Virtually Impossible? The Opposite is True!

If I had been told a year ago that NAJIT’s Conference Committee would be organizing a remote event, I would not have believed it. The virtualization of “virtually” everything around us caught us all by surprise.

It is a well-known fact that humans by our very nature search for meaningful connections. We crave personal interactions that enrich our lives–personally, professionally, and in many cases, both at once. Connections are important because they make us feel alive, they help us learn, they validate our own beliefs, or they help us challenge them. Learning and growing are best when they happen alongside others. It is that sense of community that brings us back year after year to professional events. If this is true of colleagues that work as staff interpreters or translators, it is even more so for our freelancer friends that do not have regular interactions with other colleagues.

You might ask, why don’t we just get classes that provide the CEUs we need? Why not take a bunch of webinars that produce the magic number needed, 12 to 16 credits for most of us, and forget the human interaction, the human touch, the human connection?

Kindred spirits

To me one of the main reasons is because we genuinely like each other. We recognize in each other someone like us – a kindred spirit. Everyone sees and experiences life differently and we do not always agree on everything, even with friends and family. Yet there are many things we have in common with our T&I colleagues. We speak more than one language, and many of us are immigrants and have at least one family member who speaks a language in our language combination. Most of us have spent time in a foreign country. Many of us also have an artistic element; some of us are actors or writers while some sing, play an instrument, knit, sew, or paint.

During a presentation that Agustin De La Mora gave to New Jersey staff interpreters a few years ago, he told the story of his first interpreting experience as his mother’s “translator” when he was a child. Most of us interpreted informally before we made our language skills our profession. So, interpreters and translators have many things in common given our profession and similar backgrounds. The very type of work we do “speaks” to the many things we share.

“A gift that some possess and others don’t”

I recently read in a Mario Vargas Llosa novel, The Bad Girl (Travesuras de la niña mala), something that caught my attention. When the main character, a UNESCO translator and freelance interpreter, talks about a colleague, he says, “Thanks to him, I discovered that the predisposition for languages is as mysterious as the inclination of certain people for mathematics or music and has nothing to do with intelligence or knowledge. It is something separate, a gift that some possess and others don’t.” That’s what I’m talking about: we are all united by that connection and that mysterious gift.

How will the NAJIT 42nd Annual Conference provide this human connection we want and crave? Highlighted below are a few examples.

  • The Conference Committee will lead several networking sessions via video conference calls where we will be able to interact through group and private chats. Each session will be facilitated by a knowledgeable leader that will guide us through the topic at hand.
  • We have built flexibility into many of our events. For example, on Sunday, June 13 from 4:45 PM to 5:45 PM EDT, Gladys Matthews and Hebba Abulsaad will lead a session called Language Connection for colleagues that speak languages other than Spanish, where they can talk about different issues that affect their jobs, come up with ideas for gatherings, share funny stories, brainstorm about how to deal with specific language problems, or organize study groups and book clubs.
  • Schmoozing with the Board will be a session taking place on Saturday June 12 from 4:45 PM – 5:30 PM EDT to meet the Board members, welcome new members, get to know each other better, share local issues happening in your neck of the woods, or suggest a new program or idea.
  • On June 12 from 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM EDT, Janis Palma and Gladys Matthews will host a session called What’s Your Passion? where they will discuss what gets them excited about the profession. Almost every single thing we are passionate about in our profession is represented by a NAJIT Committee. If it is not…. then what are you waiting for? Call attention to it, share ideas, suggest a specific project, or find your perfect match to participate. There is always a place for you in NAJIT. Are you interested in organizing a local chapter? Do you want to work with other members of a committee that may be educating judges and attorneys about T&I best practices? All these opportunities are available through NAJIT.
  • Our online conference platform allows you to find someone you haven’t seen in ages and catch up with them via our private video chat feature. (I can think of countless people I want to shoot the breeze with!) I love this feature!!

We will even have a scavenger hunt with prizes. The questions will cover a wide range of topics about our presenters, conference exhibitors, sponsors, NAJIT history, conference trivia, and more.

Who said you can’t go home again? We are still here and we can’t wait to welcome you to NAJIT’s first ever Virtual Conference.  Be part of the future with us!!


Hilda Zavala is a state certified/approved Spanish court interpreter and translator with more than thirteen years of experience in legal, medical, corporate, and non-profit settings in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. She is a board member, treasurer, and Conference Committee chair of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators as well as former president of the New York Circle of Translators. She is an active and voting member of NAJIT, ATA, the NYCT and other professional groups. Hilda has two certificates of Legal Interpreting: Spanish/English, the latest one from NYU. Hilda has been a Staff Interpreter at Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey for over 5 years. Born in Chicago, Hilda lived for 20 years in Mexico and loves traveling. She continuously looks for opportunities to promote and advance the interpreting profession. Contact: hzavala@najit.org

Read other posts by Hilda Zavala.

4 Comments
  • JANIS PALMA
    Posted at 23:15h, 23 April Reply

    I want to be there!!! Great piece about the upcoming conference, Hilda!

  • Helen Eby
    Posted at 03:45h, 24 April Reply

    Sounds great! I already registered.

  • Hilda E. Zavala
    Posted at 17:44h, 27 April Reply

    Thank you Janis and Helen. It will be a unique experience for all of us. I love learning new things and meeting kindred spirits, all in the same place!

  • Sonia Haase
    Posted at 00:40h, 29 April Reply

    Registered! Looking forward to it! 🙂

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