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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.
  • 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.

  • 12/13/2013 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    As a courtesy for our members, we would like to pass along the following information from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, which is the state body currently making a renewed attempt to implement court interpreter certification through the consortium here in Illinois. Please read below for more details and for information on participating in one of the upcoming meetings to get input from stakeholders taking place throughout the state in January. 


    You will also find the dates of each regional meeting posted on the MATI site calendar.


    Susan Schweigert

    MATI Board Member

    I am writing to let you know that the AOIC will be hosting six regional meetings across the state in January for judges, court personnel, and any other interested stakeholders. I have attached a Save-the-Date with location information and an agenda. Feel free attend at a date and location that is convenient for you and extend this invitation to your contacts.


    The regional meetings will give everyone an opportunity to discuss challenges in addressing language access in the circuit courts. We will also discuss creative approaches undertaken to meet those challenges in other counties in Illinois and other states, and implementation solutions for the Language Access Plan template that was approved by the Supreme Court. The template was distributed in the past several weeks to the circuit courts and we are currently in the submission process for county-specific plans. Our hope is that the meetings will provide our office with a better understanding of how we can assist the circuit courts, and provide a starting point for greater cooperation across the state.


    We kindly request that all attendees RSVP to by January 3, 2014 so that our office can plan for space and refreshments accordingly. If you are attending the meeting in Chicago, John Marshall Law school requires our office to send a list of first and last names prior to the meeting for entrance security purposes.

    Our office has already extended the invitation to court personnel responsible for arranging for interpreters in each county, and I requested that they bring their Language Access Plans and any related questions, examples of translated court forms, brochures, or other language assistance resources already in use, and a list of interpreters used by the court. Please feel free to bring any materials that would contribute to the conversation.


    Thanks and hope to see you there.


    Sophia N. Akbar, J.D.

    Language Access Services Specialist

    Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

    222 N. LaSalle Street, 13th Floor

    Chicago, Illinois 60601

     (312) 793-2013  (phone)

     (312) 793-1335  (fax)


  • 11/14/2013 10:36 AM | Meghan Konkol
    MATI Member Spotlight: Sarah Puchner

    Sarah Puchner is a French > English translator and has been a MATI member since 2010. She holds a BA in modern languages and a graduate certificate in translation from UW–Milwaukee.

    Where do you live and/or work?

    I live in the Milwaukee suburb of Elm Grove and I work from home for ITC Global Translations, an agency based in Florida.

    How did you acquire your B language(s)?

    Growing up in the south of England, I had plenty of opportunities to visit France: school exchange visits, family vacations, even day trips on the ferry. I grew to love the language and culture, and went on to study French, Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Salford near Manchester. For my year abroad, I chose to go to Dakar, Senegal, instead of France so I was able to experience life in French-speaking Africa.

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

    After earning my degree, I worked for the British Diplomatic Service for two years. My postings included Bangkok and New York which, while very exciting places to live, did not give me the opportunity to use my language skills. Fate intervened when I met my husband during the posting to New York. He was from a place I had never heard of before: Milwaukee.

    Fast forward several years: with four school-aged children, I decided that working from home as a translator would allow me to be available for my family while using my skills professionally. I researched the translation market and soon realized that in order to get started I would need either a new qualification or experience. That’s when I got in touch with the Translation Dept. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), enrolling in their Graduate Certificate in Translation in 2009. I had worked as a part-time translator in Portugal in the early 1990s and as you can imagine the translation profession today is very different! As well as improving my language skills, I learned about the business aspects of freelancing and how to use CAT tools. Being a student at UWM meant I was–and still am–connected to a strong network of other students, translators and instructors. In fact, I applied for my current in-house position after reading about it in an email sent from the Translation Dept. to alumni.


    An extremely valuable part of the course was my internship. I worked as a quality reviewer for Iverson Language Associates here in Milwaukee. This experience taught me how an agency operates. Also, I used Wordfast on a daily basis so my fear of CAT tools gradually subsided.

    Describe an especially memorable or fulfilling professional experience.

    My proudest moment as a translator came when I found out I had won the ATA Student Translation Award in 2010. My entry was a translation of a Haitian short story that I had worked on as part of the Literary Translation course at UWM. As I was just starting out at the time and didn’t have much to show in terms of professional experience, winning the award made my résumé more credible and boosted my confidence!

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

    Beginners are faced with the vicious circle of not being able to get work without experience, and not being able to get experience without work. I highly recommend a translation degree or certificate course at an ATA-approved school. This will help you make useful contacts in the field, especially if an internship is required. It also means you will be eligible to sit the ATA certification exam. Being ATA certified can compensate for a lack of professional experience.

    Also, use the resources available to you from MATI and the ATA. Go to as many conferences and events as you possibly can (I landed my first freelancing job as a direct result of attending the ATA conference in 2011). You are likely to meet other translators with whom you have plenty in common and who will be happy to give you advice.

    ATA members can also sign up to join the Business Practices listserv – here you can ask questions about getting started and learn from posts by others. Many successful translators are active on this list and their advice is priceless (, scroll down towards the bottom of the page for info. about how to join the list). The ATA has also recently launched a newcomers blog that can be found here:

    I also recommend using social media to track trends in the industry, for example, by following translation companies and freelancers on Twitter. It only takes a few minutes a couple of times a day to catch up on what other translators are doing and thinking. For me, reading tweets about translation is the equivalent of stepping out to the bubbler in a real office–a welcome break to catch up with co-workers.

  • 11/13/2013 8:55 AM | Anonymous
    Many thanks to Carmel Capati, Wisconsin Court Interpreter Program Manager and Director of State Courts Office of Court Operations, and Joanna Garber, author of the below, for allowing us to reprint this article from the Fall 2013 edition of the Wisconsin Court Interpreter Program (CIP) Newsletter, which can be accessed here.

    MATI 2013 Conference Perspective
    By Joanna Garber

    Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, see new faces and recognize the ones you saw last year at the Midwest Association for Translators and Interpreters (MATI) conference. This year’s MATI conference was held in Chicago, IL where the atmosphere and the speakers were interesting and informative. 

    The MATI board headed by Christina Green put together an excellent conference. It was a captivating event for newbies breaking into the interpreting business as well as for seasoned court interpreters. We also had good representation of translators both new and experienced. 

    While all of the speakers were outstanding, two in particular really stood out. One of them was Prof. Alexander Rainhof from California who touched upon the never exhausted topic of ethical issues surrounding the interpreting profession. The other notable speaker was Atty. Cain Oulahan from Milwaukee who provided an overview of the ever-changing world of immigration laws. 

    I met some great people from Illinois who are working hard to develop a court interpreting program similar to the one that we, in Wisconsin, have enjoyed for years. By chance I was seated next to Sophia Akbar, the new Language Access Program Coordinator for the Illinois Court System. I hope we can give them our support and continue the good work in our state. 

    I was very happy to devote one Saturday meeting new colleagues as interested in the interpreting and translating profession as me.
  • 10/29/2013 12:52 PM | Anonymous
    Moaning about late-paying clients, wondering whether to do a free translation test for an agency, fretting about how you reacted when a doctor told a patient that there was no connection between her newly acquired cough and her new blood pressure medication, trying to understand how to file for CCHI continuing education points, venting about a non-native-English-speaking direct client who wants to ‘touch up’ your English, exploring the personality traits of a translator versus an interpreter, comparing notes on the advantages and disadvantages of various CAT tools, or reporting on a intriguing new article or book you stumbled across. These are some of the things that enter into discussion when, as translators and interpreters living or working in the Madison, WI area, we gather monthly at a local coffee shop or restaurant. For every question, there is a colleague to shed a little light on a conundrum or provide a complete or partial answer. For every complaint, there is someone who has gone through a similar experience and has terrific advice or knows someone who can help us out. For every frustration, there is commiseration, support, and encouragement.


    We find plenty of cause for celebration too: when a colleague earns a certification or award, graduates college, gets a promotion, passes a major exam, has a baby, publishes a book, becomes a citizen, or ‘survives’ her daughter’s wedding.


    And we evidently find much to laugh about. At our recent October 16 meeting at Panera, the manager presented us with a large bag of cookies for this very reason. He said he just doesn’t hear people laughing enough anymore (excluding tailgaters from his tally, he stressed).


    Although we have no organizational ties or any political or religious affiliations, the group was an outgrowth of the September 2010 MATI conference in Milwaukee, where three of us from the Madison area first met and decided we’d like to have an opportunity to get together with our fellow translators and interpreters on a more regular basis.


    The numbers: While we generally have only half a dozen to a dozen at any one meeting, our email list has expanded to nearly 50 (plus another 5 “corresponding” members in other cities). Nearly half give Spanish as their working language, but another 17 languages are also represented (including Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Russian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Farsi, Hindi, Bengali, Mandarin, Japanese, Vietnamese, Catalan, Korean, and Nepali). About thirty of our members are medical interpreters, while around twenty are translators – bearing in mind that some wear both hats. About half a dozen do legal interpreting, and we have a few conference interpreters as well.


    The group has a Facebook page where anyone can post information on local events, course offerings, job opportunities, links to an article or blog post, or share any other information of professional interest.  Our mailing list also serves as a way to keep each other up to date on professional happenings in the area.


    Wondering if you would have anything to gain by starting a similar group close to you? Here’s what participants have to say about why they attend these regular meetings:


    I like to come to our meetings because I enjoy getting out of the office and socializing with people who share my love of words and diverse cultures!
    - Sylvia, Italian>English legal translator


    I look forward to our get-togethers every month.  I love it because we get to hear and share tips, ideas, and experiences from other translators and interpreters. We also get to learn from different cultures and languages. But most importantly, I love it because we have fun, and laughter is always one of our most important guests. :)

    - Rosy, English>Spanish translator and interpreter


    I attend because it is fun to meet with other interpreters and it gives me a sense of community.

    - Susan, English<>French medical interpreter


    Besides being fun and relaxed, our local group meetings are a nice way to exchange experiences and network. We share what’s going on, what’s new, or what’s working well for our colleagues. Our meetings are the only occasion I have personal, face-to-face interactions with other interpreters and translators, and that helps me keep in contact with the "real world" in that area.
    For me, these meetings are also a source of good advice and encouragement, which are very much appreciated!

    - Thaís, master’s candidate in translation (English>Portuguese)


    Take a peek at the latest postings on our Madison group’s FB page:


    article by Diane Grosklaus-Whitty

  • 08/28/2013 12:23 PM | Anonymous

    MATI Member Spotlight: Tom Bonsett

    Tom Bonsett is a German > English translator and has been a MATI member for nearly 10 years. He has an extensive background in engineering and translation, including a BS in chemistry, a MS and a PhD in electrical engineering, along with a BA in German and an in progress BA in translation studies (German to English) at IUPUI in Indianapolis.

    Where do you live and/or work?

    I live and work in Indianapolis, Indiana.

    How did you acquire your B language(s)?

    I grew up in a home that was bilingual – my mother spoke German with me while I was growing up. In high school I took four years of German.  Later, after moving back to Indianapolis from Arizona, I started taking foreign languages classes at IUPUI in Indianapolis. I received a BA with a major in German in 2001. I then started working on another BA degree at IUPUI; this degree is in translation studies (German to English). IUPUI has an excellent translation program. I have not only benefited from the German translation, grammar, and literature classes that I have taken, but also from the classes that dealt with translation in general in which practical issues (such as how to estimate a translation job) were addressed. Another very useful class dealt with the theory and practice of editing.


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

    I have been active in German to English translation for about ten years.  I took early retirement from my position as an engineer in 2011. Since retiring I have been working to complete a BA in Translation Studies at IUPUI in Indianapolis. My goal is a second career in German to English translation.

    What inspired you to get into your field?

    My mother did translation work, so she had a major influence on me to develop an interest in translation. While working on my first BA degree I found that I really enjoyed the classes dealing with translation. I have three technical degrees (in chemistry and electrical engineering). I worked in the field of turbine engine instrumentation for about 24 years, being employed by two different turbine engine companies. I enjoy all types of translation, but given my background, I put an emphasis on technical translation.


    What continues to inspire you?

    I think that what inspires me is simply the fact that I enjoy doing translation.


    What program/tool/dictionary couldn’t you live without?

    I am a bit old-fashioned in that I prefer real books to electronic dictionaries. That being said, I find the BEOLINGUS (TU Chemnitz) and the LEO on-line dictionaries to be very useful. For general purpose dictionaries I use “Cassell’s German Dictionary,” the Oxford Duden “German Dictionary”, and the Collins “German Unabridged Dictionary,” in that order. For technical dictionaries I use the “Wörterbuch der Technik” by Girardet, the “Pictorial Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary”, and the “Wörterbuch der industriellen Technik” by Dr. Ing. Richard Ernst, in no particular order. For finance and business dictionaries I use “Wörterbuch (Handel, Finanz, Rechts) by Robert Herbst, the “Grosswörterbuch Wirstschaftsenglisch” by Hamblock/Wessels, and the “Wirtschafts Wörterbuch” by von Eichborn, also in no particular order.


    Why do you think it’s important to belong to professional organizations like MATI?

    I think that belonging to MATI is important because it provides a way to connect and interact with other translators in the Midwest. Translation is usually a somewhat solitary endeavor, but without the interaction with and feedback from other translators it is too easy to become complacent and to lose one’s translation competence.

  • 08/22/2013 4:24 PM | Meghan Konkol

    Advice on the ATA Certification Sitting

    The ATA certification sitting hosted by MATI in Chicago on Friday, September 20 is quickly approaching, so we asked MATI members who have already undergone certification process if they may have any advice to offer those who plan on taking the exam. You’ll find that advice below, from the kinds of reference material to bring to little steps you can take to use your time efficiently during the exam. Good luck!

    Preparing for the exam

    DO spend the money to take a practice text! Just as each client may have her or his own glossary, style rules, etc., so does the ATA, and by taking a practice exam, you will have a better idea of what the ATA is looking for. For example, there are a number of legitimate approaches for treating hospital names. You could translate the name, leave it in the source language, or include both the source and target. By taking the practice exam, you’ll have an idea of what the ATA prefers. After having been in the business for many years, you know just how important it is to know what your client's expectations are, so you can adequately respond to them. Similarly, even if you have been working as a translator for many years, the insights you gain from the practice exam on types of text, vocabulary, register, etc., will better prepare you to respond to the ATA’s expectations.


    Before the exam, reading texts from the legal, scientific, etc. communities to remind yourself of the styles currently used in those fields may be a good idea.

    -Kate Jankowski

    I highly recommend taking a practice test or two before the exam because you get written feedback on the practice tests, giving you a good idea of areas of strength and opportunity for improvement. You only receive a pass/fail grade for the official exam and the passing rate is about 20%.

    -Sue Couture

    What to bring

    Thinking that it’s ridiculous to carry so much is no reason to leave any kind of reference material behindundefinedtake a suitcase full of books if you need to. At the very least, candidates should bring good English and target language monolingual dictionaries, a good bilingual dictionary, and one bilingual dictionary in each of the following categories: technical, medical and legal. Those working into either Spanish or Portuguese should bring material related to the new grammar and spelling guidelines of those languages, and candidates should also bring any other reference (like personal glossaries) that they find essential to their daily work.

    -Lilian Ramsey

    The exam proctor will tell you how much time is left until the end of the exam at certain points, but some people like to know how much time is left all of the time. Many of us would use our cell phones for something like that now, but as no electronic devices are allowed during the exam, digging out and bringing an old watch to the exam might be a good idea.

    -Kate Jankowski

    I recommend bringing a good general bilingual dictionary along with specialty dictionaries that you have used before and are comfortable with… Having references that are familiar to you saves time, especially if you are writing the translation by hand.

    -Sue Couture

    Before the exam starts

    Set up your books and glossaries around your working area considering the frequency of use (most used, closest to you). Set up your pencils, erasers, and pens in front of you.

    -Lilian Ramsey

    All of the instructions that the ATA provides answer many questions you may have, so do read them!

    -Kate Jankowski

    During the exam

    Pay attention to the proctor's instructions. Once you open the envelope, don't waste a second. Start reading each passage, and decide which ones you are going to translate. As you read, underline any words that may require research using reference material, and once you have finished reading all of the selected texts, look up all words that need clarification. This method is faster than researching one word at a time.

    Be sure to give yourself enough time to read through the whole translation at the end to check for omissions, accuracy, and spelling and punctuation. This is key. And, of course, your handwriting has to be legible.

    -Lilian Ramsey

    Take the time to ensure that the translated text reads naturally and does not stick too closely to the original.

    -Kate Jankowski

    If the exam is on paper, I encourage test-takers not to be overly concerned about crossing things out and moving them around. Accurately conveying the intended meaning of the source text is more important than the corrections made during the process, as long as your handwriting is legible.

    -Sue Couture

    To register for the ATA Certification Sitting to be hosted by MATI or for more information, visit the ATA’s Certification Program webpage

  • 08/02/2013 4:19 PM | Anonymous
    Michelle Lopez-Rios is a voice coach, actor, director, and co-founder of the Royal Mexican Players. She has worked as a voice and dialect coach for Goodman Theatre, Houston Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, and many other theaters. She has taught voice classes and workshops for the University of Houston, Texas A&M, Texas Educational Theatre Association, United Community Center, The Healing Center, and UW–Milwaukee, where she is currently the Head of Acting. Visit for more information about her background and research.


    Your Voice: An Instrument Worth Caring For

    by Michelle Lopez-Rios

    Our voice is an incredible reflection of who we are.  The sounds we make reflect our culture, education, emotional state, and various other factors.  The smallest rise or fall in inflection conveys sarcasm, empathy, or an inside joke.  I have been honored to explore voice work with actors, professionals, abused women, immigrants, and others in search of finding their best voice.  While individual goals differ, the ability to clearly communicate is central in our journey.  Interpreters and translators have the demanding task of being someone else’s voice. The following are some thoughts and techniques that may be useful in helping you discover your best voice.


    Vocal production involves the entire body.  A collapsed spine cuts off power from the diaphragm and establishes harsh pressure on the larynx.  Tension in the body impedes vibration and may result in a thin or small sound. In order to have a clear and strong voice, you must exercise and take care of your instrument.  Just like a ballerina goes to the barre or a classic guitarist plays her scales daily, those who depend on their voice must work to develop and nurture it.


    Relaxation and Breath.  Ever notice your shoulders rise when you are talking to someone who is stressed out?  The more stressed the person becomes, the tighter the voice becomes.  Releasing tension in the body is essential in order to allow the sound to resonate in the body.


    Exercises (for those of us who do not get a weekly massage to relieve the stress): (1) Lie down on your back, legs extended. Take a deep breath in and relax your body.  Begin by tensing all of the muscles in your right leg; then relax them.  Next tense all of the muscles in your left leg, then relax them.  Continue working up your body, tensing and then relaxing each group, one at a time: buttocks, stomach, chest, right arm, left arm, neck, and head.  When you have completed all sections, scan through the body to release any residual tension (eyebrows, jaw, buttocks, and shoulders are often stubborn to relax!). Now allow a deep breath to fall into your stomach.  Continue to breathe for a few minutes, just noticing what it feels like to release the tension in your body. (2) A shorter option: Begin standing with weight equally distributed on both feet. Roll the shoulders back six times, then forward six times. Raise the shoulders to the ears.  Gently allow the shoulders to fall. Then allow the head to fall forward to the chest. This will gently stretch out the back of the neck. Roll the right ear to the right shoulder; then roll the head forward and all the way to the left shoulder. Go back and forth a couple of times. Finally, bring the head up slowly and imagine that the top of your head is floating up to the ceiling. The spine is long and the tension is released. 


    Remember to BREATHE as you do either exercise.  Again, it is important to rid the body of as much tension as possible.  This will allow you to be present to receive the story you are translating/interpreting.  It will also allow your voice to work more effectively and efficiently. 


    Resonance. Have you ever heard an amazing voice and thought, “Wow, I can feel the vibrations of that voice!” The sound that comes from the vocal folds vibrating is similar to a bee in a napkin. It is only through resonance that the sound is amplified. 


    Exercises: (1) Yawn and lift your soft palate.  This will allow for more space in the throat. (2) Start a hum on your lips.  Try various pitches.  Notice the tingling around your lips. (3) Put your hand on your chest and say “Hah” on an extended note until you feel the vibration in your chest.  (If you are feeling wild, go for a Tarzan call to the jungle.)


    Remember to breathe and maintain your relaxed body and open throat.  You can also do this lying down, after the breathing and relaxation exercise.


    Power.  “Can you speak up?” “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Power is the engagement of the muscles in the body to help amplify the sound.  Power does not necessarily mean loudness, however.  I can speak in a quiet tone with lots of power.  Similarly, it is possible to scream loudly and strain the voice because of lack of power.


    Exercises: (1) Put your index finger about three inches in front of your mouth and imagine that your finger is a candle.  Blow out the candle.  Try this again twelve inches away.  Try it again with your arm extended all the way out.  Can you feel the stomach engage as you blow? These are the muscles we are interested in engaging to speak.  (2) Stand in front of a wall, placing your hands on the wall.  Push against the wall as you count out loud, “1 by 2 by 3 by 4 by 5 by 6 by 7 by 8.” Now take your hands off the wall and repeat the counting.  Do you notice any difference?  Pushing against the wall engages the abdominal muscles.  This helps the body to support the voice.  It is what you do to sustain a note when singing. 


    Articulation.  The last part of vocal production is the forming of the words. 


    Exercises: (1) Yawn and raise the soft palate (again). This will stretch out your face and again allow more room in the back of the mouth. (2) Stick out your tongue.  Tension or bunching of the back of the tongue interferes with a clear voice. (3) Blow through your lips, allowing them to vibrate gently.  You can also add sound (like when a child makes a car sound by blowing through the lips). (4) Tongue twisters are a great way to wake up the articulator muscles and the brain. (Try any of your old favorites like, “She sells seashells by the sea shore.”)


    Final Thoughts. Healthy habits are also important to maintain a strong instrument. Smoking, drinking alcohol, shouting, and overuse can all have bad effects on the voice.  It is important to hydrate with water and use proper technique to support your voice.  The Internet is an excellent resource for warm-ups, tongue twisters, and more information on the voice.  Working on your voice for five minutes daily is better than working on your voice for two hours once a week.  The more you exercise the muscles and prepare your instrument for performance, the more ease you will find in speaking.    


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Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters
28 West Lake Street, Unit #8
Addison, IL 60101

American Translators Association
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Alexandria, VA 22314

phone: 703.683.6100
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