CTA Members Reach Out to the Paralegal Community about Translation and Interpreting

This article was first published in the ATA Chronicle.

By David L. Lauman

Giving presentations to professionals in other fields helps create greater awareness about the importance of using bona fide professional translators and interpreters versus bilinguals without extensive formal training and certification in translation and/or interpreting.

On March 16, 2016, ATA President-elect and ATA-certified French>English translator Corinne McKay and I gave a presentation entitled “Working Effectively with Expert Translators/Interpreters” at the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association’s (RMPA) monthly “Lunch and Learn” event in Denver, Colorado. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first presentation about translation or interpreting given by professional translators/interpreters at RMPA. A number of the association’s members attended, but many were also present by phone.

CTA members Corinne McKay and David Lauman spoke to members of the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association about the importance of using professional translators and interpreters.
CTA members Corinne McKay and David Lauman spoke to members of the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association about the importance of using professional translators and interpreters.

I proposed this presentation to RMPA after noticing that paralegals are often asked to find translators and interpreters for cases their employers handle. This presents a challenge, since there are times when paralegals are at a loss as to how the languages services industry works, or how to find a qualified professional to interpret for a deposition or translate a contract. RMPA presents these brown bag events on various topics of interest to paralegals, and they enthusiastically accepted the proposal for an event focused on translation and interpreting.

Before I suggested giving a presentation, I had belonged to RMPA for a long enough time to have attended several events, so I was familiar with the organization. During that period, I also built relationships with many of its leaders. I’ve found it helpful to learn from and network with paralegals through this type of association.

The Value of Teamwork

At each “Lunch and Learn” I attended, the topic of the day was always presented by a team of speakers. For that reason, it seemed only natural to team up with a colleague. Prior to the presentation, Corinne’s feedback was instrumental in helping to make the presentation more listener-friendly. I’m certain that we succeeded in providing different perspectives, since our combined professional experience covers three languages, both translation and interpreting, and the two of us have substantial experience working directly with law firms.

Why Present to Paralegals, and about What?

A couple of key factors motivated me to give this presentation. From years of experience working directly with law firms, I know that finding the right translation/interpreting assistance can be stressful for paralegals. I thought the members of RMPA would benefit from knowing how to obtain specific, vital information from potential interpreters or translators when conducting a provider search, beyond fees and availability.

With the goal of helping our audience serve the lawyers and clients for whom they work more effectively, I also thought it would be useful for them to develop a better understanding of translation/interpreting best practices and know how to search for qualified and certified language professionals more effectively. This was the vision I shared with RMPA’s then-board advisor (who was in charge of the “Lunch and Learns” at the time) when I offered to speak. She shared my vision with the rest of RMPA’s board, which led to this presentation materializing.

What Made the Presentation a Success?

During the presentation, we gave simple yet compelling examples as to what separates bilinguals without extensive formal training and certification in translation and/or interpreting from translator/interpreter professionals. We gave a brief overview of what good translation/interpreting entails and what makes it challenging. While we did give an overview of translator and interpreter certifications, we also provided the audience with further perspective on what to look for when searching for a translation or interpreting professional, whether directly with an individual provider or through an agency.

We found it interesting that those who attended the presentation in person seemed to be taking copious notes. I think the most interesting question from the audience was how, as an interpreter, I dealt with people who spoke too quickly and/or not loud enough. In part of my response, I stated that this is one of the many situational challenges that interpreters are trained to handle. As a real-world example, Corinne had me interpret for her in both consecutive and simultaneous modes. As she spoke extremely fast and only paused after a few minutes, this gave the audience a taste of the challenges that only expert interpreters are trained to handle.

After the presentation, we received very positive feedback, so it seems like there are many opportunities for translators, interpreters, and paralegals to collaborate on continuing education events.


David L. Lauman is an ATA-certified Spanish>English translator and a federally certified court interpreter. His experience includes extensive interpreting in legal, law enforcement, conference, seminar, medical, and community settings. His translation work focuses primarily on legal (especially international tax law), medical, and business-related documents. He has an MA in translation and interpretation from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a BA in Latin American studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Contact: moc.snoitalsnart0202@divad.