A day in the life of a remote interpreter

OPI VS. LIVE

I switched suddenly from live to over-the-telephone interpreting due to COVID-19. Local courts and hospitals cancelled in-house assignments for the short term. The change presents struggles not encountered on live assignments: adapting to speaker phones, multiple voices on a call and increased concentration to visualize the phases of a doctor’s visit. Luckily I toiled previously for Language Line, Language Services Associates and NetworkOmni. There I refined consecutive interpreting skills and developed a massive terminology database in the medical, legal and insurance industries.

EQUIPMENT

Earbuds may or may not amplify sounds sufficiently. Sometimes providers assume the cordless phone detects all voices equally well. A cordless phone in the examination room may or may not guarantee audio acuity. The interpreter must take into account that an additional muffle enters the scene what with face masks. The other day a chatty physician droned on and on in a low tone. A rich foreign accent permeated her English speech. “Doctor, could you please move the telephone closer?” The patient’s mother willingly responded to questions with a faint voice. “Doctor, let me clarify her response.” In the meantime the door clicks open and a medical assistant announces “Doctor, forgive me, but you have the Cleveland Clinic on line two.” In the meantime the physician brutally pounds on the innocent keyboard to input the patient’s symptoms in the medical record. So much for a gentle touch and sponge keyboards.

SORT THEM OUT

I interpret primarily for pediatric specialties and encounter a multitude of sound waves in a single call. Let’s start with volume. A baby screeches when the pediatrician approaches for the examination. Last week a little one maintained a high-pitch scream throughout the entire exam. My $4000.00+ hearing aids faithfully amplified sounds that nearly pierced the eardrums. I couldn’t reach the volume control fast enough. The provider and mother cooed in an effort to calm him down. In the background his sisters and brothers start to join in the din because their little brother suffers. Five voices to sort out.

WHICH ONE?

Another voice may inhabit the encounter. A trusted friend accompanies the patient’s parent and insists on interpreting everything before I have the chance to speak. Ugh. How to politely ask the third party to kindly stop intervening? Add to the mix the requisite intense concentration that may stretch for an hour in a typical appointment. How to sort out many magnified sounds over the phone wires as compared those during an in-person assignment?

FUN SOUNDS

Where else can you hear a mother coo a lullaby to calm her little one during a lengthy ultrasound? A little one had to endure an ultrasound that lasted over twenty minutes, an eternity to an eighteen month old. Squidward Tentacles and SpongeBob SquarePants bickered over Krabby patties in the background while a technician completed the exam. Cartoons help soothe a panicked child. This interpreter, too.

Another change is the cordless phone that follows a patient from check-in to discharge. The staff parks me on a shelf till the physician enters the room. In the meantime I hear office chatter about the weekend or another patient’s symptoms. One nurse sang quietly to herself while accompanying a family down the hall. When the phone stays in the patient’s room in-between providers, a family member invariably calls a friend on their cell phone to fill the time. Here’s a chance to become more acclimated to speech velocity and terms peculiar to the dialect. I learned the word “chorro” and “fuente” for tap water once. Those words help to interpret the boilerplate question “Does your child drink city or well water?”.

All in all I’m grateful for the chance to serve our LEP community over the telephone. What struggles have you encountered? Please share them here.

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TAKE TO THE MICROPHONE

ADJUST TO THE CHANGE

Things change in the judiciary interpreting world, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. How to adapt? My courthouse and medical in-person assignments vanished as of 3/12 due to COVID-19. Our household’s revenue stream decreased by nearly half without any warning. Over-the-telephone assignments fill the gap for the interim. Imagine my surprise when a bailiff called for a voice acting gig.

THE CALL

(phone rings) Bailiff: Hey John. We’re looking for someone to record “Your Rights as a Defendant” for our court’s web page in Spanish. Do you do that type of thing?

Me: (stifling a squeal) Yeah, I have voice acting experience.

Bailiff: OK, let me send you the document. Only prepare the circled portion.

Me: I’ll translate the text and begin to practice. Will my regular hourly rate do?

Bailiff: Perfectly acceptable. Thank you again for assisting us with this.

FIRST CHANGE

Now I transition from interpreter to translator. My dear friend Sandra Bravo of International Language Solutions agreed to translate “Your Rights as a Defendant” into Spanish. Mind you, I interpreted the text hundreds of times but sought a native speaker’s expertise to achieve a more pure script.

Criminal defendants are entitled to constitutional rights that include the requirement that the prosecution prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to remain silent, to confront witnesses, too have a public/jury/speedy trial and representation by an attorney. The defendant’s recording sprang from the court’s transition to VRI (video remote interpreting) hearings. Defendants need to hear their rights in spite of the change from a live to a remote appearance.

SECOND CHANGE

Now I change from translator to voice actor. Although the  piece ran just short of three minutes, I “exercised” in order to create a professional product. Exercises prepare the voice just as a sprinter warms up before bracing at the starting block. James R. Alburger’s The Art of Voice Acting, a “bible” with suggestions to relax and record, tumbled from the shelf. I also called upon the guidance of Dan Popp, Sound Czar (voice actor, audio producer and voiceover trainer) of Colors Audio. Dan directed me in “End of Life Care: Advance Care Planning for Primary Care Practitioners” through Sarah Lawrence College.

Exercises prepare the voice just as a sprinter warms up before bracing at the starting block. Here are some of many in Alburger’s bible.Here are some of many in Alburger’s bible. For starters stretch your tongue toward the nose and hold for ten seconds. Then, stretch it down toward the chin and hold for another ten to warm up the jaw and mouth. Move and hold the tongue to the left side of your mouth. Lastly position the tongue to the right, hold for ten seconds then release. Confession: I slobber. Keep a Kleenex or handkerchief at hand for residual saliva.

HORSE LIPS

Yep, that’s the name. Horse lips. Take a deep breath, slowly release air through the lips and let them flutter. Repeat three to five times. Tired yet? Try to yawn on purpose. Hold an exaggerated yawn for ten seconds. Rest and repeat two more times.

Next scrunch up your face as tight as possible. I clench my teeth but not to the point of pain or discomfort. Then, open your eyes and mouth as wide as possible to increase blood flow to the face. Hold each position for ten seconds or more. On to record.

THIRD CHANGE

Switch from voice actor to audio recording engineer. Fancy schmantzy title for a guy who uses a simple app on the iPhone. Apple’s Voice Memos worked easily to record, archive and send the file to the client.

I read through the script several times to warm up the pipes. Usually I don’t sing but imagined Father O’Leary at the pulpit during Sunday morning mass at my childhood church, St. Anthony/All Saints Parish. I sang the script to my parishioners/defendants à la call-and-response from the pulpit. Suzan-Lori Parks of Watch Me Work suggests writers walk around and read the script aloud. In the creative process you’ll “get the work in your body, start telling yourself the story, imagine the story on the screen.” These ideas blend well with the voice actor experience.

I marked pauses, places to breathe and spots to enunciate on the script. Dan’s voice whispered in my ear “just slo-o-o-o-o-w down.” I noted when to emphasize a word, inflection up or down, and pause. After several passes with Voice Memos a viable recording emerged. I went through three changes to the serve the court’s need to serve the Hispanic community. Personally, it’s a kick to voice act. Click on Getting into Voice Acting to start on a new path.

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Do you have a religion?

religion

QUESTION AND CONTEMPLATION

Edgardo: Hi, John. How are you?

John: I’m fine. How are you and your family?

Edgardo: Oh, they’re OK. Can I ask you a question?

John: Sure.

Edgardo: Do you have a religion?

This simple question gave me pause, forced me to examine morals and ethics honestly. Did my religion interfere with the decision to accept an interpreting assignment? My colleague Edgardo posed this question last week. An agency asked him to interpret for an abortion appointment. He wondered if he should or shouldn’t accept the assignment, hence the phone call. I responded that I was born Catholic yet did not practice a religion. I do engage in a spiritual practice. “Would you accept the job today?” he inquired. From years of interpreting in pediatrics with witnessing everything from birth to death, my feelings changed.

PAST EXPERIENCE

I interpreted for an abortion once over twenty years ago. Edgardo’s question uncovered deep emotions long stashed away. Sadness comes to mind. Since that experience I watched a humble couple become overcome with joy to see their little one for the first time during an ultrasound. Another different session included vain attempts to relay the gravity of fetal anomalies to a family from the highlands of Central America. A somber mood dominated another job where a mother learned the child she carried no longer moved.

The abortion assignment took place in a non-descript building on a major thoroughfare in a Midwest city. There I met a frightened young female who waited with her high school companion. Her friend served as an interpreter till my arrival. The provider asked me to sight translate paperwork, explain the procedure and allow for questions before initiating the procedure. I adhered to the tenets* of impartiality and accuracy throughout and conveyed the messages in a calm voice. “I sure knew these medical words”, I thought.

INTELLECTUAL SEPARATION

It’s imperative for medical interpreters to remain impartial, that is “eliminate the effect of interpreter bias or preference. The interpreter does not allow personal judgment or cultural value to influence objectivity. An interpreter does not reveal personal feelings through words, tone of voice or body language” [1]. I had trained first as a judiciary interpreter and clung fiercely to maintain an intellectual separation. One supervisor at LanguageLine Solutions remarked, “John, you are just a voice.” Sure, ethics and standards of practice are integral components to the interpreter’s role. Ethics comes from the Greek ethos: principle of right in good conduct; a moral custom. Ethics help us decide how to use our power and we are trusted by people who depend on our use of power. Would I use that power once again?

RESOLUTION

I can refuse assignments as an independent contractor and told Edgardo that I didn’t have a religion. After serious contemplation I said “No, I would refer the job to someone else.” What do other medical interpreters do when faced with equally difficult assignments? Please comment below.

*tenet: a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy “People raised in a religion tend to accept its tenets, often without independent examination.” www.lexico.com

[1] National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care https://www.ncihc.org/assets/documents/publications/NCIHC%20National%20Standards%20of%20Practice.pdf

 

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Respect in Plain Clothes

respect

PATIENT PRIVACY, INTERPRETER POWER & EQUAL ACCESS

Please view the attached article composed by Emily Lanier, my dear colleague at Akron Children’s Hospital and me. Post your comments below. Thanks.

Love and respect 6

 

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State of mind terminology

state of mind 1

RESEARCH, TRANSLATE, RECORD

Listen to the story of a frightened assault victim. Research the underlined words (see state of mind below) and translate the testimony. Add the underlined words to a term list. Terms may appear on the written or oral court interpreter exam. Then, record your interpretation to practice sight translation (an oral translation of a written text). All three practices increase the possibility that you will pass. Linguee, IATE and Proz.com serve as jumping-off points for word searches.

attack

BACKSTORY

Today Abdi Duale faces her aggressor in open court. She filed a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) with the assistance of a domestic violence advocate and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (link. Omar faces two charges: domestic violence, a misdemeanor of the 4th degree and violation of the protection order, a type of restraining order that requires the defendant to stay away from the alleged victim during the course of the criminal Domestic Violence case. She timidly testifies from the witness stand while her attacker reeks of conceit and arrogance from counsel table.

Somali womanTESTIMONY

PROSECUTOR: s/he who prosecutes another for a crime in the name of the government

JUDGE: a public officer, appointed to preside and to administer the law in a court of justice

WITNESS: person called to court to testify and give evidence

BAILIFF: a person who performs certain actions under legal authority; an official in a court of law who keeps order, looks after prisoners, etc.

 

BAILIFF: Do you swear that all the testimony you are about to give in the case now before the court will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth under the pains and penalties of perjury?

VICTIM: I do.

JUDGE: Please state your name for the record and spell your last name.

WITNESS: My name is Abdi Duale Dihoud, D-U-A-L-E-D-I-H-O-U-D.

PROSECUTOR: Good afternoon, Miss Duale Dihoud. I am going to ask you a series of questions about the event that took place on October 8, 2017. Do you remember that evening?

WITNESS: Yes, that’s the night that Omar attacked me in our home.

PROSECUTOR: Before the event, were you angry with him?

WITNESS: No, I wasn’t angry but I was confused and scared. Omar arrived home from work upset. He startled me by crashing through the living room. He smelled of liquor and slurred his words.

PROSECUTOR: What happened next?

WITNESS: Usually he is glad. That night he frightened me and shouted, “I heard you were with Elmi last week.” He had a dazed look on his face and I thought “He is out of it.” He slumped to the floor and began to weep.

PROSECUTOR: Then what happened?

WITNESS: He managed to stand up, stumbled toward me and grabbed my neck. Paralyzed with fear, I couldn’t breathe.

PROSECUTOR: And then?

WITNESS: He let me go. Horrified, I backed away. He continued to say bad things. He threatened to tell our whole community about Elmi. He turned around and stumbled out the door. I haven’t seen him since then.

PROSECUTOR: At any time did he brandish a weapon?

WITNESS: What do you mean, brandish? I don’t understand what that means.

PROSECUTOR: Did he pull out a knife or gun or some other weapon that evening?

WITNESS: No, he just left.

LINKS

state of mind

Criminal domestic violence information

https://www.dfm-law.com/blog/2019/03/charged-with-criminal-domestic-violence-in-ohio-some-things-you-need-to-know/

List of 250 emotions and feelings in Spanish

http://psicologos.mx/lista-de-emociones-que-podemos-sentir.php

Feelings and body sensations

https://www.hoffmaninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/Practices-FeelingsSensations.pdf

 

 

 

 

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Drug Testing Agreement

test

RESEARCH, TRANSLATE, RECORD

Listen to the story of a young lady who went afoul of the law. Research the underlined words and translate the drug testing agreement. Add the underlined words to a term list. Terms may appear on the written or oral exam. Then, record your interpretation to practice sight translation (an oral translation of a written text). All three practices increase the possibility that you will pass the oral exam. Linguee can serve as a starting point for research.

BACKSTORY

Greta stole $4oo from her mother’s purse. She already missed over a month of high school. Cash in hand she ventured to the local park to purchase methamphetamine (speed, chalk, tweak, gak, Tina) from an undercover officer. Her scheme resulted in two charges; truancy and possession of controlled substances, a minor drug offense. The local magistrate imposed a year probation and random drug screening. Her probation officer will reassess the case periodically to determine compliance with the guidelines. Any violation of the probation conditions subject Greta to return to court.

DRUG TESTING AGREEMENT

JUVENILE: _________________________                FAMILY FILE # _________________________

I, _________________________, understand that as a condition of probation and/or court order:

  1. I am subject to mandatory urine testing for drugs or alcohol usage when requested by my probation officer.
  2. Failure or refusal to submit to drug testing or tampering with a urine specimen could be considered a “positive” test.
  3. Any positive result can lead to sanctions including a violation of probation.
  4. The results of the testing are confidential and will only be released in accordance with Federal or State Law.
  5. If I test positive to an illegal drug, I have the right prior to adjudication to request a retest of the same specimen to be done by Recovery Services of Greater Poughkeepsie. I may be assessed the cost of the retest. OR
    1. I may elect to sign a statement admitting a positive screen after the initial test by my probation officer. My parents know that I may choose this option.

I, the undersigned, have read or had read to me the above information and understand these instructions. I understand that the Court will be informed if I fail to cooperate or provide false, incomplete or misleading information.

Signature of probationer

______________________________

Signature of parent

______________________________

Probation Officer                                                                  Date

______________________________                                             ______________________________

drug agreement

 

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Expand Your Wardrobe Vocabulary

 

anorak

Fear grips my brain when an unknown word comes up on an assignment. Solution? Research and prepare a term list. Sue Ellen Wright, my terminology professor at the Institute for Applied Linguistics taught us to develop our own lists. Today we start with clothing. You can expand  to include not only nouns but also verb patterns (Nike’s Anorak covers your hips) to increase recall. My fellow interpreter Steve Sachs remarked years ago to learn words in context, not isolation.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

Prepare a clothing list with the document below in a format that works for you (Word, Excel, Notes). Tailor the table to meet your needs (no pun intended) with more columns. A suggestion is to form a phrase to link a garment to a verb: “Raúl wears jeans to work”, “Put on a smock before painting” and “Monica’s evening gown dazzled the crowd at Saturday’s gala.” Click on these links for further investigation: Proz, Linguee and IATE linguee. I find Google images helps further capture meaning.

beater 2

I DON’T KNOW ALL THE WORDS

A confession: my problem words are blazer (a plain jacket not forming part of a suit but considered appropriate for formal wear), bow tie and a certain t-shirt, the wife beater. The latter tripped me up while a detective interviewed a rape suspect. Urban Dictionary defines a wife beater: “a form fitting white ribbed tank top worn by men; looks good on well-built fellas, pathetic on skinny fellas, and disgusting on fat beer bellied fellas: Brad Pitt looks damn good in a wife beater.

onesie

Onesie: an infant’s one-piece close-fitting lightweight garment, usually having sleeves but leaving the legs uncovered and fastening with snaps at the crotch.

BABY WEAR

“Onesie” came up in a pediatrician’s office: “Mrs. Belaunde, you can dress him in his onesie and leave his legs bare for the DTAP vaccine.” A “onesie”? Twosie, threesie, foursie and the word does not come to mind yet. In the moment my work around was to drop the onesie and include the “dress” portion. A later search produced mameluco on Proz. Does anyone have other suggestions for this infant wear?

BEYOND THE NOUN

Another pat phrase in pediatric clinics asks parents to prepare a little one for measurements. “Undress Edgardo down to the diaper.” The assistant wants the dad to remove clothing but keep the diaper on. I used to say “Take off her clothes but keep the diaper on.” A Honduran mother asked “¿Permanece con el pañal?/Does he keep the diaper on?” Today I say “Permanezca con el pañal.” I learned “to wear” from native Hondurans: traer puesto. “Does your daughter wear glasses all the time?” The verb phrase also works when an audiologist asks if Marcos wears his hearing aids at school or at home.

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY

Now that you have a list, decide how to gain rapid access on the fly. As a caution I notify the provider why I reach for the iPhone for terms. Storage options include Notes or Dropbox. Choose which works best for you. Have fun with your research and post any ideas or comments.

TERM Definition Source Sentence ES,
Anorak Usually a pullover hooded jacket long enough to cover hips https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anorak

 

This playful, very packable nylon ANORAK from Nike is the perfect antidote to gray skies that threaten to ruin your trip. Chubascero (ES), chaqueta polar; From Inuit, Greenland annoraaq

clothing

 

 

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Land vehicles

low rider

Each language and regions names vehicles differently. My first exposure to multiple vehicle types came from over-the-telephone interpreting. The challenge appeared with what may sound a simple word to translate: car. People from Puerto Rico mentioned gua gua for their rides. Folks from Mexico and Guatemala used different terms for the same vehicle.

dolly

HELLO DOLLY

If you interpret for workers compensation claims, what is the word for a small platform on wheels used for holding heavy objects? A dolly. Is a dolly a hand truck?  A dolly is defined as a platform with four wheels and two axles. A hand truck can slide underneath the item while on the ground. The worker then has to lift whatever is transported onto a dolly. Perhaps the injured worker tripped while transporting goods from one end of the factory to the other or strained his back when lifting heavy objects. Each one is different.

 

walker

ARACHNID VEHICLE

I am a healthcare interpreter with Akron Children’s Hospital and stumbled during a child’s occupational therapy evaluation. A parent explained how his little bruiser loved to careen around the kitchen in his araña. What? A spider? After a clarification from dad I figured out Vicente moved about in a “walker”, or andador. Have you had similar challenges?

TERM LIST

I send a list of land vehicles for research. One method is to create a table in your word processing program with four columns: source language, target language, sentence and source. Tailor the list to meet your needs. Happy travels!

Land vehicles

 

 

 

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MOFONGO AND A LESSON

MOFONGO

How does an interpreter set the stage as a professional? One tool that serves to that end is the pre-session or briefing session where the judicial interpreter states her role to the parties in both languages before beginning. Over the years I learned to say, “Counsel, may I introduce myself to your client?” Invariably the attorney agreed and I began “Soy interpréte y no soy abogado …”. I’d hand the attached handout (or show it to the lawyer) then proceed with the session. Sure, some may say there is no time for a pre-session. To those I say, “Make time and reduce the briefing session to ‘I am an interpreter and not an attorney’”, eight brief words that protect the interpreter.

MEET UP AND SHARE

Recently a colleague, Monica Benavides, invited fellow interpreters to meet at Rincón Criollo in the Gordon Arts District of Cleveland https://www.rinconcriollocle.com/. The crowd consisted of seasoned and neophyte interpreters who shared ideas and savored traditional Puerto Rican dishes. A newcomer to our field young lady and I ordered mofongo. Between bites she expressed concerns about court interpreting. Hence the pre-session discussion.

EMPOWER YOURSELF

Interpreters can take charge and present them selves professionally from the outset. Arlene M. Kelly of the American Translators Association www.atanet.org shared this pre-session script years ago (see attached) that I to this day each time a defendant and lawyer appear or at check-in with the bailiff. After a sumptuous meal the young lady and I exchanged contact information and I sent the attached the next day. This provided another opportunity to educate not only a newcomer but the court on how to work with interpreters. Please distribute and comment as you like.

The Nature of Duties to the Defendant

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NOTA CONQUERS POWELL

NOTA CONQUERS POWELL

NOTA hosted a Social Networking Event at Panera in Powell, Ohio, on Saturday,
April 30, 2011. Everyone introduced themselves, passed out business cards and networked, networked, networked!

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN …?
Here’s a reason to join a professional group. One participant posed this question: Why can I sign documents (that state I interpreted)? Zenh Colwell wants to know why we can’t sign documents in an interpreting session. One member noted that would be a legal liability to be avoided.

EFFECTIVE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
NOTA Workshop Saturday, May 21, 2010. 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Hudson Library and Historical Society, 96 Library St., Hudson OH 44236. The workshop will highlight the role of social media in the translation profession and introduce you to key strategies on using social media: how to be at the center of attention; how to create your Cyber Café Presence; and how to make cyber connections. Contact Vitaliy Plinto at vvp13@aol.com or 440.449.9435.

HEARD AT THE TABLE
Remember, if you aren’t marketing, you’re dying.

RESOURCES TO STUDY FOR EXAMS
Oliver Renwick utilized Interpretapes to prepare for the Ohio State Court Interpreter’s exam. Interpretapes are Spanish-English practice materials developed to provide individuals an opportunity to enhance their court interpreting skills and have language laboratory-type practice with a CD player. Visit http://nci.arizona.edu/about_legal_interpretapes.

Another option is Edge21: An Interpreter’s Edge for the 21st Century by Holly Mikkelson. Holly is Associate Professor of Translation and Interpretation at the Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation, Monterey Institute of International Studies. This product provides practice in the three modes of interpreting used in court interpretation (consecutive, simultaneous and sight). Holly’s materials have been tested in major court interpretation exams. Visit at http://www.acebo.com/e21.htm.

One participant expressed concern about idioms that would be included in court interpreting exams. One option is to study one a day. InTrans Book Service provides a copious offering of books that address this conundrum. Visit http://www.intransbooks.com/cgi-bin/quikstore.cgi. How do you interpret “break a leg” or “they left him holding the bag”?

SLOW TO PAY CLIENTS
The group discussed how to deal with clients who are slow to pay. Visit Ted Wozniak’s Payment Practices list at http://www.paymentpractices.net. He provides freelance translators and interpreters with information about the payment practices of translation agencies and other clients. The database includes translation agency information, responses and comments. The annual subscription fee for access to the Payment Practices database is just $19.99. That money will come back in spades.

Another option is to contact your local Better Business Bureau. You can also visit the American Translators Association site for a model contract at http://www.atanet.org/careers/model_contract.php.

RAFFLE WINNER
Ana Costello won a copy of How to Succeed As A Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay. You can order your copy at http://www.translatewrite.com. Hungry for more? Corinne McKay’s online course Getting Started as a Freelance Translator builds on the concepts in her book and gives you six weeks of personalized coaching on starting your own home-based translation business. Visit Corinne at http://www.translatewrite.com.

MUCHAS THANK YOU
Thanks to Natalie Chubb and Vitaliy Plinto for pulling this event together.

JOIN NOTA
Visit http://www.notatranslators.org.

NEXT SOCIAL HOUR
TBA in Fairlawn or Kent

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