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Giving Tuesday: Support Mexico's Indigenous Language Interpreters and Translators

Many of us are aware of the rich diversity of indigenous languages in Mexico [i], but did you know that Mexico both has a federal law requiring access to indigenous language interpreters and translators in legal and community settings AND that, through the National Institute of Indigenous Languages (INALI), there is a certification process for these linguists?

As we put the final touches on Lenguas 2019, which will take place in Mexico City in January, (see last week's blog for details), a top priority for us is making it possible for indigenous language interpreters and translators to attend the conference. Not only does Lenguas have a wide variety of workshops on offer, many of them are being taught by expert indigenous language instructors, something available only at this conference.

Our indigenous colleagues, however, typically have far fewer resources and access to professional development opportunities than those of us who work with foreign languages such as Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Japanese or German.

For this reason, on November 27, 2018, #GivingTuesday, we have launched a campaign on the Mexican crowdfunding site

Since we announced the Lenguas 2019 program earlier this year, interest from indigenous-language translators and interpreters has been swelling, with emails, and text messages coming in from all over Mexico inquiring about the conference and if there would be scholarship opportunities to help defray the cost of attendance.

Although already one of the most economical professional education offerings available anywhere, the registration cost for the three-day conference (approximately US$350.00) is still beyond the reach of most of our colleagues working with indigenous communities in Mexico.

This is where you come in, and where we ALL have a chance to support the professionalization of translation and interpreting in Mexico. The fundraising campaign is on Donadora, Mexico's first crowdfunding platform. The English-language version of the site could use some professional translation TLC, (which we are pushing to have corrected), but is nonetheless totally legitimate.

We have 60 days to raise just under US$5,000.00, which will allow us to offer full registration to at least 15 indigenous-language interpreters and translators. In addition to access to professional education opportunities, the scholarship recipients will also be able to interact with colleagues from all over the world and realize that they are part of a worldwide profession.

The 2017 Survey on Translation and Interpretation in Mexico [ii], prepared for the first edition of Lenguas, revealed very real challenges faced by indigenous interpreters and translators - challenges that together as a profession we can help overcome.

The 2017 Survey made three things very clear:

  1. There are large numbers of indigenous-language translators and interpreters working throughout Mexico. In fact, 40% of the survey respondents work with indigenous languages.

  2. These translators and interpreters make much less than their counterparts who work with foreign languages such as Chinese, English, French, Japanese or German.

  3. There are very few opportunities for professional development for indigenous-language translators and interpreters in Mexico. Consequently, professionalization is an enormous challenge.

2019 has been declared the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations. We are very proud to have crafted a conference that highlights the important contribution of indigenous language interpreters and translators to our profession and gives all of us the unique opportunity to interact, network and learn from each other.

Won’t you join us and help these translators and interpreters become a part of our worldwide professional community? Click here to make a donation today!


[i] Mexico is home to 68 indigenous languages, with 364 variants spoken throughout the country. In Latin America, Mexico is second only to Brazil in terms of the number of languages spoken within its national borders, with almost 7 million speakers of indigenous languages in Mexico.

[ii] For a detailed description of the survey and a link to the survey itself see “Translation and Interpreting in Mexico: Uncharted Territory, Rich Waters” by Laura Vaughn Holcomb, ATA Chronicle, July-August 2018 (


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