Interviewed by Angela Fairbank, CTTIC board member-at-large, November 27, 2022.
Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter – which of these three professions do you identify with?
Translator and interpreter. I have a lot of respect for terminologists but I would make a lousy one since I am more of a “big picture” person. I don’t do well with minutia – I know, a shocking thing for a language professional to say!
Please provide a brief synopsis of your education – including language education – and background related to how you came to be a Translator/Interpreter/Terminologist, such as immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship/menteeship, internship, etc.)
I have always loved language. Singing and songwriting were big interests of mine growing up; I loved the creativity of it, so much so that I led a parallel career as a songwriter until about age 40, when I finally realized I hated performing.
I came to translation and interpretation mainly through language teaching. I did my B.A. in Applied Linguistics and then taught French as a second language for roughly 10 years. After that, I wanted to move away from contract work, so that I could pay for producing my first CD. I applied for a full-time position as a proofreader with the federal Translation Bureau. I thought I’d hate the 9-to-5 grind but I loved it. The director saw potential in me as a translator, so I began studying translation through the Université de Saint-Boniface. I then worked as a French-to-English translator/revisor for a number of years. One day, the Translation Bureau was offering its in-house translators an opportunity to be tested for aptitude in conference interpreting. I had no idea what conference interpreting was, but I thought, why not give it a try? I ended up “testing positive” and doing the master’s program in conference interpreting at the University of Ottawa. I have continued to work as a translator and interpreter ever since, for various employers over the years and in different regions of Canada, and now as a freelancer.
In the past 10 years, I have become increasingly interested in helping train the next generation of language professionals. I had an amazing opportunity several years ago to work alongside some experienced and gifted adult educators as part of a team training medical interpreters in Winnipeg. They inspired me to further develop my own teaching/training skills. I went on to complete an M.Ed. in adult education and an Ed. D. in education.
I am a lifelong learner, but I am not sure there are any more degrees in my future! That said, I continue to attend webinars and workshops.
How long have you been working in your chosen profession? Do you tend to specialize and if so in which domains?
I have worked in the language field all my working life, from 1990 to now. It began with language teaching, then proofreading, translation, interpreting, and most recently training/teaching. I have been doing the last three for probably the past 20 years. As I approach the end of my career, curriculum design and teaching have started taking on greater prominence, but I am still very busy with translation and interpreting.
Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?
I have been freelancing full time for the past five years or so. I enjoy being the captain of my own ship and being able to decide how to spend my time, where and with whom I work, and so on. I need variety and dislike paperwork, so I am probably better suited to freelancing. That said, I miss the camaraderie of being part of a team.
Where do you currently exercise your profession?
I am currently based in Winnipeg but do most of my work virtually, mainly for clients in the Maritimes, but also Ontario and Quebec. I have also started doing a bit of consulting work overseas as well, but that is very recent.
Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s) and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately or substantially?
I have been a certified French>English translator and Fr<>Eng conference interpreter since 2010, an accredited Fr<>Eng conference interpreter for the federal government since 2011, and a certified Fr<>Eng court interpreter with the Government of New Brunswick since 2013. I can’t say with absolute certainty that certification has increased my income, but it has definitely opened doors for me that are not available to non-certified colleagues. Certification is a requirement or at least an asset for many of the jobs I’ve held and RFPs that I’ve bid on. Accreditation with the Translation Bureau has given me access to a pool of work that is simply not available to non-accredited interpreters.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
I would characterize my career as an ongoing love affair with language and more of a spiral of exploration than a linear progression. I have enjoyed every language-related job I have had and the new challenges that each has brought. I hope to be able to continue working in the field for many years to come. One of the highlights for me was helping set up a mandatory professional development program during my tenure as CTINB president. It took a few years to put in place, and there was some resistance to the idea, but I think it is something that will benefit New Brunswick language professionals and the public in the long run. We work in an unregulated industry, where anyone and their cat can call themselves a translator, terminologist or interpreter. We need to up our game if we want to set ourselves apart.
Have there been any particular challenges in your profession that you would like to share with our readers?
One challenge that is top of mind is the lack of support and opportunities for translators and interpreters working in non-official language combinations, and particularly languages of lesser diffusion. It can be very difficult for these colleagues to access training or to gain enough experience to apply for certification. I’m not sure there’s an easy solution.
What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting – or thinking of starting – in the profession today?
• There’s work out there, at least in the major language combinations. I often hear young people say that they were told there’s no work in translation or interpretation, which sort of boggles my mind. I don’t know where they are hearing that.
• Work on developing your writing and editing skills, not just your translation skills, especially if you don’t have someone revising your work.
• Keep abreast of what’s happening in the world. It will help you do better quality work.
• One of the best ways to cultivate a professional network is by taking courses and getting involved in your provincial association.
• If you can help a colleague, do so, because you may need that help one day, too.
You became ATIM’s Treasurer just recently and, as you mentioned above, were previously CTINB’s President. What differences do you see between the two associations and what plans do you have to bring ATIM forward during your mandate?
There are several similarities between Manitoba and New Brunswick. Both provinces have francophone universities that offer a translation program and provincial governments with a bureau that provides French/English translation and interpretation services. However, there are differences, too. New Brunswick has a much larger francophone population, and CTINB is much larger than ATIM. New Brunswick also has three major centres (St. John, Moncton and Fredericton), whereas Manitoba has one (Winnipeg). The mix of language combinations is also different: in New Brunswick, the overwhelming number of translators and interpreters work in Canada’s official languages, whereas this is less the case in Manitoba. However, Manitoba has a more active and developed multilingual community interpreting scene than New Brunswick.
This board’s accomplishments will depend on the availability and interest of board members. Personally, my main interest is professional development. I hope to organize a few training sessions for translators and interpreters during my term and not just for the English/French crowd. I also hope to raise our professions’ profile through op-ed pieces, presentations to students, and participation in activities with other language-related associations. ATIM also plans to hire a part-time admin employee.
You are also an educator and recently completed a doctorate related to the interpreting field. Please tell us a little about this and why you chose the subject you did for your dissertation. What results have come about since your dissertation was completed, if any?
I completed an Ed.D. rather than a Ph.D., in Education. They’re both doctorates, but the Ed.D. is more for practitioners, while the Ph.D. is geared to research. I was working as a full-time interpreter when I started the degree, so I chose to focus on various aspects of interpreter training in all my doctoral assignments. In my final dissertation, I looked at four different interpreter-training programs in Canada and the extent to which they incorporated adult education principles. Though I enjoyed the program, I approached it less from a desire to be an academic and more as one would approach a marathon: as a personal challenge. I had little desire to publish my work or get hired as a professor. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take the program seriously. I worked very hard on it. The degree has opened doors not previously available to me or that I would not have had the confidence to pursue, particularly in curriculum development.
I understand you are currently teaching a course at Université Sainte-Anne in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on community interpreting, have another course in the works on medical interpreting, and afterwards plan to design a course in legal interpreting. Canada definitely has a need for such courses. Can you tell us a little bit more about them and where prospective students can go on line to find out more about them and enroll in them? Although they are in French and English at the moment, are there future plans to offer these courses in other languages as well?
Working with Université Sainte-Anne is one of those doors I was referring to in your previous question. The university and ATINS approached me a few years ago with the idea of developing an online micro-credential program in community interpreting consisting of three courses. I saw it as a stretch opportunity to apply what I’d learned during my doctorate, and there is a dire need for accessible community interpreting programs in Canada, so I gladly accepted the offer. In the first year, I developed and piloted a 60-hour intro to dialogue interpreting course. It went very well, partly due to an incredibly warm and dynamic cohort of learners mostly from Nova Scotia. I then spent last year developing a 40-hour medical interpreting module and just finished piloting the course in December 2022. This winter, I will be working on the final module, a 40-hour course in legal interpreting, with a view to piloting it in fall 2023. (https://www.usainteanne.ca/en/continuing-education – see “micro-credentials). Sainte-Anne being a French-language institution, the program is geared to interpreters working in French and English. There was talk at one point of working on a language-neutral, English version later, in collaboration with a community college in Nova Scotia, but I don’t know where those talks are at.
You are also known for having presented some interesting webinars – notably one on emojis. Please tell us about these and others you have planned. Will these be offered through ATIM exclusively now or through other sister associations such as ATIA, ATIO, or STIBC?
The emoji webinar stemmed from work I was doing with the Centre canadien de français juridique (https://ccfjinc.ca). I was hired by the centre to develop and deliver professional development sessions for French/English court interpreters from across Canada for about five years. I kept seeing articles on emojis and the law and thought it would make for an interesting topic for a webinar. I have delivered the webinar several times and to various groups, including ATIM, ATIA, as part of the US-based “Tools for Interpreters” webinar series (https://www.interpretertraining-online.com/tools-for-interpreters-webinar-series), and most recently for the Association of Professional Language Interpreters. If anyone is interested, contact me. I keep updating the presentation, so there’s always something new.