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Don't Shoot the Messenger – International Translation Day


Glendon’s School of Translation and the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) jointly hosted their annual, highly successful International Translation Day on September 27th in Glendon’s Albert Tucker Room.

With Glendon translation professor Candace Séguinot as host of the evening, the first speaker was the president of ATIO, Nancy McInnis, who welcomed the huge assembly of current students, alumni and representatives of the professions of translation and interpretation. McInnis provided news about ATIO and encouraged everyone to use its enhanced website (, which contains a new section titled News from the World. “This section provides interesting accounts of the issues and challenges facing translators and interpreters today”, said McInnis. She also encouraged students to take advantage of ATIO’s free student membership, with the opportunity to sign up on the spot.

Chantal Evans (on the left) receives her ATIO Bursary at
International Translation Day

The evening featured three invited speakers: certified conference interpreter and translator Hazel Cole-Egan; community interpreter Lida Nosrati; and community interpreter and translator Lyse Hébert. In contrast to the upbeat topics of previous such events, this year’s talks included some darker notes about the conflicts, constraints and physical dangers confronting some of the interpreters working today.

“Interpreters are working in the line of fire in today's world, both literally and figuratively”, said Cole-Egan. “They are sometimes blamed for miscommunications and may be criticized for what are perceived as inaccuracies.” She explained the role and activities of AIIC (Association internationale des interprètes de conférence – International Association of Conference Interpreters) which is an umbrella organization for the Association of Conference Interpreters (CACI). Founded in 1953, AIIC is in fact the only worldwide association for conference interpreters. It brings together 2800 professionals, in more than 250 cities in over 90 countries, with 119 Canadian members, predominantly female. “In Canada, the largest group of conference interpreters is found in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto”, added Cole-Egan, “and while English and French continue to be dominant languages, Spanish and Japanese are steadily increasing in importance.”

Next, Lida Nosrati took the floor to talk about her experience as a community interpreter (CI). “Community interpreters are professionals who liaise between individuals who do not share a common language", explained Nosrati, who holds an MA in Translation from Glendon. She stressed that in addition to their proficiency in the actual languages, community interpreters must take into consideration several other factors during their work: primarily their own cultural backgrounds and those of the groups or individuals they are working with, in order to understand the differences which may impact on their work. Community interpreters work in varied settings, such as health care, social services and courts of law. Currently, each agency or professional group has its own training and testing process, but sadly some don't have either. “Given that community interpreters can sometimes make or break a communicative event, there is a great need for the standardized testing and training of professionals”, added Nosrati. “CIs often face conflicts, constraints and serious consequences during their work. They need more engaged scholarly research and more comprehensive training.”

The third invited speaker of the evening was community interpreter and translator Lyse Hébert, who is also a lecturer of French Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada. She is a Glendon graduate, currently working on her PhD under the direction of Glendon translation professor Daniel Simeoni. “I am very happy to be back at Glendon”, said Hébert. “I enjoyed my undergraduate studies here with very positive experiences as a student.” Hébert, who has recently worked as interpreter in Cuba, chose the conflict inherent in community interpretation as her theme. “Conflict is at the very heart of community interpretation”, said Hébert. “At times, there can be significant differences between the values and ideologies of the groups involved. The role of the interpreter must be to make sure that each group understands clearly what the other group has to say, including any non-verbal communication which may occur.” In a more sombre tone, Hébert talked about the risks taken by interpreters in dangerous settings such as war zones. She spoke of the 216 interpreters who were killed in the Iraq war so far – an enormous loss of civilian lives, and she invited the audience to observe a moment of silence for those victims who died in the line of duty.

But there was celebration as well, as two Glendon students were awarded prizes by the ATIO Foundation (FondATIO). Christiane Simard has just completed her Special Honours BA in Translation (2007) at Glendon, while continuing to work as a teacher. She received the Prix d'excellence de l'ATIO, awarded to the student with the highest average in his/her translation courses. Chantal Evans, a new student this fall in the Glendon Translation School, received ATIO’s Financial Aid Bursary, awarded each year to a deserving student.

Christiane Simard (on the left) accepts her ATIO Prix d'excellence

The evening was a full-house event, spilling over to the adjoining Fireside Room, with lots of opportunities for mingling and networking, rediscovering old classmates and reconnecting with professors. As always, a great deal of credit is due to the Translation School’s much-loved administrative secretary, Aileen Rakocevic, who is the organizing force behind every step of this and other Translation School events, from sending out invitations to preparing all the wonderful desserts that are such an integral part of these evenings.

This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny, in collaboration with Glendon coordinator of print and new media Marie Maher.

Published on October 3, 2007