coLAB Weekend: Spanish B’s dig in

This write-up comes from coLAB Weekend participant and interpreter Jesse Tomlinson, based in Guadalajara, México. Find out more about Jesse.

IMG_20170805_135045What better time than the first weekend in August to practice interpreting and learn from colleagues? Conference interpreters Laura Holcomb and Lauren Michaels organized coLAB Weekend: a two-day intensive tailored to interpreters with Spanish as a B language. coLAB Weekend was led by prolific trainer and AIIC Mexico member Hilda Tejada. And what a weekend it was!

We all met on Saturday at 9am in the Glendon College MCI interpreting lab in Toronto, Canada. The lab is truly beautiful – a first-rate space for simultaneous interpreting training.


We (Laura Holcomb, Nicholas Ferreira, Sonja Swenson, Enrica Ardemagni and Jesse Tomlinson) began our “Retour into Spanish” workshop by deep-diving into Spanish as a working language and its structure with hopes of heading off common pitfalls such as speaking Spanish with an English structure and syntax. We learned and were reminded of interesting and useful vocabulary and collocations.


Here’s a sampling from my own notes:

stakeholders – partes interesadas

gig economy – economía de autónomos

engagement – involucramiento

expertise – pericia

rewarding – gratificante

rewarding – que compensa más

across – a lo largo y ancho

on-demand – por encargo

on-demand – a petición específica

freelancer – cuentapropista

second-hand embarrassment – pena ajena

overlook – soslayar

overlook – que hace caso omiso de

emerge – destacar

credentials – logros, títulos

breakthrough – avance

funnel – embudo

blue collar – obrero

white collar – trabajo calificado

One of many highlights from the weekend’s activities: very specific, personalized feedback on our interpreting skills!

MacintoshHDUsersFembotDesktopIMG_20170806_103730.jpgThank you Glendon College for the use of your interpreting lab for this exceptional experience!

Distance Learning: A no-brainer (in theory)

Distance Learning is here to stay. It just makes too much sense. While the concept may be a given, being an effective teacher in a virtual classroom is anything but. Even those of us who consider ourselves digital natives (or the near equivalent) quickly realize that training interpreters across space and time requires a pilot specialized in these such atmospheric layers—even more so when it comes to a discipline such as Conference Interpreting that has traditionally had a marked hands-on, four-walls-and-a-console-based approach.

Michelle Hoff HeadshotBut fear not. This coming January, Glendon College and University of La Laguna Conference Interpreting Trainer and author of the widely read blog The Interpreter Diaries Michelle Hoff will put her boots down in Curitiba, Brazil and fling open the doors of this virtual space for an AIIC sponsored workshop on IT and Blended Learning. If you are interested in learning from the most dynamic distance trainer I’ve ever experienced, then grab one of the four remaining spots. You can read more about the details of the workshop on her blog.

Dates: January 29-31, 2016
Location: Curitiba, Brazil

OVERLOAD! How a new vision of professional ethics led one interpreter back to sanity

Fortunately, this past semester, a very supportive husband meant that I didn’t have to work to put a roof over my head and mangoes in my belly. As a result, I was able to dedicate nearly all of my waking hours to my five Master’s in Conference Interpreting (MCI) courses. Even so, I was finding myself unable to keep up with all the assignments. Doing the bare minimum had become par and skipping many fascinating-looking readings commonplace.

I began to rebel. What if I want to dive deep into legal terminology or spend two extra hours practicing consecutive without notes from a Cervantes Institute speech about women in film? What if I do acquiesce to a half-day rabbit hole of interviews with Julio Cortázar for a literary translation assignment, when really, a 45-minute spurt would have been enough to get the job done?

To deal with this difficult situation, my initial course of action was to shift my personal standards. I decided that, because the conditions didn’t seem to allow for meeting the standards that would earn me the higher marks to which I was accustomed, I would accept merely passing grades in order to heed my intellectual and spiritual curiosity.

ImageHowever, even with this concession, as the semester unfolded I realized that my work pace was unsustainable. I was working through the weekends but falling behind in my courses and facing assignments that were increasingly time intensive. Without some sort of intervention, failing a class or a panic attack was in the cards, and I wasn’t very keen on either of those outcomes. As my mother-in-law might say: something had to give.

It was at this juncture that I realized that the approach to interpreter ethics that we had been discussing in class had very relevant applications to my particular brand of academic strife.

I had come to the program with a sort deontological (rules-based) approach to the academic environment, taking the curriculum to be a sort of Code of Ethics similar to the ones we are to adhere to as practicing professional interpreters. “These are the things you must do to succeed in this program,” it seemed to declare in a booming baritone, “Now do it or perish.” But what happens when the “Standards,” or in this case, the curriculum put forth seem impossible to adhere to in practice?

If we overlay this situation with Dean and Pollard’s Demand-Control Schema that comes to us from our good friends in the ASL world, we have the opportunity to enter into a decision-making cycle. An ethical “demand” or quandary had arisen towards the beginning of the semester; I had subconsciously considered “controls” or options; and subsequently opted for the conservative one of shifting my personal standards in order to accept a paltry passing grade. However, from this arose new demands, which forced me to reevaluate my options.

Confronted with a situation I had never been in before, the established rules and norms being of little use to me, I sought counsel. In our personal lives, we do this quite frequently. I fear, however, that in our professional lives we do this all too little for fear that our shortcomings should be found out, or because of the erroneous notion that confidentiality requirements preclude consultation with our colleagues. But receiving feedback from others can be invaluable—as it most certainly was in this case. But it takes being willing to say, “I don’t know” or “this situation is beyond my capacity.”

IMG_2418As a result of my consultation, on this loop through the Demand-Control Schema’s wild world, I opted for a more liberal or interventionist approach: withdrawing from the course with the heaviest workload. Once I came to this resolution, I could feel my creative energies resurge almost immediately. The gap between what we are asked to do and what we are able to do had taken an immense toll that I was not fully aware of until that moment.

Interpreting is a creative act. Fear is the number one squelcher of creative energy. As such, it is urgent that we abandon the vertigo-inducing runaway train that is the deontological approach to ethics in favor of a more teleological approach that puts interpreters back behind the wheel.

At this intersection between mandate and how life plays out, something much more complex and subtle than the brute application of directives is at stake: the development of professional judgment. Fortunately, the MCI program at Glendon is designed with this in mind. The faculty recognizes that it’s about what we do in the gray. As interpreters we stand knee-deep in the gray all day long. But I suppose that if I were interested in clear-cut, I would have gotten out of dodge a long time ago.