NAJIT2019 Conference Roundup

Hebba Abulsaad

By Hebba Abulsaad

NAJIT 40th conference flyer

It was exciting to attend the 40th Annual NAJIT Conference in Nashville, TN, this past May 17th through 19th! I was honored to be in my home city in the US participating of the annual conference of my favorite professional organization, and helping to host interpreters and translators from all over the US and the world. More than 200 language professionals attended this enriching and entertaining event, full of networking and learning opportunities.

The pre-conference workshops on Friday were designed to help language professionals enhance their skills and knowledge on different topics, from interpreting outside the courtroom, to forensic transcription/translation, to building bridges from court to conference. In the afternoon, there was an optional trip to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which honed in on the history and operations of the judicial system in the state of TN.

A fabulous “Meet and Greet” closed Friday’s activities. This event was hosted and sponsored by the Tennessee Association for Professional Interpreters and Translators (TAPIT), for which I currently serve as their Board Secretary. We had stations where translators, interpreters, and language professionals got together for chatting, networking, discussing conference apps, events, and sessions. Whether it was the first or the tenth time for attendees, there was a station for everyone. We had a fine Mexican dinner buffet that was complimented by guests as being delicious (yes it was!), as well as a cash bar. It was amazing to watch all those professionals getting together and having fun in a laid back yet professional environment. Sometimes we had to raise our voices a bit in order to hear each other, not because of the loud music or something unusual, but because of all those people talking to each other and having a wonderful time.

Saturday activities started with a zumba class conducted by Mylene Green who, besides being a language professional, is a licensed zumba instructor. Attendees giggled, burnt some calories and made new friends!

As Saturday sessions got underway, it was fascinating to see everyone get really involved in learning new skills, expanding their knowledge, and participating in avid discussions on current issues within the interpreting and translation professions. There was a vast array of session options covering all levels of expertise. I was excited to meet LOTS (languages other than Spanish) interpreters who were as excited as me to attend and to discover all that NAJIT has to offer. The turnout was higher than any other year, and the diversity of languages was truly represented, from Arabic to Hindi, to Chinese to Urdu.

NAJIT’s Annual Business Meeting took place at Saturday’s luncheon. An update about the business aspects of the organization was shared, and the result of the election was announced.

Ms. Vallie Collins, our keynote speaker, dazzled all of us with her heart-warming story about surviving the crash of US Airways flight 1549 piloted by Captain Chesley Sullenberger when it made an emergency landing in the Hudson River in January 2009 was at the same time chilling and empowering. . I never thought I would meet a flight crash survivor.  Her story, love of life, personality, expressive demeanor and description of that scary event were at the same time happy and sad and, above all, a great lesson about what is really important in life. Ms. Collins has a degree in biomedical engineering and she lives in TN.  It is very difficult to describe how most of us felt while listening to her, but the main takeaway for me was that, regardless of the professional area we work in as interpreters and translators, we all share one same field: the field of life. We can all learn from someone else’s traumatic experience and story of survival.

Saturday’s events closed with a fun and engaging party where conference attendees let their hair down, put on their dancing shoes and headed to the dancing floor. The party lasted longer than expected (it was so much fun!) and it included a light dinner, an introduction of NAJIT scholars, and fun photo opportunities. It was another great event to network and connect with others in a more casual environment while listening to wonderful music, whether one was in the mood for dancing or for chitchatting.

HINT: Register as soon as possible for next year’s conference and workshops to avoid being left out. Registration will open in February 2020. And here’s a heads-up – we’re going to Fort Lauderdale, FL, June 5-7, 2020 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. We have an excellent rate of $179 a night and NO RESORT FEE. NAJIT was able to have the $37 per night resort fee waived.

Sunday kicked off with a town hall meeting where NAJIT members joined the NAJIT Board and key committee chairs to discuss matters within NAJIT and the profession. There were great sessions covering the history of NAJIT and ethics of interpretation and translation. There was also a great session about medical interpreting, which put NAJIT on the front row of organizations serving all kinds of interpreters.

Overall, it was a great conference, as it combined translation in almost all fields, legal and medical interpretation, Spanish and LOTS professionals, as well as national and international participants.

Once the conference concluded, the buzz that circulated was, “I cannot wait to attend next year’s conference in Florida, and meet everyone again”.

[Hebba Abulsaad has been a freelance interpreter, translator, lecturer, and program manager for more than 25 years. Her interpretation and translation experience began overseas, and she spent two decades serving as a client liaison for businesses, both independent and corporate. In the USA, Hebba has been practicing Arabic >< English legal, medical, and community interpreting in all modalities (in person, over-the-phone, and video remote interpreting) as well as performing Arabic >< English translations for more than 10 years. She is an Arabic Certified Court Interpreter in Five States, as well as a national Arabic Certified Healthcare Interpreter. She is also a Certified Credentialed Interpreter by the American Translators’ Association (ATA), and an Associate Member of ATA and its divisions. Currently she serves as a Board member of NAJIT and the secretary of the Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators (TAPIT).]

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of NAJIT.

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