Center for Art in Translation Reports on Joint Workshop

By Shevi Berlinger and Olivia E. Sears of the Center for Art in Translation

The Center for Art in Translation was thrilled to present its first collaborative workshop with NCTA, entitled “Literary Translation: An Introduction for the Novice and New Ideas for the Experienced Literary Translator.” Hopefully the first in a series, the workshop was presented at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco and was well-attended by an audience of almost 50 literary and nonliterary translators alike.

The workshop provided an overview of the field of literary translation, covering both practical advice and artistic approaches to the craft. Opening with a discussion of thorny copyright issues, the workshop included an informative slideshow, group translation exercise, and ample opportunities for questions and answers. Marian Schwartz, an award-winning Russian translator and former President of ALTA, was the workshop facilitator. Judging from the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the audience, CAT is looking forward to holding many more translation workshops in the future. We thank NCTA for this wonderful opportunity.

Translators in High Demand in Europe

Translators’ future is bright in the European Union. As the Union just expanded on May 1st, integrating 10 more nations for a total of 25 countries, the number of official languages went from 11 to 20, bringing the number of language combinations to a mere 380! “If you know someone who can translate from Maltese into Finnish, please let us know!” begs Karl-Johan Loenroth, head of the EU’s Directorate-General for Translation. With a budget growing from €500M to €800, Loenroth will engage in the hiring of 110 additional translators for each one of the 9 new official languages.

United We Bargain, Divided We Beg

by Mary Lou Aranguren
State Certified Spanish Interpreter

Court interpreters in the state trial courts face a number of challenges and changes in the coming months. The projected raise to $265/day is meant to sweeten a bitter pill: the model contract put forward unilaterally by the Judicial Council (JC).

  • The JC is working on a statewide “model” contract for contract interpreters that they expect to have ready in July. As independent contractors, interpreters have limited options in responding to the imposition of a one-sided contract.
  • Language Line, formerly owned by AT&T is actively selling itself as a source of interpreting services in the California courts. The program bypasses certification standards for court interpreting by using interpreters “certified by Language Line.
  • The JC has already chipped away at certification requirements with the ”provisionally qualified” compensation program, and courts throughout California daily ignore good-cause requirements and procedures.

How can we protect our profession? A contract, by definition, is a mutual agreement. But the Administrative Office of the Courts has recommended that the Judicial Council not negotiate with interpreters on rates or policies. The Bay Area Court Interpreters Association (BACI) and the California Federation of Interpreters (CFI) recommend that interpreters not sign a contract that has not been negotiated with interpreters or our representatives.

The two organizations will hold a series of workshops throughout the state in May and June to promote a discussion of court interpreters’ employment status and options, so that interpreters can develop an interpreter model contract. Court interpreters who attend will receive 1.5 hours of free continuing education credits for the workshop portion. “Labor Concerns in the California Courts,” which examines the ins and outs of employee and independent contractor status.

Workshops are scheduled for: May 6, Orange County; May 11, Sacramento; May 18, Sonoma County; May 31, Oakland; June 3, 6 & 8 in Los Angeles County (several locations); June 10, San Diego; and June 17, Monterey. For more information please call BACI at (415) 421-6833 ext. 229.

As part of an ongoing effort to gain a voice and control in professional development and working conditions for court interpreters, BACI has recently affiliated with the Northern California Media Workers Guild/Communication Workers of America (NCMWG/CWA). Los Angeles-based CFI will vote on affiliating with CWA in late May.

Historic Step Taken by Interpreters Organizations

by Essam Elmahgoop

In response to the latest actions taken by the Judicial Council in California, the three major interpreters organizations took a historic step and sent a joint letter to the Chief Justice and all Judicial Council members. Here is the letter:

Dear Chief Justice George:

In a time of diminishing numbers of qualified court interpreters, the Judicial Council has taken measures that will further exacerbate this situation. On December 2, 1999 the Council, upon recommendation from staff, voted to adopt regressive compensation policies for court interpreters.

The Council adopted a mileage compensation Policy which will adversely affect many courts and interpreters statewide. This policy is completely contrary to a long established practice of compensating interpreters for full round trip mileage in a majority of the state trial courts. The Mercer Study, commissioned by the Judicial Council, found that mileage was paid by 72% of the entities surveyed. The vast majority of northern California trial courts presently pay full round trip mileage. This new policy will negatively affect these courts’ ability to contract with interpreters.

Additionally, the adopted cancellation policy represents a degree of control inconsistent with the court classification of a majority of court interpreters as independent contractors. A state court is not entitled to any “offset amount” if an interpreter is canceled and then accepts another assignment during the same time frame, be it in the state or federal court system. Such policy clearly suggests control over an independent contractor’s ability to earn a living. Once an interpreter is canceled from an assignment, he/she should be free to do as they wish.

According to the Proposed Recommendations of Remaining Compensation Issues matrix, AOC staff states the legal opinion of the law firm of Morrison and Forester clearly advises that courts and other agencies can cite the public policy rationale of conserving public resources as a justification for this proposed policy. How will public resources be conserved when interpreters elect to take their cancellation fee and decline other court assignments? Court cases in desperate need of interpreters will be unable to proceed. This will prove to be a shortsighted and costly attempt at controlling professionals in high demand.

Staff’s recommended definition of the full and half-day sessions will create more confusion statewide than the intended clarification. The Council’s hired legal opinion suggests that the time frames need to be clearly bracketed. Clearly defined bracketed time frames were proposed by the Court Interpreters Advisory Panel, yet AOC staff chose not to follow their advice. In fact, AOC staff, via Mr. Joseph Wong, failed to propose that any of the CIAP’s recommendations be adopted by the Council.

CIAP members were appointed by you in an advisory capacity because of their expertise in the professional field of court interpreting. Why then do their recommendations continue to go unheard? Why does AOC staff consistently put forth the recommendations of the Trial Court Presiding Judges and Court Executives Panels in matters dealing with court interpreters? Is it not Mr. Wong’s responsibility to assist the CIAP and present their recommendations? Why do staff’s recommendations consistently follow proposals by other panels, and not the CIAP’s? The court interpreter compensation recommendations proposed by the CIAP are all consistent with existing policies/contracts in many state trial courts throughout California. Their definition of the full and half-day sessions, the cancellation policy, mileage reimbursements, excess pay, etc…, are in line with accepted practices that would place the state courts in a competitive position with other users of interpreter services. The CIAP’s proposals are also consistent with the panel’s mandate to conduct outreach and recruitment. Regressive policies will not accomplish these important goals.

These policies do not reflect the spirit of cooperation needed to create a stable, highly qualified pool of interpreters to serve the state courts, and therefore we strongly protest the adoption of AOC staff’s recommendations. On behalf of the members of the California Court Interpreters Association, the Bay Area Court Interpreters Association and the California Federation of Interpreters, we urge you to reconsider the recommendations of the Court Interpreters Advisory Panel.


Carlos L. Cerecedo – President, CCIA

M. Paz Perry  – Chair, BACI

Uri Yaval – President, CFI