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NAJIT 40th Annual Conference

As we began organizing this year’s conference, I thought that the 2019 conference would have special meaning to all NAJIT members but a special relevance for me personally. This will be my last year running this committee as a board member, although I am not planning on leaving as the Conference Committee Co-Chair just yet.

Finding meaning in unexpected places – or experiences

To begin with, we wanted to make this a special year.  We wanted to do something different, so we looked in a different direction for our Keynote speaker.

Vallie Collins’ name was brought to our attention a couple of years ago as someone whose life story had inspired the person who recommended her for our event. But it took this special celebration of life, of NAJIT’s long and productive life, to remind me of her.

Vallie Collins is a motivational speaker and survivor of the U.S. Airways flight that crashed into the Hudson River in New York, in January of 2009. The jet lost all power when it struck a flock of geese after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. All 155 people on board survived and pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became a national hero. Vallie will share life lessons learned during this miraculous story of survival.

Serendipity makes an appearance

Interestingly, the movie “Sully” with Tom Hanks was playing last night and I was able to catch the last 15 minutes. I remember when I watched the movie for the first time thinking about the similarities of the difficulty of what we do as interpreters specifically and translators to a degree, and the decision making that it took to land that plane on the Hudson River.

While none of the passengers were seriously injured after the emergency landing, pilot Sully found himself under intense scrutiny by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), whose investigation revealed that the plane might have been able to make it to the airport and that one of the engines was still working. Sully still maintains the engines were out and if they tried to go to the airport they would have crashed.

The variable that can’t be ignored

Those last 15 minutes of the movie contain Captain Sully’s remarkable speech about the impossibility of removing the human element from the equation.  I am not sure if the speech is real or fictional, but nonetheless it touched a chord.

Portrait of Vallie Collins
Vallie Collins

The importance of taking the human element into consideration when judging the final result was crucial. I won’t spoil the movie for you in case you haven’t seen it, but let’s say that all the tests done with a flight simulator could hardly be compared with the real-life circumstances involved in an emergency landing on water. The pilot was faced with unexpected and adverse circumstances. Those included facing the scenario in real time, without the benefit of hindsight or reflection. That is also true of interpreter and translator’s day-to-day decisions; unique circumstances and the human element always must be taken into consideration.

In the days after watching the movie, I reflected on the importance of doing an exceptional job and making the right decisions in our profession. As interpreters, the level of accuracy needed, the precision required, the delicate situations we handle and the split-second decisions we are called upon to make in the face of serious repercussions are as crucial as if a life depended on it, because often it does.

Which way does your scale tip?

Captain Sully in the vertical motion simulator, wearing headphones and looking at the camera
Captain Sully in the vertical motion simulator

Being human in our case can be a disadvantage, as it was for Captain Sully. It can also be a great advantage because there are all those language nuances, body language and facial expressions that machines cannot possibly capture. For Captain Sully, the advantages of the human element – such as the instinct for survival – outweighed that disadvantage.  I believe this is also true for interpreters. 

I invite you, as a professional linguist, to join NAJIT, become a member and participate so that you may learn more about the important aspects of being a language practitioner. Whether you are an experienced colleague, a beginner or just exploring career opportunities, NAJIT has something specially designed for you.

40 years of making History: NAJIT

For the last 40 years, NAJIT has been bringing you the largest judiciary interpreters and translators conference in the world. In the last decade, NAJIT has strived to become a more inclusive association. We now welcome medical, community, conference, and sign language interpreters as well as translators in every possible specialty. We have come to embrace an ample community of linguist that did not have a home prior. Our members range from interpreters, translators, project managers, university language division coordinators, translation & interpreting supervisors, agencies and other stakeholders and interested parties.

Join us at this important event to network, learn, practice, workout, obtain continuing education units (CEUs) and continuing legal education (CLE) credits, dance, sing and more!

Capture that feeling all over again!

During our 40th anniversary conference we will be celebrating you, our members, in a special way. We will have two special celebrations. We will also have a surprise innovation that will bring in a different experience and excellent workshops, presentations and panels for every level of expertise.

  • With the sponsorship of TAPIT (Tennessee Association of Interpreters and Translators), NAJIT will offer a Friday night mixer with a cash bar and light refreshments. We will be welcoming the Bench and Bar officially with a three-hour presentation offering CLEs from different states.
  • We will have an opening reception on Saturday May 18 with DJ music and a cash bar to commemorate 40 years of NAJIT’s history.
  • Janis Palma will lead a presentation on the history of our association Sunday morning after our annual town hall meeting.

Join us in Music City so we can hit a high note together!


portrait of Hilda Shymanik
Hilda is NAJIT’s Treasurer

Hilda Shymanik is a Spanish Court Interpreter certified in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. She has more than nine years of experience in legal, medical, corporate, and non-profit settings. She is NAJIT’s Treasurer and former Director, former President of the New York Circle of Translators (an ATA chapter), and a member of several other professional associations. Hilda is currently a Staff Interpreter at Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey. She has a Legal Interpreter Certificate from Waubonsee College and a Court Interpreter Certificate from NYU. Born in Chicago, Hilda lived for 20 years in Mexico and has traveled extensively around the world. She continuously looks for opportunities to promote and advance the interpreting profession with the New York State Unified Court System and local colleges in the state of New York. In addition, Hilda networks actively within the interpreting and translation community, including mentoring and advising students and other individuals new to the profession.

1 Comment
  • Observer Editor
    Posted at 15:11h, 17 March Reply

    As Editor of TNO, I am very sorry I will not be able to attend this year’s conference, but I urge all who can to go. The Conference Committee has done a superb job selecting the presentations and presenters, going outside out T&I world for the keynote was masterful – Thank You!- especially because it helps us look into our own from a different perspective. Emergencies happen to all of us, not always life-threatening, thankfully, but it is a democratic condition: no age, gender, professional, religious, political health or financial criteria needed.

    I want all of you to think about how you can contribute to TNO while you are at the conference in the absolutely gorgeous Gaylord Opryland Resort (one of my top favorites). Your comments about a session or service or your experience are valuable and will enrich our readers’ experience. Please do consider sending a note to tno_editor@najit.org.

    We are counting on you.

    Gio Lester
    TNO Editor

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