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Thought Leaders Levy & Zeztsche at InterpretAmerica 5: Part 1










By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published May 1, 2015

So I’ve been asking myself, given the changes in how interpretation services are being delivered…where will the true value of the interpreter be and who will be successful?

We all know that "the times, they are a changin'" for the interpreting profession. The news is filled with reports on the introduction of new technologies into our workplace, pressure on our wages and work models, while at the same time the lack of highly-trained and competent interpreters is decried. Understanding the big picture trends behind change is challenging. Which is why we have turned to Jonathan Levy and Jost Zetzsche to be our Keynote Speakers at the upcoming 5th InterpretAmerica Summit, June 12-13 in Monterey, California.


We recently sat down with both of them to get a preview of the compelling insights they will be sharing at InterpretAmerica 5. In part one of this two-part blog, we share some of the valuable insights Jonathan Levy will bring in force to the Summit. 


Jonathan Levy, Linguistic Director at Transperfect Remote Interpreting, is uniquely positioned to help us understand major trends impacting the interpreting profession at InterpretAmerica 5.


Jonathan is a singular figure in the field of interpreting. His broad range of education and professional experiences has distilled into a depth of perspective and knowledge few share. A sought-after speaker and trainer, he is as equally at home with one-on-one training of new interpreters as he is with analyzing the broad market and technological trends those interpreters have to navigate. Currently he is the Director of Linguistic Services at Transperfect Remote Interpreting.


InterpretAmerica: Jonathan, as you prepare for your Summit Keynote, what are you focusing on?

Jonathan: I’m often asked to speak to students who are preparing to enter the profession and the question of what the future holds really has me thinking. I always want to be positive about the profession but I also want to be honest. Right now, it feels like the positions these students may be training for might not exist down the road or be very different from what they’re expecting. So I’ve been asking myself, given the changes in how interpretation services are being delivered -- more being done remotely, fewer and fewer staff positions and now the potential for machine interpretation -- where will the true value of the interpreter be and who will be successful?   I’m coming to believe that, increasingly, the value of the interpreter will be to help individuals and organizations successfully connect at a more significant level and many interpreters will find themselves in hybrid positions where their ability to explain the “why” will become more and more important.


InterpretAmericaThat's interesting. Can you expand on why you feel that is?

Jonathan: The development and delivery of products and services has changed across the board. The user or consumer now has an incredible amount of input. Interpreters have always stood at that critical juncture in between the user and the service provider. They’re often in the middle of the entire dynamic. As a result, they have a unique insight into how the users can be connected to the service to everyone’s best advantage. They can actually help change behaviors and this is really what it’s all about. Now this is happening in different places in different ways, but immediate examples that come to mind are in healthcare, with the bilingual “patient navigator/interpreter” model, or the role military interpreters are often asked to fill as intelligence analysts. I mean, this is nothing new and interpreters have been asked to fill these roles forever, but I believe that, for a variety of reasons, the language service companies that can deliver this type of intelligence to their clients, the staff interpreters who can provide it to their organizations, and the contract interpreters who can provide it for their customers are really the ones who are going to thrive in this new environment.


That is not to say that the idea of the interpreter as a neutral conduit through which parties communicate is going to completely disappear, but interpreting is now needed in many situations that were unthinkable ten years ago. The fact is that, as the demand for interpreting grows, it diversifies. So, previous models are being adapted to meet a more diverse demand.


InterpretAmerica: So are you talking about an interpreter’s ability to figure out how to brand themselves? That’s a real struggle for many right now. What do they invest in? A website? More training? And how do they get their services in front of employers who are hiring and offering decent working conditions? It's bewildering.

Jonathan: Those are exactly the issues I hope to break down at the Summit. I want to take a look at workplace trends, the impact of new technologies, what I’ve been seeing as far as customer expectations, and see if we can connect as many dots as possible. I think that, despite all the changes and the frequent feeling that everything is becoming increasingly fragmented, the actual value the interpreter can provide to organizations is increasing. They bring an element of understanding and insight that no amount of technology or data can ever replace. The question is how we can best prepare ourselves to deliver those types of services.



Are you ready for a more diverse interpreting market? Join us at the 5th InterpretAmerica Summit, June 12-13 in Monterey, California to be the first among your peers to access the detailed guidance our Keynotes will be sharing. And be sure to invite a colleague or friend. 

Early bird rates end May 4th. Register now!

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