Business & Society – The Translating and Interpreting Industry: Why Every Word Counts

Business & Society – The Translating and Interpreting Industry: Why Every Word Counts


[music] [music] [music] Welcome to Business and Society Hi, we’re really happy to have you here
today. This is Michelle Menard and Vernon Menard and they are from Choice Translating This is a company that deals with interpreting documents and all of this to the
folks that need this type of interpretation and what i’m really curious about is
I realized you started this business from scratch and so could you tell us a little
bit about why you decided to give it to this business and how you’re going about creating
a company? Sure, and thank you Rosie for a having us
here today. Thank you. uh… excited to be here. I started Choice Translating in nineteen ninety five while i was a
student here at UNC Charlotte. Really? Yea. It’s been a while but um… and the idea was given to me by someone
that I worked with at the time who knew that i am was raised speaking French at
home and that i was doing a degree in
International Business in French here and uh… he gave me the idea for the business I had that famous you know Aha moment where you see this I saw this flash of pictures and I had all the images in my head about what the
business would be like and uh… and I knew that that’s what i want to do and for me the business made sense
that idea the start a translation company because I had a passion for languages
and cultures uh… interest in business and I also wanted to have control over shaping my future and also being able to make a difference
in the world and so within a few months I did
the legal paperwork to officially start a business and so in nineteen ninety five
in may of ninety five we were in business and in the early days I worked with my mom
which was fun and interesting and challenging too but interesting and then fortunately another turning point for us was
actually when I met Vernon around nineteen ninety seven. My dad moved to Charlotte, North Carolina
from Seattle, Washington to big change yes big
cultural change to start a manufacturing company in
the data communications industry and I’d been referred to Michelle
and Choice Translating to translate my marketing and sales literature for my export clients that were a big
focus for me at that time we became over the course of that those
initial months good friends and eventually I invested in the
business we felt that my manufacturing background
would help the company scale in size but at the same time we would be able to
protect the vision in the culture that you created for the company well as I understand it, your company
focuses primarily on health care translating? Well we provid we do provide
interpreting services for health care but we work with a number of different industries and you know as Vernon was talking about the vision and the mission of our company
our vision for the world is to as a small world is to connect it and a better place to be and our mission is to help companies
maximize global opportunities and reduce risk due to miscommunication and so even though we originally
started working in business together and having a business
relationship we also then later got married and
have a daughter together but I’m as excited about the business today
as i was back then in ninety five because we’re still helping clients
succeed overseas and succeed here at home Well that’s wonderful. I was looking
at this code of ethics that exists for interpreters was really impressed by it all kind of values confidentiality,
respect, dignity, privacy, accuracy and so on there were so many kind of principles
and I wanted to know which ones are most fundamental in your opinion. Yea. And the code of ethics actually fits on
on one page so it is relatively concise but all the items on the code of
ethics are equally important and they really set the foundation for the
training that interpreters need to be effective interpreters, but three that standout are interpreting
accurately so knowing that interpreters when they’re
dealing with different cultures they have to still convey the meaning of
what’s being said and interpret everything that’s being said they have to keep everything
confidential and that’s especially important when you’re
working in smaller communities whether it could be the monk community or or the cambodian community for example. They also have to keep an impartial attitude when they’re
interpreting and remain neutral and that’s important because sometimes
non-english speakers might ask interpreter for advice you
know, ‘what would you do? would you have this procedure done?’ and the interpreters are in a powerful
position because they speak multiple languages and they understand both
cultures but they have to remain impartial in that’s senario and there were some more you know with the code of
ethics having that is a foundation really
insures that they can be trained to be able to interpret accurately and there was a study recently that just
came out talking about the challenges of working with an untrained
interpreter and a trained interpreter. It was really interesting because
they quantified the impact of errors that were made by trained
interpreters highly trained interpreters compared to errors that were made by less trained or untrained interpreters and what they found is that um… for interpreters that had very little or
no training they could be volunteers, they can be hospital staff the errors that they made were uh… but uh… i would the
study said that over twenty percent of the mistakes that those interpreters
made could have had a negative for harmful
impact on the patient. On the other hand the errors that the highly trained
interpreters made only two percent of those errors were
likely to have a negative or harmful impact on the patient furthermore they found that the highly trained interpreters made
many fewer mistakes so that the total impact of that training was very
obvious then Well i think that’s important because
there’s been much controversy at least in the
medical arena about using family members as translators
especially children and I’ve always found that very
awkward when they ask a child’s to communicate to the parents because of all the dynamics and
crossing that line as you mentioned between advising and providing translation. Yes. What a terrible position to
put the child in, ‘please tell your mother that she’s got terminal cancer.’ Or that she’s dying or to just basically give the child
instructions that are really over their head in terms of trying to interpret it and so on. Absolutely. before you came here you were
telling me over the phone about some cases that you had found really really
difficult so and jotted down some notes about three of them and I really want to put you folks and spot and one of them, let’s see if I’ve got
this right involved a human resources manager of a local manufacturing company who requested a price quotation for translating its entire human
resources and safety procedures and so on. Well yeah. And after they’ve received a quote about
how much that would cost them the human resources manager and
this made me chuckle said that the price was higher than she had budgeted and why couldn’t you just translate the
last page of the manual which was sort of the knowledgement of
receipt and understanding if you know what I mean just a sign off page having not been able to read any of the rest of it and Michelle why didn’t you
think that this client would be a good fit for your company? Yea, well it’s a challenge because
number one when we’re translating something we
wanna make sure the audience understands and so to to be asked to translate just the big
knowledgement and understanding page versus the entire training and safety manual is a little disturbing because we want, we
want you know when we’re working with companies that that their employees are obviously
trained and get the information whether they speak Spanish or Vietnamese or
whatever language just like the English-speaking employees have access to all of that information so that was a little daunting but at the end of the day we can help
clients when they’re trying to budget for translations we can help them through that process and looking at well how long did it take to do that in English to create it
how many people reviewed it so we can help them with that process
of budgeting for translation and then also what trainings did you do
for your English-speaking employees so how can we carry that over to your
non-English speaking employees so that they are also being safe in the workplace not getting injured in the
workplace and were you going to add something else to that Vernon? yeah that the trouble that we had
the ethical trouble that we had with that is that um… a company was was making sure that they were covered from legal
liability in the case that the Spanish-speaking person’s arm got cut off but on the other hand they’re investing and
making sure that English-speaking persons arm wasn’t cut off. Right. Right. Yes. Very unfair. Yeah so you know it
didn’t align with our our values so we prefer to stay out of that. Yes. Very wise decision i was
thinking how difficult it must be for example or even costly to translate
one of those long informed consent documents you know the temptation well first of all many people who read them
don’t read and they just sign them um… but to translate one, have you done that? Yes we’ve translated a number of
consents over the years. Particularly for clinical trials for
medical drug trials and treatment trials and wide range of documents and when clients are looking to get
something translated it’s really thinking about who’s the audience and
how is it going to be used and then from a budget standpoint is
there anything that we can do to make the document um… more internationally friendly at the beginning so that wouldn’t work so much for a consent
document but on the other hand if it were a
training manual or instruction manual perhaps some of the lengthy text could
be replaced by some diagrams or some charts so that makes it less
wordy to translate so it’s more cost effective to
translate that way so there are different strategies that we can do in working with
clients so that to make a document easily
translatable so that the message is getting across accurately
and that it’s on budget. I recently saw a document that had to be first of all created and then translated
for people with cognitive disabilities and they used a lot of pictures and charts and so on that really actually I said I wish they would do
this for me because finally I could understand you know what was going on in
the very very complicated type protocol. All right so I can’t resist now, Vernon
since we’re getting to know each other better here Another case for you and said this with when a nurse called and she said she had a little problem on
her hands and she suspected that they homeless uninsured man had had an operation at the hospital or whatever with an undocumented immigrant alright so she was thinking about this and the hospital
wanted to discharge him uh… no money was coming in an no money
was going to come in and so on and he didn’t want to go and obviously probably the reason he didn’t want to
go was he had nowhere to go and so the nurse said look,
just help me all I want you to do his translate for me following words if you don’t find yourself a place to go
we will have the deported so uh… you didn’t want to do that. First I want to say that in the
Charlotte region that the major health care networks do a fantastic job
complying with or doing their best to comply with title six of the civil
rights act, yes. However, the real life situations on the ground
day to day um… are complex and staff sometimes
find themselves in situations for which they’re not perfectly trained or educated
so we work very very closely with the administration of health care providers to uh… resolve those kind of situations and
help with education and training whenever these things come up so I wanted
to say that first uh… however this was
one of those situations that required education the nurse faxed over uh… the request to translate
this sentence if you don’t find a place to go we’ll have you deported. The patient didn’t
want to leave because he didn’t have a place to go and second of all was
concerned about follow-up care he didn’t have any access to to that so he was in a
predicament but the nurse obviously was concerned about her facility too and they
weren’t prepared to deal with it either and she was trying to solve a problem
the best way she could figure out. So, I called her on the phone uh… we talked
in the office about who’s going to handle this and I got the short straw so
i got the short straw but uh… so I called her on the
phone and I explained that that handling the issue or approaching that
issue that way might not be the uh… in the best interests of her
facility uh… for a number of reasons uh… firstly it’s illegal secondly it would be a public relations
nightmare uh… for her organization if any immigrants rights organization found
out about what happened and it could result in uh…
a costly lawsuit also and so uh… I suggested maybe they think of, she
think with her management about other ways to approach the situation and i also talked with uh… the director of that facility as I mentioned we work with the
management to try to resolve these kinds of issues in the uh… in uh… uh… in uh… quiet respectful and
constructive way uh… so that we’re all focusing on
solving the same problem together and uh… the director was very
appreciative of my input ended up resolving the issue in a legal and a compassionate way so
uh… I think it just shows that everyone was really trying to provide the
best possible care but the reality is some of these issues are complex
and there’s limited resources and uh… and that can lead to a lot of
frustration in the workplace so, were thankful that um… that we can work with our clients to not only look at other trainings we can help them to provide because they may have thousands of employees
not just hundreds of employees, but thousands of employees that are needing to learn about how to deal with
diverse populations. I mean what you were getting into was not
only an issue of translation but an issue of helping them
and figure out where to go and so on and
implicitly demanding that the institution figure out some way to safely discharge him. And protect people’s dignity. Yea I mean what the nurse wanted to do
was an effect issue with direct uh… and that’s kind of sad but like you said…
it was resolved perfectly well yeah I think the
intentions although the receiving that fax was a little bit
shocking I think it was the intentions even the words weren’t there, the
intentions behind the words were good. It was just a result of some
frustration. Right. And kind of being stuck on okay how do I deal with this
exactly. It had to be handled delicately because the results could have been
disastrous for that person. That’s interesting. Well, let me ask another question. At this one
if I get it right there was a doctor who had a patient. The patient said he couldn’t speak English
but the doctor said ‘yes you can speak english you’re just sort
of faking it.’ So you’re translator got over there and basically said ‘this man really can’t English. I mean what did the interpreter do hundred
how did he handle that? We’ve been in business seventeen years now so we see such a wide range of of scenarios on the appointment because
we’re having interpreters out in the field everyday of the week every, day of
the year so but this one was also another one that
kind of took us back a little bit but um… you know, in the client had requested an interpreter for this patient
it was documented in the system that the patient and had an English language limitation and need an interpreter so when the appointment was scheduled the interpreter arrived early for the
appointment but surprisingly the patient provider were already meeting. Everyone had gotten a little ahead of schedule. They were already meeting and so when the
interpreter went in the room, the provider you know let him know that he wasn’t needed and as the interpreter was looking at the
patient the body language of the patient clearly
showed that the patient didn’t understand what was going on and that the purpose of this appointment was
actually a pre surgery consult and to go over, to go over what was going to happen with the
surgery and how to prepare for surgery, the usual you know not to eat anything not to drink
anything within a certain amount of time
Right. Because there are serious complications that could result if the protocol is not followed.
And so when the interpreter realized that uh… that the patient didn’t speak
English he intervened with the provider and said ‘yeah i’m here to
interpret and the provider was very insistent
that the patient did in fact speak English and should be able to speak English
and so there was obviously a cultural competency of cultural awareness that
was that was lacking there and surprisingly the provider was an
immigrant that was from a non-English
speaking countries that was surprising but um… the interpreter kind of stepping more in
the role in this case of advocate uh… to be able to make sure that the patient is
able to get the care needed and the interpreter intervened again and
asked to be able to interpret and the provider was still again
insisting on just going forward and that they interpreter could leave and
go help someone else and so the interpreter stepped out. Before
then he actually verified asking direct
questions to the patient ‘do you understand?’ and the
patient said ‘No. No I do not understand.’ That’s true. Thank you for clarifying and so the interpreter you know politely you know when out of the room and then went to a supervisor there and was able to come back in with supervisor
and kind of resolve that situation and then the provider was working
with the supervisor to get additional training and uh… information about how to be you
culturally appropriate and culturally sensitive and the importance of being able to
accurately communicate. That’s a very complex situation. We keep getting back to this issue the translator
the interpreter being neutral and not being an advocate i can imagine… That’s the fine line…
the fine line. Do you have other instances I mean I would find it for example very difficult as an interpreter when I see
something going on not to intervene. I mean… It’s very important it’s very important to maintain
objectivity to maintain both parties or all participants in an
interpreting session to trust that the interpreter is going
to be impartial. However, if the outcome is being jeopardized at
some point the interpreter then is allowed advocate or intervene in a way that can
get things back on track and I think Michelle you have a great story
that can uh… they can uh… demonstrate that uh…
where confidentiality is still being protected but the interpreter was able to
intervene indirectly uh… but very effectively to save a
situation that was in jeopardy. Yeah the interpreter had interpreted a number
for a number of appointments for a patient who had previously bee in a gang… A gang? A gang. We have that here in charlotte as well as much
as we don’t want uh… to uh… that to happen and he had through the course of some
previous appointments had uh… shared and it was interpreted
that he had taken illegal drugs in the past and so during this particular
appointment on that day the provider needed to find out
if the patient had taken drugs previously because that would hinder the treatment plan going forward for this
other uh… scenario that he was dealing with.
It could have been dangerous. And in fact if he had taken uh… illegal
drugs before then this new treatment plan would be
very detrimental to his health going forward. So when interpreter is here interpreting
in the provider said ‘have you taken any drugs previously?’ and the patient very quickly says
matter-of-factly ‘no.’ and in the interpreter’s head as the interpreter of course his voice
he’s interpreting everything that is being said but in his mind he’s thinking oh my
goodness I know that’s not accurate and now i have the dilemma of uh… knowing this information that’s
confidential but if by don’t share it then what’s
gonna happen to the patient’s health going forward and so the interpreter again acting uh… very strategically and carefully then realized okay in order to not divulge confidentiality I
can as the interpreter ask the provider to ask the question again and to explain the
reasoning behind the question and so then the provider ask the question again ‘have you taken any drugs previously?’ and then why that was important and and then fortunately the patient then said ‘well
yes as a matter of fact i have.’ So they were able to find a new course
of treatment for him. And his confidentiality was preserved. Exactly.
Great. And they didn’t report him or any of that kind of thing?
Nope everything went very very well it could have gotten off-track but
thankfully it stayed on track. Can you think
of other ones? I mean really fascinated with the ethical tight rope I think uh… you know coming to mind now
not necessarily but I think with the trainings that we do and focusing on the code of ethics what is important for people to realize is
you can be bilingual, you can even be bicultural but it doesn’t mean that you can be an
effective interpreter and so to make an interpreter
effective they really have to have a lot of training uh… to do what they do. I think that’s a great
distinction that… I used to speak Czech when I was a little girl and so
on and so forth but just because your bilingual and
bicultural really doesn’t mean that you’re a good interpreter. That’s right. And the same is true also on the
translation side we’ve kinda talked about both uh… types of skills today but, interpreting is someone an interpreter is
someone who focuses on the spoken language and verbally and this is
done by telephone uh… by video, face-to-face, or in person but on the other side their is um…
document translation and these are our translators who tend to focus there on
their written words uh… they’re working in their homes, they’re all over the world.
It’s not contextual… And they also have a little bit more time to find the
exact the exact words but they also have to be certified and have to have training
in the skills there to be able to translate accurately or the message can be
completely uh… missed. I think you bring up the great distinction between translators and
interpreters and between doing something just from paper as opposed to doing something
on-the-scene live so to speak. You know we really don’t have that much
time left together so is there any message you want to communicate to our
audience about your industry about what’s the most important thing
about the service it provides. Well really this is a program about ethics and for us it’s important to do our work correctly accurately uh… because it’s important to do the right
thing that’s not specific to our industry it’s just how people should be
um… but whenever an organization uh… has uh… language or cultural obstacles to
overcome they have a choice to make if they if they tackle those issues head-on
then uh… they’re going to have an opportunity to
reduce cost reduce risk and have better outcomes. Yeah. Well there was a wonderful study that
came out recently that actually looked at um… CEOs from global companies and then asked them ‘okay, why do you think you’re losing business opportunities overseas?’ Or ‘How have
you lost these contracts overseas?’ and one of the things things that they say was a
primary reason and I think almost fifty percent of the time… Forty nine percent
of the time the CEOs said that they lost big international deals because it did
not have the language and cultural competence in that organization and that eighty five percent of them
said that they would have greater uh… revenues, greater market share and
increased profits if they had the resources in house. That’s amazing. No but it also goes to show the kind of
world we live in and the importance of being culturally aware and culturally
sensitive and to be able to provide these services to
people especially in Charlotte I mean we aren growing to
be a very diverse population more and more uh… as people come because they see the opportunities and uh…
and a new style of life and so on. Well we really wanna thank you um… for your
time today. Thank you. It’s been fun and I think you’ve really told the audience
quite a bit about an industry they might be quite unfamiliar with, the interpreting
industry. Thank you Michelle and Vernon
Thank you. Thank you. [music] [music] [music]

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