| by Julie Johnson and Winnie Heh

Student in interpretation booth (blurred image)

Our recent online discussion gave insights into a day working as an interpreter. Watch the recording.

Day in the Life of an Interpreter

Get insights into what a day working as an interpreter is like. We feature faculty and alumni who have worked in a range of professional settings, including the U.S. State Department, COVID-19 testing centers, courtrooms, hospitals, and more.

- Hi, welcome everyone. Welcome to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies online panel discussion, A Day in the Life of an Interpreter. I’m Carol Johnson, I’m the enrollment advisor at MIIS, who works with and support students enrolled in the MA degrees in translation, translation and interpretation and conference interpretation. The chair of these programs, Professor Julie Johnson and the MIIS career advisor for these programs, Winnie Heh, will join us today. We are also very proud to have such an amazing group of MIIS alumni to tell you about their careers and what their workday looks like. Let me introduce our alumni speakers and their language that they pair with English at MIIS, Jennifer An, Korean. Jesse Cleary Budge, German. Lauren Hammer Aguilera, Spanish. Natasha Kharikova, Russian. And Maggie Hong, Chinese. Thank you, if you’re joining us live today. I’d also like to thank those of you who may be watching the recorded session later. Before we get started, I’d like to go over a couple of quick notes regarding our technical setup. Please take a moment to note the location of your audio and your video icons at the bottom left corner of your screen. If your video’s not already on, please feel free to turn it on so we can see who’s with us today. But if you would, until we get to the Q&A at the end, please keep your mic muted while the presentation is underway to avoid background noise. You should also see a chat box near the bottom of the screen in the center. And we welcome you to type your questions here, excuse me, at any point during the webinar. And we will do our best to answer them during the Q&A. We will also make it possible for you to ask questions verbally. Anyway, I thank you for your patience. As you know, we’re all working from home these days through the COVID-19 pandemic. So if you hear a dog bark or baby cry or the internet is a little choppy for us, please bear with us. And now to get started, let me introduce the first of our amazing alumni, Professor and program chair, Julie Johnson. Julie will give you a quick overview of our global alumni network and the types of careers that we prepare them for.

- Thank you, Carol. And hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining today. I just wanna say that the alumni that we have with us today are wonderful, tiny sample of our really broad alumni network around the globe. And to me, that network is one of the most wonderful things about MIIS. As soon as you become a student here, you become part of that family and we really stay in touch and we become each other’s main colleagues. I have to say, I think the vast majority of people that I work with on the market are MIIS alums. And in my case, I’ve been around a while, so they’re my former students as well. And just to give you a quick example, a couple of weeks ago we had an online reunion and there were about 50 of us who connected online together just to share what’s happening in our professional lives, asking each other questions and just simply reconnecting. So these alumni work in all facets of the language industry, in written translation, whether it’s corporate stuff or legal matters, government documents, all sorts of different things. And in interpreting, we span all sorts of different sectors. So there are our interpreters who go and work at international organizations like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the Organization of American States and so on, also the EU. And students who go on to work for the Department of State, doing diplomatic interpreting and interpreting for foreign delegations that come over. We work in the courts, we work in hospitals and clinics, and you’ll hear from Lauren this morning, her current work in that area. And of course, just classic conference interpreting, corporate meetings and what have you. Also a lot of graduates at some point in their career work as project managers or as business owners who then subcontract out work and manage major projects for others. Also a lot of our students, whether they’re from the localization side or the translation interpretation side end up working with major clients like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, working in-house and managing their teams and being that real bridge between the language industry and the engineers and project managers internally. For myself, my language is French. I work both in interpreting by directionally in the courts and for conferences and for business. And written translation, French to English. Most of that being corporate documents, financial documents, legal contracts, and so on. And I’ve also translated a number of trade books. With that, I will pass the floor to Jennifer An in Korea.

- Thank you, Julie. Hi, I’m Jennifer and I graduated from MIIS in 2011 with a major in conference interpreting in Korean. And I am a freelance translator and conference interpreter. I’m currently in the California, San Francisco Bay area. And right now I work, my interpreting assignments are mostly government. And translation is all over the place from patents to emails and I’m trying to get started in translating comics soon, so that’ll be interesting. I was born in Minnesota and I split time between the US and Korea growing up pretty evenly. And I went to college at UC Berkeley, I majored in comparative literature. And then I decided to go to grad school for TNI translation and interpreting in Korea, just to hone my language skills. And I realized after graduating I wanted to settle back in the States. And so that’s why I looked into MIIS and I went to MIIS as an advanced entry student, so just one year. The reason why I got into interpreting was because in college there was a North Korean defector who was on a book tour and he did a speech at our school and my roommate was organizing the event and she said, “Hey you speak pretty good Korean, “do you wanna interpret for the event?” And I said, “Sure, why not.” And I showed up and there were 200 people and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is either gonna be “the worst day of my life or the best day of my life.” And it was really successful. And I was really floored by the story that that defector had to tell about his persecution but also really exhilarated that I could potentially be a voice to people who really need to tell their stories like that. And after graduating grad school in Korea, I was trying to actually find jobs directly to start freelancing in the U.S. but I realized that I really didn’t have a network. And I would send out emails and applications and nothing. So I decided MIIS was where I needed to be, to really leverage the tight-knit network as Julie mentioned. And I wanted also to gain some more experience and have some time to hone more of my skills and MIIS provided just that. So after I graduated, I went on to do an internship at the world intellectual property organization as a translation fellow. So I spent a couple of months in Switzerland and then I went to DC for a conference interpreting internship with the Department of State. And those two internships right after graduation really proved helpful in providing a steady stream of income as I was building a network of clients to freelance with. And I’ve never been in-house, so I’ve been freelancing for, I guess, nine almost 10 years at this point. And I think freelancing is exciting because you’re exposed to a myriad of different subjects and different people all the time and you get to travel for assignments. But I also translate and the idea of just cozying up by the fireside and opening my laptop. I’ve one memorable experience where I was assigned to a former secretary of defense who visited Korea. And we were riding in different cars in between meetings. And he was a pretty big guy and I’m 5’1. So every time the car stopped and we had to go in, I had to sprint to catch up with him. And I learned two very important lessons during that assignment, one is to carry comfortable shoes. And two is to sit next to the door if you’re on a bus. And these days with COVID, everything is remote, and it’s nice because I have two little kids and I don’t have to leave my family taking on assignments and I get to work out during breaks or even do the dishes between meetings. But also challenging because I can’t entirely focus on my assignments. So when I’m traveling for an assignment, I have the whole day to myself and I could sit in the hotel room and really prepare but that’s hard to do with family around. And I think going to MIIS really opened up so many opportunities for the work and the lifestyle that I’ve always wanted to pursue. And if anything go for the chance to live in Monterey, it’s a beautiful city and also get to know possibly the most diverse and interesting group of people that you’ll ever meet. And that’s all I have prepared for today. And I’ll hand over the mic to you, Jesse.

- Thank you, Jennifer. I’m Jesse Cleary Budge, and I graduated from MIIS back in 2012 with an MA in translation and interpretation for German. And right now I’m living in Lexington, Kentucky which is where I was born. As far as my career path, I started learning German in college and I got really excited doing intensive German course at the University of Cincinnati, and ended up doing an internship overseas with Deutsche Bahn, the German railroad company. And then later with SAP, the software company. And in between my two years at MIIS, I did an academic exchange program through the German Academic Exchange Service over in Berlin. And so I had some opportunities to really refine my German skills, even leading up to MIIS and in between my two years after I graduated in 2012, I did freelance for a while, but I, like a lot of people, I had student loans and I really wanted the security of a full-time position, so I joined a company, a translation company in Germany, I moved to Frankfurt, Germany and worked there for several years. And that was translation only, so I wasn’t using my interpreting. But there was a little part of me that knew that I wanted to and I got an offer to work in-house as a contractor at the Department of State. And so I moved to Washington, D.C. after that. And I lived and worked in D.C. for several years. And I went out on interpreting assignments as a German interpreter for State and also worked in house at the Office of Language Services in the Department of State as a project manager and assigning interpreters to assignments. So I saw both sides of it, which was pretty enlightening. And an experience that sticks out to me during that time as an interpreter was, you had the power of interpreting as was mentioned by Jennifer to convey a story that might not otherwise be conveyed. I went to the Rosa Parks Museum with German legislators. So I’d come over to the US and we were on a cultural exchange through the Department of State. We went to the Rosa Parks Museum and one of the museum guides was telling a personal story of experiencing discrimination as a black man in Alabama. And I was able to relate that as an interpreter to the visitor and he was blown away. Even an interaction at a gas station, something as simple as that feeling, just feeling that discrimination and being able to relate, that felt, it was amazing, being that conduit. And so I have experience interpreting being really satisfying in that way and rewarding. I decided to take a step back and move back to Kentucky and work as a freelance translator, which I’ve been doing now for several years, I’ve been really focusing on stuff care. And so I take a lot of time for myself. In COVID I’m working at home every day. I have my CAT tools that I work with. I use memoQ and Trados Studio, ones you might’ve heard of, but these are definitely industry tools. I use them every day, so they’re definitely worth learning, it’s worth learning about how cat tools and that’s computer assisted translation, I’ll say CAT, how they work, helping to store translations as you talk them out and also to access clients existing databases full of translation so that I can draw upon those in my work. But I am really, really focusing on staying in communication with other people is really big for me as a freelancer right now, even in the morning, I connect to others before I start work. And as I work, I take time to relax. And so I use, might’ve heard of the Pomodoro method which is 25 minutes on, five minutes off. And I take those five minutes and I lie flat on my back for five minutes. And just breathe, and it’s so, so helpful. I’ve learned a lot about the ways that I work and that I can love to work. Cause there are ways that I could work and not love it. So that’s been a big lesson for me, I enjoy that. When I do love my work, it’s when I’m in that flow of translation, I’m feeling the German, feeling into the German and creating English texts that feels authentically, hopefully American English. Sometimes I do translate into British English and then maybe it’s not quite as authentic, but clients demand what clients demand. So these are my experiences and I encourage everyone, I know COVID is going on, but I encourage everyone to spend as much time as they can in countries where the language that they really wanna focus on is spoken. And if you can’t go there, use technology to do what you can. Even tandem, it’s just speaking, exposing yourself to as much as you can, listening to news, even shadowing the news I’ve found really helpful. So saying the words the newscasters saying after they’re said can be really helpful to just get it inside you. So these are things that have helped me and I’m really happy to be here with you today. I’ll pass it on to Lauren.

- Thanks Jesse. And thank you everyone for being here and sharing a little bit of your morning or afternoon wherever you are with all of us, we really appreciate you coming out. So my name is Lauren Hammer Aguilera, I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have a Bachelor of Arts and Spanish degree from the College of the Holy Cross in western Massachusetts. A Master of Arts in Spanish from Middlebury College in Vermont and an MA in translation interpretation from MIIS. I graduated from MIIS this year in May of 2020. And since then I’ve been working full-time as a medical interpreter at the Santa Cruz County COVID-19 testing clinic located about 30 miles north of Monterey in a small farm worker community called Watsonville, California. And I have also been working as a freelance interpreter, taking remote simultaneous assignments in sectors that include education, social services and most recently politics leading up to the election. I have been a lifelong student of Spanish but I have no ties to the language or to Spanish or Latin American culture. For me, Spanish is an entirely acquired language but my long time interest in becoming an interpreter really concretized while I was volunteering internationally after college for two and a half years in Santiago, Chile. And what you could call my first professional interpreting assignment really fell into my lap there. It was 10 days in the vast and inhospitable Chilean Pampa, basically the desert, interpreting for a U.S. sociologist who had traveled to Chile to document this dance festival. It’s kind of like the Chilean Burning Man, if you know what Burning Man is. It’s called the (in foreign language) and for 10 days, every July 250,000 plus people come to this village in the middle of the desert that usually has a population of 1200 people and they dance and they put on these elaborate costumes and the sociologists had taken a very deep interest in this festival over the years. And he needed someone who could speak native English and also was proficient in Chilean Spanish which if you know anything about the variants of Spanish, Chilean is notorious for being the most difficult and the one that nobody else from any other Spanish speaking country really understands. So I’d been living there for two years, so I already spoke Chilean Spanish proficiently, and I’m a native English speaker. So my name kind of got thrown around and I ended up landing the gig. So I spent 10 days with this sociologist. He was my principal and I interpreted all of his interviews and interactions. And I realized a bunch of things on that trip. One that being bilingual was not enough to be a competent interpreter, but also that I had just found the coolest job in the world. And it was a really magical trip for me. It led me straight to MIIS. And this spring was the end of my two years at MIIS, fast forward a few years. I had a great two years at MIIS, but you probably are here to listen to what we’re doing right now. So as I was coming to an end in my two years in MIIS and the pandemic was just starting, I was preparing to take the State Department exam to become a diplomatic interpreter and also had the California Court Interpretation Both of those were postponed due to the pandemic. My initial short-term plan had been to become a court interpreter full-time and to do that while I was waiting for the clearance process to go through with the State Department, because that can take a while. But since both exams were postponed indefinitely I really had to pivot kind of completely in my plans for life after MIIS. But the plan B has turned out to be a pretty fascinating one, I’d have to say. On graduation day morning, I was hired as a medical interpreter at the Santa Cruz County COVID-19 Testing Clinic. And I started the day after graduation, bright and early at 6:30 AM. And I have been in that position ever since. A day in my life starts when the alarm goes off at 4:45 in the morning, and it consists of 12 and a half hour shifts with a 40 minute commute each way, five days a week, it consists of donning a full suit of PPE and providing bi-directional, mostly consecutive but some whispered simultaneous, interpretation between the Spanish speaking patients and the English speaking administrative and healthcare personnel onsite. I accompany the Spanish speaking patients through the whole process, from intake to explanation of test protocols, to consultations with the nurses onsite, to accompanying them actually into the testing area for the test itself. I have a rock solid consecutive note taking technique thanks to MIIS, but I can’t use it because of potential cross-contamination concerns. So luckily memory building exercises are also part of the curriculum because all day long I’m responsible for rendering 10 digit patient confirmation codes, phone numbers, patient last names which if you’re a Spanish speaking person you often have two last names, two first names, sometimes more. Long lists of symptoms, et cetera. And I have to get them perfect every time but thanks to MIIS and those memory building exercises that they really kind of forced on us that first semester in consecutive, before we even started taking the notes. I get it right every time, I can draw on that. It’s a really kind of direct cause and effect from what I learned to what I’m now required to do. To sum it up, I mean the hours right now, they’re super grueling and even though I’ve never had to experience the PPE shortage that really characterized the early months of the pandemic, I’m exposed in my job, it’s a highly vulnerable position, but at the same time and I really echo what Jesse said, the work provides me a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I’m contributing in real time to help people access information that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to understand. And under these circumstances, it’s potentially life saving information. I work in a farm worker community with a substantial strictly Spanish speaking population. And specifically the zip code where I work has been disproportionately devastated by the pandemic. I mean, we’re talking about a town that represents a tiny fraction of the total population of Santa Cruz County but that also represents upwards of 60% of the cases. So this town has been rocked by the pandemic and being able to help facilitate the process by which these people, many of them essential workers, many of them also uninsured can get the information that they need, to me, it is empowering, exhilarating, exhausting, especially since right now, I’m kind of working seven days a week because I’m trying to build my freelance career for when my job no longer exists, which I hope it comes to an end sooner than later, so we can all get back to our normal. But at the same time I’m really grateful to be on the front lines, helping other healthcare personnel combat the virus. So there you have it. That’s kind of a day in my life right now. And now let’s hear Natasha talk a little bit about a day in her life.

- Thank you, Lauren. And hello everyone. My name is Natasha Kharikova, and I am a Russian conference and court interpreter. I am originally from Moscow, Russia, but I am now based in supposedly sunny Los Angeles where it’s been recently very, very chilly. I graduated from MIIS with an MA in conference interpretation. My first degree was from Russia, I went to the Russian State University for the Humanities, where I studied, what’s called the philology. Well, very simply, it’s basically studying English and Russian history and literature and language obviously. And that’s how I started learning English with Russian being my native language. When I was in my fourth year there my English professor recommended me to a nonprofit as an interpreter. So like several people have said already, I kind of accidentally stumbled into this profession and I loved that very first assignment. It was a lot of fun, even though stressful too. And after that, I don’t know, just never looked back basically. But since moving to the United States, I had been thinking about I’m going to MIIS. Well, first of all, of course, because the reputation of MIIS is one of the best schools for interpreters in the world is obvious, but also because I really believe in professional education and that it’s really not enough to just hang out your shingle and say, “I’m an interpreter, give me work.” I felt that it was important to get that professional foundation on which you can build and advance your career. So I went to MIIS and after I graduated, having working, as I said, as a freelance interpreter doing a variety of assignments, which include a lot of court work, but also a lot of conference work with private clients and government clients as well. One thing I really love and this is something that has already been mentioned is the variety of the profession. You really never know where your next interpreting assignment is gonna take you. And this job, well, first of all, it’s taking me all over the United States, but also other countries like I don’t know, Hong Kong and Barbados, of course that’s not a part that we can be enjoying right now because of COVID, but it’s still amazing to think that by being an interpreter not only you can be helping other people communicate but you can also enjoy what you’re doing so much. And the work is really very, very diverse, and one day you could be, I don’t know studying and brushing up on stock market because you need to be interpreting for a conference on securities and then the next day it could be learning how to say wipe-out or dungeons or something that in Russian, because you’re gonna be interpreting for a video game launch. With COVID, everything has changed, of course, as we know, everything has gone remote and there was a period of time, very brief last spring, where I actually thought like, “Oh my God, I’m never gonna work again.” But that quickly changed. And I think if I learnt one thing at MIIS it was that you really need to keep an open mind about various opportunities available to you and be able to look for those opportunities and accept them when they come. So last spring, I started doing translation work, a lot of it related to COVID actually because suddenly all these materials had to be available in various languages. So I was translating into Russian. Then of course I watched a bunch of operas on wine, I think everybody did, but then I also had to update my hardware on my computers, software and what you don’t see it right now, but I have several other monitors. I have several headsets and microphones and this is how it’s been happening in the last several months. It’s all remote. And also like Jennifer said is great because you can be home and you can actually take more assignments because in Los Angeles, the distances are really very long and there is a lot of traffic and sometimes you really have to drive a lot for an assignment and without having to do it right now, I can do several assignments a day. Another thing that changed with COVID is because, as we’re all trying to adjust to different time zones or rather accommodate different time zones, some assignments start, I don’t know, three, four, 5:00 A.M. My time here. And I never thought actually that I’d say it, but I enjoy it right now because I discovered during the quarantine, lockdown, that I actually live in a pretty noisy neighborhood. Like the house next door, I hear my neighbor picked up some kind of hobby, which involves a lot of like metal cutting and glass grinding. So I don’t mind 5:00 A.M, sign me up, I’m gonna do it. So yes, it’s incredibly bright, it’s incredibly diverse and fascinating and also rewarding because you really feel like you’re helping other people communicate. And it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s fun. And I just wanna briefly mentioned one assignment that really stands out and this is the assignment that I got right after I graduated in 2018, this was interpreting for Fox Studios here in LA, during the FIFA World Cup 2018, which was held in Russia. And I interpreted pre-game, post game, player and coach interviews. And I grew up a soccer fan back in Russia. But even those interpreters who didn’t really know much about soccer and who worked on that assignment really got into it because it was impossible not to, the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. And I honestly don’t think my heart pounded like so much during an assignment ever, and it’s not because I was afraid, but it’s just because you just finished watching the game where, I don’t know, Russia beat Spain out of all countries. And it was an amazing assignment to get graduating and I have to admit that actually when I was first contacted about this assignment, I was, well, shall we say a little bit economical with the truth, I mentioned that Monterey and that I studied at Monterey, but I didn’t really say that I don’t have the degree yet, but I kind of expected that I was gonna graduate. So I did. And that assignment happened and that was amazing. Well, that’s it. Thank you. And I’m going to pass it over to Maggie now.

- Thank you. Hi everyone. My name is Maggie. So I’m currently a conference interpreter based in Chicago, I’m also a certified court interpreter and certified a medical interpreter. And in addition to that, I’m currently holding the position of vice chair of the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, and also sitting on the board of the Midwest Translators and Interpreters Association. So I graduated from MIIS in 2011, as a MACI student in the Chinese program. So after I graduated, I graduated in May and thanks to MIIS network and professors referrals, I get my first job in June, a first full-time job. And I worked there for three years. In 2014, I began to freelance and move to Chicago because being a freelance interpreter has always been my career aspiration. I always like being an interpreter because it allows me to see the world and learn different things every day. And thanks to my work in the past six years of freelancing, I’ve traveled to 30 states and interpreted for over 20 subject matters. So I really learned a lot and it really broadened my worldview. So for a typical day for an interpreter, I think it’s really different before the pandemic and now. Before the pandemic, for my business I have really clear division between busy season and slow season. So during busy season, I basically travel everywhere to interpret for conferences and for court proceedings. And during slow season, for me, it’s usually the long and cold winter in Chicago. It’s from December to February. So during that time, I usually stay home and gain more credentials, like I got my court certification and medical certification also learned about remote simultaneous interpreting platforms during the slow season. So that’s before the pandemic. But after pandemic, everything has changed. Thanks to the experience with remote simultaneous interpreting platform before the pandemic when everything switched to virtual mode, I think I had a relatively easier time adapting to it. So the main difference now is in the past a conference usually lasts for at least a whole day, sometimes several days in a row, but now because attendees are in different parts of the world, different time zones, so that would not be feasible. So right now a conference is usually two to three hours, usually wouldn’t exceed four hours. So now a typical day for me is interpreting for a conference through Zoom or through Kudo in the morning or in the evening. And for the rest of the day, I’ll translate documents, will attend continuing education webinars and also volunteering interpreter associations. So, I think the three main differences between now and before pandemic are, the first differences is, it’s easier and we have more opportunity to continue education, webinars and conferences because in the past all the conferences are held onsite. And based on my work schedule, it’s just not likely for me to travel to every one of them and attend them. But now I can just adjust the log off my Zoom meeting and attend a webinar. And the second change is my work portfolio has changed a lot since the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I would say about 80% to 90% of my work are conference interpreting. And the rest 20 to 10% is probably court interpreting. But after the pandemic, my translation work and interpretation work are actually almost a half and half. And in addition to that, I took on more roles in presenting at conferences and give continuing education trainings. And the third difference, I think is the lifestyle or work life balance, because before pandemic especially during busy season, I’m traveling everywhere, just I don’t have the access and time to cook for myself but now after I finished my conference, I can cook myself a meal, I can exercise. I can spend more time with family and also play with my cat. So those are the three major differences during the pandemic. And I think the education and the degree in MIIS really helped me a lot and gave me all the tools that I need to survive or even thrive in the market. So actually, when I just started freelancing, the very first gig was referred to me by my professor and the very second one was referred to me by my classmate. And also because of the education at MIIS I have a solid foundation for interpreting skills. And also I know what to do, what not to do in the market, have some understanding of professional ethics, especially with MIIS network, it’s really helped me a lot to get easier start in the markets. And also because of MIIS, many opportunities are just available to me. Yeah, that’s it about my day as an interpreter.

- Sorry. I was muted. Thank you so much, Maggie. And thank you all of you amazing alumni for your time and telling your stories of your day in the life. Now I’d like to introduce Winnie Heh. Winnie is our career advisor for the translation, translation interpretation and conference interpretation programs. She’s gonna talk a little bit more about how she supports our students in their career management. Thank you, Winnie Heh, please take it over.

- Thank you, Carol. And thank you everyone for joining us today. I like to tell you a little bit about myself, I am an alum as well. I graduated from the Chinese Conference Interpretation Program in 1990 and then I spent 25 years managing language companies. And it was a great experience, I did pretty much every job you can think of in a language company except for the CFO and the CEO job. And five years ago, I had a career change, I became a career advisor stepping into the big shoes of my career advisor, Jeff Wood. And in terms of how I support our students, we are a professional graduate school. So by definition, when somebody decides to attend a professional graduate school they have a career goal in mind, they’re here and they wanna reach there. And clearly, as you have heard from our alumni, we have one of the best academic programs in the world, you prepared so well, and I can speak that for myself. At the same time, we also realize that there are some mythologies and processes and tools that will be helpful to you from a career management perspective. So I support students from three broad areas, the first one is I teach a career management class during students first semester. And in fact, we start preparing you for your career management from your first week at MIIS, you start getting career management workshops. And the second area is, everybody’s situation and career aspirations are different. So we take a very individualized approach. I like to tell students that I’m your personal trainer. So we have a lot of one-on-one opportunities to work together. And finally the industry is ever changing, and I like to tell students that the job you’re gonna have in five years may not exist yet. So I spend a lot of time connecting with employers in the public sector, in the private sector, staying in touch with them to understand their talent needs and sometimes give them input as they think about their own talent and recruiting strategies and bring in their feedback back to the school as well. And in some situations connecting students with those employers and with alumni. And what I like most about the industry is this, from a career perspective I’ve always felt that it’s better to be in a small but growing industry rather than being in a big but declining industry. But the good news is for the language industry, with globalization, with migration, it is a big and growing industry. Right now, the size of the industry is about $50 billion and it’s also projected to grow. So I think this is a very exciting industry for you to consider. That’s it for me.

- Thank you so much, Winnie. Appreciate that. So one of the things we’re really lucky to have is so many of our amazing alumni have come back to work at MIIS and support the next generation of translators or interpreters. And really a supportive, small supportive community, you get a lot of interaction and feedback from your teachers, it’s small class size, and then again you get to meet all the amazing students that are here at MIIS, studying all kinds of different areas. And build a friend and a professional network that goes around the world. So we’d be happy to take questions now, if you wanna ask any of our speakers or you wanna ask Winnie about career preparation or Julie about programs, please feel free, we’d love to hear your questions. And they can be themselves now, right Devin?

- [Devin] That’s correct.

- Okay. Anybody have a question? Or if you prefer not to, you can type it in the chat box but we didn’t have so many people.

- I do actually see a question in the chat, Carol.

- [Carol] Oh okay.

- Does provide medical interpretation certificates?

- Well, if you wanna go ahead and answer that, Julie?

- Yes. So an actual certificate is available in Spanish community interpreting with a specialization either illegal or medical. So that currently exists just for Spanish.

- I will say that within your training of your master’s degree, you get exposed to many different domains and you will touch on medical interpretation many times, if that’s an area you wanna go into, we’ll help you to find an internship in that field. For many years, Stanford Hospital and clinics have taken students in the summer to train them in medical interpretation, I don’t know how that’s happening now. But for the most part, we’re focused on the master’s degrees in all the other languages. But we do have the Spanish Community Interpretation Certificate, as Julie said.

- I can give some concrete info just on what Carol just said. First of all, the weaving in of medical content matter in our regular interpretation translation courses does happen. For example, on the translation side I typically subject the students to translating a patent on artificial heart valve prosthesis. And just in- There’s a strange echo. I’m not sure why. There we go. Just this semester, with the advanced simultaneous interpreting students, we did a whole segment on Ebola to be in the area of epidemiology, but giving the COVID thing a rest. And in that context, we had a doctor from Senegal Zoom in and talk to us in French about the whole experience of Senegal around a Ebola in 2014 and the lessons learned from that and the students simultaneously interpreted his remarks. And Carol mentioned Stanford Healthcare, so Stanford Hospital here in California typically has a very robust internship program for us. And they felt so badly, a lot of our alums that are working at Stanford, that they couldn’t do it with the pandemic, that they’ve actually approached us and said, “Here are the different things that we would like to offer.” And so we’re just in the process of gearing up for this spring to integrate their offerings, both as part of the career advising offerings and integrated directly into our practicum and other courses.

- I’ve got a question here. What do the financial prospects look like for translators or interpreters post-graduation? And how does that relate to being in-house freelance? And how long have you been out of school? Open to anyone to answer. I did provide the link in the chat to our career outcomes data that has a lot of salary information and sectors and that kind of thing for you to take a look at. But if anybody would like to respond to this question, go for it. I think they’re kind of hoping it would be one of the alumni speakers. But it could be anybody.

- Hey, this is Jesse. I can maybe speak to that since I’ve done all of these. The real answer is that it’s all over the place, no matter whether you’re freelance or in-house. Some of it depends on the country where you might be working. I started out working really in-house in Germany the salary prospects weren’t that high there, but I came back to the states and worked in government and the salary prospects were a lot better. Now I’m living in Kentucky and I’ve reduced my working hours significantly. So I’m limiting my own income by working less. And maybe some other people could speak to this especially people who are combining interpreting and translation. But my impression there is that the sky’s the limit, it depends on how much you want to work, but I’ll pass it off to another alum.

- I can also try to speak to that. I’ve been out of school nine, 10 years now. And like Jesse said, you really get to decide what you want as your income, given that you can get enough work. And I think I’ve been on the extreme side where I was interpreting three and a half weeks out of a month and I was never home and it was great, but it was also very exhausting and it just wasn’t sustainable. So I scaled it back. I took on some more translation work just for my own sake, my mental health and my physical health. But I know some colleagues who do translation only and they’re incredible. And they work six days a week and they love it and they can sustain it, they find time to work out, and it really is up to how you wanna balance your time, your health and also if you have family that comes into play and really this is TNI, but there’s also localization careers and Jesse’s been in project management, you can go in-house that way. And I think there’s a very large range of income that you can expect and also large range of benefits too. Obviously, if you’re freelancing, you are responsible for your own medical insurance and all of that. But if you go in-house, you can negotiate those benefits as well.

- Sorry, I have a barking dog. There’s a question about working in three languages and conference interpretation, Julie, would you like to answer that?

- Can you repeat the question, Carol?

- Can you work in three languages for the conference interpretation degree?

- Yes. So what we call MACI, is a master of arts in conference interpretation. And you can do that just with one foreign language working by directionally. This is typical in many of the Asian languages and it requires near native fluency. So you can really actively work into your foreign language as well as your native language but typically conference interpretation involves a third language or more languages. Here during your studies, we’re limit it to just two foreign languages, so a total of three, otherwise it would be a little bit crazy. And in that what you do is in the first year, everybody, translation, conference interpretation and translation and interpretation combined. Those three degree tracks share essentially the same curriculum. So everybody gets a taste of everything because there are surprises. People who could never imagine themselves as an interpreter, but realize, “Oh, wow, I actually enjoyed this “and I’m pretty good at it.” Or vice versa, students who always wanted to be a UN interpreter, but when they started doing it they realized, “Oh, this isn’t really for me, I much prefer translation.” So everybody gets a taste of everything, but then as of the second semester, and then certainly in the second year, there’s specialization according to degree track, if you have three languages, you’re gonna work actively from your native language into your strongest foreign language and back in the other direction from your, what we call your B language into your A language, meaning your native language. And then you work from your second foreign language, your C language into your native language but not the other way around. I hope that answers the question. And I did see Carol that Gavin had his hand raised.

- Well, I wanted to catch this one because our time is getting a little short and this is a question for the panelists. What do they wish they knew before they joined the Institute? And are they afraid of AI taking their jobs? I hear that question from a lot of perspective students too. So, yeah, please, if any of you wonderful alumni would wanna respond to that? What do you wish you knew before you joined the Institute? That’s a hard one, I think.

- Natasha here, I don’t know if I could actually answer the other question about AI, cause I feel like I have a pretty strong opinion about it. The short answer would be no, as an interpreter, I don’t think it’s gonna happen, but the reason why I actually wanted to answer this question is not only I think that it’s not happening in general because or at least not in the near future, but I also think that there’s a certain degree of basically there are different levels of interpreting and the same with translation and the same way there are some translation jobs that have been taking over by machine translation and there’s post editing right now. The same I believe with interpretation, there might be some areas or some levels of interpretation that could be taken over by AI. But I also think that if you’re professionally trained and if you have a degree from MIIS you are always gonna have a variety of options and they’re gonna be what I would probably call higher level options of jobs that are not gonna be taken over by AI. And I think that’s where the importance of having a professional degree comes to place, not that it’s gonna make you completely safe but I think it’s gonna equip you with a lot more tools to be able to resist, I guess the onslaught of the AI. Thank you.

- I can chime in there after Natasha and echo what she said about that idea of maybe the lowest hanging fruit being picked up by AI and the people responsible, the human beings responsible for producing those translations being rendered a little bit obsolete, but the kind of work that MIIS qualifies us to do is what I believe will be the very last, if it ever is taken over by any kind of artificial intelligence. In my fourth semester at MIIS I took a class taught by Professor Barry Olson that deals with the RSI platforms or remote simultaneous platforms that Maggie mentioned and also talks about artificial intelligence a lot. And we got to do hands-on tutorials and trials with six or seven of those platforms over the course of the semester. And we got to see very clearly and very much in real time the limits on even the market’s best AI tools and just how much the human interpreter will continue to persist as such a necessary conduit, like Jessie said of information for people, I think for the extent of our lifetimes. And learning to work on those remote simultaneous platforms, while I was still a student at MIIS, positioned me really well to be able to take some of those jobs and be prepped for what the pandemic would bring in terms of transitions and changes to the market. But I think the human interpreter and translator is going to be around longer than we are. And also just to chime in one thing I wish I had known about the industry before I got to MIIS, is that there isn’t an interpreter or translator on this earth that knows it all. And that until the day you retire, you will be looking things up and making glossaries and turning to resources and this degree program has a lot to do with trial and error and feedback that often looks like criticism, constructive criticism, but realizing that you’re just on your journey to accumulating resources but that you’ll never have them all is a really good and healthy thing to keep in mind and it’s the only way to survive and thrive in this program.

- Go ahead Maggie.

- Okay. So if I may, I want to also share my two cents about the AI question. And so I do agree that probably some of the low hanging fruit might be picked but I think for interpreting or translation, it’s not simple code switching from one language to another, it is a bridge between two cultures. So because for AI, I think it’s unless if the AI can really have human emotion and human emotional intelligence, I think it’s very difficult for AI to replace real interpreters. But that being said, I think it’s very important for translators and interpreters to learn new technology and to keep up with it and use the new technology to help us with our work.

- This is Jesse, could I say one quick thing about that?

- Of course.

- I just wanted to share my experience because I’ve had AI affecting my biggest client directly. My client is basically incorporating an AI solution into the software that I use every day. And then asking me if I will accept a lower rates because this AI solution is suggesting translations to me that I’m free to use or modify or discard and that has created some pretty uncomfortable situations. And I don’t find AI suggestions helpful, in fact, I find them the opposite of helpful because they take up space in my brain that I need to be free for a creative solution to arise. And I think that that is a, in my experience, is not a concept that is taken to account when people are talking about AI, shooting out AI solutions into translation environments. And I’ve had to turn down work because of this, because I’m not willing to accept those rates. So I wanted to say that this is a real issue and that’s with my experience.

- Great. Thank you everybody. Gavin, unmute yourself, let’s hear your question, thank you for your patience.

- Yeah, no problem. Just curious, kind of like a two-part question. So my interests lie in entertainment, arts, culture, storytelling, tourism, and I hear a lot about politics economics obviously in the program. Just curious, if any of these interpreters on the panel had any gigs or whatever, where you have had to talk more about the entertainment, arts and culture side of things. And then also, is there a piece? My language learning has been mostly technical, grammar, literature, all that sort of thing, is there a piece of the education that you receive at MIIS that does give you some content and inform you on what’s going on currently? So just curious about that.

- Anybody wanna take that? I work with a lot of prospective students and applicants and we have definitely had people who came in and said, “French is my language and I want to interpret for the arts. I want to be the person that takes people through museums or art galleries.” We’ve had people that work film industry, people who work in the wine industry, live in France or Italy and work in the wine industry. And they want to work in that particular field. But again, in our program, we expose you to many different domains. And so you will touch upon the arts and humanistic works in addition to court and medical and technical and all those areas. And really you can pick your niche, we’ll support you in that based on, and that’s where Winnie and the career team helps you, are there alumni out there that are already working in that field? Do an informational interview. Is there someplace that would be your dream job? They help support you, how to contact them and put together a proposal for an internship you might do with them. So we have lots of ways to help you find your niche. Some people come in knowing what they want and move forward with it, but sometimes they learn about another field or come across something, do an internship, let’s say at YPO or at one of the hospitals and then say, “Oh my gosh, I love that. “I wanna go in that direction.” And maybe Winnie can add more, I work with them coming in and she works with them the rest of the way for their careers.

- Yeah. It would not be a surprise to you that entertainment is a growth area in the language industry right now, for example, Netflix, they have an in-house localization team. What I have heard is one third of the localization team are MIIS alumni. And the Disney also has localization. And there are gaming companies that allows students that are also very interested in. So those are the growth areas and there are opportunities on both the linguistic side of it and also the project management side of it.

- Great, thanks Winnie. I’m looking for a question here, does the translation and court interpretation program have stricter language requirements for students than, it says TML, but I expect that’s TLM. Yes. In the translation and localization management program you can have a translation specialization where you actually take translation classes or language specialization where you take content-based language classes. We found that people who graduate with our degree are often working in many different ecosystems and so maybe they’re not ever doing translation, so it’s not necessary. But in most cases you only work into your A language. So your B language doesn’t need to be so strong, you don’t need to work in both directions and you don’t need to have strong oral skills because in localization, there’s no interpretation. Hope that answers that. See we got one. So I think this will bring an end to our presentation to our talk with you. Again, thank you, alumni. Thank you so much for your stories, your expertise, for taking time for us. Thank you all of you visitors for sharing your time with us. Julie had to go, she had a class. Thank you, Winnie. And please stay in touch with us, I put my personal email address in the chat. If anybody wants to reach out to me, I do see a lot of familiar names of people that I have communicated with already, but I’m always happy to have a one-on-one conversation or answer your questions. So thank you everyone. You will also, once we’ve edited this recording, you will also get a link to it and it will be posted on our virtual preview days site before too long. Thank you again for your time everyone. Bye-bye.