Why You (Yes, *You*) Should Present at the 2015 NAJIT Conference

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Harry S Truman (attributed)

I have no earthly idea whether Mr. Truman actually said that, but it’s a good sentiment, isn’t it? Stop right now and think of three things you wish you knew. Me, I wish I knew how to play an instrument, how my car runs, and what my toddler means when he grins at me and exclaims, “Deeesssssssh!” (Seriously, folks, he’s been doing it for a month. Anyone?)  Done! Three things in ten seconds.

Unfortunately, when I talk to people about interpreter conferences—both ones they’ve attended and ones they decide not to—I frequently hear the same complaints. “There’s nothing for me there.” “I don’t need to know any of that.” “I’ve heard that all before.” And in fact, they may be right: maybe if you’ve been going to interpreter conferences for decades, there’s nothing being presented at most of them that you haven’t already heard.

This year, NAJIT wants to change that. Our wonderful Conference Committee is putting together a special program for the 2015 conference in Atlanta. During each session, one presentation will be earmarked as relevant for interpreters who work primarily in education, and at least one will be earmarked as an “advanced” session.  “But Bethany,” you say, “Who is going to teach these advanced sessions?”

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

You knew where I was going with this, right? There are lots of topics I’ve seen at conferences enough times that I’m bored with them too. So here’s what I’m doing about it: I’m committing to thinking of something that I don’t know and want to know more about, and learning enough about it to present it to my esteemed colleagues in May. Let’s send the Conference Committee an embarrassment of riches.

I’m calling on my fellow long-certified, experienced interpreters in particular—especially those of you with certification by the federal courts or the State Department or the ATA. There must be things you want to know more about, right? Again off the top of my head, I’d love to know:

  • • How gas chromatograph spectrometry really works, exactly;
  • • The scientific evidence behind “how fast is too fast”—how fast can the judge speak before we can’t keep up? How fast can we speak before the client can’t understand us?;
  • • Whether there’s anything we do specifically that affects a jury’s view of the case;
  • • How being physically present versus present over video versus telephonically affects our interpretation (based on science, not my hunch);
  • • How interpreter test scores correlate with interpreter performance—and for that matter, how we can evaluate “interpreter performance” in the first place!; and
  • • Whether there are any languages in which simultaneous interpreting is truly impossible.

There, that’s six ideas I’ve just given you for your presentations. Did any pique your interest?

“But what if I’m a brand-new interpreter?”

Well, so much the better! We want to hear from you, too! Have you studied linguistics? Maybe you can take on the question of “too fast.” Chemistry? Please explain drug analysis to me in a way I can understand. Did you use to be a teacher, as many new interpreters were? There’s a whole track of sessions set aside for topics relating to education! Are you fresh out of interpreting school and just starting to get jobs? I’d love to know what differences you’re finding between your training and “real life,” and I’m sure my fellow interpreting instructors would love that also.

I’ve already got a full-day session in mind for my own. What is it? You’ll just have to come see me in Atlanta.

One thought on “Why You (Yes, *You*) Should Present at the 2015 NAJIT Conference”

  1. Kevin Mercado says:

    I tell you what, I think presenting is a lot less work than conference planning. And both are so important. Both at the state and national level, every bit of help helps.

    I’d encourage folks to get involved as well. If you don’t want to present, find out what part you can play in making the event a success.

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