Thought Leaders Levy & Zeztsche at InterpretAmerica 5: Part 2



By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published May 28, 2015


"Having pride in our profession's long history does not mean that we should be averse to change. History inherently tells us that there is an ongoing progression."


This is the second of a two-part blog series highlighting thought leaders Jonathan Levy and Jost Zetzsche, our keynote speakers at the upcoming 5th InterpretAmerica Summit.  


Today our focus is on Jost Zetzsche. Some might wonder why we have turned to one of translation's leading figures to keynote a conference targeting the interpreting profession. The simple answer: our sister industry has lived through many of the same changes shaking up our profession right now. There are valuable lessons to be shared, and mistakes we may still have time to avoid. 


Jost Zetzsche, is a technical translator and widely published author, including the ever-popular A Translator's Tool Box for the 21st Century and Found in Translation, which he co-authored, a book about translation and interpretation for the general public.

Jost is a unique figure in the translation industry. A sought-after public speaker, he is both a practicing translator and someone who sits astride the many and bewildering changes impacting the translation side of the language industry. He provides leadership and insight into the ever-evolving presence of technology in translators’ lives.


InterpretAmerica: Jost, the Summit is just a couple of weeks away. As you prepare your talk, what do you think interpreters can learn from translators' experiences? 

Jost: I've watched translators struggling in their journey toward technology use over the past 20 years. It's easy to think of having to adapt to technology as one giant hurdle to overcome in a single step. But really, it turned out to be a multi-step process that is still ongoing. For the majority of translators today, it's not so much about whether or not they will accept technology. That is a given. Rather, it's about what kind of technology they are going to use and how they can distinguish themselves to their clients with that technology. 


InterpretAmerica: That sounds like really helpful information. Can you expand on those ideas?

Jost: Well, I'll be addressing both what translators did well in their response to change as well as giving specific examples where translators failed to jump on board in the early stages of technology development, There are even some cases where new products geared specifically for the individual translator were withdrawn from the market because translators wouldn't actively engage with developers or support them by purchasing their -- often very helpful -- products. I anticipate these presenting some relevant parallels for the interpreting profession, which in many ways is just beginning to navigate the changes technology is imposing on it. 


InterpretAmerica: Are there other areas not specifically related to technology that you think can help interpreters in this moment of change in our profession?

Jost: Yes. One issue that has been helpful for translators is to view themselves not just as practitioners of a proud historical craft, but to understand that they are also small business owners. When we don't tend to our side of the business transactions we are engaged in, we sometimes draw the short stick. In fact, I still see us lagging behind in our ability to creatively use the technological and translation expertise we could offer our clients. 


InterpretAmerica: That's interesting. A newly burgeoning topic in interpreting right now is how to handle it when our clients want us to do more than our training and traditional roles permit. Is it better to stick to tradition or to find new ways to stretch the definition of our roles? 

Jost: That's not an easy question to answer. The way I see it is having pride in our profession's long history does not mean that we should be averse to change. History inherently tells us that there is an ongoing progression. Right now in translation and in interpreting, we have a lot of opportunities. How can we leverage those alternatives creatively to our benefit and that of our clients? 


InterpretAmerica: Thanks for this wonderful teaser of your talk. Do you have any final thoughts?

Jost: I hope to be bringing a message of hope and of positive opportunities to InterpretAmerica. Translators have negotiated -- and are still negotiating -- ways to carve out a position of strength through technology. I don't pretend to be an expert on the interpreting industry, but I hope that my outsider's perspective will allow for a productive exchange that can lead to real discovery at the Summit. I'm looking forward to the discussion.


Want more?  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. 



There's still time to join us. Register now!


Can't attend? Can't make it to InterpretAmerica5? We are livestreaming via VoiceBoxer. All plenary sessions from the 5th InterpretAmerica Summit on June 12 and 13 will be streamed live over the Internet. Detailed information can be found here

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