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Calling All Interpreters: Change is Here and You Are in the Eye of the Storm

Jun 11, 2015 7:47:00 AM / by Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

InterpretAmerica had very humble beginnings: A conference interpreter and a medical interpreter coming together from across the great divide separating our areas of specialization with the simple goal of having our profession get to know itself. Over time, that vision has expanded to include helping the rest of the world get to know interpreting too.  Since the very first Summit in 2010, the drumbeat "change is coming, change is coming" has been steady and loud. This year, that beat has shifted, quickened, and taken on a new rhythm. It has risen to a crescendo signalling that change is here.

From the doctor's office to the conference booth, the court room to the local school board meeting, how we work is undergoing fundamental change, right now, today. Many hard won battles for working conditions and wages are suddenly being fought again. What many of us thought were settled questions, have been thrown into doubt. Why?

Fundamentally because in many of the places where we work, how people communicate is changing and diversifying. A doctor's visit can take place in person, over the phone, on a video screen, through chat session or email exchange. World leaders now sometimes conduct international conferences without every leaving their country, gathering together virtually rather than physically. And many many new forms multilingual exchange are challenging our conceptions of what interpreting is.

We see fear. And anger. And frustration. And frankly, exhaustion from having to keep our balance on ground that does not stay solid beneath our feet. Many of us chose this profession for our love of language, to facilitate communication and to serve, quietly, and in the background, those who need a language bridge to have their needs met. We did not count on having to become tech savvy, or learning how to lobby in state capitols to save our jobs and wages, or to engage in endless client education about what we can and can't do. 

We also see the beginnings of concerted efforts to embrace the change proactively to protect our hard-won gains and transfer them into the new communication landscape in which we suddenly find ourselves.

Now, we are just hours away from the the launch of the 5th InterpretAmerica Summit. Working interpreters, association leadership, educators, technology developers and other key players are making their way to Monterey to gather once again to see what we can do to stay in the driver's seat of our own profession.

Organizing a national conference is a Mount Everest-sized task. Every time we undertake this task, at some point, we look at each other with stupefaction wondering what where we thinking? And every time, we start the process not sure what central ideas and themes will emerge. We know there will be controversy, diverging visions, but we also know that we will be blessed by the generous collaboration and contributions of the many stellar colleagues who are as passionate about interpreting as we are. The end result has always justified the journey. 

Friday and Saturday, some of the most thoughtful and dedicated individuals in our profession will share their expertise and insight at the 5th InterpretAmerica Summit in an effort to help guide us through the turbulence of changing times. We know from past experience that special synergies will ignite and that the ideas generated in Monterey will ripple out to our broader profession and in some small way make it better. 

This year, precisely because of the very change we are highlighting, we can all take part. We will be livestreaming all of our plenary sessions on Friday and Saturday through a special collaboration with Voiceboxer, a tech startup symbolizing the very change we are discussing. You can sign up to attend here.

If you are in the area, it's not too late to attend. You can register here, or simply sign up at the door. 

So whether we will shake your hand in person, greet you over video livestream, field your questions and comments via Twitter @InterpretAmerica (follow us at #IA5), Facebook and LinkedIn, we hope you will join us as we celebrate interpreters, our industry, and our central role in how people communicate in an increasingly globalized world.


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