After visiting some places in Europe it is about time to travel to the other side of the world to see how things are done in the United States. New York might be the first city that comes to mind when you are talking about interpreters but there are a lot of excellent colleagues working all over this huge country. Today, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Holly Behl, court interpreter in Dallas, Texas. You can follow her on Twitter (@hbehl) or visit the website of her company: www.precisolanguage.com
|Holly in the booth|
- As usual, first question: Translator or interpreter?
I work English-Spanish, mostly in court interpreting. I also do conference interpreting and translation.
- Why Spanish? Is there a strong demand of Spanish where you live/work? Which are in your opinion the more requested languages in your state? Have you studied other languages to include them as a C or D language?
Spanish was originally my second choice (after French) but it was the only foreign language offered at the school in the small California town where I grew up. When the opportunity arose several years later to switch to French, I preferred to keep advancing in Spanish. And now I’m so glad I speak Spanish. It’s far and away the most requested language for interpretation here in Texas. But there are also significant communities of Turkish, Arabic, French, Vietnamese, Korean, and Amharic speakers.
I did study Latin and I love the bit of German I’ve managed to acquire. I sometimes contemplate adding German as a C language, but for now I am just enjoying the high demand for Spanish.
- What can you tell us about your training? Why interpreting?
I’ve always loved reading, writing, and words in general. In grade school I was known—affectionately, I’m sure—as “The Walking Dictionary.” So, when I moved to Mexico and my Spanish started getting better, I started interpreting and translating informally (and pro bono, of course) as the need arose, and loved it! My church in Mexico hosted conferences, so I learned how to interpret in consecutive and simultaneous modes. My aha! moment came as I interpreted one encounter in particular, between an 8-year-old Mexican boy with dwarfism and a visiting 20-something from the United States who had the same condition. The 8-year-old’s first question: “Is it true what the other kids say, that I can’t get married?” It was amazing to be invited into such an intimate moment, and to enable that communication. I decided then to become a professional interpreter.
In the U.S., degrees in T/I are still very rare, so I came back and majored in Spanish with a minor in Linguistics. I was very fortunate that my university, University of Texas at Arlington, was one of the first in the country to offer a certificate in translation studies. The professor that chairs the certificate program is a former sworn translator from Spain; studying with her was a whole revelation on the T/I field, which is still very much unkown here in the U.S. despite an estimated 42% growth in T/I jobs from 2010-2020 (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Media-and-Communication/Interpreters-and-translators.htm).
After university, I started freelancing as a community interpreter right away, so it’s been up to me to improve my skills and advance toward my goal of court interpreting. I’ve taken courses in court interpreting as well as continuing education and professional development activities.
|The view when you are a court interpreter in Texas|
- Have you done courses in other countries? Are you planning to do any abroad?
Although I return to Mexico a few times a year to interpret conferences, I haven’t had the opportunity to take courses there. I really want to take more courses in German and in interpreting, so I’m on the lookout for the right programs.
- Simultaneous interpreting in a church conference, that is quite unique, at least from my point of view, can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?
Well, it was a case of meeting a need when English-speaking visitors attended conferences in Mexico. Most of the time I would interpret for them simultaneously or, if the conference speaker spoke English, I would interpret consecutively into Spanish. Obviously, I was under qualified. It was quite nerve-wracking the first time I stood up to do consecutive, when people were expectant for a message from above. Plus, Biblical vocabulary is tricky! These events were a huge motivator to accelerate my language development. They also made me thirsty for improvement as an interpreter; I wanted to provide excellent interpretations, not second-rate (or more like third- or fourth-rate) ones.
- Although, as you mentioned, interpreters are needed in USA more than ever, and it is obvious that the training opportunities are increasing in your country what is you opinion of the situation and status of the interpreters in USA and or in Dallas?
Without question, there are many fantastic professional interpreters and, increasingly, educational programs here in the U.S. But the public perception of the profession, and the profession itself, are still in development. Unfortunately, there are many stereotypes of interpreters, for example that we are not university educated and only work part-time for supplemental income. As the industry continues to professionalize here, policies change, and more people work are exposed to interpreters at work, public perception will improve.
|Dallas historical courthouse and the bridge|
- When we talked you mentioned the fact that sometimes kids and family members are used as interpreters in medical emergencies. There is a lot of work being done by the NCHIC posters in their Pinterest page. Have you worked in hospitals? If so, how was your experience?
Before transitioning into courts, I did work in hospitals for the first few years out of university. On one hand, the sheer volume and variety of medical assignments taught me a lot about medicine and treatment, which comes in handy almost every day when a court case involves physical injuries. On the other hand, even my best research techniques didn’t prepare me for certain realities of medical interpreting. The medical providers expect the interpreter to integrate seamlessly, and, well, I learned I can tolerate almost anything as long as it doesn’t involve an infant with a tracheostomy tube. I almost fainted a couple of times.
But you’re right, these days NCHIC and NBCMI are working to elevate the expectations and quality of medical services through certification efforts. It’s a complicated issue, since higher standards should mean higher pay for qualified interpreters, but health providers in the U.S. are under constant pressure to reduce the cost of care. But progress is underway, and I’m hopeful for the future.
|One of the posters NCIHC pins in Pinterest|
- Simultaneous interpreters are already using new technologies in the booth, it is quite common to see interpreters working with laptops, netbooks and tablets, using apps and bringing their own headphones. But I know you love to use technology also in consecutive, can you tell us a little bit of how you profit from the new opportunities mobile technology is offering interpreters today?
Yes, I keep trying to start the green revolution in digital note-taking. There are several legal settings where I do consecutive, and after a year or so of buying bulk packs of legal pads for my notes, I got curious for a better solution. The iPad is great for a lot of things, but the Galaxy S Note is the only tablet I’ve found with native stylus integration and the ability to capture handwritten notes with the precision and reliability required for consecutive note-taking. This solution has worked so well that I often find myself without pens—they’re just not part of my work kit anymore. Instead, I have my reference material, pen, notepad, to-do list, and leisure reading all wrapped up in one slender piece of equipment.
|Note-taking and term search with the tablet|
- What are your hopes and dreams for the profession in Dallas? Will you work as a freelancer/ staff interpreter in a big organization/ head of your own interpreting agency/ teaching the future generations of interpreters / or all of the above?
My dreams evolve every day. Generally, I look forward to a more unified group of established interpreters around town, who can help new interpreters get their sea legs for professional work and running their businesses. Personally, I hope to continuously elevate my game as a professional (the work just keeps getting more interesting) and developing my company, Preciso Language Services, as a top-notch provider.
La entrevista está publicada en español en Intérpretes por el mundo: Dallas