Brand the Interpreter

Thriving as an Interpreter Amid AI Advancements with Dr. Jonathan Downie

June 23, 2023 Season 6 Episode 95
Thriving as an Interpreter Amid AI Advancements with Dr. Jonathan Downie
Brand the Interpreter
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Brand the Interpreter
Thriving as an Interpreter Amid AI Advancements with Dr. Jonathan Downie
Jun 23, 2023 Season 6 Episode 95

Have you ever felt like you were on the wrong path in your interpreting career? Dr. Jonathan Downie joins us once again to share his inspiring journey of rediscovering his passion for church interpreting and overcoming mental health challenges along the way. You won't want to miss the valuable insights he shares about reevaluating your career choices and finding a healthy work-life balance.

As we delve deeper into our conversation, we discuss the impact of AI on the interpreting profession and debunk the common belief that 'interpreters will be replaced by interpreters who know how to use AI'. Dr. Downie enlightens us on the various ways AI-enhanced interpreting, machine interpreting post-editing, and other technologies can change our jobs, while reminding us of the crucial role humans play in interpreting.

Finally, we explore what it takes to forge a career in interpreting in our ever-changing world. Dr. Downie encourages listeners to follow their own unique path, prioritize mental health, and embrace their true selves. Learn from his experiences and let go of toxic expectations in the interpreting profession as we uncover the key to happiness and success as a professional interpreter in this captivating episode.

Only on the podcast that shares your stories about our profession. Brand the Interpreter!
------------------------
Connect with Dr. Jonathan Downie
LinkedIn
Resources
Interpreters Vs Machines
Interpreting is Interpreting: Episode #30
-------------------------------------------
๐Ÿ‘‰ Orange County Department of Education 7th Annual Interpreters and Translators Conference - September 29th and 30th - at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa, California

Conference registration site link: https://link.ocde.us/ITC2023
Conference flyer: ITC2023FLYER

Join them this Fall at the 2023 Interpreters and Translators Conference to continue your professional learning and networking! Registration is now open!
-------------------------------------------

Thanks for tuning in, till next time! ๐Ÿ‘‹

Connect with Mireya Pรฉrez, Host
www.brandtheinterpreter.com
Facebook
LinkedIn
Instagram

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever felt like you were on the wrong path in your interpreting career? Dr. Jonathan Downie joins us once again to share his inspiring journey of rediscovering his passion for church interpreting and overcoming mental health challenges along the way. You won't want to miss the valuable insights he shares about reevaluating your career choices and finding a healthy work-life balance.

As we delve deeper into our conversation, we discuss the impact of AI on the interpreting profession and debunk the common belief that 'interpreters will be replaced by interpreters who know how to use AI'. Dr. Downie enlightens us on the various ways AI-enhanced interpreting, machine interpreting post-editing, and other technologies can change our jobs, while reminding us of the crucial role humans play in interpreting.

Finally, we explore what it takes to forge a career in interpreting in our ever-changing world. Dr. Downie encourages listeners to follow their own unique path, prioritize mental health, and embrace their true selves. Learn from his experiences and let go of toxic expectations in the interpreting profession as we uncover the key to happiness and success as a professional interpreter in this captivating episode.

Only on the podcast that shares your stories about our profession. Brand the Interpreter!
------------------------
Connect with Dr. Jonathan Downie
LinkedIn
Resources
Interpreters Vs Machines
Interpreting is Interpreting: Episode #30
-------------------------------------------
๐Ÿ‘‰ Orange County Department of Education 7th Annual Interpreters and Translators Conference - September 29th and 30th - at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa, California

Conference registration site link: https://link.ocde.us/ITC2023
Conference flyer: ITC2023FLYER

Join them this Fall at the 2023 Interpreters and Translators Conference to continue your professional learning and networking! Registration is now open!
-------------------------------------------

Thanks for tuning in, till next time! ๐Ÿ‘‹

Connect with Mireya Pรฉrez, Host
www.brandtheinterpreter.com
Facebook
LinkedIn
Instagram

Speaker 1:

Dr Downey, welcome back to the show. Welcome back to Brandy interpreter, so very happy that you're back So we could have a much needed discussion about our favorite topic for a few years now, right, which is AI. Welcome. How are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm doing better than I have done for a while. Ai is on my list of things. I'm actually pursuing some slightly different interests at the moment, but AI is on my list. I've been speaking about AI or the ATA virtual conference. There's a webinar coming up on it soon. I think we've got completely the wrong end of the stick with AI, but there's a journey that took me to get there.

Speaker 1:

Well, we'll definitely get into that in today's conversation. But first, how about we catch up from the last time you were on the show, because, i have to admit, you are my first return guest, so I'm very excited for that, but I also would like to take a moment to catch up. So what has happened in terms of your career from the last episode to this episode?

Speaker 2:

I kind of feel like I've changed careers. So I'm still an interpreter. You know I can be relieved by that. But in between recording the last show and it going live, i was doing the most expensive consultant interpreter job of my career. It was worth tens of thousands of pounds. I had a team of, i believe, about eight interpreters there. It was an insanely complicated job. I knew client who had been trying to get for years And I was feeling on top of the world when it got signed off.

Speaker 2:

By the time I made the last payment of the job, which was on holiday, which was the day after the podcast came out. I was almost ready for packing, interpreting and, completely Literally, everything that could go wrong went wrong. I had an interpreter. So they were asking interpreters to interpret some text rather than doing it the standard dubbing way, which is up to the client. You know the client had reasons for doing that. So I said to the interpreters they want these videos interpreted, not dubbed. Take your time, you know, do them a few times, but please don't transcribe them and dub them. That's not what the client wants. That's not the field they're going for. Can you do it this way? So I had an interpreter who sent in audio which was of such poor quality that the client refused to release the payment for them And the client then talked to the interpreter directly and explained why they weren't getting any money, because it was the client who was paying the interpreters, not me. Then I had interpreters do things the wrong way. I had two interpreters who did it great, but most of that job was planning stations And everything that could go wrong went wrong And I think I did a calculation once I'd done all my tax at the end of that tax year. Because of some other things that affected, i ended up losing money on that job Despite the fact that I had built in a margin. As a consultant. I'd built in quite a healthy margin. That margin got got eaten up, making up for the mistakes of people, of some, not all you know. There were some interpreters on the team who are great, but there were enough mistakes made by some enough interpreters on that team that by the time tax and everything else that that money affected was taken into account. I lost money on the job And so I was in.

Speaker 2:

When the podcast came out I was on holiday in the West in a caravan in the West of Scotland with my family And I was at the lowest. I'd been for about eight years. So about two years into my interpreting career I had a mental health issue. I literally stared at a wall for a week, thought I was about to be in an institution. That kind of came around again and got sorted And I could feel myself going there again.

Speaker 2:

I hate doing work on holiday. I don't think it's right. I think you need to. You know work life balance.

Speaker 2:

I had to send this payment while on holiday. Sending the last payment cost me extra money because of various reasons I won't go into, and I have to say you know, there were some interpreters on the job who were great, who weren't a problem And they were fantastic and I worked with them any any other time. But there were some interpreters whose work was either solely or so poor or various things went wrong. Some things were the interpreters fault, a lot of things weren't that. That job was just a mess.

Speaker 2:

But I was in this dilemma because everyone had told me that when you become an experienced interpreter, the road to being successful is to become a consultant, to be the person in charge of the teams where you can pick and choose your clients and pick and choose your jobs and so on. And halfway through that job my wife was telling me this isn't work you're good at, this isn't work you should be doing. She could see that I was crumbling under the stress Everything was going wrong in that job And I was took my my then tiny baby who's now fast asleep behind me, is now toddler to come for a walk, trying to figure out what I was going to do next. And as a Christian, i was praying and stuff and I realized that I had deserted the reason I came into interpreting in the first place. I didn't train because I wanted to be a conference interpreter. I didn't train because I wanted to work at the big conferences. I trained because I wanted to work in churches. That's why I became an interpreter in the first place. And I had deserted that all this time because I had believed it wasn't possible. So I had given up on my dream And I realized that that was. That was the problem. I was trying to be who I wasn't built to be.

Speaker 2:

But when I first started, after qualifying, I had tried to get church interpreter work in every church and Christian organization I had approached. That said no. So what do you do? You give up, you try the next best thing. And so I thought, okay, i'll go back to it. And so for the past two years I've been working on becoming a consultant church interpreter. I've had some church interpreting work and, working on some consulting work, i've done some. I don't call it client education because I think that was an unhelpful term. I've been doing some webinars for churches on interpreting. I've seen that remote church interpreting is something that you can actually get paid for, and I have been paid for it. Easter Sunday I did more interpreting in two days than I've ever done in my life. But that's where I've been the past two years.

Speaker 2:

But going down that road necessarily means that you become less at the focus of what's going on in the rest of interpreting. When you become a true specialist who's dedicated to the craft of this kind of interpreting, then it necessarily means that the general interpreting stuff passes you by. So I don't think I've personally attended an in-person translation and interpreting conference for about two years now. I mean, i've spoken at a couple and I've spoken at webinars. But I'm aware that my travel schedule has just basically dissolved to nothing, apart from one trip to Finland. Oh sorry. I have been to one translation and interpreting conference in person, but that's because I was asked to speak there, so my profile, if you like, seems to shrunk.

Speaker 2:

But on the other hand, when I do interpret now I'm in a way better place when I'm interpreting than I ever was before.

Speaker 2:

I'm loving practice more than I ever did before.

Speaker 2:

I'm loving the fact that I'm being able to write about things that I'm really excited about more than before. It's still not at the place where I can tell people you know, run out and become a church interpreter and you'll get loads and loads of money. That's not where it's at for me right now, but I do know that I'm way happier than I was two years ago, even if it means I've had to drop a lot of things on the way and a lot of things I've had to sacrifice and a lot of dreams that I had have just had to give up on on the way, because you can't get where you're going carrying everything you're carrying. There are some things you have to get rid of Absolutely, and so I've had to give up on certain dreams. I was applying for academic funding three years in a row, realized that that was based on criteria that didn't suit who I was the person, so I had to give up on that. But on the other hand, about three or four weeks ago, i signed a book deal.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

So book number three is currently about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through The first draft. in anyone who's written a book knows that the first draft is the first bit. But I now have a Christian publisher so excited about my work on church interpreting, they offered me a book deal which I signed as soon as they offered me it. And so there's this. I'm in this weird space of. my favorite band when I was a teenager was this Christian band called Delirious And they had this song called Mezzanine Flow which was about being not quite in one place. but you've definitely left the previous place And that's exactly where I am right now, in this uncomfortable middle bit between. I'm not absolutely where I want to be in church interpreting, but I'm not the interpreter I was two years ago, definitely not.

Speaker 1:

That's amazing, i mean, and there's so many lessons to learn here. Let me go back a little bit to your experience on this last big interpreting project that you had. In retrospect now, what would you have done differently, looking back at that experience?

Speaker 2:

I would refuse to hire any interpreters that I either didn't know personally or hadn't worked with personally or didn't come recommended. All of the interpreters who passed those checks that I've ever worked with have done a great job. All of the interpreters I've hired through any other route through going to lists of interpreters, through looking, searching on websites, through going to platforms haven't delivered when I've needed them to deliver, Whereas when I go by the people that either I know or are recommended by the people that I know, that works. But that means that there are certain languages that I can't cover And I wouldn't even dream of covering anymore because I just don't have the people and the knowledge to cover.

Speaker 2:

And the mistake that I made was I was thinking I know how to find a good interpreter. No one does, unless they already know a good interpreter. And so if I were to take on another consultant job of that scale again and I would have to seriously consider it and my margin would have to be a lot higher than it was previously, because I know everything that can go wrong because it did If I were to take on another job of that scale, I wouldn't take it on if it included languages that I didn't either know someone in or know someone who knew someone in. Yeah, makes sense, But that's the limit of who I work with. Now I recognise myself as someone who could do with more paid interpreting work.

Speaker 2:

That that approach freezes a lot of people out of the profession, But equally, that's one of the reasons to go to interpreter school is you become someone that someone else knows. My very first ever paid interpreting job was because someone who graduated in the same year at me as university was asked by an agency do you know anyone with French? And so she said, yeah, I do. His name is Jonathan. Here's his email address.

Speaker 1:

You become someone that someone else knows.

Speaker 2:

I like that very much, and this is what I'm working on in church interpreting is, if you think about, i'm starting in a sector where, like my own church, doesn't do any interpreting. So I'm starting in a sector where I didn't know anyone who did this, apart from one church in Germany That studied my PhD and one church in England that uses it at conferences. Only, that's all I started with. So I go back into church interpreting going I don't even know if this is a thing And I just start introducing myself. Come across people a colleague called Mike Lemay. Mike is brilliant. You should have him on the show. You'll need to turn the volume down.

Speaker 2:

Mike Lemay started a group for church interpreters. On what's happened, we're up to over 100 people now. Suddenly, i know people And I know people who know people. But that didn't come automatically. That was yeah, who do I know Who's doing? you know I'm going to do church interpreting. I. The only strategy for marketing for me that ever works is I like to write and speak and I like to chat. So who do I know who I can chat to about church interpreting? Oh, yeah, mike Lemay. He used to email us when we had the Troubles on Terps podcast. He's got past it in front of his name, he must be doing stuff in church.

Speaker 2:

And literally that's how I started two years ago was do I know anyone? probably from when I first started, let's just see. And that gets the ball rolling, sometimes at a speed which is painfully slow, but such as life, you know. But you have to be someone that someone else knows And that also means that you have to know other people. So if someone you know, someone, came to me when was it?

Speaker 2:

I think it was a two, three, two and a half years back, not long before, about six months before that big job, someone came to me and said, oh, we need this job, then we need interpreters. And when I actually talked to them about the job, they didn't need interpreters, they needed subtitles. I know like two subtitling people in the entirety of the planet who know about translated subtitles, so I send them to the only person I know And she, of course, she knew people And so you have to be the person that knows people as well. So I know nothing about subtitling, except I know like two people who do it, one of whom happens to be quite senior. So she knows people And literally she must get sick of me, because anytime someone asks me anything about subtitling. It's the same person that I email all the time, but this is that's where work comes from.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

Right, and I've had emails recently where someone's like oh, you know this is happening. Do you know anyone who knows this about church interpreting? Well, of course I do, because that's what I do, and if I don't, i can find out someone who knows someone And you just you know, it's a six degrees of separation thing. You just keep going until you find the person that you need to find, but that's the ten marketing I like. It's networking and it's also I mean I call it desperation.

Speaker 1:

It depends on the situation.

Speaker 2:

When failure is not an option, when failure is not an option. So there was one occasion where a colleague contacted me about something and I knew not only did I really want to do this for this person, but it needed done yesterday. When you can't afford to fail, you become incredibly creative.

Speaker 1:

And resourceful.

Speaker 2:

I could have just said, no, i can't help. I'm like, no, i'm going to help this person, and you say you're going to help them And then you go, hey.

Speaker 1:

How am I going to help them?

Speaker 2:

But you just know that you get resourceful enough to make stuff happen.

Speaker 1:

No, this is very true. The other thing I wanted to ask about with regards to your particular story was about this topic of mental health that you mentioned it right, quick, let's just if we could put it or give it perhaps a strategy or a couple of things that you did differently from the first time that you encountered such an issue for yourself. I do love that. You said you went out in nature and had a walk, basically sort of by yourself. I know you had the kiddo, but there was this conversation with you and whomever else was there with you mentally. So sort of tell us what you did differently last time, because you did mention it was not going to allow myself to go down that road again.

Speaker 2:

Right, So this was my second rodeo. I think I picked the goat rather than the bucking bronco this time. But two things changed. One is I went through the blaming myself thing a lot quicker the second time than I did the first time, also the second time. A big part of the story is I spent about six, seven months in counselling. So I finished kind of February, march this year, because stories aren't straight lines. We like to write them as straight lines but that's not how life is. So there were ups and downs and I got to the point where I was going full time for the church interpreting thing. I'd had another funding rejection and I was like my resilience just bottomed out. So I knew I was doing the right thing, chasing church interpreting, but hardly anything was biting. So I go and see and spent my money on a private counsellor for various reasons, and I realized that the two things had changed since the first time I went through this.

Speaker 2:

The first time I went through this I was more panicked about having an episode of poor mental health than I was about the cause of it in the first place. So I got to I'm struggling with my mental health, panic stations, you know big red light. Oops, this is trouble. And it was the. It was the fear of having poor mental health that was keeping me in the pit that I was in This time. I realized, okay, i've been kind of here before, this isn't fun. And I did all the blaming myself fairly quickly. You know you must be a bad interpreter blah, blah, blah. And then I came out to what do I do? You know I can sit and stay in my bed again if I want on holiday, but what do I do with this? You know, what am I actually needing to pray for? What am I actually needing to work through? And a lot of it was was in counselling. I realized that a lot of stuff that I had. So in counselling they talk about your critical voice I had internalized a lot of beliefs that simply weren't true, and I had also. I realized in counselling and also just in thinking I had internalized this is what a successful interpreter looks like, and if I'm not, that I must not be good.

Speaker 2:

And kind of to widen this out, i recently wrote an article for a magazine in Germany called the Falca dei Curri and it's their conference interpreters association where I talk about the toxic sayings that we have in interpreting, such as if you're good, the work will come Really. So we have forgotten about basic economics. Now have we? A good interpreter is fully booked Really, or things like you know. There's all sorts of things like you know if you don't live in a certain conference city, then it's your fault if you're not getting work Really. You have to choose to live in the right place for your work Really, and so we create a culture. I don't know so much about other forms of interpreting, but I've encountered cultures. I've encountered really supportive interpreters, but I've also encountered a culture in parts of conference interpreting where people are blamed for their own weaknesses, and I came across an article recently that said if you're feeling imposter syndrome, it means nothing to do with you, it means that you're in a hostile environment.

Speaker 1:

Oh, wow.

Speaker 2:

And suddenly I realized well, if I'm feeling like I'm doing rubbish at this, it probably says it maybe says something about me because I don't have whatever the skills and I can get those skills, but it doesn't say anything about my value as a person. If I'm allowing my external circumstances to affect my value as a person, it means that I've started believing a bunch of nonsense that I'm allowing to frame my experience, And some of it was. We all have internalized toxic beliefs that we've picked up. You don't grow up as a human and not in internalized toxic beliefs. There's a saying I heard someone say recently your kids are going to go to therapy, at least make sure they have interesting stories. It's not a negative view of parenting, but there we go. But let's assume that we've all internalized some critical voice, toxic thinking, somewhere. Well, that means that we can.

Speaker 2:

Two people can see the same circumstances, see it completely differently, and we can tell people these are the decisions that you have to make to succeed as an interpreter. Or we can ask why is our profession so heavily weighted towards a certain kind of career and a certain kind of person that if, for example, you want to be in a city that isn't massively expensive and you want to have children. Confidence interpreting seems to try to push you away from that kind of thinking. So are there opportunities outside of the big cities? The answer is yes, but that means that you have to do something.

Speaker 2:

That's not the same as everyone else is doing, and I realized the standard conference interpreter career path of Move to Paris, brussels, washington, work for the big governments and institutions was never going to be me And I had to pick a career path that was about me, that was going to suit for me, and that didn't mean that I was wrong or that I was a bad interpreter or that It just meant this is who I am. And I think the more I realized that a lot of the things that we say about interpreting are actually toxic, the more I realized I can build this my way. I don't have to do it that way because that way is for a certain kind of interpreting in a certain kind of city, in a certain kind of life. That's not the life I want to live And that's the way. So OK, we'll create a new path, and that means I have to be ready to sacrifice the approval of my peers for doing what I know to be right.

Speaker 1:

Don't. I know this to be true, Absolutely yes.

Speaker 2:

And you know I'm not Hear me out. I'm not saying all of interpreting is toxic, but I am saying that there are parts of conference interpreting, at least in Europe, that I really wish we would revisit and rethink and ask are those expectations reasonable, are those reasons reasonable, and are we treating interpreters as people or are we treating them as business units that we expect to produce? We've been debating so many things, like the equipment that you have. The reality is, some interpreters start their careers with very little in terms of savings and so they use what they use. Is it ideal? No, is it going to block them out? with certain clients Probably, but give them a break. Like people, be human. Not everyone starts, you know, going to private school, going to an expensive university with a massive bank account. You might have to work up.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, most definitely, and I think these are again, like I said, very important topics when it comes to our profession and our experiences, in addition to, of course, reminding us of some of these things because at some point down the line perhaps we've heard it, but we do get to a certain point in our careers where it's sort of this is the path that I was told, perhaps, or presented, that I should be following, but then you have a tug right, like in your case, your heart was tugging for something else deep down inside, and I feel that sometimes as, of course, you've said it a couple of times that's just the way life is. It plugs us into a situation in which we have no other choice but to revisit what's been tugging at us for quite some time. So I really appreciate you sharing that story, because I think it's an important reminder for those of us, particularly as we are here mid-year, that you know it does not have to look just like you just said. It does not have to look like that straight line right From when you finish your career and where you should be, that there may be these ups and downs, and that it doesn't mean that you're on the wrong path. It simply means, as you're doing right now, you may be needing to create a new path, And perhaps it is so that others can follow this new path that you've also created, that they too perhaps are seeking to follow or seeking to find.

Speaker 1:

I like also that you mentioned seeking counseling for therapy, which is something that maybe for some people may sound taboo or something that, even growing up, they may have felt that this was not something that they should be doing, because that is for I don't know, the crazies or for those that are falling off the deep end. And I think it's important that we have the opportunity to talk about these things and get these things out, because I think that with this experience, we are able to sort of talk our own way out of some of these things right, with some guidance, of course, and professional guidance. So I very much appreciate the fact that you shared this story of yours And I'm just happy to hear, sadly, through that experience which caused so much stress, but happy to hear that you were able to sort of revisit something that you had left behind for quite some time in pursuit of what you thought you should be following right.

Speaker 2:

I think so. There's a couple of things going on. One, I am convinced that, with the exception, possibly, of the biggest conference cities and the diplomatic interpreter market, interpreting careers, as we've mapped them because of AI and because of technology, are basically crumbling before our eyes. I was in Finland in September and there was an economist there pointing out that in most lines of work, the middle of the market, which is the bit that most people train for, is basically getting destroyed At the bottom end. It's basically splitting between the bottom end, which is done with machines, and in translation it's post-edited machine translation, And at the bottom end you're about bulk and getting as much out as you possibly can, as quickly as you can, And at the top end it's super specialized, to the point where, as I described it to people now, you could do the speaker's speech for them if you had to, and no one would notice a difference, Or you could do a speech not about interpreting to that audience and they would think you'd lately learned something new. And so, if you imagine, 90% of us trained for the middle of the market, you know the kind of standard interpreting you know for a conference, there would be the standard scientific conference or the standard AGM and so on, And that work still exists, but it's getting massively competitive and there's less of it.

Speaker 2:

And so the question then becomes if we know that technology is changing the game, outside possibly of diplomatic interpreting in the biggest conference cities they might come later you never know. What do we do about it, And so is it painful to create a new path. You know it's incredibly painful to do something that, as far as I'm aware, hasn't really been done before, apart from maybe one guy, not my kind, Another guy that I know who gets at these amount of question interpreting work. It's painful, but would I rather have that pain now, with the chance of actually working it really well later and I'm gonna chase it no matter what or would I rather be the interpreter who watches as the world gradually crumbles and then goes now what?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and be completely knocked off. That's actually a great segue into the conversation about AI that I do want to take advantage of, since you're here and have us talk a bit about this. What are your thoughts on this AI hype train? Like, what are you thinking in terms of? there just seems to be, you know, the both end of the spectrum And I'd like to sort of get to, perhaps speaking of middle ground, what your thoughts are. but you've got the one side that is saying, you know, doomsday for interpreters, ai is taking over, and there goes our profession. And then you've got those that are, you know, super positive about it and are thinking, no, you know, as long as we know the technology, everything, all is well, we're good, we're humans. What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 2:

Two things. One don't believe for a second, the people who say you know, there's this phrase growing around the interpreters will be replaced by AI. They'll be replaced by interpreters who know how to use AI. No, just no. That's not how this works. That's not how clients don't really care, normally, what technology we're using, and they just want it to work. Okay, no And I'm going to upset a lot of people for saying that but the answer to that is no, just deal with it.

Speaker 1:

They're the nobody.

Speaker 2:

They can come out and be like I don't want to hear that one anymore. We assume that the effects of AI will be uniform and they will not be uniform. So I did write a book in 2019 called Interpreters Versus Machines, which only did the machine interpreting case. I didn't know about the GPT case because it kind of didn't exist. There's a few things going on. The effects of AI will be uneven across interpreting, so I deem that interpreting which is being done without an internet connection out in the sticks somewhere. The chances of that being affected by machine interpreting and AI is minimal. On the other hand, the high volume interpreting the interpreting where the clients are really driving for efficiency AI is going to matter there.

Speaker 2:

One of the forecasts that I made at the ATA virtual conference was we are heading towards something called machine interpreting, post-editing. We've seen it in translation. Where it's going to happen in interpreting, i'd imagine it will be something like some kind of automated subtitling system put subtitles up for the interpreters and the interpreters then interpret that, re-speak that or tweak it as they're re-speaking it, because that's what happened in written translation is that you ended up with human in the loop, ai stuff, and I absolutely agree with Jay Marciano and others. That's going to hit interpreting just as it's hit translation. There are lots of people saying Claudia O'Fantanouli's talked about that. Yeah, absolutely. There's also going to be AI enhanced interpreting, although Andy Gellies has pointed out that the computer-aided interpreting software, the advantages, are yet unproven across the board. He tried it for automated glossary building and his answer was no, doesn't really do the job. You spend as much time correcting it as you did getting the glossary in the first place. Okay, i have to assume that's going to get better.

Speaker 2:

I don't think AI use will be a determining factor for any client in the interpreter they choose. But some clients are going to want hyper-efficient interpreting and so some forms of interpreting are going to go straight to the machine, some forms are going to go to machines and humans, and some it'll be as if AI didn't even exist. So the effects are going to be uneven. To say that interpreters are going to be replaced by interpreters I don't know how to use AI, i think is a gross oversimplification And I quite happily debate that point, do I? Yes, it will affect interpreting. Yes, some interpreters, some interpreters, will be replaced by one soon know AI.

Speaker 2:

But my greatest concern at the moment, with everything we're talking about AI is that we're missing two main points. One interpreting is about people before it is about language. Interpreting isn't language skills with people attached, it's people skills with language attached. And AI at the moment, because of what it does, is only targeting the language part of interpreting, which anyone who works in any kind of conversational discourse, dialogue interpreting setting knows. That's not all of interpreting. There's a whole lot of other stuff apart from someone spits out language at the end. Ai can probably be very helpful for that in lots of cases.

Speaker 2:

But the danger with the AI debate is we are forgetting that interpreting is about humans And that's the problem. And it's only a matter of time until some kind of AI enabled or AI taken over, interpreting gets something very wrong and something legally or medically goes very horrible. We've already seen it with chatGbt, with a lawyer using chatGbt to write a brief in the UX. It doesn't take a genius to realise that's going to happen one day in interpreting. So we need to get the human, we need to put humans back at the centre of interpreting. That's why I won't go, for we'll be replaced by interpreters who know how to use AI. No, because interpreting is human first, take later. Strategy before technology always, humans before technology always.

Speaker 2:

The other thing that I think we're missing and it's something Anthony pinpointed out about written translation is the technology you use for your job fundamentally changes the job that you're doing. So a very quickly, translation technologies tend to change how translators think. There's some fairly well-known studies of translators even expert translators that if you give them a cat to which separates the things into sentences, they have to deliberately string those sentences into a text. Later on, when they're checking, their default thinking becomes on the sentence level rather than on the text level, which is funny because we know that the better a translator gets, the more they think they're thinking about the whole text in the audience. There's lots to think about that. So cat to segment translator thinking. We now know that and it seems fairly well established, not that controversial, because you get better, you probably get better at dealing with that segmentation, but you're thinking still got segmented.

Speaker 2:

What happens when interpreters have a cat tool, a computer-aided interpreting tool, and they have a video and they have machine interpreting suggestions and they have glossary prompts and they maybe have and they maybe have and they maybe have? Now when I do remote church interpreting, i have two screens set up and they're covered, and I know that I have to be careful to remember that I'm interpreting, not just looking at screens. My only concern about remote church interpreting is that it removes the connection and so you can become too technically minded and not people-minded enough, and that happened to me actually on a recent assignment. It was the technical bit of the interpreting because we had two voices we were switching between constantly. That overwhelmed me so much that my interpreting performance wasn't as good as it should be. So I'm concerned that AI augmented interpreting or AI driven interpreting whichever way it comes out will fundamentally make interpreters into technicians rather than into skilled people, managers, and I think, while I cannot tell anyone for sure what effect that would have on interpreting and where that would be important, because there are probably some scenarios where we should be technicians I'm concerned that we're swallowing the interpreter as technician whole and not asking whether that's always the right place, the right thing for us to be.

Speaker 2:

So I think we should become information managers and screen checkers and post editors and text people. That's not what I got into interpreting today. I got into interpreting because I saw it change lives in front of me. I didn't become an interpreter so I could see video feeds and machine interpreting feeds and terminology feeds. That's not what I'm here for, are we? and I think my fear at the moment is that we're talking about efficiency, we're talking about accuracy, we're talking about terminology and no one's asking, or very few people are asking, what's the cost of this. Nothing comes for free. Nothing ever comes for free. What are we paying for? what might be an efficiency gain? and is that price a price that all of us want to pay or that all of us can pay?

Speaker 1:

In your book you give an example of chess professionals and technology.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so computers of 97, i think it was Deep Blue beat one of my childhood heroes, gadokas Varov, beat the world champion at chess. Since then I don't think any human has beaten the leading computer for at least 20 years. But there's still professional chess because people are there for the spectacle, not for the accuracy. Now, interpreting is different, because the majority of interpreting is there because there's a job to do. My PhD showed that there are kind of well, I argued, i didn't show. I argued there are three, roughly three approaches to interpreting apart from don't do it And it depends on how much the client feels they need it.

Speaker 2:

Reality is not as big a deal as you might think. How much the client feels they need it and how much the client values it for what they want to achieve in the future Basically how important it is to the future of their organization and how much they need it and how important it is to their future are entirely unrelated. They're not correlated at all. In case you're listening to this, i just did the really sarcastic yay face there. And what happens is when you have high need high perceived need but low perceived value, you get what I call incidental interpreting, which is we have this interpreting. We wish we didn't need to. My gut instinct is that most clients live there. You also get high perceived value and low perceived need, which is symbolic in the way we interpret it, and we're there for the suits and for the fact that this meeting has interpreting which makes it more prestigious. It happens sometimes Every conference interpreter I know has done a day when no one was listening.

Speaker 2:

And then you have the high point of interpreting, which is where the client and everyone involved feels they need it and sees it as crucial to where their organization is going and who they are. But that form of interpreting asks us to interpret in a way that none of very few of us trained for. That's where we're expected to be partners. That's where the people skills really work. That's where we're expected to take tough ethical decisions. That's where we're expected to be ready to explain or omit or coordinate. The kind of interpreting where you can't talk about the interpreter as neutral anymore Because look there they are. The kind of interpreting where the client shakes your hand at the end and says we couldn't have done it without you Annoyingly rare but possible to move clients into. That's where I want to interpret And that is a kind of interpreting that I'm writing about in my book called Multilingual Church, that I'm encouraging churches to move towards, because it seems to be a process That interpreting. I don't think your use of AI is of any relevance whatsoever because it's people's entered interpreting.

Speaker 1:

People's entered. interpreting, on the other hand, yeah.

Speaker 2:

If the client just needs you to be there because they need interpreting, but they wish they didn't, well, in that kind of interpreting, probably AI is going to be very useful for everyone.

Speaker 1:

I've got a referral for you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, you know it's probably going to be in certain kinds of meetings and like having the vocab thrown into your eyeballs is really good. I've been waiting for a heads up display for a while, looking at my notes and, you know, looking all around. Just give me like a pilot's display in a Google Glass or something and they'll be fine. But if it's terminology driven, if it's language driven interpreting AI is probably really useful there. Hopefully at some point it'll be really good. If it's people driven interpreting, you can use it or you can't. It's not really going to be a big deal.

Speaker 1:

I like that People driven interpreting Dr Downey. As we get to the closure of today's episode, any last recommendations that you would like to share with our audience, whether that be related to mental health or with AI, Anything you'd like to share.

Speaker 2:

EU Interferencing is about to get re. I don't surf, i don't even swim, but the waves are about to get really, really weird in the interpreting And holding on to how we used to do things is a really bad strategy right now. Figuring out who you're meant to be, who you're called to be, taking the time to work through your critical voices and the toxic thinking that you come around, standing up to toxic nonsense when you come across it, because the whole profession needs people who are brave enough to stand up But be, find who you are and be that you. And if that means For some people that means leaving interpreting, we're really sad to see you go, but it's for the best.

Speaker 2:

For some people, that means charting a career path that doesn't make sense to anyone else. Come and look me up on Twitter or on LinkedIn and we'll console each other every time it goes wrong And celebrate every time it goes right. Or if that means that you look at the established interpreting that seems fairly comfortable for the moment the diplomatic interpreting, the big conference, cities and you say that's the interpreter I want to be, then go there But make the decision not based on how everyone else tells you the world works, but how you work And if your future really lies in being an AI-enabled interpreter who ends up doing interpreting, post-editing, and you're excited about technology, great, but you don't have to be a technology expert to be a good interpreter, don't I agree with any? Don't believe anyone who says that Be a people expert first and be a language expert first and pick up the technologies that you feel that are relevant to you. Be who you're called to be.

Speaker 1:

Beautifully said, Dr Downey. Thank you so very much for being here with us today, for sharing your story and for giving us this much, much needed advice during these times. I appreciate you so very much.

Speaker 2:

It was great. It was great to be back, it was great to be here, and I'm going to work at what happened to my make.

Changing Careers and Rediscovering Passion
Networking and Mental Health in Interpreting
Revisiting Toxic Expectations in Interpreting
Careers and AI Impact
The Impact of AI on Interpreting
Finding Your Path as an Interpreter