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Turbulent Times Bring New Opportunities

My journey as an interpreter began 30 years ago, when I was pulled completely out of my comfort zone to interpret impromptu for an angry Chilean air force helicopter pilot shouting instructions to American environmentalists 10,000 feet high in the Andes. That experience propelled me into a decades-long career as a freelance interpreter, trainer, author, advocate and keen observer of evolving technology and innovation in our profession.

Today I am happy to announce that I am stretching myself again to continue my work to support the interpreting profession, this time by working directly with the technology that has come to shape our field. I have joined Boostlingo, a leader in interpretation management and delivery technology, as the Training Specialist for their Language Access Department and as a general subject matter expert.

Boostlingo’s essential mission is to help organizations increase language access and improve global communication through innovative interpretation technology. I hope to bring my broad knowledge of the profession to help Boostlingo continue to integrate and scale best practices for the interpreters and organizations who are central to its core mission.

When I began my career, few were focused on how technology and the quintessentially human experience of multilingual communication would overlap and enmesh. Today, technology has become the driving factor in how the world interacts and communicates.

In the process of paralleling global changes in communication, interpreting has transformed itself into a modern profession, one which delivers interpreting face-to-face and remotely. The hard work of professional associations, academic institutions, legislators, language service companies, along with technology and other vendors, are at the heart of this transformation, which has created a thriving global industry.

While interpreting has always been a global profession, until the pandemic hit, it was largely practiced locally. COVID-19 upended how we do business and remote interpreting, by necessity, became an essential part of our professional reality. In March 2020, the great majority of interpreters around the world switched to remote interpreting in the span of a few short weeks.

And we were not ready for it.

Interpreting's existing best practices, compensation models, workplace standards and technology solutions have been stretched beyond their ability to protect interpreter working conditions and language access. Regardless of the interpreting specialization, social media sites, listservs and discussion groups are filled with debate about how to protect hard-earned gains in our profession and the best way to move forward.

Today, we continue to see unsettling changes across our entire profession. Two and half years into the pandemic, the next stage of disruption is becoming clearer: hybrid interpreting solutions. Globally, remote work is here to stay, even as many return to onsite work. Workplaces see the benefits and necessity of combining the two into hybrid models – which means multilingual communication also needs to be provided in hybrid forms. We are thus entering another wave of professional change for interpreters.

The wholesale shift from onsite to remote interpreting shone a spotlight on a difficult truth in our profession: remote interpreters have largely been left out of industry efforts to establish best practices and fair compensation in the workplace. Currently, there is justified concern as gains made in the workplace for onsite interpreters are being lost, with some organizations bringing more remote interpreting into the mix.

It is easy to blame the companies and even the interpreters in the remote space for undermining progress, but that masks a more fundamental problem. Until remote interpreters have access to the same level of training, professional resources and recognition, there will be downward pressure on pay and workplace conditions for all interpreters. There is no protecting one group at the expense of another. Everyone loses if we can’t find a way to include the entire workforce, remote and onsite, in our efforts to preserve interpreting as a viable profession for practitioners.

Our profession is still just at the beginning of a permanent and profound change in how we do business.

As someone who has worked to elevate interpreters for decades now, it's critical to bring that effort inside the technological workplace. My new position at Boostlingo gives me the opportunity to bring my expertise and commitment to support remote interpreters directly. There is much work to be done in creating standards and best practices when providing language access over remote platforms. It is long past time to work towards true recognition and integration of the remote interpreter into the profession.

Boostlingo is the rare technology company that has elevated the importance of the interpreter and client experience by establishing an entire department dedicated to language access (the department I will be joining). In addition to this longstanding value, their recent acquisition of VoiceBoxer, one of the first remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) platforms, is an important opportunity to bring improved working conditions and client understanding for RSI to medical and community interpreting settings, as well as expanding possibilities for all interpreters seeking to diversify and earn more for their work.

For those who have never heard of Boostlingo, you can get to know a bit more about them here. Boostlingo connects communities with virtual interpreters through innovative technology in interpreter management and scheduling, phone and video interpreting delivery, and on-demand interpreting with a pool of over 13,000 interpreters around the globe speaking more than 300 languages. I’m proud to be joining the team managing these interpreters.

If you’d like to read the full press release about my joining the Boostlingo team, you can do so here.

Even in times of great turmoil, one thing never changes: human beings must communicate, and when language barriers get in the way, it takes trained, knowledgeable professionals to navigate them. Our profession is still just at the beginning of a permanent and profound change in how we do business.

I look forward to bringing my knowledge and experience to Boostlingo and its innovative technology to do what I have always done: support interpreters in their essential task of facilitating meaningful communication between people who do not speak the same language.

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