Revolutionary Interpreters

On July 4th, Americans will celebrate the 239th anniversary of their nation’s independence from Great Britain. And like many other historical world events, interpreters were key in making it happen. This is in large part due to the collaboration between the colonies and the native tribes during the revolution, though interpreters for languages such as French and German were also elemental. Here are just a few figures whose interpreting ability aided American independence.

James Dean
As a young man, James Dean (no relation to cinema icon) was sent to live amongst the Oneida, a people of the Iriqouis Confederacy. He quickly and skillfully learned their language, along with other Iriquois tongues, and became an interpreter for the Patriots during the war. He also played a large part in negotiating land deals between the Native Americans and the colonists.

Haym Salomon
Haym Salomon, born in Poland, immigrated to America and worked as a financial broker in New York City while financing the Revolution. He was captured by the British and was pardoned because of his ability to interpret for the German-speaking troops that sided with the British. Ever the Patriot, he used this opportunity to free prisoners captured by the British and persuade  German troops to desert.

John Montour
The son of an interpreter, John Montour carried on his father’s legacy. This was facilitated by the fact that his mother was Delaware, a tribe native to the Delaware Valley. In 1778, Montour lived with the Wyandot in the Sandusky River Valley. Having this connection with the Wyandot allowed the Americans to cross their territory and march against the British in Detroit. His ability to communicate with Native American tribes proved instrumental before, during, and after the revolution, even if his loyalties wavered.

James Lovell
James Lovell was a member of Congress and the Committee of Secret Correspondence, a committee assembled to gain French aid during the revolution. He acted as an interpreter for the French officers arriving in Philadelphia, the seat of the Second Continental Congress.

Alexander Hamilton
Apart from being the Secretary of the Treasury during the Washington administration and decorating the American ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton served as George Washington’s French interpreter. With France as an ally, transparent communication was crucial.

I feel you: Vicarious trauma and interpreters

Interpreting can be incredibly rewarding work, especially when aiding people at their most vulnerable or in considerably traumatic situations. However, just as the work can be rewarding, it can also take a serious emotional and physiological toll on the interpreter. Because it is the interpreter’s duty to remain calm and neutral while working, it might be hard to believe that they can sometimes be seriously affected by what they are interpreting, but the truth is it’s perfectly normal.woman-1302674_1280

Feelings of depression and/or anxiety brought on by working with traumatized people have been given the name vicarious trauma, or VT. People of varying professions can experience VT, namely social workers, healthcare providers, and therapists, but interpreters are in a position unique to all the rest in that they not only may witness trauma, but also have information passed through them as they interpret for others.

For those that feel the effects of vicarious trauma, it is important to know that these feelings are not unusual or unimportant. In fact, it is healthy to recognize signs of stress and justify them. This, in essence, means that it’s OK to see VT as a common side effect of being a committed and skilled interpreter. Nevertheless, it should never be ignored.

Recommendations for ameliorating VT include: engaging in relaxing activities, finding an outlet (sometimes through art) for your feelings, and even taking a break from work. More on coping with stress and taking care of your body is covered in IEO’s Comprehensive Healthcare Interpreter Training Program and Preparatory Course for the Court Certification Exam.

Have you ever experienced vicarious trauma as an interpreter? What did you do to cope with VT? Share your experiences on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages!

Interpreter Education Online Wins 2015 Corp! Magazine 2015 DiSciTech Award for Innovated Online Interpreter Training

Interpreter Education Online (IEO) was awarded Corp! Magazine’s prestigious 2015 DiSciTech Award in the Digital category for its innovative online interpreter training model.

IEO is the first interpreter trainer to receive the award.

The DiSciTech awards are presented to Michigan companies and educational organizations that are leading the way in science, technology and digital initiatives through innovation, research and applied science. IEO’s use of technology allows it to reach students from across the globe. “Our online courses allow anyone with an Internet connection to take part in our training. Furthermore, Skype allows us to administer testing in real time to anyone in the world,” said President Jinny Bromberg.


Jinny Award


This award is a testament to IEO’s dedication to offering quality interpreter training and testing in a variety of languages to a broad demographic.

Since its inception, IEO has been committed to equipping interpreters with the tools necessary for quality language service. Today, IEO is proud to not only work with individual students, but also collaborate with state courts and healthcare organizations to provide quality training and testing to interpreters. IEO also works with Language Service Companies by testing their new applicants and helping companies maintain quality assurance for their clients. As IEO continues to grow, it is determined to ensure that the standards of professional interpretation are consistently upheld by its students.

Founded in 1998, Corp! Magazine informs, intrigues, and entertains business owners and top-level executives by providing features, news, and profiles.   Corp! Magazine’s print edition reaches more than 30,000 business owners, executives, and managers throughout the State of Michigan.

Prerequisites for Taking Certification Exams

Deciding to take a certification exam is a huge leap in any interpreter’s or translator’s career. With this decision comes a lot of excitement and preparation. However, before you think about how difficult the exam will be or how your career will benefit after becoming certified, you should first determine whether you’re eligible to take the exam and how to meet eligibility requirements.

If you’re a legal interpreter who is seeking state certification, find your state court website here. Once on the website, search for the page dedicated to interpreter services and find out what the eligibility requirements are for taking the certification exam. Requirements vary state by state. For example, some states require you to pass an oral proficiency test before taking a certification exam while others do not. To take the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam, however, there are currently no specific requirements.

Medical interpreters can be certified through CCHI and NBCMI and each has different prerequisites candidates must meet before they can take a certification exam. Some states, such as Oregon and Washington, offer certification to healthcare interpreters and have their own eligibility requirements as well.

Certification and licensure for ASL interpreters is available through individual states. Each state has different guidelines, so be sure to check your state for more information National certification is available through RID. RID offers different types of certification programs and each program has its own set of eligibility requirements.

In addition to being an ATA member, translators must also meet a list of other eligibility requirements before they can take the ATA certification exam. That list can be found here.

Before applying to take a certification exam, it’s a good idea to make a check list of all the things you must do beforehand. In some cases, you may have to take some training, show proof of language proficiency, or meet other requirements.

Columbus Day & Interpreters!

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. But, did you know that,  like many other important historical events, interpreters played a vital role?

In 1492, Christopher Columbus’s landing in the Bahamas changed the world forever. It helped establish trade routes between North America and Europe and ushered in a new age of voyage and discovery. Columbus brought Luis De Torres, an interpreter, with him during his first voyage. De Torres spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Latin, and some Arabic. Because he expected to encounter Asians, Columbus felt De Torres’s proficiency in Hebrew and Aramaic would be particularly useful. However, De Torres’s proficiency in these languages was of little use in communicating with the natives, who spoke an entirely different language. Because of this, Columbus had to rely on indigenous interpreters.

At the end of his first voyage, Columbus brought back native Indians with him to Spain, where they were taught Spanish so they could be used as interpreters in subsequent trips. Upon returning to the New World, the main task of these interpreters was to dissuade Indians from resistance. This, in turn, helped the Spanish spread their influence and consolidate their rule in the Americas.

Thus, if it were not for interpreters, Columbus’s voyage to the New World would have been fruitless and the world we know today would be a completely different place!

How do I become an Interpreter?

In addition to “How do I become a certified interpreter?“, another frequently asked question that we receive is “How do I start as an interpreter?”.

The answer to that question is: ” It depends.”

There is no template for becoming an interpreter because interpreters get their starts in different ways. As a result, how you become an interpreter depends entirely on your personal circumstances and choices.  To give a better idea of how there are different paths to becoming an interpreter, we asked a few of our instructors tell us how they began their interpreting careers:


“I became an interpreter in late 2002 when I came across a volunteer interpreting program at a major academic medical center. I received a 53-hour medical interpreter training sponsored by the hospital covering interpreting skills and medical terminology. Two years later, I was hired as full-time interpreter. Training and experience are two essential skills needed to become a Certified Medical or Healthcare Interpreter. For those lacking interpreting experience, I recommend looking into volunteer or internship opportunities.”

– George Narvaez, Spanish CHI & CMI


“Having had a background in the medical field, interest in offering interpreting services to hospitals and clinics was the first area to come to mind. This was the easiest to get into by volunteering, and it offered a way to be able to advocate for the NES patient. Subsequently, I read an article in a local newspaper about the need for court interpreters.
Court interpreter training was rather cursory so I decided to go assist court sessions personally, and seek out cases involving NES defendants, so as to observe how they were being assisted by an interpreter. After a time, I felt I had the flow of the procedure sufficiently absorbed to venture on to the next step, namely taking an exam for certification.
When you’re starting out, use the ‘broad cast net; approach; working with as many agencies as will sign you up. This will help you circulate and get better acquainted with the market as well as the different ranges of clientele, in both the legal and medical interpreting field.
Finally and foremost, keep an open mind and always be willing to adapt to necessity. It’s the best way to remain relative in an ever changing field of endeavor. And yes, enjoy and have fun at it, too!”

– Richard Lankenau, State of Georgia Certified Court Interpreter in Portuguese & Spanish


“I became interested in healthcare interpreting when trying to use my language and interpreting skills for a part-time job in 2006. I ended up being a full-time interpreter while I was still in graduate school. Being an interpreter does not necessarily guarantee financial stability, but it is very rewarding and eye-opening. It prepares interpreters to overcome challenges professionally and emotionally, helps them develop communication and problem-solving skills, and makes them more appreciative of what they have.”

– Dong Li, Mandarin CHI


How did you get your start as an interpreter? We’d love to hear your story! Share it with us on our Facebook page!

CHI Performance Exam Dates

If you missed the window for the CHI performance exam in July and August, the next window spans from October 20th to November 8th (9 weeks away). IEO’s 12-Week Preparatory Course* not only fulfills and exceeds the required 40 hours of training prior to the exam, but also provides you with the tools necessary to pass, including language-specific interpretation exercises in each of the three modes evaluated by an instructor. Our course is accredited by CCHI and is currently listed on CCHI’s list of prerequisite training programs.

To find out more about the CHI exam, such as where you can take it, click here.

To learn more about our 12-Week CCHI Preparatory course, click here.

*”12-Week” refers to the duration of course access, not necessarily the amount of time required to complete the course.

Violations of Interpreter Ethics

The consequences of violating the code of ethics as it applies to interpreters can be grave. Nonetheless, and unfortunately, the fact of the matter is ethical violations do occur in the language industry. These instances raise concerns about the rigidity of the qualifications for becoming an interpreter and perhaps point to certification as a requirement in the future. Here are some examples of interpreters that have committed ethical violations within the past few years:

-Last month, a Spanish-language interpreter was accused of soliciting bribes from the people she was interpreting for, allegedly claiming she would use the money to bribe immigration officials. If convicted could see up to 20 years in prison.

-Also in July, an interpreter was accused of stealing the identity of the elderly woman she was interpreting for and charging around $1600 to her credit card.

-In 2011, a refugee living in Canada was nearly deported back to her native Kenya because of interpreter inaccuracy.

-A trial in the Cayman Islands was delayed twice because the first interpreter was unable to remain impartial and the second admitted to inaccuracy of interpretation.

-A man incapable of signing pretended to know sign language and interpret for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service.


Want to avoid making mistakes such as these? Sign up for our ethics courses for legal and medical interpreters!


Know of any other examples of violations to the interpreter code of ethics? Feel free to share on our Facebook page!

August is Mandarin & Cantonese Language Month!

The 2011 U.S. Census ranked Chinese speakers as the third most populous behind Spanish and English speakers. And given the steady increase of Chinese speakers in the U.S. over the past decades– the number now is more than four times greater than that of 1980– it’s safe to assume that Chinese will remain immensely prevalent in the decades to come. The highest concentrations of Chinese speakers, whether speaking Mandarin or Cantonese, can be found in major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, though large populations can also be found in cities such as Chicago and Washington D.C.

In recognition of these languages, we’re offering 10% off any IEO course, test, or Skype lesson for both Mandarin and Cantonese during August!

And don’t forget, our buy 3 single topic units get 1 free deal is going on until August 15th. Check out our STUs here!

*Language month discount and free STU offer cannot be combined.

Buy 3 single topic courses, get a 4th one free!

Due to popular demand, we are having our winter holiday sale during the summer! When you purchase 3 single topic courses, you’ll get a 4th single topic course free!*

Are you a certified interpreter who needs continuing education? Our single topic courses for medical, legal, and ASL interpreters are approved for CEUs. You can mix and match, purchase your courses now and take them later, and even use your free course towards your CE requirement!

Choose from the following:

Legal Courses

– Autopsies
– Controlled Substances
– Firearms
– Intellectual Property (IP) Law
– Physical Evidence
– Traffic and Vehicular Accident
– Types of Motions
– Court Interpreter Ethics
– CI Techniques
– SI Techniques
– ST Techniques

Medical Courses   

– The Cardiovascular System
– The Respiratory System
– The Reproductive System
– The Nervous System
– The Musculoskeletal System
– The Endocrine System
– The Digestive System
– The Healthcare System in the U.S.
– Healthcare Interpreter Ethics
– CI Techniques
– SI Techniques
– ST Techniques

*Free course must be taken without instructor evaluation.

Offer expires August 15th


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