Thursday, January 31, 2013

Administrative Updates--2013 Spring Issue


Dear Colleagues:

I hope this message finds you well and enjoying the holidays. 

I am honored to become administrator of the Chinese Language Division. In 2008, as a relative newcomer to translation and interpretation, I found tremendous support from the Chinese Language Division and American Translators Association when I attended my first ATA Annual Conference in Orlando. After serving as assistant administrator for the past year, I am ready to step in as administrator for the next two years. 

I would like to thank our division’s Leadership Council and the nominating committee for their hard work and devotion toward the success of the CLD. We had a successful showing at the ATA’s Annual Conference in San Diego this year. There were eight Chinese language related presentations. I was able to attend most of them and found them to be eloquently presented and well received. Our networking dinner was very successful, thanks to the meticulous planning of Liping Zhao, our assistant administrator. Prior to the networking dinner, our casual joint lunch with members of the Japanese and Korean Language Divisions was also well attended.  Last but not least, catching up with old friends and making new ones have always been the most enjoyable parts of the ATA’s Annual Conference. 

I am looking forward to working with you over the next two years to make the CLD a bigger, stronger, and more successful language division!

Happy New Year!

Di Wu, ATA Chinese Language Division Administrator (2012-2014)
Chinese <> English Translator and Interpreter

Parting wordS from BIN LIU

Dear CLD members: 

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! I send my best wishes for your businesses and careers in 2013. As some of you already know, I completed my two-year term as CLD Administrator as of October 2012. It was a privilege and a learning experience to work with so many talented and enthusiastic volunteer members. I can’t thank you enough for your selfless service and support. I particularly want to thank the following individuals and groups:

1.   Our past administrators: Mr. Bruce Hyman and Professor Yuanxi Ma. Thank you for your nurturing encouragement and gentle guidance with regards to Division matters. 
2.   Our Leadership Council members: Mr. Di Wu, Acting Assistant Administrator and Chair of the Chinese to English Certification Workgroup; Ms. Katie Spillane, CLD Newsletter Editor; Ms. Evelyn Yang Garland, CLD Newsletter Layout Editor; Ms. Liping Zhao, Administrative Coordinator; and Mr. Huilin Gao, Webmaster.
3.   Our Nomination Committee members: Ms. Barbara (Hua) Robinson, Chair; Ms. Xiaolei Kerr and Mr. Edward (Xianjun) Liu. 
4.   ATA Officers:  Ms. Dorothee Racette, President; Mr. Nicholas Hartmann, Immediate Past President; Mr. Walter Bacak, Executive Director; Ms. Caitilin Walsh, President-Elect; Mr. Jamie Padula, Chapter and Division Relations Manager; Dr. Karen Tkaczyk, Divisions Committee Chair; and Ms. Teresa Kelly, Meetings Manager.

I also want to congratulate Mr. Di Wu and Ms. Liping Zhao for being elected our new Division Administrator and Division Assistant Administrator at the ATA’s Annual Conference in San Diego. I wish them great success in moving the CLD forward. I owe them my sincere thanks for their assistance in carrying out the CLD agenda during the past two years.
I was very happy to see so many of you in San Diego and to catch up with what is happening in your lives and businesses. Now that we have mingled with members from the Midwest, East and West of the country, it will be essential to build on our social and professional connections and rally our members to achieve the CLD’s goals.  I am confident that with Di and Liping's strong and expert leadership, our Division will be bigger, stronger and more prosperous in the near future.

Most sincerely yours,

Bin Liu
English to Chinese Translator

Professional Perspectives--2013 Spring Issue

Behind the Lines: Telephonic Interpreting

Telephonic interpretation can be a great career or source of supplemental income during down times between translations or other contract jobs. Currently, there are several companies seeking telephonic interpreters due to improvements in technology and because this type of service provides convenience for the speaker, the client and the interpreter. However, interpretation via telephone has some challenges and considerations. These include working with limitations in gestures or other non-verbal communication cues that often help in efficient and effective interpretation. Another important consideration is ensuring access and mastery of appropriate telephonic interpretation technologies. However, with a little patience, skill and some specific tools, these challenges can be overcome.

Challenges in Communication

While an interpreter should always provide direct translation of ideas and words, this is not always easy to do with telephonic interpretation. In face-to-face interpretation, you usually can read gestures and have access to other material or environmental cues to help gauge the content of the interpretation between the client and Limited English Proficiency client (LEP). However, for telephonic interpretation, these non-verbal cues and circumstantial information are not always available.   

For example, at the start of a call, the client usually asks a question to the LEP without giving the interpreter any prior knowledge of the situation or content of the communication. In addition, there is generally no information given from the call center operator connecting the interpreter to the client and LEP. Therefore, the interpreter does not know where either the client or the LEP are located or what the content of the communication entails. Often it isn’t until well into the interpretation session that the interpreter understands the content and setting of the communication. For example, the client may be a nurse in a hospital and the LEP a patient or the client may be a Sales Representative and the LEP a potential at-home customer. In other words, settings can vary drastically from one phone call to another – including settings as diverse as the ER (Emergency Room), OR (Operation Room), ICU (Intensive Care Unit), insurance company, bank, retail store, asylum or court.

To overcome these challenges, patience is an interpreter’s greatest strength. It helps to know that the client often doesn’t realize how the telephonic interpretation system works or understand the complexities of language. You may sometimes need to provide a brief explanation or walk-through on policy and procedure or clarification on language use. For example, often an LEP will use a harsh interjection such as “um” or “uh” and the client demands to know what the LEP is saying, thinking that this is substantive content. Furthermore, asking the client for clarification at the start of a call is often beneficial. Sometimes it is not known that clarification was needed until well into a call so the more inquisitive you are at the start of the call, the easier a call can be. Also helpful to understand is that LEPs in addition to facing challenges in English, some LEPs may not be proficient in their own language. Sometimes a walk through to explain the alphabet is necessary. Thus, patience is key.

Technology Needs and Suggestions

The technological requirements for telephonic interpretation usually include a basic computer (sometimes you need to log into your company's account, time sheet), a telephone line (usually a direct landline is required, but as landlines are becoming increasingly rare, digital lines are a sometimes acceptable), a headphone set (while you can hold the phone to your head you may find it increasingly straining on your neck and hand), a pad of paper and a writing utensil - you will be taking a lot of notes and this is very important!

To begin, the most essential tool is the telephone and telephone connection. Telephonic interpretation companies generally do not want interpreters to use wireless devices, especially cell phones, due to network unreliability (dropping calls, bad voice quality and battery life). Home phone wireless handsets are also not recommended due to handset battery lives which may not be able to support the unpredicted length of an interpretation session. Interpretation sessions can be as brief as a few seconds (simply wanting to know what few words an LEP is saying) or as long as a few hours.

VoIP (Voice over IP), the trend of future telephones, is an option but requires a reliable Internet connection. Moreover, some interpretation companies do not allow VoIP phone lines while others focus on VoIP such as Cisco system. You can also easily build your home VoIP system if your company allows you to do so.  For example, with Vonage you simply pay a monthly fee for acess to all the perks. If you want to go even cheaper, Ooma is a good choice. Ooma provides crystal clear sound with monthly tax charges. MagicJack and netTALK are not recommended by any company. If you want to go totally bill-free, choose Obihai. Some of those models provide Wi-Fi adapters to allow for continuous work while traveling. However, some companies have restrictions on Call Waiting and Voice Mail setup issues. Always check company technology policies before purchasing these products.

Related to the telephone line connection is the headphone set requirement. A headphone set is important because it allows you to have your hands free while on-call. Your hands will be busy taking notes. As mentioned earlier, telephonic interpreting is often content-heavy and will require note taking for effective information relay. Having to hold the phone limits your ability to take notes. Using speaker phone is not a good practice either as this often produces echoes and other distortions. You will want to have as clear a reception as possible.

Also important is a standard computer connected to the Internet. For the most part, this is not required but working without it will make the work that much more challenging. E-mail communication with your supervisor or other administrative within the interpretation company is common for telephonic interpreters. Time sheets for recording time off as well as tracking calls are also common. Usually a telephonic interpreter has a portal in which he/she will track time spent interpreting.

Telephonic Interpretation Companies

There are several telephonic interpretation companies to consider. Some do not require extensive experience or certification but others do. The information shared here is not exhaustive but is representative of my experience and knowledge of the sector.

Call center based companies provide much better benefits than home-based contractors. Full-time call centers provide benefits such as medical, vision, dental, 401K, paid time off, bonuses, training, and educational reimbursements. However, at-home telephonic interpreters, generally considered contractors, have many benefits as well. Not only is there the perk of being able to work from home (no costly commute), companies usually provide higher rates for interpretation. The downside is that there is not as much of a guarantee that you will get calls. At-home contractors are compensated based on call volume. Some get overnight bonuses; some get special language bonuses (mostly for the rarest languages). Usually, contractors do not get any benefits because they are not considered full-time. However, they sometimes are allowed VTO (Voluntary Time Off) or unlimited VTO depending on the company. 


In summary, telephonic interpretation can be a very rewarding job. It often provides a flexible working schedule in the convenience of your own home. However, it can also be very stressful, due to limited access to non-verbal communication cues or poor quality equipment. However, a little patience can go a long way. Finding a company that will suit your schedule needs and pay interests is key. Do research to find which company will work best within your schedule and qualifications.

Huilin Gao
Chinese<>English Translator and Interpreter, University of Phoenix


The third installment of the presentation on “Nuts and Bolts in Chinese <> English Translation” focused on five aspects of Chinese to English translation including “Rephrasing and Restructuring”, “Handling of Verbs”, “Definitions”, “Headings and Idioms”, and “Shades of Meanings”.  Here is a brief summary of each point covered in the presentation.

Rephrasing and Restructuring
This part of the presentation primarily addressed breaking up the long sentence structures that are common in Chinese. Breaking down such sentences can make a translation more easily understood. We also addressed the shortage of Chinese equivalents of English grammatical parts (articles, propositions, plural forms, etc.). 

Handling of Verbs
The second part of the presentation dealt with correctly handling transitive and intransitive verbs and the proper contextual use of active and passive verbs. A translator also needs to be alert for opportunities to use action verbs and modal verbs.

Chinese texts are full of conceptual definitions.  A translator needs to be sure that these definitions are clearly understandable to target readers and are expressed in idiomatic English.

Headings and Idioms
Under “headings”, we discussed various prefixes and suffixes used to transform Chinese words such as “-” and “-”. From that discussion, we shifted into a discussion of how to approach idioms “成语”. We suggested using toned-down terms to avoid awkwardness and offered tips for avoiding the use of English clichés equivalent to Chinese idioms. 

Shades of Meaning
The presentation closed with a discussion of nuances in translating some commonly seen Chinese words such as “意义”, “条件”, “ 效益”, and “单位”. The challenge is to be aware of the richness of these terms and ensuring that the proper meaning is conveyed to target readers.

Professor Yuanxi Ma
English<> Chinese Translator and Interpreter

Di Wu
Chinese <> English Translator and Interpreter


Efforts to develop the English to Chinese Accreditation Program[1] were begun by volunteers in the 1990s. The first sitting for the exam was in 1997 at the ATA’s Annual Conference in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Only one candidate passed the exam.
            In the late 1990s, the grading system was based on three out of five translated passages. Graders tracked both “major” and “minor” errors. A candidate who made two or more major errors failed the exam. The current grading system is more sophisticated and refined.  Candidates for certification are required to complete one mandatory passage and are allowed to chose to translate one of two other passages. Now, there are multiple error categories and errors are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 16 points per error. A candidate who has accumulated 18 points or more will fail the exam.
 Sample Errors & Comments
Paspalum Grows Up
Source Text
Candidate’s Translation
For some, paspalum is simply a superintendent’s best friend.
Not accurate

In the world of warm-season golf course grasses, seashore paspalum has been touted as the next big thing.
Totally inaccurate, MU/F:8
Known for its salt tolerance, the grass is marketed as the answer for salt affected sites from California to the Carolinas.
Coastal courses that experience salt spray, and inland courses with salty wells or variable TDS irrigation water such as effluent, have greatly benefited from the resilience of the grass.
Multiple errors, total disaster

Western Thinking
Source Text
Candidate’s Translation
He wanted to clarify the correct use of concepts like justice and love by pointing out incorrect usage.
Hard to tell whether “正義和愛” modifies “概念.” F:4
is a typo  P:1
From past experience we would put together “boxes,” definitions, categories or principles.
As a result, Western thinking is concerned with “what is,” which is determined by analysis, judgment and argument.
If, later on, it is essential to choose between the differing positions, an attempt to choose is made at that point.

Source Text
Candidate’s Translation
… expanding the set of families eligible for family assistance plans or guaranteed income measures …
Both "family assistance plans" AND "guaranteed income measures" modify "the set of families eligible." MU:4
If all poor families could receive welfare, would the incidence of instability change markedly? 
Unfaithful translation of “incidence of instability ” F:4
… the unhappily married couple who remain together out of a sense of economic responsibility for their children, because of the high costs of separation, or because of the consumption benefits of marriage.

The benefits of such a partnership depend largely on the relative dissimilarity of the resources or basic endowments each partner brings to the marriage.

Much of the variation in marital stability across income classes …
"Much of the variation" is not "很多差異". The word "variation" is missing.  F:8

Source Text
Candidate’s Translation
… the discontent that the anti-immigration movement has tapped into.
Immigration has been a blessing to the United States, but it is not an unmixed blessing,
Rather than dismiss all immigration critics as xenophobes, supporters of immigrant rights need to deal with the legitimate gripes of their opponents.
The most basic (and perhaps the simplest to deal with) is that immigrants cost local governments money even as they fill federal coffers with income, especially from payroll taxes.
MU/F/COH: 8 total
A study found that the average immigrant puts a net lifetime fiscal cost of $25,000 on state and local governments.
一項研究顯示,一般移民在一生中花去了州政府和地方政府 25,000 美元的淨會計成本
Less straightforward but still important are…
Low-income native workers worried about their own wages and job opportunities cannot be dismissed as special pleaders. 
The exact meaning of “special pleader” is not clear, therefore, no deduction is made.
Paradoxically, those fighting to achieve justice for immigrants will reach their goal only if they are also seen as fighting for justice for the native-born. 
“Paradoxical” means “seemingly contradictory”, MU:4

Before you take the exam, accumulate as much experience as possible. Practice translating under time pressure, seek out certified mentors and broaden your linguistic horizons. During the exam, take your time and read the text very, very carefully. Be precise when rendering your translation. Re-read the entire passage and your translation. 
If you don’t pass the exam on the first try – don’t be too disheartened, the passing rate is only roughly 15%. Take the exam as a learning experience and as a source of important feedback for your next attempt. There are many reasons for the high failure rates – if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

Gang Li
Chinese <> English Translator and Interpreter

[1] The Accreditation Program was later renamed the “Certification Program”.