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Natural Disasters, Interpreters and Lenguas 2017

Published September 8, 2017

This is a challenging time for our interpreting community - professionally and in terms of simple physical safety.

Here at InterpretAmerica we want to take a moment to acknowledge the onslaught of extreme weather and natural disasters that many in the language services community are confronting.

From the monstrous Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, to the biggest quake in Mexico in a century, to the unprecedented conflagration burning up huge areas in the Pacific Northwest, we know that many of you are focused now simply on basic survival and safety. We extend our concern, prayers and any action we can take to support you during these very difficult times. 

Professionally, these natural disasters make our skill set even more essential. Before the storms hit, crucial public service announcements need to be interpreted and translated into the languages immigrant communities speak in order to save lives. During the storms, 911 and emergency calls rely on telephonic interpreters to handle calls for help and rescue. And after the storms, many more interpreters and translators are needed in order to help our non-English-speaking residents navigate the maze of resources they need to rebuild their lives. 

Currently, our profession has no streamlined access point to volunteer our services in times of crisis. The best way to monitor how you can offer help is to pay attention to local government social media feeds and websites that provide up-to-date information about what is needed. We can also learn where to offer help through our profession's many excellent social media sites on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter - such as the Translation and Interpreting Group on Facebook or the Translators without Borders LinkedIn group, to name just a couple. 

With the development of online interpreter platforms, interpreters are now presented with an excellent opportunity for our field to work towards a go-to portal where interpreters and translators could go to track which languages are needed where when disasters hit. 

Lenguas 2017 More Relevant than Ever

Like it or not, these disasters are impacting our work here at InterpretAmerica. As soon as news of the earthquake in Mexico hit, we started to receive queries as to whether our upcoming inaugural Lenguas 2017 conference would be affected. 

We are VERY pleased to announce that we are a GO. We can confirm that neither our venue, the incomparable Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, or our conference hotels were damaged in the quake. The conference will go forward as planned between September 28-30 in Mexico City.

We feel like this conference couldn't be more important to support the absolutely criticial work that Mexican translators and interpreters do to facilitate Mexico's place in the world internationally and to bridge the acute language access needs of its indigenous citizens.

For us, this is a huge relief. Because Lenguas is new, it is not yet on our profession's radar, yet we feel that our collaboration with the Italia Morayta Foundation has created something truly special, groundbreaking and more relevant than ever. Some unique achievements of this conference are:

  • The first time leaders, stakeholders and important actors in the Mexican interpreting and translation professions will be gathered under the same roof. Conference and indigenous interpreters will meet each other and learn about their unique contributions to the field during the first day, which will be held in plenary sessions. From the legendary European Union's Miguel Ángel Martinez Martinez to representatives from Mexico's newest professional association for community interpreting, Intérpretes y Traductores en Servicios Públicos y Comunitarios, Mexico's language service professions are getting their inaugural face-to-face meet and greet

  • The successful completion of the first-ever Survey of Translation and Interpretation in Mexico. Over 1000 Mexico-based interpreters and translators filled out the survey, providing the first data-based statistics about the profession. It yielded interesting and surprising results, including the discovery that the 3rd-most in-demand language pair in Mexico is Spanish-Nahuatl.

  • A truly stellar offering of interpreter and translator training workshops offered by a mix of well-known Mexican and U.S. trainers, all at prices that can't be beat in a venue that will take everyone's breath away. 

  • Our celebration of a maturing profession in Mexico happily coincides with the first International Translators Day officially recognized by the United Nations. 

We list these accomplishments because, of course, we are proud of them and want you to come and join us in Mexico City to be part of them. Registration is open and plane fares are still very affordable. 

But more than that, much more than that, we feel like this conference couldn't be more important to support the absolutely critical work that Mexican translators and interpreters do to facilitate Mexico's place in the world internationally and to bridge the acute language access needs of its indigenous citizens. 

As the earthquake unfolded in Chiapas, we were in text contact with a colleague - a professional midwife who works with the Tzotzil community in the Chiapan highlands. She shared a text she had just received from the civil protection agencies sent out to residents in the immediate aftermath of the first big shock wave. 

[Translation: Oaxaca's coastal radio has announced that aftershocks are possible between 3 and 4 in the morning - please take precautions, and try to spread this message. From: Civil Protection]

We couldn't help but wonder if any of these messages were being sent out translated or interpreted via radio broadcast into the many indigenous languages spoken in that region. Surely there is a need in Mexico, just as there is in the United States, for integrating translation and interpreting into natural disaster civil protection response. 

To come full circle, we stand proudly with all of you, our amazing interpreter and translator colleagues. Stay safe and stay strong, and we look forward to celebrating with some of you in person in Mexico City later this month. 


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