01 Sep Making the Case for Continuing Education Requirements
By The NAJIT Board of Directors
Whenever interpreters get together to share stories about their work “in the trenches,” the horror stories inevitably start to emerge. We hear stories about attorneys who try to shame us for the charges we put on our invoices, or agencies that offer every possible service for workers’ compensation, but for whom interpreting services are an afterthought. What steps can we take to change that dynamic? If we simply complain among ourselves, what would that really accomplish? We are professionals, but how can we persuade others to treat us as such? What does it truly mean to be a professional? What else do we need to do to truly talk the talk and walk the walk? What role do our professional associations play in all this?
Like the true language professionals that we are, we start by defining what constitutes a profession. A quick search will show you that the number one definition is “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.” (Oxford Dictionaries) A profession denotes employment, but it can also be categorized as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation,” according to Meriam Webster.
TotalProfessions.com goes a step further: “A profession is something a little more than a job, it is a career for someone that wants to be part of society, who becomes competent in their chosen sector through training; maintains their skills through continuing professional development (CPD); and commits to behaving ethically, to protect the interests of the public.”
...we lack a national standard in this country and each state has the discretion to set continuing education requirements or not for interpreters...
Let’s just stop to think about some of the professionals whose services we use and from whom we expect a high level of specialized knowledge. One profession that comes to mind at this time is that of accountant. We generally pay accountants fees commensurate with the value we get from them. Are they knowledgeable and up-to-date with the most recent changes that inevitably occur in tax law every year? They don’t just keep up with the changes intuitively. Generally, an accountant would not adhere to the same criteria or even use the same technology for 10, 15, or 20 years. If an accountant goes about his work the exact same way using the exact same approaches that were in use 20 years ago, we’d run for the nearest exit. Why should it be any different for interpreters?
The current practice for interpreters in the United States is to enter the profession after passing a performance examination that verifies that they are at least minimally qualified to perform the tasks required of them. What each interpreter does after passing the certification exam is just as important, if not more, than the preparation they went through for their examinations. Unfortunately, we lack a national standard in this country, and each state has the discretion to set continuing education requirements or not for interpreters who have achieved certification. It is the position of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and of its Board of Directors, that we as interpreters need to set those standards for ourselves. We want to be treated, respected, and remunerated as professionals, and therefore it is our responsibility to be at the forefront dictating what requirements an interpreter needs to meet to perform effectively and be considered a professional.
We invite you to join the efforts of NAJIT volunteers in shaping and deciding these issues for ourselves. The Training and Education Committee will be developing a set of guidelines for the identification of those subjects for which NAJIT will grant continuing education credits in the future. We will also be developing a process for the approval of workshops and classes that meet our high standards. Once we have those guidelines and policies in place, we will need help in convincing those states that currently have no CEU requirements of the critical role continuing education plays in building a professional and reliable interpreter corps to serve the judiciary. We also have to establish NAJIT as the most suitable and competent entity to be entrusted with the granting and approval of continuing education credits. If we want our voices to be heard, we have to roll up our sleeves and actively participate. NAJIT is an interpreter and translator association that brings together volunteers who make things happen!
It is your participation and support that will give NAJIT the strength to forge ahead and shape our professions for the benefit of both the practitioners and those who need our services.
The NAJIT Board of Directors