Subject to Interpretation

Interpreters New Normal? Agustin De La Mora PART 2 [EP 39]

November 20, 2020 DE LA MORA Institute Season 2 Episode 39
Subject to Interpretation
Interpreters New Normal? Agustin De La Mora PART 2 [EP 39]
Show Notes Transcript

'Subject To Interpretation' is a weekly podcast that deep dives into the topics that matter to interpreters.๐ŸŽ™ This week the conversation continues with Agustin De La mora as he discusses the changes brought on by the pandemic. Hosted by Maria Ceballos-Wallis.ย 

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to another episode of subject to interpretation, a podcast, which takes us deep into the topics that matter to professional interpreters. I'm your host, Maria EZ . Welcome. I hope to cover topics from theory to practice. In other words, there is an ideal of how things should be done or are done, and the reality of how things actually function in the real world. So our guests are people who have tried successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully to bridge that gap in interpreting and translating this program is recorded via a zoom in both video and audio format. Today, we're gonna talk about the impact of COVID 19 and the pandemic on the livelihood of interpreters and small businesses, serving the industry and explore just what the new normal may look like for us going for forward . This is our second episode in our brand new series, and we are gonna continue our conversation with veteran interpreter and entrepreneur. A welcome Aine .

Speaker 2:

Hi Maria . How you doing?

Speaker 1:

I am doing well. So Aine , let me, let me give our audience a little bit of background on you. Um, although they've heard from you before, they do not know everything there is to know about you, you have been in the industry for over 28 years mm-hmm <affirmative> and 11 of those years you spent as a supervising court interpreter of the ninth judicial circuit in Orlando, Florida mm-hmm <affirmative> . And this is where you currently reside. You also as a federal really certified court interpreter. And as a state certified court interpreter have been a consultant for the administrative offices of the state courts and a Raider for both state and federal exams, correct.

Speaker 2:

That's correct.

Speaker 1:

And you have, actually, in my opinion, left your mark indelibly on orientation training program for more than 50 , 50 states, 50 would be nice, but 15 ,

Speaker 2:

That , that we're shooting for 50 <laugh>.

Speaker 1:

Yeah . But more than 15 states. And that really is quite a lot. So you are a pioneer, not only in interpreter trading , but you're also a pioneer in the development of remote interpreting systems in which that's for which you work to in various states as early as 2009. So what did I miss?

Speaker 2:

Uh , that's true. You know, I started as an interpreter and , uh , I didn't know much about it, but I found some people that , uh , took me under their wing and took me about interpretation. I was very familiar with training and so that was a kind of an simple marriage for me to realize there's no training going on whatsoever. And , uh , we need it desperately. I know how to do training, but I don't know about interpretation. So I commingled with , uh , these colleagues of ours who are still my friends for many years, and that's the advances . Then I got hired as a , uh , chief interpreter for the non judicial circuit court to create a program. They did not have an interpreter department. Funny enough. They've had, they had had interpreters for many years, but always as freelancers. So they wanted to have a program. So I, I went from just being an I to now manage a , an interpreter program for the nine judicial circuit court. And while I was there , um, in about 2009 or 10, we started talking about remote interpreting. And I was part of the team that put together the first true remote interpreting system in the courts here in Orlando , uh , um , many years ago. And as a result of that, I actually ended up leaving the co the courts and work and opened a company called remote interpreting. And so, yes, I've been a manager, I've been an interpreter. I continue to be an interpreter and I really cannot emphasize that enough to this day. I go to court as often as I can and interpret because I want to keep up my skill, but also, I, I I'm , um , I'm an interpreter at heart . I I'd like interpreting. And so I continue to do that. So, no, you didn't miss much. I just kind of expanded a little bit on it.

Speaker 1:

Well, there you go. So as an interpreter, I'm imagine that the last couple of months, since the COVID pandemic began, you , um , must have seen a large reduction in the volume of the work that you do in court. As many other people have.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, I mean , uh , again, I only interpret in federal court now I don't do state court and I, I could do a lot more interpreting, but I'm very busy training people , uh, for the last , uh, 20 years, I moved little by little to Morby an instructor and an educator than an interpreter, but I kept off my skill. So I didn't notice it as much personally, but yes, the federal court closed down completely for a while out . So we went from some calls to zero calls, right. But I did notice that many of our students who are freelancers started calling us and say , Hey, listen, man, they closed the courts. They attorneys are not doing depos. What are we supposed to do? And , uh , and I said, study <laugh> uh ,

Speaker 1:

Now did that

Speaker 2:

Prepared

Speaker 1:

Now regarding that, that answer. I mean, it , it , it is, it is true. Although you say it in tongue and cheek, that when you can't get out of the house, you need to keep your mind occupied. But as a business owner, and , um, in this industry, we have lots of small business owners as a business owner. How have you seen yourself affected?

Speaker 2:

Well, we were affected dramatically. I mean , uh , when in March I remember it as it was yesterday. Uh , I came back from a , a trip and , uh , to attend a conference for C I in San Diego in March. And it was the very beginning. It was the beginning of March, actually. I, I , I think I got there at the end of February and it was just talk, oh yeah , there's virus and whatever, but there was nothing really , um, being the United States had not been hit so hard yet. Right. So when I went , when I , when I came back, I remember getting, starting to get calls from other states where I had already planned to do some training. And it was cancellation after cancellation. I'm sorry, we're canceling. We're postponing. At the very beginning, we thought it was gonna be a couple of weeks, maybe three weeks, we're gonna move it a month. Um, so that's how it started, but it was a Domino's effect within days, we had zero clients, wow . That were doing anything with us, you know, for a while . And , uh, it was rough. And then of course we noticed that the number of people attending our classes went down significantly. And when we started talking, we found out of course, that there was just because people were not working and the courts were closed and they had no income. So it's been, it's been a , a tough ride for, for interpreters. Uh , I would assume, you know, for medical interpreters, it's interesting because you would think that would be super busy and they were kind of super busy, but then again , uh , they was , uh , for a while , uh , a panic on the hospitals that they didn't want anybody to come from the outside world into their hospitals. So they were not bringing , uh , freelancers at all. They relied heavily on remote interpreting video. Remote interpreting became very, very strong, very quickly in the medical field because of that .

Speaker 1:

Well, it sounds Aine like to , to me, and , and also in, in my , um , professional practice, it sounds , it sounds to me that although everything kind of closed in, on itself slowly, there was this little light that started opening and it leads us back to remote interpreting, which is absolutely , is really, it's really quite incredible. Isn't it? Yeah,

Speaker 2:

It is. Because when I introduce remote interpreting to the, to the courts was for a completely different reason. Obviously my theory has always been that the courts had limited themselves to using unqualified UN certified interpreters with the excuse of, well , we don't have one here and I'm not gonna call Maria from Georgia and pay for a plane ticket to come to Los Angeles for a 15 minute hearing. The courts will never go for this blah, blah, even though they should, that's their mandate, but that's maybe that'll be another podcast. But , uh, bottom line is , is my intent was we do have some qualified interpreters or certified interpreters in other states. So I understand you don't want to fly them in. Let's bring them in remotely. And the effort was to create something as seamless as it is now. Uh , but with technology of 20 years ago or almost 20 years ago, and we were successful. I mean, we had a very good , uh, remote interpreting , uh , system. We actually were able to do simultaneous over a phone line, which was never heard of still to this day. Nobody can do it that I know of mm-hmm <affirmative> so we could do simultaneous consecutive on site because we could send papers via a secured site . So, but at that time we found a lot of resistance. We found resistance because of cost, because at that time the machines were new. We're putting them together, literally in my office. And , um , they were expensive and many of our colleagues were very resistant mm-hmm <affirmative> because they said, no , no, no, in person interpretation, we don't want to be replaced by machines. And that was never my intention. I actually was trying to give more jobs for qualified and certified interpreters , uh , than they had, because if I'm a certified Somali interpreter and I live in Minnesota and now I can be all over the country doing video, that would be like a good thing I thought. But there was a lot of resistance. There was, and , and understandably mistrust from our colleagues that thought, well, the courts are not gonna see this as I'm gonna use it when it's absolutely necessary , but I'm gonna use it as a cost cutting measure .

Speaker 1:

And that's something that worries interpreters a lot. Isn't it? Because , um, you know, video remote interpreting in particular is, is not new to ASL interpreters , um , correct to sign language interpreters. They've been using it, maybe not as much for court , but they've been using it for pretty much everything. Mm-hmm <affirmative> every, every day , um , every day endeavors, whether it's making a medical appointment or paying a bill or, or ordering a pizza, but for us at spoken language interpreters, it was a, it completely , um, new dynamic , um, do what had to happen. I mean, I think it's, it's obvious that , um, that COVID happened, but, but it seems like technology wise , something had to happen to really make , um, remote interpreting , um, more than a pie in the sky idea and make it completely available to anyone.

Speaker 2:

Right. Well, I mean, we saw it when we had our company, we saw it coming and I told them, you know, machines are not gonna be doing this for a long time. This is gonna become a software solution. And it did. And as many of , uh , our listeners might know or not, I mean, zoom, which is by far the most advanced platform there is right now has a feature already where you can do simultaneous interpretation via zoom. Absolutely. And that was my dream, you know, had I had the money that the zoom investors had, maybe I would have come up with it. But bottom line is that is a game changer to a certain degree because we still have to convince the interpreters that it was not an a, a , uh , an attempt to get them unemployed or to be replaced by machines. But I have to be honest, even to this day now , uh , you say things are starting to open up quite a bit. They are , uh , for the last three or four months, we started hearing, oh, I have a depo via zoom. <laugh> I have a court appearance via zoom. So people are starting to accept the fact that, Hey, I can do this. And, but of course, what some of our colleagues were a little afraid, it of is happening because there's push from the also now we don't have to pay you the two hour minimum because you're doing it via zoom. Right. Uh , and I told one of the attorneys who told me that also , you mean that now instead of $600 an hour, you aren't gonna charge $60 an hour because you're doing it via zoom

Speaker 1:

<laugh> .

Speaker 2:

And , you know, the , the rates didn't change. I didn't understand why ours should, but the bottom line is there was some truth to the fact that , uh , some people might think that , oh, this is a way to save money and to pay less to the interpreter. So we're still fighting with that because , uh, with this pandemic, it has, when it's an effective method, it can be done. It works for deposition. It works for even trials. It can be doing this simultaneous mode. You can send secure communication for papers, for site translation. It can be done, but now the next FA five to the next , uh , battle is gonna be to convince that not because we're using technology G the professionalism and the requirements of being a good certified core interpreter went downhill. So that's probably our next battle, but yes, people are getting used to it and starting to use it a lot more often.

Speaker 1:

It sounds to me like it was gone from being a choice to a necessity. Yep . And , um, even in my own state, I know that jury trials in many locations won't begin until mid 20, 21. Mm-hmm <affirmative> even still, their courts are looking, regardless of when they begin very, very targeted in person proceedings, they are looking for a way to streamline all of those cases that have been backlogged and actually to maintain , um , the, the courtrooms as, as empty as possible. So that , um, so that people who really do need to be in there , um, can attend and, and not be exposed to any kind of , um, you know, negative consequences such as a virus or something like that. Um, I am curious though , um, there's how do we get, how do we get the courts to actually switch their mind frame their, their frame of mind in terms of saying, Hey, guess what? This isn't a question about. Yes, you will save money, but this is really more of a question of providing better, faster , um, language access, and, you know, complying with title six regulations and all, and com and being professionally responsible.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Uh , it , it's a tough not to crack because first of all, the courts , um , really would appreciate it. If they have interpreters , uh , period, you know, this idea of the quality has been a hard one to sell them the idea for many judges to this day that I think, you know, Johnny has been my interpreter for 20 years. I don't care if he can't pass the test . He's a good interpreter. Right. Uh , so we've been fighting that, and we hadn't won that battle yet. I think we had made a lot of progress. There's a lot of judges that now get it. And they're themselves demanding, oh, no, I want a certified interpreter. I wanna set up . So we were getting there when this hit us and now expediency has become an issue again. So we, we just need to keep on pressing. I think, I think the more our interpreters are prepared to give reasons and not throw tantrums, to give reasons as to why doing it this way. Makes sense . And why it's still important to whether you're doing it zoom or not still need a certified interpreter, because if not, like I said, the , the , the rule applies to everybody. Why have judges? We could just have a guy in a black robe in front of a television and do it by zoom. And that's it. Obviously not because they need to be prepared. They need to know what they're doing. They need to know the law, same principle applies. So it's just for us to keep on pushing that. I , I think that it's time for our interpreters to give up the fight against the machine and, and accept the fact. And , and somebody said, and I'm gonna paraphrase it. And , and I think I mentioned to you, I don't remember the author, but somebody said a few years ago that technology was not gonna replace interpreters, but someone interpreters were gonna be replaced by other interpreters who use technology. So I think the important part of, of this process for us is to instead see , see it as an opportunity and as interpreters, we're gonna have to get prepared to be very proficient with this zoom and teams and whatever all the platforms are there. I think it's gonna be important. So, so we don't contribute to the idea that this is difficult, or this is clunky to make it as seamless as possible. But to accept the fact, it is a way to provide interpretation efficiently. You know, people might say, you know, being in person is much better maybe. And, and I, with that in general, but if this is the new reality, why not make it the best possible use of the, of the technology.

Speaker 1:

I completely agree with you. And , and I , um, I also like the quote that you mentioned earlier, mm-hmm , <affirmative> , I did a little research and , um, the gentleman who said this quote, his name was bill wood, and he was the founder of DS interpretation in San Francisco, California. He recently passed away, but he was a pioneer. He spent almost 40 years in the industry. And , um, and, and he was right on the money. Um, and you know, it's interesting because this quote could be applied, not , um, originally or originally, I , I think, and, and I wasn't, I'm not in his mind, but originally , um, there was a lot of fear about artificial intelligence mm-hmm <affirmative> and Google translate and all these other technologies. Now, now we're really talking about another facet that's right . Of those, you know, who will be replaced or those who don't use technology. I, I find it interesting. We talked about it in a previous episode, how interpreting is a, a career that is often attractive to people who are in second or third careers, and that they have been doing other things before. But now, interestingly enough, in addition to that, it was always a career to add to this. It was always a career that had a low barrier to entry, technologically mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> , you didn't have to be tech savvy to be an interpreter. You just had to be able to, you know, put two words, well, more than two words together, mm-hmm <affirmative> , but you , you really just had to have an ability to have that , um, that , that language and that those skills and that knowledge to, to be able to interpret in whatever setting you were, but all of that has changed. It's very interesting.

Speaker 2:

Yes, it, it has. And , you know, we, we have to evolve with the time that's, it has to be, it has to be, but this is an opportunity. It really is. I, I think that , uh , the little push that the courts needed to see that this is a actually applicable and useful , uh , technology is the opportunity to take it, sees it as interpret and say, I can become a global interpreter. You know, I'm, I'm telling you, even though I always assume that the people in other countries were much better. Interpreters had a lot of training and whatever, that might be true for some parts of the EU. But , uh, when we were in Tennessee last year, we met this lady from , uh , Japan. I assumed Japan had like a super strong interpreter program in Japan and found out they had nothing, no program, no certification, no . And they were looking at us, the United States to kind of, yes. And then I found out that even though we thought we were far behind, we are not that far behind, in many aspects. And especially in core interpretation and medical interpretation , um , a lot of , uh , countries could use services from people who were trained here. So if you become a remote interpreter, you know, sky is the limit. Now I understand many of us , uh , some of my colleagues that do , uh , conferences are sad because they love the travel that comes with the conferences. And now that might not be the case anymore. So , uh , I understand. And , and when I mentioned earlier, you know, if I'm the only certified Somali interpreter in the country, I love the idea of people paying me to go to , uh, their city for a couple of days to work 10 minutes and, and get paid real well. <laugh> sorry. Right. But the , but the truth is that if we really believe on the core of this, and I really do our job is to provide a important service to the courts. And that is to provide access to justice for people who otherwise wouldn't have access to justice period . That is, in my opinion, our main mission has always been my focus. And that's why in our, in , in the Institute, we really focus more on improving the profession and of the interpreters, rather than just growing for the , for the sake of growing. You know, we are interested in ACC access . I tell people, and I might have stolen this from Patricia, but having an interpreter is not a language, right. Having an interpreter is an access . Right. Absolutely. And there is a very clear , uh , path to think, well, you know, having video is access and we're part of that access .

Speaker 1:

So as far as , as far as that access is concerned , um, I wanna make sure that our listeners , um, also , um, don't think that because we F focus on legal interpreting as kind of one of the things that we, you know, we bring up a lot. Mm-hmm , <affirmative> , I guess that's our default position, both you and I mm-hmm <affirmative> . Um, but it , but it really has been , um, it , it , it has been a , a game changer for medical interpreting. It has been a game changer for educational interpreting and the other, other forms of conferences as well. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, there is still though, I would say I probably, we did some forums here in Georgia at the beginning of the pandemic for , um, a, a, a task force that was looking to return to courts return to turn to the opening of the courts and interpreters were unfortunately invited to participate in it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . And, and really the , the main concern that the interpreters had wasn't that they wouldn't get work was that all of a sudden, by opening it virtually you would have , uh , interpreters that are being brought in from other states who were not trained and who did not know Georgia, who did not know Georgia law, who were not, who did not understand our proceedings, you know, in some places it's just , um, you know, simple thing, we call them solicitors here. Other places call them , um, DAS or district attorneys or assistant district attorneys is one of, you know, those things, at least in the, the , um, in , in , in the state court system, we call them solicitors opposed to prosecutors. And so just little things like that, actually

Speaker 2:

A difference. Yeah, Pennsylvania. It took me going to Pennsylvania couple times until I caught the , the word tip staff .

Speaker 1:

Oh, what is that?

Speaker 2:

No tip staff . Well, I figured tip has to do with, like, what do we have to like tip out at the end of the day? We give five bucks to this guy and no, the tip staff is the , what we would call other places, either the court deputies.

Speaker 1:

Oh, okay .

Speaker 2:

Marshalls where the bay lives , depending on where you

Speaker 1:

Are. I did

Speaker 2:

Not know tip staffs and it's, I was in Maine one time. And so my attorney gave me the history of the tip staff. And that's because when they were looking for a jury for a trial in the 18 hundreds, or maybe even in early 19 hundreds , um , the judge would ask the staff to take the, to the people who take the staff, which as we know is a long, you know , uh , what, like a CEP or something like that, a long poll with some Eagle on the top, and that's the staff. And they would go with that staff out and they would tip it , uh , the people that they would choose and they had to follow them. And that was the jury.

Speaker 1:

<laugh> , that's all , I dunno if Regal ,

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I don't know if it's true or not, but it's a good story. And according, according to that lawyer, that's where the tip staff came from because they , you have the staff, you tip the people and then the , I don't know if it's true, but yeah. So they're called tip staff . First time I heard it, I was tip staff who who's that. So you're right. And again, us interpreters, instead of fighting these concepts, we have to say, well, again, it's an opportunity you, you can say with experience in this court, this other court , this other court, and it's always an opening for us to learn more. I understand people territorial. And I especially understand if interpreters have been working as interpreters, making a living without any demands on them. And all of a sudden we come with, oh , I want you to take tests and that , and that , and , and then people get even more territorial. I don't think it's gonna be an issue. We're gonna run outta work for interpreters. It's not gonna happen anytime soon. I don't think so. It's a matter of just incorporating all the things that are around you to make yourself a better interpreter, to again, be this cond for access to justice.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. One of the interesting things that we've come up here in Georgia, which is just a more in a , in , in its infancy. And I wonder what you think about it is the idea of create creating a , um , video remote interpreting endorsement for certified and , um , licensed interpreters. And it follows the model of , um , court reporting, which is they have in , in Georgia , at least they have a category called , um , real type real time court reporting course endorsement mm-hmm <affirmative> . And, and, and , and we thought, well, maybe this would be good. Um, that way the courts that hire the interpreters actually know that the interpreters know how to use the technology that, that they have been for rain in the protocols of online interpreting, which are somewhat different. And then the interpreters can then add something, another feather to their cap.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I , I , I think it's a fantastic idea. And again, if we as interpreters and we go back to the group that is really interested in training, improving their performance and the other group that just need to know that and learn and come to the fold, you know, because people, sometimes if they're not educated and working for a long time as interprets , I'm not putting them down, I'm just saying they still need to come and see what's an eyeopening experience. It is to get trained and provide better services and to you improve your performance. And that's, that's the, that's the thrust of this idea that we're we're sharing right now.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Um, Aine is always the conversations with you are extremely interesting. We're out of time again. Thank you . So we will have to have you back. Sure. Um, very, very soon to talk about yet another aspect of interpreting that we wouldn't have thought we, you know, would be important.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

But as time changes, everything just blows up

Speaker 2:

<laugh> and, and , and thank you, Maria, again, for, for jumping in and, and , and starting hosting for us again, I think this is gonna be a fantastic , uh , beginning of a , or a continuation of beautiful friendship <laugh> and , um , just to tell everybody it is an opportunity, and please let us know if you, you, you mentioned, you know, let us know. Yes. Let us know also topics that you would want to hear in subject to interpretation or propose , uh , maybe , uh , somebody to , uh , with us in subject to interpretation that we haven't thought about. Um, obviously we stay completely away from religion and politics and whatever, but to , as far as interpretation goes, we really would like to know what is it that we can share with you to improve your performance and to improve your experience as a , as an interpreter on any field

Speaker 1:

AB absolutely. And stay tuned as we move along, we're in our episodes, we're gonna start giving you recommendations for books and mm-hmm , <affirmative> other different , um , practical tidbits that can be useful in enhancing your interpreting experience.

Speaker 2:

Right. And I don't want to , uh, uh, leave without mentioning that this idea of a certification. What is it called ? An endorsement? Um ,

Speaker 1:

Yes, a B endorsement.

Speaker 2:

It's a , it's a really good idea. I hope it works well for you. And then you can infect the other states into doing something similar. Uh , it is of the utmost importance for the end users, doctors , uh, lawyers, judges, court systems, hospitals, to understand that their interpreters are a group of professionals that require training on and other things, and that they make the effort, they invest the money. So they should reward are actually giving them the jobs , uh , and the opportunities professionally that they deserve.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And , uh , and I don't think this , um, this quote can be , um, said too many times, especially , um, you know, in this time that we're living with COVID and the closing and slow reopening of core and hospitals and businesses, interpreters will not be replaced by technology,

Speaker 2:

Not anytime soon,

Speaker 1:

Not anytime soon. And they will be replaced by interpreters who use technology. So we hope that we can be of service to you. Um , thank you, Aine for joining us again and sharing your experiences and , um, and all of , um, your activities which have really, really helped , um, promote the profession and , um, bring professionalism and standards to our profession. Thank you very much for doing that. And thank you for joining us today.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Maria. Thank you everyone. And we'll see you around. Come visit us anytime you want with you can visit us virtually.

Speaker 1:

We've recently added to our library of virtual offerings. The state exam success kit. This kit is a comprehensive tool for interpreters of all languages and levels to hone their skills and prepare for the state oral certification program and the state written proficiency exam. The kid is made complete by a series of informative videos that explain the exam process expectations and exam content, and provide helpful breakdowns of subjects and topics covered. Additionally, the kid also includes a set of carefully designed exercises that reinforce our intentional practice approach and the importance of honest self assessment to build your skill level. As an interpreter, the kid is available in Spanish and English or in a language neutral format for interpreters of all languages. You can visit our virtual lab store@diaminstitute.com slash store to purchase. Thank you for joining us today. We hope that this podcast has enriched your journey along this fascinating field of interpretation. Perhaps you've learned something new, remember something you had forgotten or are now encouraged to try something different. If you're watching this on YouTube, please share your comments with us below. And if you're listening to us, don't forget subscribe . So you don't miss our weekly episodes. Take care .