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Five Interpreting Trends For Which We Are Grateful



By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published: 27 November 2013


The United States is poised to celebrate Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday that at its core is about pausing and expressing gratitude for the good things in our lives. In celebration of that impulse, we offer five positive industry trends, in no particular order, for which we can be grateful:



1. Interpreting Is a Growing, Expanding Profession

Over the past several years, reports and news articles have abounded trumpeting our profession as one of the most dynamic, growth-oriented careers available. From our profession being listed in the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook with a 42% growth rate between now and 2020, to a recent USA Today article citing interpreting and translation as one of the 10 fastest growing jobs in the country, our professional prospects are looking up. "Already, the number of employed translators has jumped from less than 20,000 in 2002 to more than 50,000 in 2012," cites USA Today. Missing from the statistics is any detailed analysis of where the jobs are being added. Nonetheless, our professional skills are in demand and that is something to celebrate.


2. The Silo-ization of Interpreting Sectors Is Fading in the Rearview Mirror

When Barry and I launched InterpretAmerica in 2009, conference interpreters had little contact with medical interpreters, medical interpreters rarely interacted with court interpreters, and tech developers, vendors, buyers and end-users rarely intersected in meaningful conversation and collaboration. When 150 of us sat down in the plenary for that first Summit, it was the first time that many had ever come into face-to-face contact with key players outside their area of specialization.


Five years later, much as changed. Where it was once a rarity to see high level leadership from one sector attending the conference of another, now it is commonplace. Representatives from the European Union, for example, attended both the InterpretAmerica and Critical Link 7 conferences last June, giving compelling presentations about what community interpreting could gain from the work models conference interpreting has achieved and sharing moving examples of international refugee interpreting. Top national professional association leaders meet regularly in a cross-sector coalition that has broken down misunderstanding between sectors and led to concrete action to help interpreters facing difficult workplace issues. And these are just two examples of the burgeoning spirit of connection and collaboration in evidence in our profession.


3. Access to Interpreter Training Has Never Been Easier

Interpreters have long complained that training is expensive, hard to find, and not geared to their working lives.Where translators have long been able to access online learning from prestigious institutions such as New York University, teaching interpreting was hampered by technological applications that would allow teachers to view and evaluate real-time interpreting performance. The good news is that advent of online training models and digital platforms has spurred a marked increase in training opportunities available to interpreters.


From the humble webinar to newly-minted full-blown Masters degree programs, novice and practicing interpreters suddenly have a plethora of resources available to them. Professional associations are increasingly turning to webinars to push out relevant and timely training opportunities for their members and non-members alike. Regional, national and international associations have all gotten into the game. If you want something more in depth, many companies and educational institutions now offer workshops and courses that can range from a few hours to a full semester or certificate degree online. Self-teaching tools are available on many professional organization websites. As innovation in this area continues, expect to see Netflix-like sites that will offer a broad range of video and practice materials online for a monthly fee. It's never been a better time access quality interpreting training.


4. All Things Mobile Means All Access to Information All the Time

Traditionally, getting access to the kinds of technical and specific information interpreters need to fulfill their assignments meant long hours flipping through dictionary pages, contacting colleagues in letters and phone calls, visiting libraries and even going to agency and company physical sites. The weight and bulk of print dictionaries made bringing these critical resources to assignments a non-starter. Now, with full-time access to the Internet, electronic dictionaries, and mobile apps, we can bring all that information along in our back pocket or tote bag. Efficient and effective use of these tools make us better professionals. They free up untold hours for us to take on more paid assignments and perfect our craft. The blog A Word In Your Ear by Lourdes De Rioja recently posted an excellent video showing how integrated tablet use has become for many conference interpreters. How do you use mobile resources in your professional life? Leave us a comment, we'd love to hear about it!


5. Social Media Has Increased Collaboration and Visibility for Interpreting

The pros and cons of social media networks are still being debated in our profession. As a greying field, many of us have been slow to embrace the possibilities that increased communication, connection and visibility can bring. Many have valid concerns about privacy and time management, among others. But a growing number of us have embraced the new information and collaboration tools available, bringing tangible benefits to the field. We are more visible than ever before through increasingly recognized bloggers, writers, and social media gurus. Project collaboration has taken on a whole new meaning with online tools that allow us to collaborate on group projects, creating new forums and connections across sectors. As individuals we can leverage our visibility as professionals, network, and gain employment. We can also connect with colleagues from literally any corner of the globe. Gone are the days of being the isolated language professional immersed in work environments where no one understands what we do. Oh, we still work in those places, but now we have the whole entire world of interpreters to connect with people who do understand.


For us, this last trend has been the most valuable. Social media has earned us work projects. We have made connections to colleagues in geographically distant locations and ultimately crafted enriching and often paid experiences as a result. But hands down, what we are most grateful for are the many talented, intelligent, caring, and dedicated individuals who populate our profession, who give of themselves unstintingly, and who make each day in front of our computer screen or on assignment a delight.


We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who have shared our professional and personal journey with generosity and tremendous friendship. And we look forward to the adventures to come. Thank you!

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