THE NORTHWEST LINGUIST Blog

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  • 04/28/2021 10:31 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Heidi Schmaltz, a dedicated interpreter and translator and treasured friend. Member Helen Eby provides this moving tribute for Heidi.

    ***

    Heidi Schmaltz (1982 – 2021)

    Heidi lived for 38 years. During the “dash,” between 1982 and 2021, she made an impact on colleagues, friends, and on the profession.

    I was one of those colleagues. We enjoyed having tea together after interpreting events in Clackamas. We got together to chat over lunch between interpreting appointments. She would call me to cover her appointments when she couldn’t make it… but I think it was just so we could have tea when I was close by.

    She was an accomplished woman. A certified court and healthcare interpreter and literary translator, she also taught Spanish at the university level. Her translations appeared in the New England Review. They were published in this volume, posthumously.

    She took advantage of opportunities. A training-of-trainers event for healthcare interpreters was to be held at Western Oregon University, where we would stay on campus for the week. At the time, Heidi was preparing to take the Oregon court interpreting oral exam. I asked her to come anyway, because some top-notch Oregon certified court interpreters would be there and could coach her outside of class time. She came, her room became a coaching hub, and she passed! She was relentless. 

    She volunteered. Heidi was a founding member of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters, where she served on the nomination committee. She was also a member of every professional group that was relevant to her work: American Translators Association, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society… She was a member of Interpreters United until 2019. She did advocacy. She taught. She was there to help the profession grow, and gave presentations for the associations to which she belonged.

    I went to one of Heidi’s classes and observed the relationship she had with her students. They just loved her! She taught with kindness, compassion, and I got the idea she didn’t let anything slip by, either. 

    We went to the Oregon state legislature together on many occasions, advocating for the profession. We shared a passion for setting up a better world for our colleagues, but also for the non-English speaking people we serve. Heidi also worked on those issues with colleagues in Washington state. 

    To me, she was more than a colleague. She was also my friend. Her bridal shower was at my home. Heidi loved her husband deeply and was so happy to get married! Pablo is Cuban, so she went to Cuba to know his country better. They loved each other fiercely and were such a beautiful couple!

    Heidi loved her mom. I remember when she brought her mom to give a presentation on medical terminology. At the time, her mom was a physical therapist and Heidi invited her to speak to a group of interpreters. The give-and-take between them was just beautiful. 

    Heidi loved to walk. If the interpreting appointment was within walking distance, that is how she would get there.

    She loved books. We compared notes on books all the time. Literature, linguistics, dictionaries, everything. Pablo told me she always looked for the local bookstore whenever she visited a new country.

    I miss my friend. When I learned that she would not be there for a phone call or a cup of tea… I could think of nothing else for a week. Heidi’s life was cut short at 38. Now it is time to continue the work we started together. 

    Heidi’s work at the Oregon Council for Healthcare Interpreters

    As a member of the Oregon Council for Healthcare Interpreters, Heidi gave of herself generously.

    We were both nerdy. Heidi, too, loved digging into an issue, researching it, and finding ways to serve our colleagues. Together, we researched ways to update the language proficiency requirements for Oregon Healthcare Interpreters. We researched how to evaluate language proficiency testing programs. We researched… and researched… and that all got poured into work that benefited the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) program.

    The most recent result of our study of language proficiency served as the foundational research for the Language Proficiency Testing Vendor Application for the Oregon Health Authority office of Equity and Inclusion. Now, the Council has a way to evaluate vendors who test language proficiency. Heidi even studied to be an ACTFL rater, and applied her knowledge to this project after we had exhausted all other possible research avenues. It takes 6 months of study to be an ACTFL rater! That is how dedicated she was to getting things right.

    Together, we updated the language proficiency requirements for healthcare interpreters. After researching every single requirement on the list, we found that some were below the Advanced Mid level on the ACTFL scale. Some tests were no longer being administered, while others were written exams, not oral proficiency exams. As a result of this work with Heidi, Oregon healthcare interpreters had a more accurate evaluation. 

    She was also involved in advocacy regarding the legal framework for healthcare interpreting in Oregon. At the public hearing the last time the law for healthcare interpreters was amended, she pointed out that Council members give of their professional time and their work should be treated with respect. She argued that the OHA should generally follow the guidance of the professional subject matter experts who willingly donate their time, and should let them know when implementation of the advice was not practical. The OHA has been following that recommendation ever since, even though the principle is not enshrined in law.

    Heidi was dedicated. She always looked for ways to improve the situation for healthcare interpreters and the people we serve. It took intense research, phone calls, emails, and meetings outside the official meetings, but she got it done. 

    It was a pleasure to work with Heidi. I grew by working with her. I miss her.

    By Helen Eby

    Links:

    Obituary of Heidi Astrid Schmaltz | Crown Memorial Centers Crematio... (crowncremationburial.com)

    Oregon Health Authority : Oregon Health Authority Approved Health Care Interpreter (HCI) Training Programs : Office of Equity and Inclusion : State of Oregon

    https://www.oregon.gov/oha/OEI/HCI%20Non%20Meeting%20Documents/Language%20Proficiency%20Testing%20Vendor%20Application.docx

    https://www.oregon.gov/oha/OEI/Documents/HCI-Requirements-Explained-12-16-2016-Updates.pdf

    https://www.oregon.gov/oha/OEI/Pages/HCI-Resources-Events-Policy-Laws.aspx 


  • 04/23/2021 09:51 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    The City of Seattle's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is designing updates to its language access program and wants input from working community translators and interpreters! To contribute, please fill out the survey in the link below by Monday, April 26. The full invitation is below.  -NOTIS

    ***

    Hi Translators and Interpreters,

    I hope you and your loved ones are doing well.

    The City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Language Access Program plans to:

    • Form working relationships with local translators and interpreters
    • Introduce technology solutions to manage projects and translation memory

     

    If you are interested in learning more about our work or would like to share your insights, please fill out this Community Translator Survey by Monday, 4/26 to help us better design our program. Please help share the survey with other translators or interpreters you know.

    Please feel free to reach out to Peggy Liao (Peggy.Liao@seattle.gov) or Jessica Sidhu (Jessica.Sidhu@seattle.gov) with any questions.

    Thank you!



  • 04/19/2021 08:50 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    This spring, NOTIS plans to hire a part-time Marketing and Communications Specialist to help us improve our services to current and new members, grow student and younger membership and help us intensify our presence throughout our five-state geographic region. Would you or someone you know be a good fit?

    We are looking for someone who can work 8 – 10 hours per week, with flexible timing. This is a 6 month contract with the potential for renewal. The Marketing and Communications Specialist is a remote position, but the candidate must reside in one of NOTIS' five member states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, or Alaska). And the position comes with one free year of NOTIS membership.

    Why Work for NOTIS?

    This is a great opportunity to use your marketing and communications talents to help further NOTIS' mission and positively impact our community of language professionals. The position offers plenty of opportunities to contribute with constructive ideas to improve all of NOTIS' marketing and communications efforts and will provide valuable experience for someone interested in furthering their career in marketing and communications.

    For details, please download the complete job ad here. Feel free to share with your network! The application deadline is May 3, 2021.


  • 03/19/2021 08:52 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    The American Translators Association (ATA) has sent a letter to the United States Senate addressing freelance translators and interpreters' concerns about the proposed PRO Act, which would reclassify some independent contractors as employees. If you followed the controversy over California's AB 5 bill over the past two years, you might recognize these issues, now being discussed at the national level.

    Read ATA's letter to the Senate here, and consider contacting your own senators if you have an opinion about the bill. If you have questions about the bill or ATA's advocacy activities, please email the ATA committee at advocacy@atanet.org.

  • 12/11/2020 19:44 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    In November 2020, Crosscut published a news article addressing concerns that legal processes are being delayed in the Seattle area because interpreters are refusing to work in person in courts and jails. In consultation with interested parties, NOTIS's Legal Division has authored a response, pointing out that methods exist for interpreters to deliver high-quality services without needlessly risking exposure to COVID-19. That response is copied below.

    ***

    On November 18th, CrossCut published an article by David Kroman entitled “COVID-19 delays justice for King County inmates who need interpreters - Non-English speakers are receiving substandard legal representation because interpreters won’t appear in person, attorneys say.”

    NOTIS, the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society, is compelled to present a very different perspective on the dire situation faced by Limited English Proficient (LEP) inmates today.

    The very same week that CrossCut published this article, the New York Times printed an op-ed by its editorial staff: “America Is Letting the Coronavirus Rage Through Prisons.” The NYT article sites horrifying statistics about infection rates in correctional facilities, summarizing them with this conclusion: “The American penal system is a perfect breeding ground for the virus.” And yet, not only are interpreters being asked to work inside these facilities, they are blamed for the miscarriages of justice suffered by non-English speaking inmates because of their “unwillingness” to do so.

    In Washington State, while court interpreters are officers of the court, they are not employees of the court, nor of the city or county that the court serves. Thus, they do not receive any of the benefits of employees, notably medical insurance and paid sick leave. Interpreters are independent contractors for whom illness has a direct financial impact.

    COVID has wreaked economic hardship far and wide—on interpreters as well. When an interpreter declines an assignment, it is due to the extraordinary risk it entails and not to an overabundance of alternative assignments. Interpreters are eager to render their professional services when provided a safe and effective way to do so.

    The responsibility of providing safe conditions for adequate interpretation for LEP inmates in King County lies squarely at the feet of the county. Interpreters who decline assignments requiring them to expose themselves and others to substantial risk of infection are behaving rationally and responsibly. When attorneys meet with inmates in the jail, it is in a cubicle slightly larger than a phone booth, with the inmate seated on the other side of a glass barrier and both parties using an old-fashioned telephone handset.

    The problems described in David Kroman’s article are solvable without subjecting interpreters to high risk or scapegoating them for their “unwillingness” to assume this risk themselves. The notion that an interpreter needs to be in a huddle with the recipient of their interpretation is arcane. Indeed, many courts and correctional facilities have found excellent solutions, that simply require modern technology and advanced planning.

    When COVID struck in March, 2020, everyone scrambled to find safe ways to interact and continue to provide just about every conceivable type of service. Indeed, most municipal and district courts in King County and elsewhere have utilized platforms such as Zoom and WebEx to hold court and provide access to interpretation for anyone who needs it. They quickly figured out how to facilitate confidential attorney-client communications, bringing interpreters into the confidential virtual “room” whenever needed. SCORE jail in south King County has been successfully connecting interpreters remotely by video.

    As for documents, such as guilty pleas, that attorneys wish to review with their clients with the assistance of an interpreter, they need only be sent electronically to the interpreter so that the interpreter can sight translate the document to the defendant. This is nothing new, and given their importance, the interpreter should always be provided a copy of any documents.

    For most interpreters, particularly in high-demand languages, interpreting is their livelihood. They are highly skilled professionals who must pass rigorous examinations to become certified court interpreters and must maintain this credential through many hours of continuing education and in-court experience. Their job is cognitively demanding and emotionally taxing.

    Court Interpreters´ professional ethics and standards of practice exist to maintain a very high quality of interpretation. Court Interpreters are often the direct providers of language access in the justice system, but they are not the ones creating access problems, nor do they have the power to fix them on their own. May this letter serve as the catalyst to dispel misinformation, find solutions, and acknowledge the proper respect due to this profession.


  • 11/06/2020 15:30 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    And we don't mean the U.S. election! NOTIS members will vote on bylaws amendments and appoint a new Board of Directors by acclamation this December. Active members, please check your email for more details. 

    Please review the Proposed Bylaws Amendments and Slate of Candidates in the members-only section of our website (you must log in to view those pages). Individual and Honorary members whose dues are paid will be allowed to vote, so this is a great time to check your membership status.

  • 06/12/2020 12:02 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    A message from the NOTIS board.

    Right now, Seattle, Portland, and other cities in the NOTIS region continue to see protests every day, triggered by the killing of George Floyd. At NOTIS, we know that our region is not immune to the dire effects of institutional racism and other kinds of prejudice. We’re lucky to be a naturally diverse organization, with members and a leadership board representing multiple nationalities and languages. And we’re proud that our professions – translation and interpretation – play a vital role in ensuring effective communication between people of different experiences, cultures and backgrounds. Whether in poetry or in the schools, in a hospital room or a courtroom, interpreters and translators help make every voice heard, and we do our part to ensure justice is served and opportunities are equal. But if there’s anything this time of protests around the country has taught us, it’s that all of us can always do better. We all must continue to educate ourselves, examine our prejudices, and try our best to make a positive difference.

    To that end, NOTIS invites our members to a new conversation on racial justice, specifically within our professions. What else can NOTIS do as an organization to contribute more to this cause? Please join our conversation by commenting below. We welcome your ideas!

    Please remember that your online comments will be visible to everyone. Keep your comments respectful and constructive. NOTIS will be monitoring this discussion closely.


  • 04/09/2020 10:31 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS’s Coronavirus Resources list

    Assembled by NOTIS Secretary of the Board Mary McKee

    The COVID-19 virus is having a real impact on communities in the Pacific Northwest and around the globe. NOTIS is following the situation closely and seeks to provide real professional support to our members. Many organizations in the language industry have compiled lists of resources, trustworthy professional information of interest, and tips and suggestions, and we would like to share these links below. If you have any other links to share, please comment below:

    The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) offers a list of resources to help language professionals help during quarantine:

    https://najit.org/a-few-resources-help-with-quarantine/

    NAJIT also has a list of practical tips for the daily grind of dealing with coronavirus:

    https://najit.org/practical-tips-for-dealing-with-the-coronavirus/

    The American Translators Association (ATA) has created a detailed breakdown of the 880-page CARES Act recently passed and how certain provisions affect translators and interpreters:

    https://www.atanet.org/membership/cares_act_translators_interpreters.php

    ATA is compiling a list of resources, which should appear on their website within the first weeks of April. You can still submit resources via this form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5WJCZGX

    Each state’s governor’s office and employment-related organizations have their own websites with reources relevant to the residents of their state. Please find below links to the main pages for the five states that NOTIS serves:

    Washington Governor’s office: https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-resources-businesses-and-workers

    Washington Employment Security department: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

    Oregon Governor’s office: https://govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19

    Oregon Employment Department:  https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Documents/COVID-19%20Resources%20for%20Businesss%20Employers%20Workers%20%20Job%20Seekers%203-23-20.pdf

    Alaska Governor’s office: https://gov.alaska.gov/home/covid-19-economy/

    Alaska Small Business Development Center: https://aksbdc.org/covid19/

    Idaho Governor’s office: https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/

    Idaho Department of Commerce: https://commerce.idaho.gov/covid-19/

    Montana Governor’s office: https://covid19.mt.gov/

    Montana Department of Labor and Industry: http://dli.mt.gov/employer-covid-19


  • 03/23/2020 02:00 | Alicia McNeely (Administrator)

    We are now accepting articles and submissions for our online blog and the summer issue of our newsletter, The Northwest Linguist.

    The Northwest Linguist is the official printed publication of the Northwest Translators & Interpreters Society, designed to share organization and industry news, useful tips and educational pieces with our members.

    Ideas for submissions include: 

    • Approaches to translation
    • Interpreting skills
    • Legal or business issues for translators and interpreters
    • Computer Assisted Translation Tools
    • Summary and advice learned at a recent workshop
    • Academic research relating to translation and interpreting
    • Current events relating to translators and interpreters

    Submissions should be between 500 and 1,500 words, written in English. Relevant photographs or visual content may also be submitted, alongside or independently of a written piece. If a submission includes a translation or an example in another language, an English back-translation should be included. Copyright notes and source references must also be included, if applicable. 

    All submissions will be evaluated by the Northwest Linguist Blog committee. Content selected for publication will be subject to editing for content, grammar, style and space limitations.

    Please email submissions or any questions to Alicia McNeely at alicialynn3033@gmail.com.

  • 03/02/2020 19:58 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    Washington State seems to be a hotspot for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Just in time, NOTIS member and interpreter trainer Yuliya Speroff offers good advice for protecting yourself on the job. For more from Yuliya, join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/interpreterswa/

    ***

    If you haven't heard of COVID-19, you might be living on Mars. And for those of us based in Washington State, the recent news might be especially worrying. It can be difficult not to panic as you see clinic receptionists wearing face masks with eye shields, or when you go to the grocery store and see empty shelves where there ought to be hand sanitizer, soap, bottled water and toilet paper. The term ‘coronapocalypse’ is being circulated on social media - referring to the spread of the virus itself, the subsequent slew of news stories and social media posts as well as the panicked buying of supplies. 

    With all the news and misinformation coming to us from every source, even the most level-headed of us can start to feel alarmed. And as interpreters working in healthcare settings, it may feel like we’re in the line of fire due to the very nature of our work. Many of us work as freelance interpreters, moving between multiple locations every day - from busy emergency rooms to clinics and hospital floors. Some of us frequently work with vulnerable patients - for example, those with weakened immune systems, as well as the elderly. In light of the above, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can stay safe and keep our loved ones and the people we work with safe. How do we do that? 

    1. Start by reading information from reliable official sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

    2. It might also be a good idea to check with your local public health authority. For those of us living in the Greater Seattle area, it’s King County Public Health. 

    3. If you prefer to get your news and information from social media, subscribe to the above sources on Facebook and Twitter. This way you’ll be getting the latest updates and live videos of press conferences: Public Health - Seattle & King CountyCDC, WHO.

    4. Look out for communication from your employers and/or agencies you’re contracted with. For example, the state vendor, Universal Language Services, sent out an email providing an update on COVID-19-related measures from Swedish Medical Center which include going through screening for respiratory symptoms and fever prior to entering SMG facilities. 

    5. Read the latest advice on wearing masks.

    6. If in doubt, ask medical providers you are interpreting for if it might be appropriate for you to wear personal protective equipment including masks and gloves. 

    7. If you’d like to get some information that is on the lighter side - that is, if you're a fan of infotainment - check out Dr. Mike's YouTube video: Coronavirus Is A PANDEMIC....Technically.

    8. And here are some podcasts related to the subject: 


    This Podcast Will Kill You: Episode 43 M-m-m-my Coronaviruses

    NPR Life Kit: 5 Ways To Prevent And Prepare For The Coronavirus

    This American Life: Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan

    (Russian) Критмышь: Короновирусная истерия

    Important note: This post was written on March 2, 2020. The situation is evolving rapidly, so keep checking the sources listed above and stay safe! As a popular meme says: Keep calm and wash your hands! 



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