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Critical Link International - conference

Denise Formica reports on the eighth Critical Link conference held in Edinburgh last year. Critical Link International is a non profit organisation, committed to the advancement of community interpreting, both spoken and signed, in the social, legal & healthcare sectors. The Conference broadly covered topics related to sustaining the Interpreting and Translating profession.

The cool weather and cloudy skies of an Edinburgh summer were not enough to dampen the mood of the eighth Critical Link International Conference. Critical Link International is a Canadian-based organisation, initially focused on community and healthcare interpreting, but lately it has increased its scope to advocate for the advancement of community interpreting across the social and legal domains as well. The conference theme, ‘Critical LinkS – a new generation: Future-proofing interpreting and translating’, drew more than 350 delegates from over 30 countries to the Heriot-Watt University, June 29 - July 1, 2016.

There were many interesting presentations and posters from spoken and signed language practitioners, academics and graduate students—as well as others in related professions—on the subjects of research, processes and practices of community translation and interpretingSome of the hottest topics discussed over the three days will be familiar to Australian community interpreters and raising and maintaining professional standards, remuneration and working conditions, ethics and practice across all domains, and issues regarding pedagogy and training, as well as future prospects for the T&I profession.

The conference opened with an address from Professor Emeritus Ian Mason of Heriot-Watt on the uncertainty that has arisen from a controversial arrangement made in 2011 by the UK’s Ministry of Justice. In a cost-saving exercise that has caused chaos across the system, courts and other judicial bodies in England and Wales are now obliged to obtain T&I services from a single agency. Questions are being raised about the quality of the interpreting provided, as there are no mandatory regulations to ensure the use of credentialled interpreters in UK courts

Mason contended that the low wages and poor working conditions of UK public service interpreters can hardly improve while government agencies enter into contracts with language service providers who continue to outbid each other by slashing interpreters’ payA plenary session with the theme of Shaping the future of PSI: Influencing Policy and Practice’, and presentations such as ‘The New Barrier to Language Access: The Language of Money’ and The Public Services Interpreting & Translation Network (PSIT)’ lent support to Mason’s claim. If this topic sounds familiar, it is: as the conference continued it became more and more obvious that our own local concerns are mirrored globally.

Keynote speakers and plenary panels across the 3-day conference—especially the final session entitled ‘Future-proofing Interpreting and Translation: the Road Ahead’—routinely spoke to the issues of poor pay, government budget cuts and the subsequent race to the bottom, the need for laws and regulations mandating the use of credentialled interpreters, and our own role in improving the status of the profession

The panel discussion entitled ‘Interpreting in times of Turmoil – Conflict and Immigration’ focused on interpreters and translators, and provided a space in which the voices of the many victims of our troubled times could be listened to and reflected upon.

An enthralling discussion for all the tech-heads among us was led by Martin Volk, Professor of Computational Linguistics at the University of Zurich, who is at the forefront of research into machine translation. Introducing conference delegates to the variety of systems that go beyond Google Translate and the like, he also underlined the manner in which technology can improve media access for people with disabilities. And no, according to Professor Volk, we needn’t worry about our work being done by robots—at least not in the foreseeable future!

Among the sessions that I attended were some that focused on the issue of vicarious trauma. The AUSIT Code of Ethics clearly prohibits the interpreter advocating on behalf of the NESB client, but this is not the case in some countries. To guard against the risks of vicarious trauma as a result of interpreter advocacy, an experienced UK-based nursing instructor encouraged health interpreters to adopt an approach known as ‘Care Ethics’, which is applied in nursing training programs. The core component of this approach is empathy, which is described as a cognitive rather than an emotional process. Nurses are encouraged to be attentive, responsible, competent and responsive, while also protecting themselves from possible trauma.

Another session, presented by Canadian organisation Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, placed great emphasis on the importance of recognising and relieving stress at the earliest possible stage, and then initiating the established protocols, beginning with staff debriefing and concluding with outcome assessments. A secondary presentation in this session, entitled ‘Remaining Professional in Challenging Situations’, advocated strongly for an ‘Interpreter Introduction’, which the presenter described as a ‘suit of armour’ to protect the practitioner from the fallout of traumatic interpreting assignments.

The ‘Interpreter Introduction’ is essentially the same concept as Helen Tebble’s ‘Interpreter’s Contract’, which is familiar to Australian interpreters; and this leads me into a brief overview of the Australian contributions to the conference. It was, of course, impossible to attend every presentation, but the program showed a strong presence of Australian researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders who contributed to the various conference topics.

Recognising that there are challenges ahead is the first step on the road to the professionalisation of our industry, and presentations on research from both spoken and sign language into dialogue interpreting (in the legal and medical domains), telephone interpreting, intercultural communication, pedagogy and technology showed the vitality of the work being done within the Australian community T&I sector.

My own paper entitled ‘“Are we there yet?” Stages in the Journey towards a Professional Interpreting and Translation Industry in Australia’ included the latest developments in Victoria where, as a result of the initiatives led by Professionals Australia, the Victorian State Government is currently reviewing all aspects of the industry: government procurement, language service provision, and standards in the T&I workforce. This topic tied in well with the plenary webcast session held on the final day of the conference and chaired by Franz Pöchacker. The webcast allowed conference delegates and participants from across a range of countries to raise questions on issues concerning the future of the profession. Unsurprisingly, most of the discussion revolved around the importance of remuneration and working conditions, and the training and credentialling of all translators and interpreters as a means of achieving the recognition that we feel we are all due.

My concluding remarks reflect the consensus I felt was reached during that final session, namely, that as practitioners we should be the first to acknowledge that unless we are part of the solution, we are part of the problem. And if the answer to the question of “Are we there yet?” is less than satisfying, then it is up to every single one of us to become part of the solution: to mobilise, to strategise and plan with our colleagues. This will lead a more unified professional voice—not only in our everyday work in our communities, but also in larger and more formal forums within our various home states and/or nations.   

Denise Formica, PhD completed her thesis on the translation of Australian contemporary literary fiction into Italian at Monash University in 2009. She now works as a sessional tutor in Italian Studies at Swinburne University, and also as a freelance professional interpreter and translator, English<>Italian.

This article was originally published in AUSIT’s In Touch magazine, Vol 25, #1 (Autumn 2017). 

"As the global organisation dedicated to community interpreting, CLI is committed to promoting the free exchange of information and research, fostering the growth of studies in the field, and increasing the visibility of academic activities and contributions internationally."(Critical Link Website: www.criticallink.org; Knowledge Link IC )

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AUSIT National Mini-Conference - Call for Papers

Translation and Interpreting: Ethics and Professionalism
Submission deadline: 31 July 2017

Bridging the gaps between languages and cultures as we do, it can sometimes be difficult for those of us in the interpreting and translation industry to balance expectations.  Particularly when working with sensitive information or in tricky situations, our errors in judgement can have far-reaching consequences.  In these circumstances, our professional ethics can help us make informed judgements to navigate tricky situations and guide us through ethical dilemmas.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of AUSIT’s ongoing commitment to raising professional standards and awareness of the translation and interpreting industry, this year’s mini-conference serves as the best opportunity to reflect on our professional and ethical values, converge our thinking and discuss. 

The Organising Committee is now inviting translation and interpreting scholars as well as practising translators and interpreters to submit proposals for papers addressing the conference theme, Translation and Interpreting: Ethics and Professionalism.  Presentations on all related aspects are welcome including, but not limited to, practice, theory, research and pedagogy.


Proposals for individual papers should be submitted as abstracts of 250 words via the submission page by 31 July 2017.


Papers will be allocated 20 minutes for presentation plus 10 minutes for discussion.


31 July 2017: Submission deadline

1 – 31 August 2017: Committee appraises abstracts and notifies presenters of acceptance

22 September 2017: Registration deadline for presenters.  Presenters need to register for the Mini-conference on or before this date.

17 – 18 November 2017: Mini-conference, NAGM & Jill Blewett Memorial Lecture 

Conference Details

For any enquiries, please contact the Organising Committee via natminiconf@ausit.org


Please ensure that you meet all or most of the following appraisal criteria.

• You clearly state the purpose of the presentation.

  • You focus the content of your presentation, pacing it so that it fits into your allocated time slot (timekeepers will stop presentations at the advertised times).
  • You contribute a presentation of good quality.

• You clearly reflect the conference theme in your presentation


- You define the method/approach, data and results (if applicable) in clear terms.

- You note the implications/relevance of the findings.


- You clearly identify the issues discussed as issues arising from particular professional situations.

- You clearly identify the implications/relevance.

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Co-translating a Chinese Novel: Meaningful Cultural Dialogue

By Jun Liu, (Auckland, NZ)
Literary translation is a unique form of translation, and practitioners need to think creatively as they struggle first to decode the source text, and then to convey it in a style that meets the very demanding standards of a reader of fiction.

In a recent co-translation project of a 21st-century Chinese-language novel featuring almost exclusively Uyghur characters, the close collaboration of two bilingual translators — native English speaker Bruce Humes, and I, a native Chinese speaker — enabled our rendition to touch upon the essence of Uyghur culture and present it in English through meaningful dialogue.

Confessions of a Jade Lord (时间悄悄的嘴脸), by prolific Uyghur author; Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木), depicts the life of a big-shot jade trader based in Xinjiang of Northwest China.

To be published in 3Q 2017, this book is part of a series entitled Kaleidoscope: Ethnic Chinese Writers by China Translation & Publishing House.

In the literary publishing world, it is common practice to commission a translator who works into his or her native language. In actual practice, however, there are some advantages to have a co-translator of the source language on board from the outset.

Confident that one’s partner will eventually catch and correct errors, both translators can focus on putting their instinctive impressions of the text down on paper quickly, without worrying about the perfect grammar or wording.

This is especially important when the storyline switches frequently between past, present and future, as the native speaker can get a quick grasp of the order of events. As in Chinese, verbs are not conjugated, it can be confusing and time-consuming for the native English speaker to recognise when certain actions take place, and thus which tense to use.

Greater translation accuracy is also assured because the draft is scrutinised against the original text by a pair of fresh eyes. This can help to avoid misinterpretations of the source text before the translation reaches the final editor, who may not be fluent in the source language.

More importantly, the co-translators complement each other due to their distinct cultural backgrounds. Cultural nuances and the subtle tone and mood of the characters and scenes might be missed by a person who did not grow up surrounded by the source language, and finding their most suitable rendition in the target language can be equally difficult for someone who doesn’t speak it as the mother tongue.

Through discussion and exploration — and occasional heated debate! — the co-translators should be able to bring the translation onto a higher level than if they worked alone.

When both translators have a solid training in literature, their collaboration can truly breathe life into a novel. As my co-translator Bruce Humes points out, a moving translation starts “from the bone, not the skin”.

At the drafting stage, we put the translation alongside the original text paragraph by paragraph, to make sure nothing was missed or misinterpreted.

Once we had both edited the draft at least once, we deleted the Chinese original and focused on tweaking the English. Without visual “interference” of the source language, we were much more likely to notice expressions that didn’t sound right — even if they felt “accurate” when first translated — or didn’t fit a character or a particular scene.

From the very beginning, we realised an authentic Uyghur flavor to the translation would help the novel stand out in the market. This means using the Uyghur terms for cultural icons, character names, and the way Uyghur men address each other in daily life.

Instead of pursuing a purely “British” or “American” feel, we tried to preserve the author’s unique Uyghur-inspired voice: poetic and philosophical when a character was lost in contemplation; or humorous, down-to-earth, even crude, and full of action when the jade bosses clashed.

We also went one step further — we noticed a few inconsistencies in the narration, and the author was quite happy to give us suggestions. With the publisher’s permission, we took out repetitive parts, shifted some paragraphs around, and italicised surreal scenes and Uyghur anecdotes.

More importantly, we experimented with the tense by putting the beginning chapters in the past, and switched to the present when Eysa ASAP went back to his hometown under a mask, thus creating a dramatic turn that wasn’t obvious in the original.

All in all, we both went through the novel a dozen times, tinkering here and there to make sure a reader who has no knowledge of Xinjiang or even China would thoroughly enjoy the story.

The author Alat Asem, our Uyghur cultural consultant Nurahmat Ahat and my co-translator Bruce Humes are all open-minded polyglots who made this project a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me.

At a time when artificial intelligence might replace human translators and interpreters very soon, I firmly believe that human value shall prevail. This is because we are willing to reach out and work with like-minded people of other cultures, so that the wider world can discover and appreciate lesser-known cultures in their genuine and beautiful form.

Further details:

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Auslan Interpreter: Why?

By Anne Horton, Sydney, New South Wales
Anne Horton reminisces on her career as an Auslan interpreter, what ignited her interest in learning the language,  and how she developed from beginner to professional.  

I have been a NAATI accredited Auslan/English interpreter since 1990. Even though I have two deaf (non-signing) relatives, I did not discover the Deaf Community until I was 23 years old. At the time I was studying psychology, and inspired by my young deaf cousin, I researched the impact of deafness on language development and learning. This led to a conversation with a Deaf Society of New South Wales Community Educator (Deafness Awareness). He concluded, “If you are this interested in Deafness, why don’t you learn Auslan and become a psychologist for the Deaf?” Little did I know the huge impact that single comment would have on my life.

“The NDIS is enabling Deaf people to access and pay for interpreters wherever and whenever they want.”

I entered the Deaf Community at a time of great change and breakthrough: Auslan had recently been acknowledged to be a language; the Auslan dictionary was published (1989); new courses were launched. Initially I learnt Signed English (1988) until an Auslan course existed (1989). Meanwhile, I socialised with vibrant Deaf people and went to every event I could. I joined a signing bible study group, who entreated me to interpret for them at church saying, “something is better than nothing”. Reluctantly I started to interpret and to my surprise and delight, discovered it was possible! (Apparently God appreciated my ‘leap of faith’ and decided to add His ‘super’ to my ‘natural’).

Soon an Auslan Interpreter Training course began at Petersham TAFE (1990) and I became a NAATI accredited interpreter. The Community Educator I had spoken to, went to another job and I became the Community Educator at the Deaf Society working alongside Deaf people. This role included interpreting and expanded to include work as a psychologist for the Deaf. My dream had come true!

Since having children, I have appreciated the great flexibility and versatility of professional interpreting which has become my career focus. Here are some of the challenges I have faced along the way:

Challenge: A strong sense of obligation - “I can do the job so I should do the job”. Solution: Learning that life needs balance and it’s ok to say “no”.

Challenge: Thinking I could never be such a great interpreter because I wasn’t a native signer. Solution: Realising most Deaf people aren’t native signers either. I’m a good match for many of them.

Challenge: Friendship with clients. Solution: Realising friendship need not compromise professionalism on the job. Familiarity increases interpreting fluency.

Challenge: Tension (muscular and mental). Solution: Exercising to maintain strength. Team interpreting. Massages. Faith. Purpose. A hobby.

Challenge: A tonne of volunteer interpreting. Solution: The NDIS is enabling Deaf people to access and pay for interpreters wherever and whenever they want. This creates another challenge however…

Challenge: The NDIS is creating an even greater demand for interpreters. Solution: Inspire more people to become interpreters; fit more jobs into each day (perhaps via video interpreting despite its many drawbacks); encourage the large number of interpreters working in other jobs (because they weren’t getting enough interpreting work) to come back to interpreting.

I have briefly shared my interpreting “story” of why and how I became an interpreter as well as some challenges I’ve faced. But what keeps me in the interpreting profession after all these years? … the privilege of being “the voice” of others; the importance and joy of connecting people; and the warmth and appreciation I experience from my clients (deaf and hearing) who cause me to feel valued and fulfilled every day. Interpreting makes the world a better place … that’s why I’m an interpreter.

Anne completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) in 1988 and went on to research the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on cognitive processing. Anne gained her NAATI Auslan/English Paraprofessional Interpreter accreditation in 1990 and worked as a Community Educator, Interpreter and Psychologist for the Deaf Society of New South Wales until 1995 when she gained her NAATI Auslan/English Professional Interpreter accreditation. Anne’s career has focused on interpreting predominantly medical and religious settings as well as a wide variety of community settings in Australia and abroad. Anne is based in Sydney, Australia.

Reproduced with permission: ASLIA June 2017 e-Update

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