the most critical of processes for translation firms. (Alaina Brantner)
Access to The ATA Chronicle's searchable archives is available online! And don't forget to check out the latest issue of the Chronicle Online.
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