NCTA, Perspective

NCTA Member Spotlight: Robert Finnegan

by William Giller

The goal of the NCTA Member Spotlight is to showcase our association’s diverse and multitalented members. Up next: Robert Finnegan

1.     When did you first join the NCTA? 

I believe I started including the NCTA in my ATA membership as soon as I moved back to California and became aware of the organization; 2016 or so. Although I’m from California, I spent half of my life outside the United States.

2.   What motivated you to stay an NCTA member? 

Solidarity, professional fellowship, and learning opportunities. Meeting and forming partnerships with local interpreters in my language pair.

3.   Are you more of a translator? Interpreter? Both? 

I do both. There are periods that most of my work is translations and times that I mainly interpret. Overall, I am primarily a conference interpreter.

4.   What is your language pair?


5.   Care to share a memorable professional anecdote? 

I was interpreting for a UK government official visiting an environmental reserve her government was funding deep in the Amazon. The meeting was tense. She spoke some Spanish and felt she could make an interjection alone. She held up a paper that said FODA (Fuerzas, Oportunidades, Debilidades y Amenazas), which is an analysis tool whose English translation is SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), and said “This is what we need to do!” However, the word “foda” in Portuguese means “f***”! Needless to say, the tension was broken and everyone started laughing. I accompanied her on several later visits to the region and she did not venture again to interject without an interpreter.

6.   What is something notable you have learned from an NCTA meeting or colleague? 

I have found several webinars to be helpful (on AI, scams, LGBTQ interpreting). My wife passed in 2020 and was known to members as she would accompany me to meetings. The support I received was very important to me at that time.

7.   What do you think the biggest challenge our industry faces today?  

AI will replace or has replaced mediocre professionals for sure. I think the challenge is to maintain clients and rates for translation. Interpreting is down the road a bit. 

8.   Outside of work, what can you be found doing?   

I love to go to music events, big and small; and spend time with my children and grandchildren. I oversee informal Bible studies at my home or over the media, and have been going to protests since the early 70s (and that is still a frequent activity).