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InforMATIon Blog

The MATI blog features articles pertaining to translation and interpretation. Subject matter includes issues pertaining to the field in the form of explorations into language, methodology and technology, book reviews, biographies, notes on presenters and meeting summaries. The views, opinions and statements expressed within each posting do not necessarily reflect the position of MATI as a whole.
  • 09/03/2014 9:52 PM | Diane R. Grosklaus Whitty
    Here in Madison, WI, we have an informal group of interpreters and translators that gathers about once a month to talk shop and socialize. At our get-together the other night, I was asked if I thought it would be worthwhile to attend the MATI Annual Conference, which will take place in Madison this year.

    So I asked myself, why am I going?

    For the same reason I like to get together with my local colleagues at Panera (or Sardine, or wherever) every month -- but taken to the 10th power!

    As translators and interpreters, our work engages us to the exclusion of all else. Conferences like this present an unbeatable opportunity to exchange ideas, share experiences, learn new tricks of the trade, and broaden our network of contacts, in this case with attendees from WI, IL, and IN.

    (In fact, our monthly Madison gatherings were born out of a MATI Annual Conference, where I first met Sasha Carrillo and where she, Catherine Jagoe, and I discussed the idea of getting together on a regular basis with our colleagues in the Madison area.)

    It is also an opportunity to have direct, personal contact with language service agencies at their exhibitor tables, which they pay to have precisely because they are looking to extend their roster of qualified, reliable interpreters and translators. We all know that nothing beats a face-to-face encounter -- and these vendors take a special interest in the serious professionals who manifest their commitment to providing quality services by attending professional events.

    Oh yeah -- and there are also those continuing education points. This year, the ATA will award 7 points for attendance at the conference. Two of the sessions will likely be applicable towards Wisconsin's new CE requirements for Court Interpreters (not my area, so I'm not totally familiar with it), and one session should be eligible for CCHI credits. But that's not the bottom line for me. Much more important is the opportunity to grab one of the presenters during a coffee break and pick her brain for even more information, or wheedle her email from her for future queries of my own.

    This year the conference ends with a social networking hour -- and that will be the icing on the cake for me!

    I hope you decide to join me and other colleagues from the tri-state area!

    Event information and registration:

    Diane Grosklaus Whitty

  • 08/26/2014 9:03 AM | Diane R. Grosklaus Whitty

    (thanks to Ben Kearney, Madison-based Dutch>English translator, for this contribution)

    I admit to being a bit sceptical when I was invited to the t&t open mic. Like most translators living in the U.S., I am continually obliged to explain and somehow account for the work I do, and I’m accustomed to the obscurity that is assigned to translation. Even if they are passionate about reading or foreign places, non-translators (or non-interpreters) whom I encounter tend to view the profession as either exotic or imaginary, and I have reconciled myself to this state of (exalted?) exile in the minds of friends and family members – with no good prospects for repatriation. So though I looked forward to an evening of reading and listening fun, I expected the event to be attended solely by working or would-be translators.


    What struck me first was the organic coziness of the Lakeside Coffee House. What a welcoming space! I really felt transported. But the best part was the enthusiasm among those gathered to hear works in translation read aloud, regardless of the subject matter or literary form. The range of material (Beowulf? Really?) and the number of readers surprised me, as did the size and composition of the crowd that came to listen. There were any number of non-translators attending who were eager to hear something different for a change. And that’s really what it was: a unique and open platform to present the translated word, with no strings attached.


    It was so fun to take part in this experiment and see my preconceptions dissolve. If you have friends with their own preconceptions/non-conceptions about translation, then bring them to the next edition of t&t, and bring along something to read! I can’t wait to hear what people come up with next. Tasty bits indeed.


    (For more information on the t&t open mics, go to


  • 08/08/2014 9:18 PM | Anonymous

    MATI Member Spotlight: Shenyun Wu

    For this Member Spotlight, MATI Director Sasha Federiuk Carrillo interviews Shenyun Wu, a Mandarin Chinese <>English interpreter. She holds a B.A. in English and International Affairs (double major) with a minor in Chinese language and literature from George Washington University. Shenyun currently works as a Senior Account Executive at a translation agency.

    Where do you live and/or work?

    I currently live and work in Madison, WI, but I was in Chicago for four years and in Washington, DC for four years before that.

    What are your working languages, and how did you acquire your language skills?

    I work between Mandarin Chinese and English. Born and raised in the US, I was fortunate to have spent my formative years in Taiwan because of my father’s work. In Taiwan I went to traditional Chinese schools and was thus able to build a solid foundation for my Chinese. I then moved back to the States to finish high school and college. Knowing that it was important to keep up my language skills, I made a conscious effort to take advanced Chinese language courses and found volunteer and internship opportunities to use and expand my language skills.

    How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?

    I started in both translation and interpretation in 2005 when I was in college and was looking for volunteer opportunities where I could use my Chinese language skills. My first exposure to interpreting was when I worked as a bilingual advocate for a nonprofit organization advocating against domestic violence. I also got trained through a nonprofit law firm to become a qualified Chinese interpreter and translator. I've been providing language services ever since.

    Describe an especially memorable or fulfilling professional experience.

    One of the most memorable experiences I had as an interpreter was interpreting during a C-section for twins. It was quite the experience being a part of the birthing process. I learned that an interpreter not only needs to just interpret, but also needs to provide a presence that allows the client to trust the interpreter during stressful or difficult situations.

    I notice that you are active on Twitter and LinkedIn, and even have a blog. Do you believe that social media is important in the development of our profession?

    Social media is an effective tool to get the most updated information in specific industries. Twitter and LinkedIn have allowed me to get access to the most-talked-about information and exposure to different aspects of the job that I'm not always aware of. My blog simply allows me to reflect on and share my experiences in the industry. The life of an interpreter can sometimes be lonely because it's often an independent job, so being able to interact with my peers and help them through my experiences has been a learning experience for me as well. We are able to grow more when we interact with others, and social media is an effective way for freelancers to share and exchange notes.

    Do you believe social media has had an impact on your career?
    Social media has encouraged me to be aware of the most up-to-date trends and news related to language services. The feedback I receive on my blog has also motivated me even more to improve my skill set.

    Do you have any tips for those starting out in the field?

    The first thing to know is that bilingualism doesn't automatically qualify someone as a translator or interpreter. Language is constantly evolving, and even seasoned interpreters and translators need to continue to expand their skills. Even after nine years in the field, I still have to prep for interpreting assignments to make sure that I anticipate potential terminology, especially the technical ones. When starting out in the field, I think it's important to understand the code of ethics, which is a set of guidelines for interpreters to follow. Lastly, always be professional, know your capabilities, and never stop learning.

  • 08/08/2014 9:07 PM | Anonymous


    By Witold Napiorkowski, a State of Wisconsin Certified, Federally qualified, and Cook County, IL qualified Polish court interpreter

    The issue of inter-state interpreter certification has been on the agenda for a while now. It has acquired a measure of new importance with the progress of the Cook County, Illinois court interpreter (CWA/CNG) contract negotiations. The interpreter negotiations team’s goal here is to (eventually) negotiate additional compensation for interpreters who acquire NCSC (National Center for State Courts – “the Consortium”) certified status. Though most of us are way beyond the test-taking public education phase of our lives, professional development is actually something that employment experts – as well as seasoned veterans – recommend, both for the sake of keeping skills as sharp as possible and maintaining healthy self-esteem, but also for “not losing the habit” of learning new things. It is hardly news to say that most professionals these days are facing a steady stream of new information which needs to be integrated into their job routines. In many professions, “continuing education credits” are a requisite to maintain job status. The only way to NOT see this as a burden is to enthusiastically embrace the boost in self-esteem that comes with acquiring new skills, and honing old ones.
    Two-day orientation, then written and oral examinations.

    The way to do this is to attend a two-day orientation and then “sit for” a written and an oral examination. In the case of Illinois court interpreters, since the test is still NOT being offered by the Illinois Court System – the exams may be taken in either Indiana or Wisconsin. It was my own fortunate – I maintain – choice to become more acquainted with the latter, this spring and summer.


    The program (CIP – Court Interpreter Program) administered by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, is coordinated and animated with gusto by Ms. Carmel Capati, a Wisconsin attorney, who shows a calling and passion for languages and securing a level playing field for the non-English-speaking user of the justice system. Carmel makes the entire experience an uplifting one. This was especially so for a Cook County interpreter – almost accustomed to a certain casual LACK of respect for the profession in our own bailiwick. In this regard, participation in the Wisconsin program seems a breath of fresh Northwoods air.

    STEP 1: Two-day orientation

    Though I had signed up and paid the orientation fee in August-September of 2012, for personal scheduling reasons it only became possible to make the necessary time this last March. The two-day orientation I chose was offered in Milwaukee – on the campus of University of Wisconsin, held, as they always are, over a weekend. Happily, the I-94 drive from Chicagoland, on both Saturday and Sunday, winds up being user-friendly, and not a contributor to hypertension at all. Summer highway construction does need to be factored in, though. To anyone used to professional conferences, the setting of the training is immediately familiar. The 40 or so orientation attendees were set up in a large hotel lobby-like hall, with self-serve bagels, fruit and coffee in the back of the room, and an easy chat-with-thy-new-neighbor ambient atmosphere helping while away the 30 or so minutes before the official beginning of the presentations. I found a good geographic mix of attendees from all corners of Wisconsin, and several smaller towns in Illinois. Age groups varied widely indeed, as did professions. English-Spanish was, as ever, the dominant language combination. As it happened, I found not a single Polish co-linguist, but Korean, Arabic, Mandarin, Serbo-Croatian, Japanese, and even Albanian were represented. I sat next to Alex - a very sociable Arabic interpreter, an eager conversationalist, in his mid-40s, who drives a limo as his second job. A down-to earth regular-people kind of vibe each way you turned, certainly no excuse for anyone to feel timid. Topics of informal table discussion revolved around real-life real-people situations, foreign accents were many and some sported with relish.

    Orientation: Well organized, interesting, and varied

    One thing which made the time go by relatively fast was the careful structuring of both days to incorporate large group presentations, Q & A, and class debate, with breakout sessions addressing specific courtroom skills. The whole-group presentations delved into organizational rudiments of the US / Wisconsin state court systems, interpreter ethics, common challenging situations. Included were presentations by court personnel, a short lecture by a State of Wisconsin judge, a court clerk, as well as by other linguists from the UW faculty.

    Breakout sessions: Vital skills practice, confidence booster

    To this relatively old hand, the breakout sessions felt particularly worthwhile. These were typically composed of 6 – 8 people and led by a moderator. The particular group I wound up in was that of the “exotic” languages – in short, any languages other than Spanish and Mandarin. The animator of our group, seasoned Spanish court interpreter Enrique, proved himself to be the consummate professional, in language as well as in teaching and his “classroom management” skills. Each of us had ample time and opportunity to try our hand at both the consecutive and the simultaneous mode – in both routine and sudden challenging “out of left field” situations. A good measure of class comradeship built up, with some humor / lighthearted fun and creativity elicited. I found the exercises with consecutive note–taking and mnemonic techniques especially helpful, and remember later feeling grateful to Enrique for the practice at my oral exam in June. Retention of longer chunks of highly specific information is my special challenge, and it turned out I was not alone in this. Most of you know what I am referring to. Feeling lost in a sea of numbers and proper names, while keeping up with a fast-talking witness is not particularly relaxing or even motivating. In all, the two eight-hour classroom days went by surprisingly quickly and painlessly.

    Wisconsin test-taking sites:

    As for venues, it was good to attend the training in a none-too-distant location like Milwaukee, given that I was short of time, and appreciated not having to set up at a hotel. Of course the annual schedule provides for other locations – as far away as Appleton and Wausau, which can be a nice choice for a metro-Chicagoan looking for a chance to break away from chores and change of scenery for a weekend.

    STEP 2: Written examination component: 2 options, or bothundefinedyour choice

    Upon completion of the orientation the next phase of the process was the prequalifying written examination. There are actually two options given to prequalify. One is the long-form multiple choice exam consisting of 135 questions covering primarily English language proficiency – with reading comprehension and vocabulary/terminology most stressed – but also with components of knowledge about the court system and interpreter ethics. The amount of time afforded certainly felt generous, for answering and reviewing/changing the responses. The other qualifying option was a translation test INTO your target language (other than English) consisting of 10 short paragraphs. It is remarkable how many people opt for BOTH – since the process allows it, and – as a practical matter – receiving a passing grade on at least ONE of these is virtually guaranteed. Peace of mind for the more timid among us, and a straight path to the BIG ONE – the actual oral interpreting exam, offered on another date as the third and final stage in the process.

    Exam payment tips

    A practical note is in order here: The organizers stipulate that you MUST HAVE RECEIVED a passing grade on the written component to even REGISTER for the oral. In practice, 4-6 weeks of time is provided for the graders to return their evaluation. Given that the overall process is stretched out over time and can easily take 10 months or more – it is a good idea to have your check covering the next phase in the process ready at the close of each preceding stage. The grading CAN take 4-6 weeks, but grades can sometimes be turned in much earlier. Then, subject to availability of a spot, you can “jump ahead” and select the next available date, a welcome surprise for this rather impatient writer. I found always having payment at the ready to be a strategy worthy of recommending (checks/money orders are best). Pass/fail notices arrive in the mail promptly at the address you had given them at the outset (make sure, if you are moving, to provide both old and new address).

    STEP 3: Oral examination component

    Well, the days and weeks have flown by, and finally, you have arrived at the date of the BIG ONE. In the meantime, of course, you practiced your note-taking and recall skills, listened to the ACEBO tapes/discs several times over in your car (what else is there to do on our long commutes, right?). Crucially, you got PLENTY of sleep the night before – mindful that this exam relies heavily on recall skills – THE FIRST skill affected by lack of adequate rest – you allowed a cushion of time for traffic, baaaad GPS directions, and finding parking . The latter can be taxing in more ways than one (loud and proud Chicagoans take heed – downtown Madison is not a one-horse town, by any means). Face it – at this late hour you should not be frantically reviewing your study materials – you should be calmly focusing, humming quietly and “remembering to breathe.” This is a time to release your Inner Buddhist. Arriving stressed out, sweating and panting is for the sophomoric amateur – you, on the other hand, are a calm and collected pro, thinking ahead and taking your challenges in stride.

    Relax, breathe deeply, and other useful test taking “tips”

    So, you have found the exam room, signed in, and are now running on autopilot. The setting is relaxing, with adequate lighting and temperature. Your name is called, you greet the Proctor, and are given a couple of minutes to settle in and familiarize yourself with the microphones and lay of the land. Before you know it, the exam has started. Sight translation is the first component, one page into your target language, one into English. You gladly observe in passing that the 6 minute time limit on each is generous, and the first two minutes given to reading the text silently and making any margin notes have allowed you to wisely note any unfamiliar terms/phrases and make a decision about their treatment. Your confidence is boosted sufficiently to attack the consecutive section. You will need every ounce of it, and all the focus you can muster – for this is the toughie of the whole deal. You listen to the source sentences, give yourself a few seconds, then smoothly render into the target language. While listening you may be furiously taking notes – perhaps lagging behind a bit and reconstructing the content. You pat yourself on the back for having gotten that full night’s sleep, and keep focusing on what is AHEAD. Without sufficient focus, here is where it is easiest to make the point-costly mistakes – dates, family names, addresses, business names, professional titles. Your writing hand begins to smart a little from the death-grip on your pen or pencil, you cringe a bit at the items you inevitably missed, but still keep focused on the balls being pitched your way. Those of us NOT blessed with a steel-trap of a short-term memory need to fall back on a reliable fast note-taking system. Which I recommend anyone to spend some study-time developing in preparation. You take comfort in the 20% margin – you need an 80% overall grade to pass. If you had been diligently accumulating points on your written (you had!) and on the sight-translation component (you had better!), then you have a comfortable buffer, and just do your best on recalling and rendering content in the consecutive, without agonizing or stressing out. In fairness, the length of the sections is not excessive – less, as I recall than on the State Department’s oral exam, for instance. You do get two repetitions – which come in VERY handy, and which I used up rather early in the process.

    Walk around, and breathe deeply!

    Time flies by, and you are done with the consecutive (roughly 20+ minutes). I found it helpful to ask my friendly exam proctor for permission to walk around a little. Take deep, relaxing breaths. Physical motion in general can help to make your speech patterns more rhythmical, which in turn boosts confidence! You are likely quite keyed up, but some of that is actually an advantage for the simultaneous section – you will establish some automatism, and perhaps faster speed. Same concept – one part into English, the other into your chosen language. After just a few phrases, you find yourself going into “the zone” – routine and automation take over, and “take you home”. Rather than reflecting, you “just do it”, perhaps surprising yourself that you knew the terms that just “came to you” of themselves – more fruit of sound preparation and good rest. The walking around has helped you with breath control, you are in your element. Before you know it, there is silence on the tape, you look up to see the Proctor’s smiling face. You are DONE. You promise yourself that whatever the outcome, you DO NOT want to do this over in the near future. Your mind wanders toward a suitable treat, rewarding all the diligence and hard work. And well you deserve it, my Friend! Another Season, Another Hoop Jumped in the saga of Unending Professional Development. Yes, but why me? Well, (in deep baritones), dear Language Professional, “this is the life you chose….”


    You have, till now, kept the entire project to a band of very close friends – no benefit in adding to the stress by advertising. But the wheels have been turning. They have looked up your (non-existent) rap sheet, and vetted your good character (of course it is good!). A short two months later, your name is in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin’s database and website of interpreters qualified to stand before their Supreme Court (and all their courts of common pleas you can name). Also importantly, you have done something for yourself, taken steps to increase your market value. Slowed the ageing of your brain’s synapses, struck a blow against early-onset Alzheimer’s (documented – simultaneous interpreting ranks among ten leading dementia-fighting professions). So in the intervening weeks – you won’t spend time fretting TOO much about failing or passing – this was a good wholesome exercise in its own right, something you needed for yourself. And for the standing of your much-underappreciated colleagues. And, surely, for those less fortunate ones who can use a leg up in the halls of justice – and whose voice sounds remarkably like your own .

    Additional information

    State of Wisconsin certification
    (Click “WI court system”, then “Services”, then “For interpreters”)

    State of Indiana certification

    **Cook County interpreter certification cost partial reimbursement policy** Our Chicago Newspaper Guild (CNG/CWA) contract specifies that up to 10 interpreters per year (may be full-time or sessions employees, first come, first served) may seek partial reimbursement for certification costs. Proof of registration for orientation, and for each examination component, as well as successful exam scores (certificate) on written and oral exam components, must be presented on the 33rd floor of Daley Center, Human Resources. Ask for the 3 “professional development” pre-approval forms you must fill out. Or you may use the cost of becoming certified as a professional development tax credit.

    Please note that the State of Indiana has its own orientation, testing, and certification costs. For further information, see the website referenced above.

    With County reimbursement, what would your total State of Wisconsin certification costs be? Let’s do the math:

    $175.00 2-day orientation
    45.00 Written examination into your target language [if chosen]
    0.00 Multiple choice exam on court procedures and ethics
    225.00 Oral examination [simultaneous/consecutive/sight translation portions]

    $300.00 CNG/CWA union contract specified County reimbursement
    $145.00 Grand Total after County reimbursement

    **To qualify for the reimbursement, you must strictly adhere to the application deadline and proof or registration/payment/passing scores, etc., specified by Human Resources in Daley Center [inquire at Reception, or ask to speak to Helen Barker**]. It is easy to get turned down for this reimbursement, though. There is still an open issue with the County about when to submit the reimbursement request. Technically, you are required to do it within 30 days of the “beginning of the course” (the reimbursement format is still for “educational courses”). Yet, you also need to submit a “certificate of completion”. Which works out as a sort of Catch-22, especially since the process is necessarily a drawn-out one in terms of time. The Union will be working on this with the County Administration.

    Currently, the Cook County interpreters Contract negotiations team is attempting to negotiate higher pay rates for full-time and sessions employees who acquire State of Wisconsin, State of Indiana, or Federal certification. Stay tuned for progress in this area!

  • 08/07/2014 11:33 AM | Diane R. Grosklaus Whitty
    (by Margie Franzen)

    Openness is something that's come upon the translation profession rather recently. More translators now have their names on the front covers of books than they did in years past. Blogs such as Three Percent (, from the University of Rochester, and Ampersand (, from the publishers of & Other Stories, review translations. Online journals such as Asymptote and Words Without Borders, through interviews and bios, give readers an idea of what translating a text involves. And, more and more, publishers such as the University of Nebraska, Open Book, or Pushkin Press carve a niche supply-and-demand for English-language translations. All of this is known in the translation world. But what about the wide-world at large? What about the world of readers and non-readers?


    The t&t open mic. translators. and. translations. is a get-together of local folks taking to the mic, sharing translations that have made them laugh, cry, learn from or ponder over. Anyone can read; anyone can come by to have a drink and listen. Translations can be published works that someone has read or they can be unpublished self-translations. So, the mic really is open! Genealogy letter from faraway relatives? Fascinating. Poem from a dreamer somewhere overseas? Delightful. Funny bilingual dictionary? Good for a laugh! Anything else translated? There's a ton!


    All readings are in English. No knowledge of the original language is necessary; we are, or can eventually allow ourselves to be, “unfettered readers” - as colleague, friend, and professor of translation studies at the University of San Antonio Melissa Wallace wrote to me recently in an email. The open mic hopes to unfetter readers from the lament of “I wish I knew more languages...” There is a growing body of world writing available in English. Thanks to translation, we can explore, we can travel beyond our linguistic and physical boundaries.


    Each open mic will be held at the Lakeside Coffee House in Madison in its chic, newly remodeled bar space. Anyone who reads gets a free drink and we hope they come in thirsty droves. A raised glass to anyone and everyone who steps up to the mic to share whatever translation they choose!


    The first open mic is set for Thursday evening, August 21, 2014. People sign up to read at 7 pm; reading starts at 7:30 and goes until about 9:00. There is a park right by the coffee shop – perfect for families with children who'd like to let the kids run around a bit before coming in and enjoying an artful end to the day. Or, for after-work socializing, there's nothing better for next-day office chatter than what you heard at the open mic the night before. The open mic is a perfect date-night or a sure-fire way to kickstart friendly banter about books. It’s great for the professed non-reader as well. What’s better than just enjoying a drink with books fed to you in tasty bits?


    &wordplay is the organizer of the open mic. Write with questions or for more information to:

    Like the open mic idea? Like our Facebook page!


    We hope to see you at an open mic soon!








  • 08/02/2014 1:55 PM | Anonymous
    On April 24, former MATI president and current Vice President of the NCIHC Enrica Ardemagni presented for the fourth of MATI’s Brown Bag Webinar Series for medical interpreters. Her presentation was titled “Interpreting: A Lifelong Learning Experience.”

    Ardemagni began her presentation by contextualizing lifelong learning historically, as well as by clarifying how the topic fits in with formal education and training. She went on to discuss the characteristics that define the deliberate learning inherent in formal education, including a focus on intention and outcomes and an understanding of the specific reasons for working to obtain a skill, with the goal of retaining and using learned skills. However, since the field of interpreting is still viewed by many as a fall-back profession for bilinguals, Ardemagni notes that most professionals rely on organized adult education for training, which lacks in the deliberate learning structures of formal education that would identify the many competencies required for interpreting, along with the structure within which to obtain all of those competencies.

    According to Ardemagni, lifelong learning in interpreting therefore requires professionals to pursue and organize their own continual learning in order to continually respond to changes in language, cultural, technology and societal institutions. This is especially true since the failure to actively pursue lifelong learning may lead to declines in skills or the fossilization of incorrect language use or professional behaviors. To continually achieve lifelong learning, Ardemagni suggested the pursuit of courses or degrees, on-site trainings and webinars, along with reading and listening in a professional’s working languages.

    As far as developments in lifelong learning, Ardemagni noted that many questions remain, including the impact of this pursuit at home and abroad, how to recognize the various forms of learning, time and money investments to be made and additional research upon which instructors can draw in the formation of training programs. What is certain is that lifelong learning requires self-motivated learners, the creation of educational material, time, support from employers and stakeholders (not to mention the identification of stakeholders), along with funding and salaries that match professionals credentials.

    As stated above, Ardemagni’s presentation was the fourth in the MATI Brown Bag Webinar Series. This webinar was offered free to MATI members and non-members alike and was very well attended, with over forty registrations. MATI is currently seeking future presenters for the Brown Bag Series. To suggest a presenter or propose a topic, please email
  • 05/22/2014 9:27 PM | Anonymous

    MATI Member Spotlight: Meet Our Treasurer Kate Jankowski!

    Kate Jankowski is an English to Polish translator and interpreter. She holds Master’s degrees in English Philology and in Public Administration, along with a Certificate in Paralegal Studies. Jankowski is also an ATA certified English to Polish translator and a Wisconsin State Certified Court Interpreter. She is MATI’s current treasurer as well and has been a member of the organization for over five years.

    Where do you live and/or work?

    I live in the western suburbs of Chicago, and I have a small office in Addison, IL, from where I run my company called PLUS Professional Translation Services, LLC (

    How did you acquire your B language(s)?

    I was not aware of it, but I was exposed to foreign languages from early childhood. I come from the part of Poland called Upper Silesia. My grandmother spoke Polish with a Silesian dialect and was fluent in German. I went to grade school in Poland at the time when Russian was the only foreign language taught at school. My neighbor found an English tutor but could not afford one-on-one lessons. Although reluctantly, my parents eventually allowed me to join the neighbor, and I started learning English when I was about 11. I was able to get into a high school that offered English and then graduated with a master’s degree in English from the Silesian University in Poland. Most of my instructors spoke British English, and the first English speaking country I visited was Ireland. I ended up getting a scholarship in the US. I was an exchange student at the Southwest Texas State University (now called Texas State U.) in San Marcos, TX. I went back to Poland to graduate and then returned to Chicago, where my husband was finishing his studies at that time.

    I believe that keeping up with my native language is equally important to mastering my B language. Polish spoken in Chicago uses a lot of borrowings from English, so I travel to Poland at least once a year to get a booster of current Polish--only to find out that it assimilates more and more words from English, just in a different way.

    How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?

    I was still a student when I was hired as an in-house translator by a company which was in charge of a pesticide hazardous waste cleanup program. It was in the early 1990s and a lot of technology, equipment and procedures were new and coming to Poland from the Western countries--all written in English and needing to be translated into Polish. Some funding for the program was provided by the European Union. The sponsoring agency wanted to know how its money was used, so I also translated progress reports and communications with the agency. The field was new, but I had unlimited access to source texts and colleagues who had specialized knowledge in the scientific fields that I needed, including chemistry, hydrology, and environmental engineering.

    I did not have a computer back then. I was handwriting the translations and giving them to a lady that would type them for me on a typewriter. No, she did not know English, so spelling mistakes were frequent and my handwriting had to be very neat and clear for her.

    The advent of the Internet was another blessing for me. I was still able to work for the company while I was in the U.S. Our (mine and my husband’s) decision to return to Poland was taking longer than expected, so I decided to go back to school. Because of the field that I was working in, I went for the Public Administration Environmental Management program at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL.

    Long story short, we decided to stay in the U.S. The company was no longer my employer but became my client. I had to find more customers, but my field was very narrow, and I had to see where else I could offer my services.

    While settling in Chicago, I was seeing doctors and attorneys and I figured these would be two groups of professionals for whom I could interpret. I remember doctors’ appointments being emotional and sad: every patient had a story to tell, but no one had the time to listen. I was once asked by a friend to come to a court hearing with her to interpret. I thought I got it, but oh my! Was I wrong! I did not know when to approach the judge, when to begin speaking, and when I finally figured it out, I understood what he was saying but did not have the Polish vocabulary to say it to my friend. Embarrassment only begins to describe how I felt. I began to look for courses in court interpreting in my language pair, but could not find any. I found paralegal studies to be the closest useful thing and decided to give it a try. I thought, if not interpreting, I would at least get familiar with the US legal system.

    In the meantime I was also working on my professional credentials. In 2003, I became a “sworn translator” registered with the Ministry of Justice in Poland. In 2006, I was certified by the ATA and recently became a translator and interpreter for the U.S. Department of State, along with getting my court interpreter certification from the state of Wisconsin.

    It took me a while,but I think I found my specialty in the legal field. My job offers quite an interesting mix: I do both translation and interpreting, go back in time, but also assist people with their present-day needs. My day usually consists of a court hearing or deposition, translating and meeting with people with fascinating stories. I work with Polish Consulates in the U.S. and help people to get their Polish citizenship, recognize their marriages, divorces, or register births in Poland. My typical customer is a third generation Polish-American, whose grandparents fled Poland during World War II, briefly stayed in another country and then immigrated into the U.S. Some families have documents from several foreign countries, so I collaborate with a lot of translators from other languages.

    Throughout the years, I received a lot from others. It is time to give back. MATI is one of the organizations I volunteer for. I am also a member of the Leadership Council for the ATA’s Slavic Languages Division and have been the Board Secretary at a local Polish school for over a decade.


    What continues to inspire you?

    Those who have stuck through the toughest of times and continue to smile.

  • 03/27/2014 11:32 AM | Anonymous
    How to Manage Your Association Across State Lines

    Reposted from the Bright Association Press, the Webbright blog, with permission from Lamees Abourahma, Bright Founder & President, Webbright Services, LLC; visit the original Webbright blog posting here.

    Our guest for this edition of the Bright Association Press is Christina Green, the 2012-2014 President of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI). Christina is an independent translator and interpreter in Wisconsin and has been a member of MATI since it's inception 10 years ago. MATI, a chapter of the American Translators Association (ATA), is a professional association founded by and for translators and interpreters in the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. MATI's membership has grown from 20 members to 120 since it moved to its new website about a year ago. To learn about MATI's successful transition to its new website, read MATI's website case study here. 

    Here is what Christina shared with us about her membership management and success.  (Listen to the interview here.)

    One of the unique things about MATI is that it's an association that spans over three states: Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. This means that the association utilizes virtual techniques to have a strong presence in each of the three states, but the association's physical presence with its active members and board members keeps the organization running in a physical sense.

    "We do have some very active members, whether they are board members or [former] board members, and they in the three states," Green said. "They are very active. They run a lot of activities past us. So, we are able to have a very active presence and meet with people face to face."

    MATI has three types of members: student members, corporate members, and regular professional members who are currently translators or interpreters. Anybody who works in the language industry can join in the association.

    "We don't discriminate," Green said. "If you are simply a logophile, and you want to join an organization or association that deals with languages you're more than welcome to join ours."

    One of the benefits of joining MATI is the provision of continuing education activities and gathering activities. The association also has a members-only section on its website where members can post and find jobs, and does excellent work of keeping its members informed about the industry's latest trends.

    MATI logo"What draws in members, first of all, is the idea of being part of a group. Considering that translators, historically, are very isolated people who actually sit behind a computer and they translate with very little, or no interaction, with other human beings other than by email or phone every once in a while," Green said, "Getting together with other professional members who do the same thing they do actually gives them a very good perspective on where the industry is going, what the trends are, the new tools available in the market, and things of that nature."

    Many associations have trouble recruiting and retaining young members, but this isn't the case for MATI. The association is fortunate enough to include Wisconsin as one of its three states, which has the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. UWM has a one of the only three or four programs in the entire nation that offers a bachelor's degree in linguistics and languages translation and interpretation studies.

    "So, with that, we have actually viewed, not only the professors at the university as a way to getting into the classroom and explain to the students not only who we are but the importance of being part of a professional organization, but also we have used their resources in order to fulfill our mission," Green said. "So we use, for example, the university's auditorium for our conferences every two or three years. We have improved our young audience exponentially, especially since the new board took over in 2012."

    As for member retention, Green says the first thing is communication, which is much more than mass emails. Communication is also about listening to your member base and meeting with members one-on-one if possible. Although this strategy has worked well for MATI in developing new programs and initiatives, Green admits that one-on-one meetings isn't something that every association can do.

    "Of course, we can do this because we are not an association of 1000 members. You know, when you have that size it's a little bit more difficult to call [everyone] one at a time and communicate with them," she said. "Still, with an association of our size it hasn't been easy but it is something that we do. We communicate personally with them. And, they like that. People like that."

    bright-assoc-pressAbout the Bright Association Press: The Bright Association Press is an interview series, hosted by Lamees Abourahma, Webbright founder and president, featuring association executives covering topics related to membership management, recruiting, retention, marketing, IT, and other related topics. We’re talking real-life professional associations’ challenges and unique solutions.

    Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Bright Association Press? Questions or suggestions? Love to hear from you.



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  • 02/14/2014 11:59 AM | Anonymous

    On Friday, January 17, 2014, Indiana MATI members and friends joined together for a post-holiday party and to ring in 2014. Braving the cold snow and chilling winds, approximately 13 guests met in downtown Indianapolis at BARcelona Tapas Restaurant where they shared great food, conversation, and a chance to meet and greet old and new MATI members. This year several new faces were seen, there was an equal number of both interpreters and translators, as well as representation from some translation agencies and several professors in translation and interpreting from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. While sharing tapas and enjoying some exotic drinks, past MATI president Enrica Ardemagni spoke about the origins of MATI and encouraged everyone to attend the American Translators Association which will be held in Chicago in 2014 with MATI as the host chapter. Indiana looks forward to great programming and events from MATI in the upcoming year. 


  • 12/16/2013 8:16 PM | Anonymous
    Looking for the perfect gift for that translator or interpreter in your life (or for yourself)? The NCIHC 2014 #LanguageAccess Calendar would make the perfect gift! The calendar features winners of the NCIHC 2014 Photo Contest and includes important dates for the medical field, like National Breast Cancer Day, along with other cultural recognition days. Visit the NCIHC's facebook page to see the photo for each month, and order your calendar at NCIHC's website! All proceeds from calendar sales will go toward financing NCIHC activities.


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