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Natural Disasters: The Urgent Need for Multilingual Services

The interpreter and translator’s goal is to deliver messages to listeners in a comprehensive form. This gives listeners an opportunity to make informed decisions based on the information provided. In the wake of many natural disasters this year, particularly in the United States and its territories, it is essential to understand that emergency preparedness needs to be multilingual.

It is critical to ensure that all residents, in an area threatened by a natural disaster, are informed of all available resources. In “Filling the Gaps: Inequitable Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Policies Serving Immigrant and Refugee Communities,” writer Emily Nagler mentions how in times of natural disasters non-English speaking communities in Washington State tend to be overlooked. Nagler discusses a wildfire in July of 2014 at King Blossom Natural Orchard where about 50 employees lost their homes. They escaped right before the fires destroyed their homes because they were woken up by the son of their employer. During the wildfire, employees at other farms had no transportation and some continued to work while the fire blazed in the distance (1). Nagler reported that “many of the immigrants in Washington come from Mexico, Guatemala, and other areas of Latin America” (1). The only Spanish speaking radio station in the area where the wildfires reached never received information about the wildfire and could not inform listeners. Understanding that with the increase of non-English speakers or people with “Limited English Proficiency (LEP)” (2) in the United States, along with seemingly more natural disasters, it is imperative for communities to include multilingual services for emergency preparedness.

In “Harvey Reinforces The Need for Language Assistance During Disasters” writer Jake Schild emphasizes the need for communication with “non-native speakers” and introduces “an emergency preparedness checklist for non-native speakers in the event of a disaster (2).” This summer Hurricane Harvey hit Texas wherein one of its cities, Houston; there is an estimate of 150 different languages spoken including Spanish, Tamil, German, French, and Hindi (2). The many different languages spoken in one city shows the great need for a strategic plan for emergency preparedness.

The Emergency Preparedness Checklist recommends 24/7 multilingual phone support to provide much-needed disaster information to LEP people. Another valuable service is to have health warning flyers, preparedness guides, and evacuation routes with multilingual translations given to every community member. Field interpreters are to be available to answer questions and calm LEP people. The interpreters will assist in managing shelter and food information centers (2). Also, a community must have “family plan templates” (2). “Family plan templates” contains meeting locations and emergency contact lists in hardcopy and digital form. Finally, the community must provide multilingual “preparedness training” (2) which offers an opportunity for LEP individuals to meet with those who
serve the community in times of disaster such as law enforcement (2).

Communication is critical when it comes to ensuring a community’s safety. People must take urgent actions to notify their neighbors about incoming disaster and safety procedures. Multilingual services are one of the significant components of communication that will protect everyone.

Written By: Kou T. Nyan


1. Nagler, Emily (2017) “Filling the Gaps: Inequitable Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Policies Serving Immigrant and Refugee Communities,” The International Undergraduate Journal For
Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change: Vol. 6: Iss. 2, p. 10-22. Available at: http://opus.govst.edu/iujsl/vol6/iss2/4
2. Schild, Jake (2017) “Harvey Reinforce the Need for Language Assistance During Disaster,” ULG Daily.

Development: Interpretation and Translation

You never stop learning and developing as an interpreter
or a translator. Throughout your career you develop hard and soft skills. The hard skills you acquire include becoming multilingual and obtaining formal education. The soft skills would be character development such as becoming impartial and culturally sensitive.
Furthering your education as an interpreter/translator is important. The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that interpreters/translators do need specialized training. Trainings are available through courses, training programs, conferences, universities and colleges nationwide.

It is common that medical or court interpreters/translators would complete certificates or job specific training programs. Normally, interpreters/translators in technical areas, such as finance or engineering, obtain a master’s degree (1).

Many interpretation/translation jobs require a bachelor’s, however, you are not often required to major in a language. Majoring in a particular field can reveal a “natural area of subject matter expertise”(1). For example, if you choose to pursue a bachelor’s in legal studies you would be able to have an exceptional understanding of legal affairs in order to interpret for government agencies (2). It is helpful to learn as much about the subject matter and industry you will interpret/translate for to get a full understanding of how to relay information to the receptive party( 3).

The United States Court emphasizes that being impartial while interpreting/translating is critical to being successful in the field. Impartiality helps you to accurately interpret or translate a message without omissions, additions or misleading information (3). You are only focused on ensuring that the primary speaker’s message is understood by the receiver. Cultural sensitivity is also extremely important.

An example is highlighted in The Language Factory website that, “If a political reference is made in one language, for example, a good interpreter will be ready to transform this into a comparable statement that the target audience can understand (4).” You would need to study the culture of the person receiving the message. What are some slang terms? What do they have in common culturally with the primary speaker?

Developing skills as an interpreter/translator requires much practice and continuous education. The development may start as formal education but it continues as you grow in the profession. You learn more about different cultures and learn to remain impartial to focus on the best interpretation/translation for everyone.

By: Kou T. Nyan

(1)Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Interpreters and Translators, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/

(2) Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Government: Degree Overview. Regent University.http://www.regent.edu/acad/undergrad/academics/degree/government/

(3) Interpreter Skills. United States Court. http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/federal-court-interpreters/interpreter-skills

(4) The 6 Key Qualities of a Good Interpreter. The Language Factory: Translation Made Simple. http://thelanguagefactory.co.uk/6-key-qualities-good-interpreter/

Understanding Simultaneous Interpretation

Imagine entering a large hall packed with people laughing hysterically and applauding. Once they settle, you hear someone speaking – but you do not understand their language. You begin to feel out of place. Then someone hands you an earpiece and you hear another voice speaking in a language you understand, interpreting everything the speaker is saying in real time.

Simultaneous interpreting occurs when an interpreter listens and understands something being said in it’s original language, then simultaneously translates it into the listener’s language (1). The person interpreting is often in a booth wearing headphones and speaks the target language into their microphone (1). They normally have someone with them to help them look up words, review documents and switch with the first interpreter after every thirty minutes (2).

According to Edwardo Magalhaes in his TED Talk “How Interpreters Juggle Two Languages at Once”, simultaneous interpreting developed with the rise of radio technology around World War II. Prior to simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting was primarily used (2).  In consecutive interpreting,  the original speaker pauses for about one to five minutes for the interpreter to repeat what they are saying in the target language (1). While the original speaker talks, the interpreter writes what the person is saying in order to provide the best possible translation (1).

Simultaneous interpreting is used in conferences, the Olympics and the United Nations’ meetings.

“You have to speak while the speakers are speaking,” Chief of the Interpretation Service at the United Nations Diana Liao said. “Part of it is really performing also, because you are, after all, on air and you cannot redo what you just did” (3). Since simultaneous interpreting can be performed in intimating settings and situations much training is required.

Fluent bilingual professionals train for about two years to master the skills required for simultaneous interpretation for conferences. They train by shadowing speakers and repeating their every word in the same language. After students learn to paraphrase, they practice with a second language (2). Overtime, students develop skills to aid the speed of interpretation such as using acronyms or more general terms (2). Before it is time for them to perform, simultaneous interpreters rigorously prepare. This includes studying extensively about the subject matter, creating glossaries (2), some read newspapers and keep themselves up to date on slang and current expressions (3).

Interpretation is an art and skill that bridges communication among people who would not be able to connect without it. It has the power to bring people together in large settings to provide understanding, entertainment and peace in potentially hostile situations.

(1) “Modes of Interpreting”. Language Scientific.http://www.languagescientific.com/


(2) Magalhaes,Ewandro. TED Ed.“How Interpreters Juggle Two Language at Once”  June 2016.


(3) “United Nations, A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters.” Universal Pictures.


Written By: Kou Nyan

Education: Interpretation, Translation and Parent/Guardian Inclusion

Many families want what’s best for their children, which includes a quality education. However, what happens when your child is in one of many schools where the primary language is a language you do not know well?  Or if you are deaf or hard of hearing?

The American Translators Association Code of Ethics states that interpreters and translators are “to convey meaning between people and cultures faithfully, accurately, and impartially (1).” This should be applied everywhere an interpreter and/or translator is needed. In November 2016, the United States Department of Education updated their English Learner Toolkit. Chapter 10 of that toolkit stresses the importance of having competent interpreters and translators for “limited english proficient” (LEP) parents (2). Local school officials need to purposely ensure that families understand information regarding their children’s education.They, “must provide accurate information about any service, program or activity that was also provided to a non-LEP (2).”

This can be applied to deaf and hard of hearing parents/guardians of hearing children.  Jenny L. Singleton and Matthew D. Tittle states in “A Guide for Professionals Serving Hearing Children with Deaf Parents” that, “service providers should be aware of the necessity to take responsibility for making their services accessible without burdening the client, deaf or hearing, with the full responsibility for reducing communication barriers (3).” For example, a school learns that a student may need special education services. However, this student’s parents/guardians are deaf or hard of hearing. The school must understand and be willing to assist with the family’s needs. According to Singleton and Tittle, the parents/guardians of the child would not only need to collaborate with the school to create an Individualized Education Plan but also consult with social, medical and legal services. This would require an ASL interpreter who understands confidentiality and the families’ need to support the child.

Mandated interpretation and translation promotes compliance with ensuring that schools properly service parents/guardians who have language or hearing barriers.  Schools must take initiative to identify the families that need such assistance while also finding trained interpreters and translators who are skilled in “specialized terms or concepts (2)” and ensure confidentiality.



  1. American Translators Association. “American Translators Association Code of Ethics and Professional Practice.” (Oct 2010) https://www.atanet.org/governance/code_of_ethics.php

  1. Department of Education United States of America. “Chapter 10 Tools and Resources for Ensuring Meaning Communication with Limited English Proficient Parents.” (Nov 2016) https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oela/english-learner-toolkit/chap10.pdf

  2. Singleton, Jenny L. and Matthew D. Tittle. “Technical Report #6 A Guide for Professional Serving Hearing Children with Deaf Parents.” (2001) http://clas.uiuc.edu/techreport/tech6.html


Written by: Kou Nyan

Honing Skills in Changing Times

When it comes to the world of interpretation and translation, skill does not stop at knowing more than one language. It is understanding that “it is a decision-making process involving a judgement regarding every single word translated, and the best way to translate it (1).” This means not only applying critical thinking but also understanding the evolution of language and culture.

In “The Translator’s Handbook”, author Morry Sofer describes an incident that occurred when former United States President James (Jimmy) Carter, Jr. visited Poland. President Carter attempted to tell his audience, “I love you”, however, his interpreter translated it to, “I lust after you.” This caused the audience burst into loud laughter. The translator had not been to his homeland in the past 20 years and, as the author explains it, during that “time some basic Polish expressions had changed (1).” If the interpreter had observed the transformation of the Polish language, the mishaps would have been avoided. For one to become a successful interpreter and/or translator one must understand that language can evolve.

To this point, in 1971, Georgi Lozanov wrote in “Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy” that “the present-day rapid development of science and technology, as well as the continuous growth of cultural, economic, and political relations between nations, have confronted humanity with exceptional difficulties in the assimilation of useful and necessary information (2).” This is true even in 2017. Industries are rapidly growing and changing, therefore, interpreters and translators are challenged to stay up to speed with such changes. Although the challenge can be great, these interpreters and translators play a vital role in ensuring understanding in multiple parties within an ever changing world.

Interpreters and translators never stop learning.  They must constantly develop their skill by understanding the changes that can occur over time with technology and especially expressions in languages. They must know that  interpretation and translation is more than the act of replacing words (1) but a skill that requires an understanding of changes in the languages being translated.

  1. Sofer, Morry. The Translator’s Handbook 7th rev.ed. (2009)

  2. Robinson, Douglas. Becoming a Translator. (1997)


Written: Kou Nyan

Healthcare: Interpretation and Translation

Interpretation and translation are pathways to a wealth of knowledge critical to those who are receiving such services. This is especially true in healthcare, where protecting and saving the lives of patients is central to the field. A trained interpreter in health care saves money, time but most importantly, lives.

In Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche we are reminded that not all words translate between languages. For example, Kelly and Zetzsche wrote about the 71 million dollar word, “intoxicado”.

In 1980 a young man named Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital. His family did not get to speak to a professional interpreter but a bilingual hospital employee. His family told the employee that they believed their relative was, “intoxicado”.

Without context, the authors explain, this word is difficult to render because it does not have an exact equivalent in English. The family believed he had food poisoning, however, the word was not translated in that way. Ramirez was diagnosed with a drug overdose although later it was discovered he had an intracerebral hemorrhage. He received a $71 million settlement for the mistake(1).

Annals of Emergency Medicine 57, no. 3 (March 2011) revealed a 2010 study showing that professional interpreters and translators increased efficiency in emergency rooms. Their work helped decrease patients’ stay and helped hospitals avoid the additional cost of ordering expensive diagnostic exams

(1a). Professional interpreters and translators assist healthcare providers with properly diagnosing patients with limited English proficiency which also leads to more satisfaction from the patients

(2). The Center for Immigration Studies reported that in 2015, 64.7 million residents in the United States spoke a language other than English at home. About forty percent said they spoke “English less than very well”

(3). This growing number shows that it is critical to have professional interpreters and translators in the healthcare field to avoid possible life-threatening mistakes. Professional interpreters and translators also allow patients to know their life is in the good hands of people that deeply care about them.


(1) Kelly, Nataly and Jost Zetzche. Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transform World. (2012)
(1a) Bagchi, Ann D., PhD; Stacy Dale, MPA; Natalya Verbitsky-Savitz, PhD; Sky Andrecheck, MS; Kathleen Zavotsky, MS, RN; Robert Eisenstein, MD. “Examining Effectiveness of Medical Interpreters in Emergency Departments for Spanish-Speaking Patients With Limited English Proficiency: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial” (2011). Retrieved from Found in Translation.

Written by: Kou Nyan

The Relevant Interpreter

As technology becomes more advanced and the world learns to depend more on electronics than on human skill how do interpreters stay relevant?  I read an article recently that stated that the United States has spent millions of dollars on technological advances in the interpreting field because they hope that it will produce long term savings. So, how do we (interpreters/translators) stay on the cutting edge of those investments in order to keep our livelihoods?

I believe there are some key behaviors and decisions that you must make as an interpreter to avoid being squeezed out of your business.

  1. SPECIALIZE!!! I was in a meeting recently where a gentleman shared how he helped his wife with her interpreting business. He further described how she spoke a rare language and specialized in microbiology and other sciences.  He was astonished at what I was making per hour because he said she made $300-500 per hour.  Because her language is so rare and her specialty is so defined she was able to travel the world and get paid incredibly well to interpret.  Furthermore, she interpreted legal matters because she obtained her legal certification. She has become the go-to person for that language and specialty internationally.
  2. Register with local, national and international firms. Everyone should know that you are out there. Nowadays we have an incredible opportunity to tap into several different firms because of technology.  You can literally google interpreting firms in your area and then register with them.  Google phone interpreting and video conferencing to offer those services from your home at any time.  When things get slow and you don’t have any in-person appointments you can work from home using your languages and continuing to develop your experience.   We, Be Moore Interpreting, recently interviewed a gentleman who works as an interpreter from a third world country for many international organizations.  He converted a bedroom in his house into an office and has professional headphones and a microphone to use during assignments.  He applied to be one of our translators.  It was fascinating to learn from him.
  3. Provide exceptional service. Believe it or not this has to be said.  One of the reasons Be Moore Interpreting is successful is because we are highly client focused.  We regularly hear from clients that they could not continue to work with other firms because their interpreters lacked skill, professionalism and respect.  We pride ourselves on focusing strictly on the client we want both English speaker and limited English speakers to understand that they matter.  We interpret side conversations, explain the interpreting process and are always asking for feedback as to how we can grow.  At Be Moore, we believe that we only get one try.  So, we cannot stress this enough.  YOU MUST DO YOUR BEST!!!  You want that customer to choose you as their next interpreter.  You want them to refer and request you all the time.  Just like NIKE doesn’t want you to wear a pair of Adidas make sure that your client doesn’t use another interpreter.

Lastly, no amount of technology could ever replace human skill.  A good interpreter will interpret context, content, emotion, behavior, and so much more.   Make sure that you are an interpreter that provides direct language connection.  And, make sure that you ARE the kind of interpreter that “creatively bridges communication” and leaves the client feeling like you were never there.  We have a unique opportunity to transform the world, so let’s do it with pride!

Benefits & Challenges of Freelance Work

Given the global reach of businesses in the 21st century, translators and interpreters are employed in almost every conceivable business sector, from banking to museums to health care to high-tech. Being bilingual does not make you capable of being an interpreter or translator, just as having two hands does not make you a concert pianist. There’s a lot of hard work and study that goes into the perfect translation.

Most translators and interpreters work on a freelance basis. The beauty of being a freelancer is you work with people, not for them. Freelance translators can work with the flexibility of making their schedule and being able to choose the assignments they would like to take.

However, self-employment is not suitable for everyone, and you have to expect a long road with multiple obstacles until you reach stability, happiness, and a sense of achievement. Freelancing requires a lot of discipline. There is no guarantee you will always have enough work to keep the money flowing. As an independent contractor, with all the benefits of being a freelancer, your money is assured.

As a freelance Translator or Interpreter, there are typically two ways of working your assignments: translation agencies and direct clients. The firm handles the project management end of things, interacts directly with the client. In the uncertain world of freelancing, translation firms provide some measure of security.

Freelancers usually juggle multiple clients at a time; and when not doing client work, they may be marketing themselves and networking, trying to find new work. The freelance advantage with the benefit of having a contract as a translator: you get to work on your current assignments on a per diem basis, with one company at a time for an extended and specified period (the “contract”).

You have to think outside the box. Freelance interpreters and translators working with language service companies have the opportunity to work with all kinds of businesses and organizations from all over the world. Business is now being conducted in more diverse languages than previously possible thanks to independent contractors.

Freelancers can have a full, flexible workload, can choose their projects, and may contract with more than one company at a time. Language companies can offer more language availability and higher levels of service, therefore benefiting their clients. Clients can communicate with their customers or patients in their native tongues, providing essential care and services where language may have previously been a barrier.

Interpreters help Immigrants and Refugees

Interpreters and translators help to successfully integrate immigrants into city and community life. To function, this process requires education and a supporting framework of community outreach to teach the immigrants and refugees about city services and civic responsibilities.

Successful integration depends on the communication and outreach with the established community or organization which helps to input cultural understanding and build support. The aim of these cultural aspects is to ensure that all immigrants and refugees work together in building the community, identifying the value of diversity and the significance of integration initiatives.

These outreach programs ranges from various services. For example, interpreting, translations, training and seminars from professional organizations and specialists which aid immigrants and refugees in acclimating into the new culture. Be Moore Interpreting has an unparalleled wealth of knowledge and experience to support, educate and assist immigrants and refugees into their new culture. In creatively bridging communication, Be Moore Interpreting enables effective communication between people who otherwise couldn’t communicate.

There are many benefits of using an interpreter. A non-English speaker indicates that an interpreter is needed, when the person cannot communicate fluently in English. Using a professional interpreter or translator has the following benefits.

• Quality is ensured
• It’s culturally compulsory
• There’s consistency
• Specialization is obtained
• Helps connect to success
• Helps in business expansion

Interpreters and translators can also help individuals by providing high quality interpreting and translation services to both English speakers and non-English speakers all around the world. Their services should be made comprehensive for immigrants or refugees to understand and to feel like their voice is being heard in the new land.

Interpreting and translating organizations such as Be Moore Interpreting provides a top notch services and translates documents in any language in any desired format.

  • Are you an immigrant?
  • Are you a refugee?
  • Do you need help to integrate into your new culture or community?
  • Do you need help with interpreting or translating any document?

Be Moore Interpreting has helped a lot and offers the most professional services to help you integrate into your new culture.

Ethical Principles of Interpretation

A code of professional conduct is an important factor to any profession, which is responsible for maintaining standards for the individuals within profession. It entrusts accountability, responsibility and trust to the individuals within that professional circle.

These conducts or principles are to be adhered to strictly and should serve as a guideline while in professional practice.

So therefore, in order for interpretation to be considered an effective medium of communication, it should be polished to follow certain standard ethical principles.

Each principle is considered a strategy that enables effective communication while interpretation is in progress.

An effective interpretation should:

  1. Relate to the target audience or listener
  2. Fully explain information about the topic
  3. Spark interest in the mind of the listener. about the topic being discussed.

Further Notes:

  1. An interpretation that does not tally or relate with the topic being discussed will be sterile to the visitor. It is important to find out what your audience are interested in and common questions that they might ask.
  2. The sole purpose of interpretation is to spark interest in the mind of your listener. He/she will be so eager to listen to you. Catchy words, paragraphs and headings that capture the attention and help in communication flow is recommended.
  3. A good interpretation aims at re-casting or re-presenting a whole idea, rather than a part or bit of it. A good interpretation should flow with easy grammatical constructions and sentences should link to each other meaningfully.

In the voice of Freeman Tildan, “Interpreting Our Heritage” 1957, the following are the fundamentals of Interpretation:

  • Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are scientific, historical or architectural
  • Interpretation addressed to children (up to age of twelve) should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best it will require a separate program.

By: Laura Martinez, Pixel Writers