The nominees for the Board of Directors are listed below. Click on each name to read the candidate’s statement and brief biography.
The terms of current Chair Gladys Matthews and Secretary Ernest Niño-Murcia expire on June 9, 2018. Neither of them will seek reelection to the Board. Additionally, per NAJIT bylaws the two Interim Director seats will also be open. NAJIT will be holding an election for four board members.
Here is your opportunity to pose questions to the candidates. Click the question mark on the right to email your question. Your question will be received by headquarters and forwarded to ALL candidates, giving everyone an opportunity to respond. Responses will be posted below once received.
NAJIT Board elections will be handled exclusively via electronic and mail proxies in 2018. There will be no voting at the Annual Meeting. This is your only option to vote for the Board of Directors.
By participating in the electronic voting process you are providing your proxy instructions to the Secretary of NAJIT to be executed on the day before the annual Meeting, June 9, 2018. If you prefer, you can send a ballot by mail. You must provide your member (account) number on the ballot. Please note, once you select the mail ballot option you will not be able to vote electronically. Mail in ballots must be received by June 1, 2018.
NAJIT will be accepting electronic ballot proxies until June 8, 2018. You must be an Active or Life member of NAJIT to vote. NAJIT will keep a record of who has voted and who has not. You may only vote once. If you encounter any difficulty in voting, please contact NAJIT at 404-566-4705 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hebba Abulsaad: 1st Initiative: Establish partnerships with organizations that regularly use interpreters – and those who potentially might need them – to inform and educate them about the legal requirements to use qualified and/or certified interpreters for legal cases inside and outside the Court. As a language other than Spanish interpreter, I am aware that, for example, Arabic-speaking populations that immigrate to the USA have a requirement to learn English over time in order to function in an English speaking world. In my 28+ years as an interpreter (9+ of those as a legal interpreter), I have seen that there is a reluctance to use qualified/certified interpreters because native Arabic speakers have varying levels of mastery of the English language (more so than, for example, Spanish speakers) and there is an alleged notion that “they know and understand enough”. Educating and informing in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved is my commitment to the arena of legal interpreting in all languages.
2nd Initiative: Spread the word amongst non-interpreter circles, such as conferences for worker’s comp organizations, insurance agencies, OSHA standards agencies, and the like, about what NAJIT is, its mission and role in the legal arena and community-at-large, to establish NAJIT as the go-to organization for judicial interpreting and translation matters in the US.
Diana Arbiser: I believe one of the main issues that NAJIT needs to address is the one of transparency. I would promote keeping the members informed and updated on a regular basis about the work that is being done by the Board and the administration, as well as the work performed in the various NAJIT committees. In this respect, I would also promote new ways of member outreach, in order to hear and deal with any particular concerns or suggestions.
I would also like to see NAJIT more involved in educational activities. My idea is to promote professional development classes, courses or webinars offered through NAJIT (and/or with its sponsorship), outside of the annual conference, throughout the year, especially focused on ethics, LOTS (Languages other than Spanish), and technology.
Additionally, I would also thrive to have more information shared about the work done in the SSTI (Society for the Study of Translation and Interpretation), and ways in which members can both contribute to and benefit from this Society’s efforts.
Aimee Benavides: One of the main initiatives that I have worked toward while serving as an interim board member and am committed to continuing is providing a steady stream of high quality webinar content for members at a reduced fee and when possible at no cost. The NAJIT academy will be presenting it’s first webinar before the conference and I have already contacted additional presenters with the objective of providing content especially for interpreters and translators of languages other than Spanish.
The subject of empowering interpreters and translators is very broad. I plan to accomplish this by: 1. Providing content on the website that is accessible to attorneys and speaks to their needs. 2. Improving the interpreter registry so that it is more useful for freelance interpreters and highlights their credentials 3. Using additional social media to highlight NAJIT as an authority for individuals who are interested in entering the field 4. Include more conference and webinar content that focuses on not only the skills of interpreting but also the business of interpreting and translating.
Barbara Hua Robinson: I have two ideas I would like to bring to board to work on:
1. Development of guidelines in ethics training for ICE/Immigration arrests/hearings under the current administration.
2. Enhancement of advocacy of using court certified interpreters in state courts, and certified/professionally qualified (other than Spanish, ASL and Navoj) interpreters in federal courts.
Roxane King: Thank you for your inquiry. If elected for the board I plan on continuing to support and reinforce all of the efforts and accomplishments that NAJIT has achieved throughout the years. Following in it’s footsteps and it’s lead, as the passion within us and together propels us to advance towards new goals and accomplishments. These are a few of many that come to mind that will be my main initiatives:
Webinars, trainings, profession and professional awareness and development for new coming interpreters and translators.
-Collaborating and uniting NAJIT even closer to stimulate the development of institutional bonds with public entities and associations in defense of the translating and interpreting profession.
-Committed to advocating for the integrity and understanding of our specialized and demanding profession and how all of us as members of NAJIT can contribute towards issues such as the promotion of ethical practices in our field, compensation and professionalization.
-Regional chapters to gain more members, their support and participation.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: I am glad you asked. Upon accepting the nomination, I made a list of things I would like to work on, if elected as a member of the Board of Directors and one of them was thinking of strategic initiatives.
The beauty of strategic initiatives is that they have a start and a finish point and can be used to effectively promote an organization’s continuous growth and/or improvement. Two of the points I considered most important and easy to tackle quickly by the Board are:
1. Going over NAJIT’s Bylaws and Policies to make sure they are up to date (and if not, bring them up to date) and not only fulfilling our organization objectives, but aligned with its mission, vision and values.
2. Setting a Performance Expectations Policy that:
Focuses the Board’s efforts on the Organization’s growth and improvement;
Promotes complete transparency for the benefit of all our members and
Places the Organization’s interests above anyone’s self-interest, personal agenda or third-parties’ influence.
Teresa Salazar: My main concern with the situation that currently exists with NAJIT is the lack of effective communication between the membership and the organization. This has bred disillusionment and a certain degree of distrust among NAJIT members who are concerned about a lack of transparency in the operations of the organization. I would advocate for a new information policy whereby NAJIT would provide a monthly report for the membership disclosing the status of the organization’s projects and initiatives and any major expenditures, in an effort to arm the membership with factual information and prevent negative conjecturing resulting from being kept out of the loop. The report would be more detailed and uniform than the occasional letters from the chair which do mention NAJIT’s accomplishments, but in a more general way. It would provide a clearer picture of progress being made in the different areas or the hindrances encountered along the way.
I am also aware of the need to be familiar with all the policies and standards that affect the interpreting community and which allow interpreters to be better equipped to defend professional practices in the face of ignorance about the profession among those to whom we provide services and who are in positions of authority. One thing that I would work for is to establish an area in “Resources” where all the key documents pertaining to the profession and interpreting performance could easily be accessible to the membership in one place. Included would be the documents that are already in effect and those being drafted with information as to how members can actively participate in the sculpting of these rules and standards with updates on progress made or setbacks encountered. As can be gleaned, I take a global approach because I am a fierce believer that interpreting is one field with different specializations, and no one sector exists in a vacuum. What is damaging to any one sector of interpreting is damaging to us all, so that it behooves us to be aware of all that is happening to regulate the profession.
Holly Silvestri: The Bench and Bar Committee has a particular interest in educating judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals on the importance of using certified/qualified interpreters in the judiciary. This committee has already completed a training module for judges and lawyers, and the committee is planning on creating modules for training court administrators, court clerks, and other stakeholders in the legal community. (NAJIT website)
The above committee, of which I used to be a member, has a vital role in getting everyone on the same page regarding the use of certified or qualified interpreters in judicial settings. I plan to work hard to help this committee expand its training modules, so we can all be part of the necessary education that the public needs with as little effort on our part as possible.
I also hope to help expand the awareness of NAJIT amongst those who teach in T and I programs. I know from experience that students need this information from day one so they can also educate themselves as to what it means to be a professional in this field. I also know it is not necessarily provided to the students within many programs.
Hebba Aboulsaad: I believe the main goal of board members is to serve an organization’s constituency. The way to do that is by first listening to the people in the profession and act on their behalf within the scope of the rules, regulations and by-laws set up by the organization and its membership. The beautiful thing about an organization like NAJIT is that all of us are on the same boat. What is good for one is good for all. For e.g., increasing awareness and knowledge about NAJIT benefits each and every one of us as well as NAJIT itself; educational initiatives like webinars, workshops and conferences are beneficial for each all members as well as for those who, even if they are not members (partners, potential members, etc.), participate and engage in the events.
As an interpreter active listening is a skill that I have honed and continue to hone daily. This same skill needs to be used to listen to the constituency. For me, active listening involves several steps: the listening itself (receiving the message being delivered), asking clarifying questions (to ensure accurate understanding), discussing potential solutions or initiative with the party who initiated the dialogue, committing to agreed upon action, and following up, following through and…yes, following up! For example, if a member reaches out to me or to a committee I am a part of, I would respond within a reasonable amount of time (usually email is my preferred way as my work schedule is very unpredictable) – that is, a few business days – acknowledging receipt and, depending on the case, setting up a time to have a brief discussion if warranted, asking clarifying questions and then bringing up the issue to the committee for discussion, informing the member when that committee discussion will take place. After the committee discusses, I would follow up with the member with a response, suggestion or ideas for solutions. If the issue does not need to be discussed in committee, I would still follow the steps detailed above to ensure the matter presented is addressed. I am big on accountability, and I am open to comments stating that I have not delivered in what I committed to. Sometimes, things might be beyond my control, but I commit to inform those reaching out to me when this is the case and point them in the right direction. Serving constituents is about consistency, honesty and walking the talk.
Diana Arbiser: I agree: listening to the members, understanding all concerns, and acting accordingly is the responsibility of all Board members. Communication channels should be reliable and easily accessible. We currently have the email listserve (which involves a public forum for all those who are subscribed), but the NAJIT website also has a “Contact NAJIT” option to submit any private messages or inquiries. Additionally, members could contact members of the Board individually, via email, to share specific questions or matters.
The members of the Board should monitor these resources regularly and thoroughly, and all inquiries should be taken seriously and diligently. Of course, action would depend on each individual request, but there has to be continuous, effective communication oriented to problem-resolution, both between the Board and the members, as well as within the Board.
Aimee Benavides: It is very important to listen to members’ concerns. As an interim director I have worked hard to create more opportunities for members to express their opinions and reach out to the board via social media. We have created additional ways for members to email the board directly using a suggestion box as well as making the individual board member email addresses available. I make sure that I am on the listserv so that as concerns are mentioned I can look into ways to resolve any problem even if I am not asked about it directly. I personally don’t want to wait until I am asked to do something, but rather by paying attention to concerns brought up either in online forums, at professional conferences, blogs, and other events I can be proactive in addressing concerns or suggesting policy changes where necessary.
Barbara Hua Robinson: For a professional organization charging membership dues, connecting, understanding and addressing members concerns are among the most important duties of NAJIT board. We also understand that all board members are busy working professionals with limited availability. Assuming we are going to have various committees under the board, I suggest:
1. Each committee produces a committee activity report prior to each board meeting, the report can be part of the meeting minutes that is available to all NAJIT members. This is an active way to inform, connect and engage NAJIT members and keep our organization transparent.
2. Each committee chair (board member) is a designated point of contact to answer members’ questions that fell into the committee’s scope of work. His/her contact info should be available to all NAJIT members. So the question can be asked directly. Committee member can take turns answering questions.
3. NAJIT administrator or the president may act or designate any board member to be the point of contact or a triage person if the question is not sent to the committee chair, so he/she can make sure members questions get to the right people for answers.
Roxane King: Listening and truly understanding NAJIT’s members hence following through with an action/s to enhance, resolve or change is and should always be one of our priorities. I believe if elected the following could be possibilities to reinforce the aforementioned.
2.Town Hall meetings via WebEx or Skype
3.Quarterly all hands calls through a WebEx by reporting financially the latest accomplishments and successful connectivity.
4.Internal FB app that is built specifically for NAJIT. Post things that are going on through live feed.
5. Creating an internal NAJIT app where interpreters and translators are connecting globally with live professional questions to colleagues and receiving a live chat to help resolve.
5.Lunch and learn webinars
6.Coffee with the colleagues
7.Interviews or highlights of members.
8. Connectivity events, ball games, happy hour. Since we are all spread across the nation and the world some of the above mentioned could be carried out through regional chapters. Dear colleagues, so many ideas come to mind that I could continue writing on and on, but I will tell you that my feelings are just as strong towards the importance of listening as it is to be listened to and that is the true key to understanding.
Dear colleagues, so many ideas come to mind that I could continue writing on and on, but I will tell you that my feelings are just as strong towards the importance of listening as it is to be listened to and that is the true key to understanding.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: One of the best things social media offers is the opportunity to be in close contact with our peers; Najit’s FB page is a good example. Being an active member of different fora, has allowed me to stay abreast of my colleagues’ questions and concerns and opens the door to effective communication between us. I answer as many questions as I can, offer my opinion when asked, offer help and counsel to starting members of our profession (30+ years of professional practice brings a lot of good, bad and unusual experiences to post about,) and never miss an opportunity to share a bit of humor.
If elected as a member of the board, I would encourage our members to contact us directly with their comments to strengthen our communication channels. Having said that, and regardless of who gets elected to the board, I would also encourage our members to be active participants of our Association by requesting access to our Board meetings’ minutes.
My favorite quote of an old Disney movie was “education or elimination.” The better informed we are about the way our Board and staff are managing our organization, the better decisions we can make when it comes to re-electing our officers. As members of NAJIT, we all have vested interests to take care of and responsibilities to meet. In fact, this is a perfect example of the difference an active participant makes. Those of you who are taking the time to send questions before deciding who to elect are not only doing your due diligence, you are also helping our answers to reach others who might have the same concerns. Congratulations 🙂
Teresa Salazar: I think that your question goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to what I, as a member, have felt is a lack of effective communication between the NAJIT membership and the organization that represents that membership. Communication is a two-way street, but, unfortunately, in the past I have felt that there was a tendency towards a unidirectional flow of communication with information flowing from the board to the members and stopping there. Things have certainly improved over the years, but I believe we can still do better by providing members with a specific avenue for making their concerns known to the Board. It has been pointed out to me that the NAJIT listserv is the place where concerns are aired, but unless the Board were to closely monitor the listserv on a daily basis and which would be extremely time consuming, the conversation would remain primarily among the membership and important issues could be missed in the shuffle of exchanges. A more structured means is needed.
My approach, initially, is that making the Board more accessible to the members it represents need not be terribly complicated. NAJIT has a website that could provide a specific area for members to address the board regarding issues of high priority whenever necessary. Responsibility for keeping track of correspondence coming into the specific Board area could be rotated among the Board members, but any issues would be addressed by the Board as a body. Again, this would be a start. Depending on what is possible logistically, perhaps we might even consider holding quarterly on-line forums to discuss priority issues brought up by the members.
These are just some of the possibilities I have been ruminating on since deciding to run for the Board of Directors. I think we should also be open to suggestions from the membership as to how they feel there could be more satisfactory communication. We should all share in making this happen.
Holly Silvestri: I completely concur with your assessment of the position. I believe NAJIT does a good job of this. We have town halls at the conferences, and I know from personal experience that emails are answered in a timely fashion. However, as is often the case with constituents of politicians, there may be some who feel NAJIT doesn’t do enough. I know that, at least in part, this may be due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the constituency of WHAT we can do, given our status as 1. A 501c organization and 2. volunteers with jobs just like all of you. This is perhaps where more education is required. I refer you all to the document created by NAJIT below for specifics. I intend to uphold the same standards for action as are outlined there. As for my potential position as a volunteer on the board, I will take it seriously, and will undertake all tasks to the best of my ability given the fact that I also have to live and make a living. While this may not be what you want to hear, it is the absolute truth.
Hebba Abulsaad: Promoting NAJIT itself as an organization, its mission, general structure, purposes, and duties is the first step in promoting the professional standards that it stands for. In this regard, the initial opportunity I see is in expressly outlining these professional standards for the membership and those who interact with NAJIT in a way that they align with the core values of the CLAC (Council of Language Access Coordinators), housed and overseen by NCSC’s Language Access Services (http://www.ncsc.org/Services-and-Experts/Areas-of-expertise/Language-access/About-us.aspx). Even though the NCSC does not involve all states in the US, its sizeable scope seems like a reasonable place to start. In my experience, it is often the case that code of ethics, professional standards/standards of practice, and core values from organizations that work together are similar but might not be in sync. This can generate unspoken and/or unpredictable conflicts as we engage in the day-to-day exercise of our profession. Ensuring there is common ground that is clearly stated and detailed for all parties involved can mitigate these conflicts and release the energy expended in resolving them to be used in other areas of our profession. Reminding and informing why items such as accuracy, impartiality, confidentiality, and following protocols, is the foundation for promoting the highest professional standards in interpreting and translating.
Together with the opportunity detailed above, it is important to ensure that NAJIT’s membership participates in the “professional standards matching process” (for lack of a better expression) I mentioned. This can be easily achieved by offering the membership a similar participation to the one in this election process where the membership is openly involved in a Q&A, so that all those needing to abide by those professional standards have also had an opportunity to define them. This process might also include an initial internal revision of the professional standards.
The main challenge I see with what I have shared is the possible reluctance of some parties to sit down at the table and discuss the professional standards, and/or to abide by them. Ongoing and on-the-spot education about the need for these standards to be defined and upheld is a way I see that this challenge can be addressed. For this, there must be transparency and consistency in the education. A streamlined, simple, to-the-point handout and/or spiel that is shared amongst the national membership, can assist in addressing this challenge on all levels – nationally, statewide and locally. What I am proposing would be something similar to the Working with an Interpreter in a Legal Setting – Infographic (https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Working-with-an-Interpreter-in-a-legal-setting-Infographic-LAYERS.pdf). In my view, NAJIT’s SSTI would be the perfect partner for developing this material, and the committees such as the Public Relations and Training and Education committees – two committees I am interested in participating in – the ones to spearhead its distribution.
Diana Arbiser: I believe one of the main challenges that the profession now faces is the lack of compliance in some jurisdictions as to the use of certified interpreters (or otherwise qualified interpreters in languages for which no certification is available) in court and court-related settings. Additionally, this issue doesn’t only affect those who interpret in court, but it also applies to medical interpreters alike. NAJIT, through the Bench and Bar, as well as the Public Relations committees, can provide an opportunity to address such issues and reach out to the appropriate stakeholders when interpreters or members of the community report noncompliance issues.
Another challenge that has recently resurfaced in our email listserve (and that is directly related to the issue of noncompliance) is the lack of court interpreting certification in many languages. To address this issue, NAJIT should reach out to the NCSC, in order to develop certification testing, through the Training and Education, and the Indigenous Language committees, as well as possibly other committee(s) created ad-hoc to address this particular concern.
I’m sure there are many more concerns that can be addressed by the NAJIT Board of Directors and the numerous Committees. The SSTI should also be brought on board to weigh in on these and other matters, to include the perspective of academia and to encourage a teamwork approach. The Board members should be open to listen to all issues that NAJIT members bring up, and to address them with the same highest professional standards expected from interpreters and translators.
Aimee Benavides: While NAJIT cannot be in the business of lobbying or engaging in political activities due to our specific non-profit status, there is much that can still be done to continue to support our profession. One issue I would like to address is the fact that many states still do not have any requirements for continuing education for interpreters once they are certified or have passed the requisite exams for their languages. Other languages no longer have a certification available to them because using their own analytics the Judicial Branches have deemed that there isn’t enough of a demand for that language, which I would argue is not true. A lack of criminal cases in court in a specific language does not mean that interpreters are not needed in the civil arena. I would like the board through its committees to work together to encourage the National Center for State Courts to continue to administer exams in languages other than Spanish as this would increase the opportunities for our colleagues and would promote higher standards in more languages. It is easy to focus on the most common languages, but our profession requires us to look at the bigger picture to help all of our colleagues.
I would encourage more people to join committees to make this work happen. NAJIT can only accomplish what members do in conjunction with the Board. However when we do work together, we can accomplish a lot!
Barbara Hua Robinson: Great question, especially for languages that are not currently certified by Federal court.
The opportunity I see is based on the foundation laid by 28 U.S.C. § 610 ” Professionally
Qualified Interpreters” are “Interpreters who meet specific AO standards described in § 320.20.20
of this volume may be deemed “professionally qualified.” § 320.20.20 Professionally Qualified Interpreters
The category of professionally qualified interpreters applies to all languages, except
those for which the AO has certified interpreters (Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole).
Credentials for professionally qualified interpreters require sufficient documentation and
authentication, and must meet the criteria in one of the following:
(a) Passed the U.S. Department of State conference or seminar interpreter
test in a language pair that includes English and the target language. The
U.S. Department of State’s escort interpreter test is not accepted as
(b) Passed the interpreter test of the United Nations in a language pair that
includes English and the target language.
(c) Is a current member qualified in English and the target language in good
(1) the Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence
(2) The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS).
(d) For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist
Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).
This is a great standard for all courts to follow. Please see § 330.30
However, there are challenges NAJIT as a professional organization can work on. As some court interpreter offices or judges still use their own interpreters with reasons such as cost, availability and personal experience. NAJIT board shall delegate this effort to the appropriate committees to advocate the mandate and standards, with measurable results, to further the goal of the organization and interest of its members.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: Our profession faces many challenges today, but one of the biggest I see is precisely the lack of standards when it comes to credential designations.
Beyond the State Certified vs Federally Certified difference, which some court administrators find so hard to understand, some states have only Certified interpreters in their rosters while others have Certified, Registered, Licensed, Qualified, and who knows how many other designations in their lists of available interpreters for the courts.
We all understand the importance to differentiate credentialed from non-credentialed interpreters, but testing and certification are not available for all language pairs. Sadly, efforts to make some interpreting certification programs “look” better, and by that, I mean more numerous than in previous years without promoting education among the candidates so they can pass their tests with strong scores, hence offering better services to their users, (or worse, allowing candidates to earn their certification by piece-meal, which can actually result in certifying candidates whose skills may have diminished from the first time they took the oral test) have opened the doors to creative ways to add non-certified interpreters to rosters, under different designations.
The practice I mentioned above has the potential to create confusion among those who use our services and to possibly harm our profession, by giving some certified interpreters the illusion of being well prepared to face the challenges of our profession and “throwing them to the lions” unprepared and without requirements of CEUs to improve their skills. I say this based on my personal experience, which can be only true in a small region of the country, but I find it concerning enough to do something about it.
But the back side of every challenge is an opportunity to improve the issue at hand, and that is why education is such an important tool to fix the problem. I have always been an active educator of the users of my services and my junior colleagues, and I am a very proud member of the Bench and Bar Committee, which as you all know, has lately published a couple of infographics to help promote those standards. I look forward to continuing working in the Committee and invite you all to participate in the Committee of your choice, as well. The more active members we have working to improve our profession, the stronger it will be.
Teresa Salazar: I may not have understood the question correctly, but I will attempt to answer it. I think NAJIT has been consistent in taking positions that support the highest professional standards when issues have arisen requiring a response from our professional organization. The best way to ensure that professional standards in interpreting and translation are upheld is by educating T & I professionals as to what resources already exist to guide both the user of interpreting and translation services and the provider, thus, ensuring a professional working relationship and environment.
Among the tools we have at hand are position papers that already exist and others to be written as issues arise that need to be addressed. Practitioners also need to be familiar with broader documents such as the Standard Practice for Language Interpreting researched and passed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) which is basically the American equivalent of the International Standards Organization (ISO). We, as judiciary interpreters and translators, do not exist in a vacuum and this document covers the broad range of the interpreting field. It is the industry standard practice for interpreting, and the standard for translation will soon be complete. There are performance standards developed for the federal government and its use of language professionals through the Inter-Agency Roundtable (ILR). Now more than ever before in this country, we have professional and industry standards to support our demands for appropriate working conditions that, when in place, will lead to a professional work product.
In the late 90s, NAJIT was involved in the development of the first ASTM Standard for Language Interpreting, but was not involved in the revision that led to the new ASTM Standard Practice for Language Interpreting which is a more forceful document. I would like to see NAJIT have a greater presence in the development of standards that affect our profession and working with the various interpreting bodies and organizations that are involved in setting the path for interpreting and translation in the judiciary and other areas.
By the same token, I believe the membership must also get involved in promoting professional standards by continuing to insist on professional working conditions and actively participating in shaping our field. Aside from the professional associations, other bodies and organizations welcome the contributions of those involved in the field. They offer a prime opportunity to get the voices of interpreters and translators heard.
The task of upholding and promoting professional standards is one that must be shared by both NAJIT and the membership.
Holly Silvestri: There are many issues facing the profession and the professional standards we wish to maintain. Globalization, which has been a boon in that it has required the widespread use of translation and interpretation services, also has resulted in the continued downward pressure of our earnings as the market opens to those not living in the high-income, high standard of living USA – not to mention the lack of training they may have. There is little we as an organization can do about this except stress that training and experience and certification are the hallmarks of a professional and nowhere is there more a need for professionalism than in the high-risk field of legal translation/interpretation. This is about education and we must all take a part in this. I would say the organization should release a statement about this and be constantly relaying that message on social media.
Recently we have also had some issues with the certification examinations, in particular the federal interpretation examination. From what I have seen, it appears that the feds went for a low bid to administer (and write?) the new tests and it was a small-time operation that had little experience and therefore imploded on itself. The long-term effect is harmful in two ways. A gap in a source of federally certified interpreters (as there is now no way to even take the test and who knows when the exam cycle will begin again) and a blow to the hallowed nature of the test as a top-level certification. To address this, I believe the organization needs to educate the public (again) about the importance of having professionals administer and write these exams. This is and should be a serious process. Would the public accept the same type of disaster from the administration of the medical boards? I doubt it. The organization should definitely release a statement about this as well and get the message of professionalism out there on social media.
A final issue I see is that a vast majority of those in our profession works as freelancers and rely on the gig economy to make a living. This is just the nature of the beast. There is not a constant need for many languages with the possible exception of Spanish in many regions, so it just is not possible to make many people employees without work to keep them busy. At the same time, a recent ruling has mandated that a certain company (you know who they are) that supplied a good number of interpreters in the courts for low wages has now had to recognize these workers as employees. This is a mixed blessing in that wages were not affected, but being an employee implies benefits like overtime and medical benefits. The results of this ruling will have a significant impact on the gig economy in that it may force large actors in the market to use employees, but it will not affect the wages paid to those employees. I would say that we have to wait and see on this ruling, as it is not something we can change and it may be a blessing in disguise.
Hebba Abulsaad: Proteus is a very important element of NAJIT. Actually, it is one of the greatest things in our organization. In my opinion, Proteus is one of the most powerful resources NAJIT has. It is a way of showing that we are serious and committed to our profession via the relevant articles, news, and sharing of the knowledge of the industry, besides giving exposure to outside resources that support our mission and profession.
I see Proteus in the future serving as a central tool to gather resources and information for the organization with links, style guide, and access to social media guide. Having this information front and center can cut down on valuable time spent looking for these resources. When working in different states, it might be difficult to find information about what other states are doing. Proteus will be an essential way to share this information nationwide. As an online resource, it can be the centralized point to link out to key documents that will be useful to the membership.
Proteus could also be a tool to reinforce NAJIT’s brand voice, style, imagery, and personality. It could serve as the introduction of the organization where we could send it to affiliates, attorneys, judges, and community leaders, broadening our reach and serving as an informational/educational tool. In my opinion, no matter how innovative or successful an organization is, highlighting the achievements, news, and trends can give members and partners first hand insight on how to be better at their job, collaborate more, and encourage more sharing of ideas and resources. Proteus can be the instrument that is the consistent bridge-builder for NAJIT.
Finally, I want to state that I always appreciate the efforts, thoughts, brains, and tremendous amount of work that it takes to put out this publication. Thank you to those who give of their time to make it happen!
Diana Arbiser: Proteus is, and has always been, an invaluable tool for interpreters and translators. It is one of the few national publications to offer a varied array of articles written by the most reputable professionals, as well as news of interest for the interpreting and translating community. I do believe that Proteus should continue being offered to NAJIT members, in conjunction with the articles that appear in “The NAJIT Observer” blog.
However, I believe that since the inception of the online-only format, Proteus has been less publicized and it is possible that many members have forgotten of its existence, or simply don’t know that they have this resource available to them.
I don’t know if there are any records that show the number of readers of the online articles (and, admittedly, it would be hard to determine how many members were actually reading the print version in the past), but the lack of publicity makes it less likely for members to look up the Proteus issues in the NAJIT website.
There is a real need to have members gain access to Proteus and be alert of its existence, not only on the date of each publication, but also with additional email notices later on (and, yes, I hear you, who needs more email messages in the inbox, right?) On this note, I have been made aware of a request to reconsider having Proteus available in print again for those members who may choose to receive it in that format. The global tendency in this era is to go full-digital with all publications, in order to allow for instant access, as well as to be aware of the environment (as to the use of paper, ink, gas involved in mail distribution, etc). Nevertheless, it may be worth considering going back to a paper version of Proteus (in addition to the online access), if costs could be covered by membership dues, and in a scenario where the convenience of having Proteus in print form would offset the small (but real) carbon footprint it may provoke.
Barbara Hua Robinson: Here is my thinking on the professional organization’s publication:
I am all for more and transparent communications among members of NAJIT. Proteus has been a good channel for that purpose, beside broadcasting board’s messages and notice/announcements. If finance and man-power are available, I would recommend for regular quarterly issues electronically. Members who wish to receive a paper copy is able to subscribe with additional fee to offset the shipping and handling. I would also love to use this periodic as an outreach tool that we send paper copies to federal, state and local courts, that can keep copy of Proteus in their office as reading materials for everyone, thus to serve the education purpose.
Teresa Salazar: I think that Proteus is a good publication that strives to present pertinent information about trends in the field and the professional equivalent of human interest stories, and is sometimes used as a tool for communication between the Chair of NAJIT and its membership. Given that it reaches the entire membership, I don’t think we are reaping all the benefits we could from a publication that is widely distributed.
That being said, in the future I would like to see Proteus become a more dynamic tool for sharing all the successes and challenges occurring in the different sectors of interpretation and translation, with an emphasis on the judiciary sector of course. I would like to see it become a vital tool for us as members of NAJIT to present professional situations that need our attention in different parts of this country and the world. Members have to come to view Proteus as a primary way of communicating their concerns and be willing to contribute timely articles to raise awareness of events impacting the profession.
One thing we need to do, in my opinion, is take stock of whether Proteus is more effective or less effective at putting the spotlight on issues in its current electronic form, or did it more effectively capture members’ attention when it was distributed as a printed document. While it is more cost-effective to have an electronic publication, any gains are offset if it gets lost among the multitude of electronic information we are bombarded with regularly and members do not read it regularly. Determining which format is more effective is key to the success of Proteus as an instrument of communication in the future.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: I enjoy reading Proteus online, but I also miss the days when I could give my copies to attorneys, judges and other users of our services as gifts. It was a good way to promote our organization, share important information and educate others about our profession. In fact, I still have some old copies!
Having said that, and considering the equally important printing costs and the conservation of our natural resources, I believe we could consider having some issues available for those members who would rather receive their copies in print.
I am in the habit of printing any and all material I consider important to share and handing it to those who express interest in a particular topic, but I also share links by e-mail or text message routinely, as I am sure many of you do as well.
We cannot please everyone, but we can try to find a happy medium 😉
Holly Silvestri: Proteus is one of the benefits of membership and is unavailable to members. Given that status, it is a newsletter to a closed group. It is also, we should all recall, put together by volunteers. I personally like the content and find it stimulating. I would like to see perhaps a column about upcoming events in the T & I world, but I hesitate to see where we might make any big changes without radically changing the audience and purpose. I am open to hearing new ideas, but I can’t imagine what we might do without significantly raising the budget and/or changing the purpose of it.