Congreso San Jerónimo, Mexico

I recently returned from Mexico, where I was honored to be a guest speaker at the Congreso San Jerónimo, in Guadalajara.

I gave the following two presentations:

El traductor – responsable de una buena lectura tanto del texto original como del texto meta. This presentation focused on understanding the source text in depth, and having a conversation with the client when there are questions regarding the meaning of the source text. We covered concepts from Eugene Nida and Paul Grice along the way.

This presentation, also in Spanish, included concepts I picked up from the Better Business Bureau, my Errors and Omissions policy conversations with my insurer and other sources.

Both presentations were well received, and I promised to post them online. A promise made is a promise kept, so here they are!

Here are some other links I made reference to in various presentations:

Travel insecurity

The remote device wipe completed successfully.

The remote device wipe initiated on 12/02/2016 21:37:00 is complete.

I got this message today. It is not the kind of message I wanted. It was the result of asking Outlook 365 to delete all the Outlook information on my iPad if my iPad was activated.

Fortunately, there are safeguards for our information. I had activated them:

  • 10-try lockout on my passcode. After 10 tries, the equipment wipes itself clean.
  • Remote wipe by iCloud. Actually, I suspended service instead so the equipment could be found…
  • I carry insurance on my electronic devices. There is a deductible, but the replacement was quick and easy. AT&T came through.

How did this happen? I did what I always do. I set things in the seat pocket on the airplane, ready to use them when I want to. I feel asleep or went to the bathroom.

When I went to pack things up when I got home, my iPad was missing. As simple as that. My brother suggested that I always carry my valuables with me. He says he always takes it to the bathroom…

I was getting home, ready to dive into preparations for my daughter’s wedding. Instead, I had to spend 10 hours thanking AT&T for their support. I’m thankful for their help, and now we can move on to the party… I hope others can learn to be safer with their equipment than I was.

I’m busy changing all my passwords…

Translation Certification in the Pacific Northwest

In the Pacific Northwest, and specifically in Washington State, two translation certification programs are relevant.

The American Translators Association is a professional association that certifies members who are translators.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has a Language Testing and Certification Unit that has been certifying translators since 1996. This certification program is regulated by WAC 388-03.

ATA and WA DSHS Translation certifications

Pass rateUnder 20% for most language pairs, higher for others.
See page 37 of ATA Chronicle in this link
for details.
Texts to translateChoose two texts out of three general texts.Choose three texts out of four technical texts in the areas of social, legal, and medical services.
Length of text250 to 300200 each
Total source word count500 to 600600
Time alloted3 hours2 hours
ReferencesMay bring paper dictionaries. Limited access to Internet resources. Dictionaries may not be shared with other test takers.May bring paper dictionaries. Dictionaries may be shared with other test takers.
WhereProctored at ATA conference and by chapters and affiliates.Administered by Washington State government (Department of Social and Health Services), in Washington State.
Language pairsEnglish into 15 languages.
14 languages into English.
English into Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
PrerequisitesATA membership @$190/yr18 years old
High school diploma
Accreditation requirements1 hour of ethics during the first year of certificationFree Translator Orientation Webinar 2:13 hrs
Free Ethics Webinar 2:50 hrs
Renewal20 CE credits over 3 years
ATA membership @$190/yr.
Free, 20 DSHS/LTC approved continuing education credits every 4 years of which 1 of approved ethics per calendar year.
Registration linkCertification Exam Overview
Schedule a Test
Examination guidelines Error categories
Professional Language Certification Examination Manual
Find a translatorATA Online DirectoriesFind Fully or Provisionally Certified/Authorized Interpreters and Translators
The information in this table was verified as of November 30, 2016 based on conversations with representatives of both organizations and web searches on pertinent sites. The information on both sites is subject to change without notice.

Introduction to medical systems

I gave a presentation to medical interpreters in Washington State and presented this overview of the systems of the human body. I am sharing the link to the powerpoint here because they might find it useful.

It was a pleasure to share a day with such an engaged group of people!

Medical terminology introduction to systems

Interpreting Certification Compared (Spoken Language)

Spoken Language Interpreting Certification in the United States: a comparison

Competency-based assessments are the foundation of credentialing in many professions, one of which is interpreting. According to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, an assessment instrument is any one of several standardized methods for determining if candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills related to the purpose of the certification. Professional certification is therefore a voluntary process and is bestowed by an organization granting recognition to an individual who has met certain eligibility requirements and successfully completed a rigorous assessment based on a job task analysis.

Interpreter certification is akin to licensure in many other professions such as psychology, occupational therapy, social work, professional counseling, architecture, or nursing. In the United States, there are three certifying bodies for medical interpreters: NBCMI, CCHI and DSHS/LTC (see chart attached). In this chart we are also including the Oregon Court Interpreting certification for comparison purposes because interpreters move from one field to another in their scope of work on a regular basis. Interpreters will have to choose which certification to pursue based on their working languages, the availability of testing sites, the delivery modality (on-site v. remote interpreting) and the applicable federal and state laws and regulations. In the State of Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority is the government agency responsible for regulating medical interpreters.

Terminology used in chart

LOTELanguages other than English
approvedApproved activities/training means trainings or activities that meet the requirements of the certification bodies for continuing education purposes. Please refer to the website of each certification body for full details, which are beyond the scope of this document.

Spoken Language Interpreting Certifications

National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters
Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters
Department of Social & Health Services/Language Testing and Certification Program
Washington State
Oregon Judicial Department
Private: a division of a trade association (International Medical Interpreters Association)Private: a vendor neutral nonprofit corporationPublic: a state government agencyPublic: a state government agency
2012 NCCA accreditation obtained2012 NCCA accreditation obtained19951993
Cambodian (Khmer)
Haitian Creole
18 years of age
High school diploma or equivalentHigh school diploma or equivalentHigh school diploma or equivalentnot listed
Proof of language proficiency: each certifying body has slightly different requirements.Proof of language proficiency: each certifying body has slightly different requirements.NoneNone
• Medical Terminology & Specialties
• Medical Interpreter Ethics, Standards of Practice & Roles
• Cultural Competence
• Legislation and Regulations
• Manage an Interpreting Encounter
• Healthcare Terminology
• Interact with Other Healthcare Professionals and Prepare for an Interpreting Encounter
• Cultural Responsiveness
• Interpreter Ethics
• Language Proficiency in English & LOTE
• Medical Terminology & Procedures in English & LOTE
• Translation (multiple choice format)
• English language
• Court related terms and usage
• Ethics and professional conduct.
Consecutive interpreting
Sight translation English > LOTE
Consecutive interpreting
Simultaneous interpreting
Sight Translation English > LOTE
Translation of healthcare documents (multiple choice format)
Sight translation English <> LOTE (2 passages)
Consecutive interpreting English <> LOTE
Simultaneous English > LOTE
Consecutive interpreting
Sight translation English <> LOTE
75%74%36-38%48.54% written
18.4% oral
100% ethics
40 hours of approved training (pre-requisite)40 hours of approved training (pre-requisite)2 hours of ethics
2 hours of new medical interpreter orientation
6 hours of orientation to courts
20 hours of observation
5 hours of ethics orientation
30 hours of approved training every 5 years16 hours every 2 years, totaling 32 hours every 4 years
20 hours of documented work every two years, totaling 40 hours in 4 years
20 hours every 4 years of approved activities of which 1 hour of approved ethics per calendar year, totaling 4 hours of ethics in four years.25 hours every 3 years of which 5 hours of ethics
10 general
10 language-specific
Estimated $320 - $800Estimated $320 - $800NoneOrientation: $100
Ethics orientation (after passing oral exam): $50
Ethics Exam (after passing oral): $50
This information was verified on November 17, 2016 for spoken language interpreting certifications. This information is subject to change by the certification bodies.


Interpreter certification and skills maintenance as key elements of quality assurance, Natalya Mytareva, Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, June 17, 2015:
Candidate’s Examination Handbook, Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, July 2014:
Certification page, National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters Certification page:
Certified Medical Interpreter Candidate Handbook, The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, 2014:
Oregon Judicial Department Interpreter Certification Process:
State Court Administrator Policies for the Oregon Judicial Department’s Oregon Certified Court Interpreter Program
Court interpreter Oral Examination Overview (by National Center for State Courts / Language Access Services Section)
Court interpreter Written Examination Overview (by National Center for State Courts / Language Access Services Section)
Oregon Court Interpreting Fees:
NCSC oral examinations ready for administration:

Study Materials, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Study materials:
Law regulating occupations and professions in Oregon:

Law that governs healthcare interpreting in Oregon:
NCCA accreditation is renewable every 5 years. Registration listed on this site: Link verified Sept 26, 2016.
Standards for Registry Enrollment, Qualification, and Certification of Health Care Interpreters:
Health Care Interpreter Program, Office of Equity and Inclusion:
*Oregon requires 60 hours of healthcare interpreter training and has a list of preapproved training programs.
Affordable Care Act Non-discrimination in Healthcare Programs and Activities
Sources for overall passing rate:
National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters Examination Summary Statistics: 2009, 2010, and 2011
CCHI 2014 Annual Report: Setting the Standard for Quality in Healthcare Interpreting

Fu, Hungling. State of Washington DSHS Medical Interpreter Certification, presented at UMTIA. June 2007
Oregon pass rate data provided by Oregon courts on September 29, 2016, by Michaelle Gearheart, Certification and Training Coordinator, Court Language Access Services (CLAS) :
Written Exam 2006-2016, Number of Examinees: 67, Pass Rate: 48.5%

Oral Exam 2006 – 2016, Number of Examinees:521, Pass Rate: 18.4%

Ethics Exam 2006 – 2016, Pass Rate 100%

All links verified on November 17, 2016. Links subject to update by external sites.

A preliminary version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Caduceus and was later republished in the ATA Interpreters Division Blog on October 10, 2016. New information is added in this version.

New trainings!

Three trainings coming up… Why focus on these areas?

  • Medical oral certification exam preparation (Spanish)
  • Translation training (Spanish)
  • Spanish writing

New regulations require that translation and interpreting done in medical settings be provided by translators and interpreters qualified to do the work. Click on this link for more information about the new regulations.

November 19, 2016: Medical oral certification exam preparation (Spanish)

I have been asked to support interpreters who are preparing for medical interpreting certification by providing a one day workshop on skills that leads to better preparation for the oral exam.

In the first training of this type that I gave, participants remarked that they were exposed to tips they had not heard before, and this training gave them new insight on how to improve their skills.

Continue reading

Gaucha Calendar

To serve our readers better, Gaucha created a public calendar. We will include the following information:

  • Gaucha trainings
  • Conferences offered by translation and interpreting associations
  • Conferences where Helen Eby will be attending or presenting
  • Registration dates for certification exams in Oregon
  • Holidays that pertain to the major world faiths, because interpreters and translators interact with all people groups. I will avoid scheduling my own trainings on days that conflict with these holidays.

We hope this helps our readers stay abreast of issues in the writing, interpreting and translation world.

ATA translation company ballot

I got a ballot for the ATA Translation Company Division. It was contested… but there was no second candidate. It was a write-in. So, I dreamed up my favorite candidate for Administrator:

  • A certified translator: this person will surely know our work inside and out.
  • Someone intimately aware of Standards.
  • A friendly person who answers questions.

Who is my role model, who answers all three of these questions?

Beatriz Bonnet. That is who I wrote in, without thinking twice about it.

I wrote her in. One vote won’t do much, but she has my kudos, for whatever that is worth!


Vetting inquiries

How do I deal with initial inquiries from potential clients? When new companies come to Oregon or otherwise come to my attention, I always follow the same principles:

  1. I send a return email. If it bounces, that is a red flag.
  2. I check the street address on Google Maps. Occasionally, the addresses have led to rather unusual places.
  3. I check them out on the Proz Blue Board and the Payment Practices pages. In some cases, this may not apply. The links to Proz and Payment Practices, along with links to compensation surveys and links to codes of ethics, are on this page.
  4. I have a conversation with the potential client on the phone. If that is not possible, we interact by email. We cover the following issues:
  • We discuss the role of translators and interpreters by sending them a link to this document. It’s important to hire the right person!
  • I have a conversation about the expectations of my work with the client on the phone, using the GT Interpreting Specs or the GT Translation Process, whichever may apply, as my guide. I email the client the link to these documents, of course, so the client can be informed of my background. I verify how the document will be reviewed, because this is essential to a quality translation.

After all this, I fill out the client’s online forms if applicable. I don’t go to the online application unless we have had a conversation.

My experience indicates that clients appreciate knowing who they are dealing with, and that being a good fit is just as important to them as it is to me. We are interviewing each other. I need to know if I am offering the kind of service they need, and if they work in a way that I understand and am comfortable with.

In one case, a Project Manager told me she was a bit frustrated with my questions and told the company owner. The owner told her, “If she is asking questions, that is a good sign! It means she is a professional! Keep talking to her, and work with her.”

Qualified Language Access: Essential and mandatory

On September 8, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I spoke with a woman who works there and told her I am a Spanish interpreter. She told me she wished her husband had been able to work with an interpreter 30 years ago, before he met her. Here is her story, as she emailed it to me. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Luis came from Peru, South America, to the United States of America to search for an eye doctor who could help him with his eyes. After seeing several doctors in several countries, and having been told that they could not help him, he went to Dr. XXXX in Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. XXXX wrote in my husband’s medical record that nothing could be done to make his eyes better.

Luis had partial detached retina in both eyes but he was still able to see with the help of glasses. He did not understand because he did not speak English. A friend told Luis about NIH (National Institutes of Health) and recomended that he try there. The NIH doctor saw his records from Dr. XXXX at Johns Hopkins, but proceeded to do an experimental operation on one eye  and then the other eye, and made Luis totally blind in both eyes.

I hope that someone can prevent this kind of malpractice. Thank you for your interest.

Currently, Federal regulations require that hospitals work with qualified interpreters and translators to provide language access. Family and friends are not allowed to provide interpreting and translation services. Untrained and untested bilingual employees do not qualify for this task either. Luis’s situation should not happen in today’s environment. However, is this the case? Is this happening in schools, in police stations, or in other settings?

New logo!

I decided to add a logo to my image. Why?

  1. I was submitting announcements to some places, like the local high school football program, and I needed a logo.
  2. I wanted my logo to represent me in a consistent way, so it would not be redrafted by each organization that helped promote me.

What did I want in a logo?

The GT had to be prominent, as if it had been branded on a cow. I wanted the words Gaucha and Translations to flow from there.

The logo had to be simple and clean so it could be quickly connected with my business. It had to be clear when it was small, on my business cards, and elegant when it was full size, on my website.

Why Gaucha? My aunt Helena always gave me that compliment as a teenager. She grew up on San Elías, an estancia (Argentine ranch) where she took me several summers when I was growing up. When I had a creative idea, went the second mile, or did something special, she told me “¡Qué gaucha que sos!” (What a gaucha you are!)

Helena recently passed away, but her memory lives on in my business name, emblazoned in my logo. I am a Gaucha. I thrive on solving problems with creativity, in a way that meets my clients’ needs and solves their problems. I also honor my heritage. I grew up in Argentina, and my mother is Argentine. I am Hispanic, and I want to make that clear in my name.

Welcome to Gaucha Translations, where we solve translation problems creatively for clients so  your message reaches your audience just the way you meant it.

I am a member of several professional associations. See a listing of professional associations on this page.

Certification exam prep and other new resources

An overview of Helen’s comings and goings for the next few months:

Cuatro Mosqueteras: This year, three colleagues and I launched an effort to improve the writing skills of Spanish speakers who learned their language in the United States. For some time, I have noticed that my medical interpreting students and other stakeholders need a solid resource for this, and I have spent the last few years reviewing the literature on the subject.

Now we have a blog and are posting an article in Spanish every week that addresses issues which will help fluent Spanish speakers improve their writing skills. So far, we have received very positive reviews. All posts have an English abstract so English speakers can promote our work in the right places. Stay tuned to!

Oral Certification Exam Preparation: Not every initial 40- or 60-hour orientation to medical interpreting has the time or ability to teach the skills needed to pass the oral certification exams. To help people go from the initial orientation to passing the certification exam, I am launching a new training series.

This will be a series of one-day workshops, timed to be a few weeks before each CCHI oral testing window. At this point I am only providing this training in Spanish, but I may explore making it language neutral in the future. I am starting with the language I know well so I can do things with excellence, the Gaucha way!

My upcoming classes (in Spanish) are:

  • September 17, in Hillsboro
  • October 8, in East Portland

Language proficiency testing: Interpreters need to provide proof of language proficiency at various stages in the certification process. The Oregon Health Authority requires it in order to become a Qualified interpreter. The national certification bodies require it in order to take their exams.

To help interpreters negotiate this hurdle, I am providing access to one of the most respected tests in the industry: the ACTFL test administered by Language Testing International. Click here for more information.


Over the next few months, I will be attending some very special conferences in the United States and Mexico.

August 29-30, New York City: Editorial Freelancers Association Conference. This will be an excellent opportunity to network with very sharp freelancers, and to visit the members of my family who live in The Big Apple!

September 10, Philadelphia, PA: 2016 East Coast Interpreters and Translators Summit, hosted by the Delaware Valley Translators Association. They are hosting an ATA Certification exam the next day, on September 11.

September 23 to 25, Bend, Oregon: The Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters is hosting its third annual conference. On September 25, ATA hosts the ATA Certification exam, and OSTI members are preparing for it!

November 2 to 5, San Francisco, California: ATA 57th Annual Conference. I will be hosting a pair of sessions for the Interpreting Division (You Did What? Making Sense of Conflicting Codes of Ethics: Parts 1 and 2) on Thursday from 2:00 to 4:30 pm. I will also be working with Buddies welcome Newbies, in both the Introduction (Wednesday from 4:45 to 5:30 pm) and the Debriefing (Saturday afternoon). Click here to learn more about Buddies welcome Newbies, and please register! We always welcome Newbies, and we always need Buddies!

November 26 to 30, Guadalajara, Mexico: Feria internacional del libro de Guadalajara [Gualdalajara International Book Fair]. This is one of the biggest book fairs around! I will, of course, be shopping for books for my collection. No matter that I already have more than some think is reasonable… I want to see what is at this fair! I have also submitted a couple of presentations for the translation conference. Click here for the Feria Internacional del Libro happenings!

That’s a full schedule! Of course, I will keep up with my translation clients through all this travel, but I will also be sharpening my skills a lot through what I call Conference Marathon Season. It’s a time I relish every year. Welcome to my world!

Preparation for oral certification exams – 2016

To be a Qualified Health Care Interpreter in Oregon, one must demonstrate oral language proficiency. Additionally, a Certified interpreter must demonstrate interpreting skills by passing a certification exam. Both national medical certification bodies require proof of language proficiency to take the certification exam. Click here to see the requirements for Oregon Healthcare Interpreters.

At the 2015 OHCIA conference, many approached me and requested a training to help people who have already taken a 60 hour training program (or equivalent) to prepare for the interpreting certification exam. Because of the need I saw then, and had already seen, I have developed a class to help you on your way.

In this class, I will focus on skills including sight translation, terminology research, simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, and recording techniques to evaluate your own interpreting skills. The day will end with a discussion of the exam itself. Read more at this page.

As always, I don’t expect to give you all the answers in one short session. Rather, I want to give you a way to continue to grow in your professional skills. I studied for the federal certification exam this way, and got a 77. (The passing score is an 80.) After that preparation, passing the state exam was not a problem.

Click here to register.

To make testing convenient for interpreters who need to provide proof of language proficiency to the Oregon Health Authority or to certification bodies, Gaucha Translations also facilitates language proficiency testing. Click here to learn more.

2016 training dates: September 17 and October 8. Click here for details.

Travels with Helen

Today’s post is guest written by my husband, David. He has watched me in action over the years, and this is the story of some things he has learned.

In 25 years of marriage to Helen, I’ve learned a lot about my unconscious biases. I was raised on an entirely family-run farm in Oregon. When my older brother took Spanish in high school, I remember wondering why he would do that. Spanish was the language of the uneducated. They were migrant workers and probably illiterate. I had no contact with them, but I had biases against them anyway.

When we have these biases, they are not consciously chosen. It’s just how things are. We claim to be unbiased, but only because we don’t know any better.

This year, over Memorial Day Weekend, Helen and I spent our time at the Oregon Coast. We ate at a restaurant with an obvious Mexican slant in its menu, and Helen struck up a conversation with our server. After talking in English for a while, they switched to Spanish, and the words really started to fly! I don’t speak Spanish, so I had to get a summary from Helen afterwards. The server’s story is one that I’m beginning to realize is extremely common among the Hispanics in the US.

Our server moved to the US after completing 6th grade in Mexico and finished his education here in English. Listening to him speak, however, it’s obvious that Spanish is where his heart is. He has a strong desire to continue his Spanish education here in the US. He’s taking a Spanish writing class at the 200 level in his local community college, but finds it completely boring. It’s far below his level of knowledge of Spanish. He’s staying with it, hoping to learn something, but it’s very discouraging for him. He speaks fluently, but he wants to learn to write better.

Helen is working on providing education for heritage Spanish speakers, respectfully taught at their level, and he was excited to hear that she would like to bring a class to Newport if enough students could be found.

The next day, we heard a repeat of the same story when Helen struck up a conversation with a cleaning lady at our hotel in Depoe Bay. The cleaning lady appeared to almost be in tears during the conversation. She was speaking with someone who respected her, understood her situation, and wanted to help. That’s not something the Hispanics in the U.S. encounter very often. Her boss walked by during the conversation and joined in. The cleaning lady had no idea that her boss had spent time in Argentina and was very sympathetic with the plight of Hispanics in the States.

Through this contact there’s the possibility of getting some good Spanish literature in the local library. Her boss has contacts with the library, and it’s in the process of expanding.

I have been with Helen while she has had many encounters of this sort, and it’s very often the same story:

  • Either the Spanish speaker received as much education as was available in their location before moving to the US, or they moved while they were still in school. In any case, they want to continue their Spanish studies.
  • Hispanic employees are often expected to translate into Spanish at their jobs, but since their Spanish education was cut short, they really can’t do it well. They know that and want to get better. However, they have limited opportunities to do that once they are in the States.
  • Many libraries and bookstores in the US have limited Spanish sections, as Helen pointed out in this article a few years ago.

I hear these stories when I’m with Helen. She’s Hispanic, so they talk to her. They won’t tell these things to a Gringo like me. But it’s the same story, over and over. Only the names and faces change.

Presentations given in Argentina

The Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Association of Sworn Translators of Buenos Aires) hosted the VI Latin American Translation and Interpreting Conference in April of 2016. I was a guest speaker and presented on the following topics:

I gave a presentation on the semantic analysis of the interpreted message, based on a lecture I had given to my students and the application of some elements of the Demand-Control schema to interpreting. I submitted this paper (in Spanish) along with my presentation.

I guided the conversation with this PowerPoint. It was well received and the participants seemed to understand this new way of looking at their message. At the end, we had a practical exercise which culminated with one participant volunteering to interpret for a room full of people impeccably. He got a well-deserved round of applause, and I took questions after that.

I was also invited to be part of a round table discussion on Standards. I focused on how we are trying to make them practical in the US, and how Federal laws require that the government follow best practices (aka Standards). This PowerPoint guided the discussion.

Please note that the links to the papers presented in Argentina are in the language of the audience there: Spanish. I will publish them in English in the future.

Checking for Quality in Translation: Teamwork

Airplane pilots have checklists and follow them carefully. One of them reads items off the list, according to popular belief, and the other one says “check”. This way, both pilot and copilot verify that everything is in order. What happens when there is a “check” that isn’t said?

“We would like to inform our passengers that this flight will be delayed by a few hours while we repair…”

“We would like to inform our passengers that in the interest of protecting your safety, the flight crew is going home. They have been up too long to be able to fly this transcontinental flight safely. You will be scheduled for an early morning flight. The airline has made hotel arrangements for you. Good night.”

Safety first. Every time. We grumble, but the airline that doesn’t put safety first is in big trouble.

What about translation?

Shouldn’t translators be checking just as carefully? At Gaucha Translations, I almost always have a second pair of eyes go over my translations, just like there are always both a pilot and a copilot in a commercial airplane. Errors in translations can cause safety hazards just like problems in airplanes can, although they’re clearly different types of hazards. I’ve been implementing this process for many years, and my colleagues and clients are familiar with this and have grown to expect it.

I stop to ask questions like: “The translator needs clarification of this text before we can proceed. The deadline will have to slide to accommodate that fact.”

The translator and the reviser have an ongoing conversation about some issues even before the reviewer gets the translation. The reviser gets the source document immediately and gets the change log as it develops. The reviser might even help develop some of the items in the change log!

Here is the Gaucha Translations process. We follow it. Every time. Now it’s official.

The Translator Requests a Clarification: Tracking the conversation

Translators and interpreters face a common problem: lack of clarity in the source message. Interpreters have a standard formula for addressing this: “the interpreter requests clarification”. Although translators deal with the same issue, a standard formula is missing. We deal with acronyms that are company-specific, missing terms, etc. and clarify them with clients over email. In the middle of email chains, however, it is easy to lose track of the changes and of our role. We need a better, more rigorous, method of recording these conversations.

When translating a document such as a contract, a patient handout, or a website, it is important to record conversations about changes to the source text. To do this effectively, I began keeping a change log to serve as a record. I have used this type of table very effectively with my clients on a number of occasions, and an example is shown below. Please note, however, that some text has been changed to protect client confidentiality.

Source textTranslator's commentClient's comment
In the next twelve we will celebrate all employees' birthdays.In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees' birthdays. [The client must have meant "months". We must say that.]
Email sent to client February 30, 2016
Please modify source text as follows:
In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees' birthdays.
Response received February 31, 2016
Client request: Please include all these changes in the source document. Thank you for your attention to detail.
Please mark them with track changes for me to accept them. This will help us with future clients.

As shown in this change log, these changes are often accepted as permanent improvements to the source text. In this way, the client gets two services in one: a copy editor of the source text and a translator, while keeping the roles transparent.

A translation, after all, is the client’s message in a new language, and changes need to be implemented with transparency and thoughtfulness, mindful of both linguacultures. At Gaucha Translations, we follow a process outlined in this document, and clients know that we treat their message with the utmost respect and advocate for the target audience to be able to understand their message clearly, at a glance, if at all possible.

Foundational Material for Translators: Helen’s favorites

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a colleague who is launching into translating a book. He wanted some pointers, so I sent him to some of my favorite sites for guidance.

The NAJIT website has a great description of what a translator is. Live up to this definition, because this is what makes you stand out as a professional.

But… how do I charge, how do I negotiate…? Oh, a lot of that information is right on this blog, on the business practices page I put together for people who were taking my medical interpreting class. You’ll even find a chart that will guide you through a conversation on an interpreting or a translation project, based on ASTM standards!

If you want to study to prepare for the ATA Translation Certification exam, we put a lot of resources for that on this page on the OSTI website. As I look through it, I love the ATA Certification Exam Overview page, where ATA defines a translation that passes the exam – a good translation, in other words.

In case this is not enough, the ATA Savvy Newcomer blog is always there to lend a hand! We’ve been trying to publish useful resources for a few years, and keep at it week after week. This is done by volunteers, and is not a self-promotional blog.

But… if you really want to get immersed in the magic of translation and interpreting, you need to come to conferences. The biggest one is the ATA conference, from November 2 to 5 in San Francisco. And if you are in Oregon, save the date for the OSTI conference from September 23 to 25 in Bend!

A few days later, the same colleague called back and said that this information had been very useful to him. This is what I love to do. Support my colleagues as they launch.

My love for translation…

I announced I am pursuing translation full time. Here are some aspects of the transition.

For starters, I am in Argentina, about to spend a few days with 900 colleagues at the VI Congreso Latinoamericano de Traducción e Interpretación! See below to read about that! Not that visiting my family while I’m in Buenos Aires is a bad idea… so I’m editing this blog post from the comfort of my mother’s home, looking through books I studied with when I got started. Coming back to our roots is good for all of us! It keeps us honest. You’ll get a report on this later, through the eyes of my wonderful assistant: Cynthia.

How is my administrative system changing?

More time for translation projects! I’ve been clearing my desk from all the backlogged admin work. Taxes – both mine and my mother-in-law’s – have taken a fair bit of my time this last couple of weeks. That is done, invoices are caught up, and I have set up processes so admin work will be simple. I decided to delegate what can be delegated. You see, I love to translate and I love to teach. Paperwork? Not so much. So Nicole, my bookkeeper, will be sending invoice reminders and paying folks.

Cynthia, my assistant, will answer the phone, run my schedule, check all my email, and basically let me focus on translation. She might even do the initial invoicing and deliver the finished products just to make sure the admin details are taken care of. She has been learning about this field for the last year and understands it well, so she knows what I care about, what matters, and how to answer your questions.

At the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce I learned that people hired bookkeepers, errand-runners and such to help them focus on their business. All the sole proprietors (like myself) who did this became more effective and grew. They were also happier with their work.

What have I been learning about translation?

I have been checking into what Eugene Nida had to say about translation and the theory of meaning. Back in 1973 he wrote Exploring Semantic Structures. Keep in mind that Semantics is the study of meaning. As we study translation, we are in fact studying how to transfer the meaning of a message from one language to another.

Basic presuppositions of all semantic analysis (pg 120)

  1. No word ever has exactly the same meaning in two different utterances.
  2. There are no complete synonyms within a language.
  3. There are no exact correspondences between related words in different languages.

A note from Helen: This explains the complexities and disagreements we have about translation, doesn’t it?

Steps for translation (page 156)

  1. Syntactic analysis
  2. Semantic classes of each word
  3. Add all implied relationals
  4. Decompose the text to its semantically simplest form
  5. Recompose the form of the text in to an appropriate equivalent in the receptor language

Some semantic units may be shifted from one grammatical word class to another.

Another quick note from Helen: This looks simple, but it isn’t. As we break down the message into its units of meaning and try to set it up into something equivalent on the other side, we get into all kinds of interesting discussions among professionals! For “Ministerio de Agricultura”, should we say “Secretary of Agriculture” of “Ministry of Agriculture”? Why? Secretary makes sense to the American audience, but Ministry is what the guy driving down the road in Mexico or Argentina will recognize on the sign on the door. And is a Ministerio the same thing as the Secretary’s office anyway?

So… we call the client and ask who will read this, what the purpose of the document is, and that helps us make the right decisions for the translation. As translators, we are advocates for our readers, who should be able to read our translations and understand them without having to fuss over them more than necessary.

VI Congreso Latinoamericano de Traducción e Interpretación

I am speaking in sessions 85 and 162. Click here to check out the program.

  1. Eby, Helen: «Análisis semántico y el acto de la traducción para intérpretes».

Semantic analysis and translational action for interpreters.

I have written a 12 page paper on this, in Spanish, but it can’t be published until after the Conference.

  1. Mesa de normalización (Eby, Helen; Barrère, Martín; Acuña, Ezequiel; Perez Guarnieri, Verónica): «La certificación y la traducción».

Standards: certification and translation.

I will be sharing something about the application of ASTM standards for translation and interpreting in the US, and how my worksheets have been helpful, especially in the ATA response to the DHS draft language access policy. The ATA response is now part of the DHS policy!

We have also used ASTM standards to craft descriptions of our professions.

In Oregon, we based our comments on the Workers Compensation Rules for Interpreters on ASTM standards.

All this is possible because the US Government is required to consider industry standards in its work. See the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act for more information.

I will be back from Argentina in early May, full of fresh ideas!

Back to translation! I love this work!

Helen Eby


Review of the ALC 2015 Industry Survey©

I was honored to be asked to write about the state of the interpreting and translation profession as viewed through the lens of Association of Language Companies. The Interpreters Division of the American Translators Association published this article.

When you click on this link to read the article, you will find:

  • How the market is divided
  • How much work freelancers really do in the US
  • How much work is done by Machine Translation
  • What percentage of the companies have their documents reviewed by another translator per ASTM standards
  • What percentage of interpreting is done remotely

Happy reading! And enjoy other articles on the Interpreters Division blog!

Helen Eby

Gaucha TI is now Gaucha Translations / Spanish writing starts in 6 days

Spanish writing starts online on April 5 (in 6 days)!

The Spanish class for those who speak Spanish well is beginning and starts on Tuesday, April 5. Sign up today! Click here for registration. The cost is $45/month, and we will charge for two months at a time. In other words, April and May will be charged together, and then we will see how the summer goes based on the students’ interest.

Click here to register for the online class.

I am now a full-time translator. Why?

Gaucha Translations started when I was 16 and translated a IATA (International Air Transport Association) contract, working as a partner with my mother. That was my first translation, after I completed all the available English courses in high school. My mother and I corrected one another’s work and turned it in, doing a professional job. We wrote it out with pencil and paper, using the technology of the day.

Since then, times have changed. I have reassessed my tools, acquiring electronic dictionaries, more paper dictionaries, translation software such as MemoQ, a desktop computer with two screens, a laptop, an iPad, and an iPhone. I have also gained more experience and training during my work as a bilingual secretary, a teacher, a court certified interpreter, and a certified medical interpreter.

However, translation has continued to be a strong interest, and after 40 years I have realized that it is still my passion. It is still taking the message from one language and its social context to another. I still love the thrill of the chase of working with written translation.

One example of this passion is the Tuality Hospital website, which I recently finished translating. As I did the final cleanup with the client and we went live with it together, we had a huge sense of satisfaction. People would be able to read this material and understand it quickly. A sentence such as this: “¡Entre nomás y tome asiento!” would not have been translated word-for-word: “Come in no more and drink a chair!” but in the way it was meant: “Come on in and take a seat!” It would be clear and to the point. Take a look for yourself.

I have enjoyed other outlets of the field as well. One of these is helping businesses negotiate agreements by translating contracts side-by-side accurately. You have to be careful not to get it wrong on a contract negotiation! Another way I have enjoyed serving through translation is helping immigrants get their paperwork in order by translating their documentation.

Translation is, in a word, fascinating! And because of my many years as an interpreter, I know exactly who reads the documents I translate for the public and how they are used.

But, after so many years of interpreting, after obtaining such a high level of certification, why did I decide to drop this area of work?
It’s simple: Health.

I started to have asthmatic coughing fits at appointments, and those present were uncomfortable. My allergies got in the way. It simply is not possible to control these environmental allergies. It became frustrating.

I thought about why this was becoming more frequent, and I checked an article from the Mayo Clinic. I am not alone. This issue is becoming more common. In a normal job, I would simply be moved to a position in which I can be effective without putting my health at risk. So I am taking that step myself.

What will happen to the the training programs for those joining the interpreting field?

As a result, I am also stepping away from teaching introductory interpreting courses. I believe those courses should be taught by people who are teaching on-site interpreting, which I will no longer be doing. Therefore, my current course is the last one I will be teaching. However, in August of 2015, 20 highly qualified colleagues gathered at Western Oregon University to take a Training of Trainers with The Community Interpreter International. I leave the field in very capable hands. They are ready to take the baton and train the next set of interpreters. You will find them listing their courses on the Oregon Health Authority website, where their courses have been approved, and on the OSTI Calendar page, as their courses get set up.

So, what does all this mean exactly?

I will be more effective by focusing more narrowly on translation.

I will continue to work with advocacy. As an example, I worked with a team to develop some answers to the following questions: What is a translator? What is an interpreter? What is a transcriber-translator? What is a terminologist? These roles were not described with sufficient clarity. This document has been endorsed by AIIC, NAJIT, Mano a Mano, NCIHC, and OSTI. I plan to make all my translation clients aware of it! Other associations are submitting their logos as well.

I continue to teach. Don’t forget to click here to register for the class that starts on April 5, taught online: Spanish writing for fluent speakers of Spanish. This class is on Tuesdays, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm and will be interactive, so attendance is required. Learning from recorded sessions will not be effective.

I still care about the profession. Keep an eye on some great websites!
ATA Interpreter Division blog
The ATA Savvy Newcomer
Oregon Society for Translators and Interpreters
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators
American Translators Association

Serving our community as a translator,

Helen Eby
Gaucha Translations

Lau v. Nichols – Language access started in the schools

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance. There is information on this topic in the Health and Human Services website  and, of course, in the Department of Justice website of the United States.

The Civil Rights Act became law in 1964. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that language access was understood to be part of national origin, and therefore covered by the Civil Rights Act. The landmark court case, Lau v. Nichols, set strong precedents for language access applications of Title VI. It all began in the California schools.

Business skills interpreters need

Interpreters need business skills to manage their client base and so they can also be marketable as administrative staff in a language company. Here is a tentative list of computer-based skills interpreters should acquire:

  • How to invoice – Word has an invoicing template!
  • How to follow instructions on a company’s invoicing practices.
  • How to track invoices that were paid or not paid – Excel is a good tool for this.
  • How to follow up on late payments.
  • How to follow up on clients who have fallen off the radar – the project manager could have changed, and a quick call might be all that’s needed. Maybe you were unable to take appointments for a period of time and you forgot to tell them you are available again.
  • How to work with an Excel spreadsheet.
  • How to work with track changes in Word.
  • How to put comments in a Word document.
  • How to know when to make a change in a translated document you are reviewing.
  • How to research a term that you can’t find in a dictionary.
  • How to set Word and Excel up to work with your language (see this post)

Spanish writing class goes live!

We are finally setting up the Spanish writing class for fluent speakers of Spanish as an online class.

You can register by clicking on this link.

It took a while. There were some family issues I had to deal with. Remember, Gaucha TI is the business name for a freelancer! My mother-in-law had some health issues that took a lot of my attention in January. She isn’t well, but the situation is stabilized.

I had to research the best way to do an online class. GoTo Training is really the best platform I can come up with. I’ve been using the rest of the Citrix products, and have not found them wanting. It’s time to use this one. I couldn’t attempt to teach online without the right tools.

I’ve been working on putting a lot of these resources into a book as well. We are working on this with a team, and this team is awesome! Participants will hear not just what I have to say, but maybe what some of my co-authors may have to contribute.

I needed a partner who could help when I have some challenges, especially with my mother-in-law or other travel issues. For example, I will be speaking at a conference in Argentina. The course should be left in extremely capable hands! I found an excellent partner in Oregon: Luz Romero, another OSTI member, is Colombian. She just got a Ph.D. in Spanish and wants to do something very practical with the language. This is exactly what she is interested in!

We start on the first Tuesday of April at 6:30 p.m. Oregon time. The course will be online, and we will have occasional live sessions, which will have a separate charge. Attendees from any part of the United States are welcome to join us in this venture! We will max out our enrollment, as we do for all Gaucha trainings, at 15 participants, hoping that they continue on a regular basis.

Though this course is enrolling on a monthly basis, we expect participants to continue on for at least a year. We do not expect them to reap significant benefits if they only stay on board for one month.

Welcome on board to the Spanish writing class!

Filling out forms with a client

Issues to consider when filling out forms

a. Medical providers need the medical intake forms in a language they can  understand. Typically, medical interpreters have been involved in this process,

b. Medical interpreters have a limited scope of practice. They are not expected to give medical advice (explain the meaning of medical terms, which can be construed as giving medical advice), or have side conversations (this can happen often while filling out forms).

c. Medical interpreters are called on to limit their activities to interpreting and protecting patient autonomy and promoting patient self determination, besides privacy in the waiting room. Forms contain very private information. Oral discussion of these issues in a public setting, where the discussion can be overheard by others, can easily violate these privacy concerns.

d. As a court interpreter and a medical interpreter, I have seen these forms be presented as evidence in depositions. They are, therefore, legal documents. I have discussed options for how to fill them out with doctors and with attorneys, and come up with practical alternatives that satisfy most of these concerns.

Practical steps for filling out forms with an LEP

1. Sight translate the form to the LEP, line by line. This is a one-way sight translation, English to Non-English language. The non-English speaker holds the pen and fills in the blanks. This promotes patient autonomy and privacy by keeping the answers private.

If the form is already translated, we generally assume that the office is prepared to deal with forms in foreign languages. This isn’t always the case. The translation step may still be needed.

This promotes respect and patient autonomy, according to standard #13 of the National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care, published by the National Council for Interpreters in Health Care (NC SOP #13)

The interpreter promotes patient autonomy

NCIHC Standard of Practice #13

2. When the questions have open-ended answers, have the LEP fill out the answer in their language. Immediately, next to the answer given by the LEP, write a draft translation into English for the provider’s use. I carry two pens, with different colors of ink, so my writing is in a different color from the LEP’s writing.

2.1. In the event that the LEP is unable to write, take dictation from the LEP and write the LEP’s answer in the LEP’s language, and write the English translation next to it.

The interpreter promotes direct communication among all parties in the encounter

NCIHC Standard of Practice #12

3. If there are any questions that require clarification, ask the staff to clarify the question and interpret the clarification. Otherwise, leave the answer blank with a question mark indicating that it needs clarification.

Some of the questions on the intake forms are very personal and may require some cultural intervention. What is the role of the interpreter here? I recommend that if there are questions the patient is reluctant to answer, the patient be allowed to leave them blank and the provider may bring them up in the interview. This promotes direct communication and patient autonomy.

“The Interpreter limits his or her professional activity to interpreting within an encounter.”

For example, an interpreter never advises a patient on health care questions, but redirects the patient to ask the provider.

NCIHC Standard of Practice #17

4. You should identify yourself as the interpreter as follows:


  • or

I have been found otherwise qualified by [ENTITY] to interpret in the [LANGUAGE] language.

I hereby certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Oregon that I have

a)      sight translated the [identify document] to [language]

b)      interpreted the explanations of the [identify person] to [language]

c)       written down the answers provided to me by the LEP [patient, defendant, petitioner, client, etc.] [if applicable]  [may include LEP’s name] per his request and provided a draft on the spot translation to the best of my ability.

Location: Place, City and County

Dated:  _______________________         Interpreter Signature:  ________________________________       

 Print Name & License or Certification #: _________________________________________________

LEP Name : _________________       LEP Signature: ______________________________________

This procedure should be satisfactory in most situations. In reality, this process is much briefer than filling the form out for the patient, because it avoids a lot of conversations!

If the form is already translated, we generally assume that the office is prepared to deal with forms in foreign languages. This isn’t always the case. The translation step may still be needed. Please verify with the receptionist. The LEP may still need assistance writing for a variety of reasons.

Medical terminology resources

The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care has a Resource Data Base for languages that are hard to research, often called languages of limited diffusion (LLD).

Each resource is listed on a table, with title, description, source, languages, strengths, and who added it. It is a truly remarkable resource!

Some languages listed on the first two of five pages:

  • African languages
  • Arabic
  • Hmong
  • Tagalog
  • Laotian
  • Vietnamese
  • Chamorro
  • Chin (Hakha)
  • Kakchikel
  • Karen (Sgaw)
  • German
  • Croatian
  • Nepali
  • Lao
  • Kinyarwanda
  • Asian languages
  • Urdu

Some resources are dictionaries. Others include patient handouts and videos designed to train health workers. Some are even language courses!

Exploring these resources, even in languages other than the ones you interpret, may help you grow in your cultural awareness. Promote this site!

Go to the NCIHC LLD Resource Database!