Letters to the Editor

Melissa González’s Letter in Response to Barry Slaughter Olsen’s Article on Remote Interpreting

I read Melissa González’s comments in the July-August issue in response to Barry Olsen’s article (“Remote Interpreting: Feeling Our Way into the Future,” May-June issue) and literally felt like my personal job experience was on stage.

The hospital where I was employed also decided to close our interpreter services department for “financial” reasons last year. The process began by taking away weekend interpreters, followed by overnight interpreters a few months later. A remote phone interpreting service was implemented. Sporadic training was provided by someone in-house—not even a trained expert from the company. Everyone in the interpreter services department was laid off four months later.

After my co-workers and I were laid off, we asked the hospital if they would be open to keeping us on call. This way the medical staff could still have contact with the same interpreters they had worked with for years. The hospital declined.

The medical staff was upset and frustrated when they heard the news. Many had yet to be trained on how to use the new interpreting service. There were many questions concerning what was to be done in emergency situations and in the departments where outside interpreting equipment cannot be used. No one seemed to have an answer. For the hospital, it was all about saving money. Staff members were told they would be fine and needed to be patient.

I was fortunate enough to find a job three months later in the same community, but I continue to hear about the lack of medical interpreting at the hospital. The hospital ended the contract with the original interpreting service and moved on to another company, but there are still issues with access. Patients have to fend for themselves in many instances and use their own cell phones or sit and wait until the medical staff can get someone on the phone. Staff members have also had to use their personal cell phones or, even worse, resort to hand gestures to try and communicate. Some staff members are unwilling to use the service because it takes too long or they don’t trust the knowledge of the “medical” interpreter on the phone.

Although the hospital’s quarterly reports will show that money is being saved, the telephone interpreting service is not being used to its full potential. No changes will be made as long as the hospital feels that it’s better to save money by using a machine versus a staff medical interpreter.

I do agree that new technology has its place in all walks of life. However, when it comes to medical interpreting, a machine is not always the answer just because it saves a dollar or two! We are talking about a human being, not an object to be figured out at random by a machine!

Thank you, Melissa. Your story gives me hope to push forward.

—Elizabeth Olson, Mansfield, Massachusetts

Bridging Other Gaps

In the field known as translation studies, much has been written about the gap between “academia” (scholarship and training) and “practice” (the professional or industry side of translation). As an expert translation practitioner and translation studies student/novice scholar, I’m deeply troubled by this unfortunate separation.

This is why I’ve followed with great interest and excitement the development of ATA’s Educators Division (http://ataeducatorsdivision.org), and want to take this opportunity to recognize ATA’s efforts toward bridging this “gap.” I also want to express my sincerest appreciation to the Board and conference organizers for the quality guest speakers they’re bringing to the conference every year.

In addition, I not only want to encourage, but humbly ask translation/interpreting professionals who are not normally involved in scholarship or research to attend at least one of the “Education and Training” sessions at the upcoming conference. Your input and participation is much more important to researchers than you can possibly realize. (And if you decide to attend one of these sessions and happen to see my name badge, please come say hello so I can thank you in person.)

It’s my sincerest hope that these and future initiatives will successfully bring the “academic” and “professional” worlds closer together so that scholars can continue to produce knowledge that is informed by (and is useful to) what practitioners do on a daily basis.

—Celeste Klein Malone, Akron, Ohio

Expanding Your Business: Genealogical Translation | Corey Oiesen and Bryna O’Sullivan

Thank you for the article on genealogical translation in the May-June issue. I loved all the information you shared! I’ve been translating mostly for direct clients who are either looking for their Italian citizenship or researching their Italian roots. I’ve been doing this for about two years full-time now. My first client was a professor doing research on an Italian fellow born in Italy in the 1800s—in my own town. I loved going to the church and leafing through those old, dusty, and fascinating records! Your article gave me more ideas and renewed energy to look for additional work in this field. Thanks!

—Manuela Francavilla, Madison, Wisconsin

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