Blog & Information

Interpreters Want to See You Shine

I love my job. I know, I am lucky! The agencies that hire me usually go beyond the norm. But their clients have no idea of the work we do, the preparation required, the pressure we perform under and the minimum requirements for us to deliver at the level they want. And that usually spells problems.

“Working Conditions”? What is that?

Performing without a booth at a large conference was never a consideration of mine. Who would EVER request that? Yup, it has happened. A group of interpreters is added last minute and there you are; a team goes without a booth. Interpreting from a half-booth in a stairwell? Been there, done that. More people than expected signed up for the event, so instead of moving the meeting to a larger venue, the organizers removed the interpreters from the room and placed them into the stairwell next door. A safety hazard, but the show must go on. How about standing up behind the AV console because the event planner forgot to hire the interpreters? (I thought I was getting a break!) Or working from the mechanical area where all the equipment is stored? For sure! Dark, hot, and you must be extra careful not to trip on a cable and disconnect something…

Unbeknownst to our clients, there are professional standards covering everything from the materials and dimensions of the booths we work in, the quality of the sound we are fed, the languages we speak (no, Portuñol is not a language), how long each professional can cover solo, to the recording of our voices, and much more. We also have Codes of Ethics to follow. There are Codes of Ethics for medical interpreters, federal and state court interpreters, conference interpreters, and the professional associations we are affiliated with also have their own Codes of Ethics.

Really! We are responsible professionals. Does that apply to 100% of us? No. There are exceptions, just like any other profession. Don’t let that one bad apple spoil your trust.

Lack of foresight affects everyone

I wish I could tell you that the mishaps I mentioned above took place in events for small, low-budget companies. No, it was exactly the opposite for each of those events – and there are many more examples. The reason such mishaps occur is because interpreting services are usually an afterthought. The impression we get is that when companies realize “some of those attending the event don’t speak English,” they do not have a full vision of the situation. Allow me to share some insights.

When “some of those attending do not speak English,” that means you will need to:

  • hire professionals who can interpret into the languages those guys speak
  • hire a pair for each language spoken, if you require their services for longer than 45 minutes at a time
  • provide proper working space for these professionals and

> that space must have a view of the speaker – whether direct or indirect

> if indirect, that means having monitors available in the booths or in view of the booths

  • provide some means of ventilation so the professionals can breathe (yes, really!)
  • count them among your guests or staff for food purposes
  • provide fresh water in the booths, in bottles for safety
  • know that interpreters need to study the material to deliver quality
  • know that professional interpreters are bound by Codes of Ethics, which include confidentiality
  • be aware that our work starts at least two weeks before your event, not when we enter the booth

Interpreters are all-knowing beings. NOT!

One detail most of our clients fail to understand is that interpreters are not necessarily subject matter experts. Yes, we speak at least two languages and we are fluent in both. But that does not mean we are able to discuss every subject under the sun in the same language of your speaker and with the same fluency. An example: would you be able to discuss Astrophysics with an authority in that field in your own language? There are subjects of which we all have a passive understanding.

And, please, be aware that delivering the presentation to us two minutes before showtime can be counter-productive. We need time to study your material to be ready, to help your politicians or scientists or physicians or researchers sound as intelligent in the foreign languages as they do in their own.

But we don’t have the material,” you say. Easy: provide to us a link to last year’s event, speakers’ biographies, the agenda and we will do the research, develop glossaries, study what is available. You can get more ideas in my 2016 article Embrace Your Interpreter.

I want to convey to you, our clients, that when you commission us, professional interpreters, to be your company’s voice and help you convert your ROI, we become part of your team. Treat us as such. After all, we are a big investment in your project.

We want to see you, the client, shine because that’s when we shine.

———–

All photos by Gio Lester. All rights reserved.

The article first appeared on Gio’s LinkedIn
To learn more about conference interpreting from Gio, check out this webinar.

Featured Interpreter: Giovanna Lester

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

It was 1979 when I first started interpreting for my boss as part of my job. I did not know that was a profession or that it could become a career. The next year I was laid off as part of the company’s reorganization process, and I discovered that my knowledge of English could put food on the table. I started teaching the language, then my students (company executives) started requesting my services as an interpreter and that’s how I started. I had to do it all: simultaneous, sight, consecutive, chuchotage.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

Interpreting in the office for American Express clients and VIPs in Brazil. In the US, I was expected to interpret as an escort for executives of the bank I worked at, and my first conference was the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative in 1992, under President Bush, Sr.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

Research. I am so extremely grateful for the Internet! Most of my work is for international conferences and confidential. Many companies do not understand our oath of confidentiality and refuse to give us material. But YouTube, search engines, TedTalks, and online publications make it a lot easier to fill in the blanks.

The first step, if the client refuses to send material, is to check into the company. Then check the previous year’s event or events in other companies in the same segment. If you can find who the speakers are going to be, check YouTube for any videos – that will help you with style, vocabulary, rhythm, accents, etc.

Recently, I attended a 2-day workshop by Darinka Mangino and Maha El-Metwally on computer aided interpreting and learned a few tools to help with glossary creation, term extraction and training. They will be put to good use.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

It was a financial conference in the gorgeous Gaylord Resort, in Texas. We had a special breakout session just for the Brazilian group and, unfortunately, the tech guy provided the team with the wrong transmitter. I had to start on consecutive so as not to waste time. Mind you, since we had the equipment, I left my notepad in the booth and all I had with me was a 3×3 inches “idea booklet” – a souvenir from one of the stands we passed on the way. Well, 30 minutes later, the right equipment arrived, but they chose to continue on consecutive –“It was more fun!”

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

Oh, that one almost had me in tears. It was an IME (Independent Medical Examination) for a case involving a severe head injury. After the physician evaluated the patient, it was his wife’s turn to ask questions. They were very young, less than 5 years married, in their early twenties, with all of their dreams still being born… And she asked the doctor when her husband would get back to normal. I had to take a sip of water before speaking.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

I have three Twitter accounts – one is going to be retired soon. My personal account is @cariobana, and my business account is @ConVTI2019. Right now, I follow avidly @TranslationTalk, a rotationally-curated account with a new curator every Sunday. It has become a vice. @MadalynSklar is a marketing guru and I love the work she does; it is not T&I related, but there is much we, as entrepreneurs, can learn from her. @LinguaGreca, by Catherine Christaki, always has great stuff. @Ana Lucia Amaral covers business intelligence, cyber security and marketing. The other accounts are colleagues and associations – @fit_ift, @FIT_LatAm, @_abrates, @atanet, @NAJITOrg, @NAJITObserver – all organizations I am involved with. I mean, I have about 100 more I can put here.

And I belong to a plethora of groups on Facebook: medical interpreting, court interpreting, conference interpreting, fun groups, colleagues-helping-colleagues group… They are so numerous because I belong to groups in all of the three languages I am involved with – English, Portuguese, and Spanish (desperately want to learn more Spanish vocabulary).

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in your target language? Can you recommend something to our readers?

 I left Brazil almost 35 years ago, and I am ashamed to say I have not kept up with its classical literature. I read mostly a style called “crônicas” – short stories that stand alone, sometimes shorter than one page. João Ubaldo Ribeiro and Luiz Fernando Veríssimo are my favorite. Their style is very contemporary and fresh.

My favorite movies are from the 80s, Gaijin, the history of Japanese immigration to Brazil, and Eles não usam black-tie (People like us).

Q: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming interpreter?

  • Learn the business side of the profession.
  • Read the Codes of Ethics: they are there to protect YOU.
  • Do not speak in anger. Develop a standard phrase for those situations, like “I understand and will look into it.”

Q: As a former Vice President of the National Board who advised candidates preparing for the medical certification exam, what can you recommend our readers and students aiming to get certified?

My first recommendation is to visit the IMIA website. The IMIA is an umbrella organization and candidates will find information on many areas related to Medical Interpreting, especially resources. The next step would be to visit both the CCHI and National Board websites for more resources and training materials. The tests are not necessarily one easier than the other: they both require 40 hours of training and focus during the exam itself.

Once the candidate chooses which exam to take – many take both – focus on the requirements of that one.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why? 

All of the above, books, workshops, listen to the radio and now podcasts in both languages I work with. I have not developed the courage to delve into podcasts in Spanish.

Recently, I went to the Cuba-Quebec 11th Symposium on T&I, in Varadero, Cuba, the 3rd Int’l Conference of the Panamanian T&I Association, in Panama City, Panama, the 10th Int’l Conference of the Brazilian T&I Association, in São Paulo, Brazil. I also attend non-T&I related events, such as Unbound (marketing), speakers’ workshops, etc.

I recommend that people join associations in the countries whose languages they speak. That’s why I am a member of the American Translators Association and of the Brazilian Translators and Interpreters Association. It is an affordable way to stay in touch with my languages. I also take courses in both languages. Right now, I am studying Comparative Law at a Brazilian online school.

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

Jonathan Hine’s business essentials. There is plenty of training on how to be a good professional, but very little on how to run your own business, what tools are available to assist us, how to negotiate fair prices and working conditions. Also, contract negotiations. That is a hard one. Most freelancers in our profession believe they can not negotiate terms and that the agencies have an anvil over their heads. That attitude must change if we really want to be respected as professionals.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

Do you have a year??? Just kidding. The number one thing is to teach end users of interpreting services that interpreters are human beings. That interpreters are not always subject matter experts and don’t know all the words in the dictionary. That if clients want to be understood, they have to pace themselves and allow for the interpreting process to take place: stop interrupting the interpreter with extra information!

And payment is not a luxury, it is how we make a living.

Basically, I think most professional training is right on and there’s little improvement needed, but our clients need a lesson on how to use our services. Yes, it is a generalization, so take it with a grain of salt from someone who has been active in the profession for over 39 years, in different countries, in different settings.  

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

Learn to listen actively. Don’t focus on how you are going to frame what was said as much as on the essence of what is being said. Notice the difference in verb tense: be in the moment.

That is, assuming you have the required ability to deliver what is expected of you: a clear message, nearly as eloquently delivered by the speaker as possible.

You can find Gio on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Interpreting: Stepping into the Booth for the First Time

By Gio Lester

The text below is aimed at individuals who have been trained but are stepping into a booth as professionals for the first time. These are my thoughts —nothing scientific about them, just good old experience, gut and gumption.

So, the first thing you need to do is RELAX. The second is practice. You have most of the skills and now it is a matter of aligning those you have and maybe adding a few more.

There are a few sites on the internet to help you (later) and a few things I can share:

  1. Remember, at a conference, you will not interpret word for word: Pay attention to the whole message.
  2. Breathe. You will start to speak after a complete idea is put forth: Good Morning is a complete idea; The good, kind, honest [??] is not a complete idea because you do not know the noun all those adjectives apply to (doctor, professor, man, kid?).
    • Learn to pace yourself
    • During your practice, play with decalage [time between hearing the message in L1 and delivering it in L2] and allow yourself time to understand the message
  3. It is important for conference interpreters to identify the speaker’s style.
    • Loves to fill in the gaps: You know, well, let me just tell you… >> they allow you to jump through these empty nuggets of sound and get to the real subject with less pressure.
    • Runs like the wind: Speaks at 180-210 words a minute >> if they are also like the example above, that means you can breathe easier, otherwise, there isn’t much you can do other than switch more often with your colleague.
    • Knows how to present: You got an ally, just pace yourself.
  4. The conference website is a treasure trove of information you can use to strengthen your performance. Even last year’s website, especially when the material on the current event is hard to come by.
    • Look up who the speakers are.
    • Check if YouTube has any of their previous appearances and listen to them (accents, language vices, speed).
    • Copy their bios and read them. Try to summarize the texts because very likely they will be read at breakneck speed:
      • Mary Strider Naggut-Lo, President and CEO of Lo & Behold Inc., has a Ph.D. in Martial Arts, a BA in Marketing; served as Marketing Manager at We Got It International, with headquarters in Qatar, General Marketing Advisor at News For You, with main offices in Austria, Head of Marketing at One, Two, Take Off, Inc, with offices in Paris …. >> write down the relevant information: name, current employment, most important degree; summarize the rest. Held many administrative positions at various international organizations [or whatever works in your case]. Do listen during the actual event in case there is an update.
    • Unusual vocabulary: You can find out a lot about the company and speakers and create a glossary based on that.
    • Check their competition online just for extra vocabulary.
  5. At a conference, you are helping the speaker tell a story so
    • Listen attentively.
    • Write down specific data (dates, numbers, amounts – things you might forget – MAR 20, 2K = 2000, >5 = more than 5 [I am especially horrible with numbers!].

Here are the websites I use when speaking about interpreting. I strongly suggest you check them out but choose only one or two to work with at a time—you do not want to overload.

Once in the booth, you and your colleague will take turns on the microphone because your brain will melt after 30 minutes (not literally) and you will not notice—just like the frog in boiling water. And yesit is a generalization but with lots of data to back it up. There are a few instances when one can go for longer than 40 minutes without losing quality, and that will depend a lot on the speaker and the interpreter’s knowledge of the subject. Another thing to mind in the booth is your manners, but that would take a whole new article; for now, just read the second link below.

Still curious? Here is more on simultaneous interpreting:

About the author:

Brazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester, Co-Chair of NAJIT’s PR Committee, started her career in translation and interpreting in 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with. In 2009, she co-founded the Florida ATA Chapter (ATIF), served as its first elected president (2011-2012), and later as president of its interim board. As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. Gio has been a contributor to The NAJIT Observer since its inception in 2011, and its Editor since 2016. In 2017 she was appointed Chair of the Miami Dade College Translation and Interpretation Advisory Committee, which she had been a member of since 2014. In 2018, Gio was elected to the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Association of Translators and Interpreters,  Abrates, as its General Secretary. You can follow her on Twitter (@cariobana) and she can also be reached at gio@giolester.com.

This article first appeared on najit.org

ATA Members to Vote on 23rd ATA Division

By Tram Bui, Administrator of Southeast Asian Language Division (SEALD)

The typical role of a professional association is to enable individual practitioners to collaborate, learn from each other, and speak with a (hopefully) unified, collective voice. For 60 years, the American Translators Association (ATA) has been the voice of translators, and more recently, interpreters practicing in the US. Over the years, divisions were formed to make collaborations easier among linguists who speak particular languages or who have a common topical interest.

I lead a group that has petitioned the ATA to form a South East Asian Language Division, and our request has been accepted. Most professional linguists who work in these languages have learned their trade with limited access to formal skills training and have not had the opportunity to collaborate with their linguistic and cultural peers. Many, if not most, have earned a post-secondary degree, either at the bachelor or graduate level, but have struggled as they sought to provide services professionally. Most have been troubled when observing other linguists, who were providing services for a fee, fall short of industry standards. Both clients and the profession suffer when this happens.

Our Goal: Our vision is to promote professional practice standards that are consistent with the ATA’s stated norms and values. We want to do this in a forum, and in an adapted way that encourages learning with a culturally relevant approach.

Our Challenge: In the US, despite a large number of immigrants from this region who are monolingual and who often have a common experience of refugee status, there are relatively few members of the ATA who use these languages professionally. Most linguists who practice in these languages do so independently, without a connection to, or awareness of, a larger collective. There are several reasons for this, and in end, professionalism and job prospects suffer.

Our Request: If you work in a South East Asian Language, please join us! Whether you want to learn or share your experience with others, you have a place in our division. If you are an ATA member, regardless of your working languages, please consider supporting our new division by voting for its formation. We hope to attract more linguists to the ATA, particularly those practicing a language used in any of the ASEAN countries. The major languages in these SE Asian countries are Burmese, Hmong, Lao, Indonesian, Khmer, Malay, Nepali, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. Finally, if you have ideas for content that can be shared or be adapted, we would love that too.

We RISE when we UPLIFT each other.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tram Bui is a NBCMI Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI- Vietnamese) with over 15 years of experience. She was born in Saigon, Vietnam and emigrated in 1975 as a political refugee. She now lives in Arizona. She is a voting member of the American Translators Association (ATA), an active member of the Arizona Translators and Interpreters Association (ATI), Interpreters Guild of America (IGA), and the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare (NCIHC).

She can be reached by email at: teechedu@gmail.com

Featured Interpreter: María (Mila) Baker CMI, CHI™ Spanish, M.A. in Spanish and TESOL

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

I have been an interpreter for approximately 5 years. I had just moved to Huntsville, AL, where I currently live. I had finished my Masters degree, and had been doing some translation work for private clients while in college. I figured I would continue to do that, so I looked up language service agencies in Huntsville and emailed them my resume. One of these agencies contacted me back 20 minutes later, to ask me if I was interested in becoming a medical interpreter. I said yes… and the rest is history.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

I first started interpreting in outpatient settings. My first assignment involved pediatric oncology.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

I try to find out as much as I can about the appointment. Normally the first thing I do is look up the address and find the best way to get there. Knowing what type of clinic or facility I will be working in (for example, a neurologist’s office), I think about three things: symptoms (what kinds of complaints patients might have), diagnoses, and medication. Based on this, I can review key terminology, and even carry it in my notebook for a quick glance. The last thing I do is pick what clothes to wear. I think how we present ourselves still has an influence in how seriously we are taken as professionals, although some think it shouldn’t.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

I’ve had many interesting appointments, but I will never forget going to a urologist with a male patient. It turns out he was there for a consultation about sexual dysfunction! This was something I knew very little about at the time, and I also feared the patient might be uncomfortable having a female interpreter. Fortunately, the patient had a really good attitude, and trusted that I was a professional. That appointment really made me think about gender roles in various cultures, and how we need to be sensitive and professional in these cases.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

The saddest experiences I’ve had were generally end-of-life cases. I understand why that area of work is not for any interpreter, and we must be very self-aware and know our own limitations. In the end, I come out stronger and better as a professional, but it is always sad.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

I use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They all serve different purposes. I follow groups for interpreters and translators on Facebook. On these groups, people share articles of interest, but more importantly, they ask questions. I help answer them when I can, but I mostly learn from other answers. I keep LinkedIn updated for possible clients and fellow interpreters and translators. I also look at the job postings, not necessarily because I’m looking for a job, but I like to stay in touch with the job market (Indeed is another good platform for that). I like to follow professional organizations from all over the country, such as CCHI or ATA on Twitter. I find out about conferences and other events, as well as opportunities for professional development. I also like to follow translators like Xosé Castro and Jeromobot because they are very good at marketing themselves and their work, and I think I can learn from them.

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in your target language? Can you recommend something to our readers?

I may be biased here because it is where I come from, but I think everyone should read some storytellers from Argentina, such as Jorge Luis Borges, or Horacio Quiroga. If you are into poetry, I think Mario Benedetti (from Uruguay) is a must.

Q: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming interpreter?

Get involved in the industry. Join professional organizations and be as active as you can. You can make some important connections that way, and more importantly, advocate for our profession to get the recognition it deserves, and for professional interpreters and translators to be valued and appreciated. I am part of at least one regional and one national organization, and they are very enriching experiences.

Q: How did you prepare for your certification exams? What was the most difficult? What are the differences between CCHI and NBCMI certification exams and preparation? Can you share resources that helped you prepare? 

There isn’t much we can share about the exams themselves (the content is confidential), but the single best resource, generally speaking, is the candidate handbook, which is available for both exams. I didn’t take any classes specifically to prepare, but I know there are some available. Both exams have a theoretical component: we have to study anatomy and physiology, and especially ethical principles and standards of practice. Both exams are heavy on ethical content.
But there is also a practical component, having to do with interpreting (and translation!) skills. You can study the protocols and procedures on a theoretical basis, but then you just have to PRACTICE. When it comes to skills, both exams require good consecutive interpreting skills, including note-taking. I practiced taking notes and interpreting while watching the news, or shows that I enjoyed. I even took notes while talking to my husband! It’s all about taking advantage of every opportunity: if you’re going to watch TV or talk to people anyway, you might as well use those situations to get better. I also used these opportunities to practice simultaneous interpreting, which constitutes one of the differences between these exams: so far, the NBCMI exam does not include a simultaneous interpreting component, while CCHI does. It is important to understand the differences between these two modes, and when to use each. Other than that, my preparation was rather similar, as the exams have more similarities than they have differences.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why? 

I try to take advantage of every resource available. If I don’t find the topic engaging, I try to find something else to read or another webinar to watch. I have also been attending the conference held by the Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators (TAPIT) for several years, and I recommend it to anyone in the Southeast and beyond. I also like to attend big scale conferences like the IMIA or ATA Conferences, because they are generally an occasion where interpreters, healthcare providers, and agencies meet, so there are many perspectives to hear.  And of course I learn a lot from attending and organizing our conference with the Interpreters and Translators Association of Alabama!

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

I think we don’t talk enough about quality control or quality assurance for interpreters. The topic is raised for translation, but not for interpreters, and it is quite complex, as it is not easy to measure, and it is not only in the results, which are typically not durable. In case of translation, you have a document to review. When we interpret, our words are gone as soon as they’re spoken, unless they’re recorded. It is necessary to talk to interpreters about how to monitor our own performance at all stages of the assignment.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

There are many things I would like to see changed. I would like agencies to treat interpreters fairly (they don’t always do), I’d like interpreter rates to have a legal minimum established, although I know it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. I would also like certification (in any setting, for translators and interpreters) to be a requirement. The law is not clear enough about what “qualified” means, and that opens the door to many people without enough education to act as interpreters and translators.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

I think the most important thing is humility, in two senses. One is cultural humility. We have to be sensitive to cultural differences but we are not anthropologists. I don’t believe interpreters should try to “explain” other cultures, as within each cultural group there is also a great deal of individual variation. We can merely point out possible cultural differences, be aware of their existence, and help healthcare providers be sensitive to them.
We also need the humility to stick to our role as interpreters. We may have other ways in which we think we can help, often with the best intentions, but they are not part of our role. The main way we help LEP patients is by putting them on equal footing with English-speaking patients. We must monitor our will to intervene or put the spotlight on ourselves. Things go smooth when each party does what they’re trained to do, and nothing else.
You can find Maria on Twitter and LinkedIn

Happy Birthday to the Nation of Nations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 4th of July, we remember some quotes by famous Americans about our beautiful land of immigrants.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
―Emma Lazarus, writer and translator

 

“America has always been a symbol of hope, tolerance and diversity —and these are values we must work very hard to uphold”.

―Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani Yoghurt

 

“Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.”

―Tim Cook, CEO

 

“As you know, I’m an immigrant. I came over here as an immigrant, and what gave me the opportunities, what made me to be here today, is the open arms of Americans. I have been received. I have been adopted by America.”

―Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and politician

 

“Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”
―John F. Kennedy

 

“I am the grandson of immigrants from Japan who went to America, boldly going to a strange new world, seeking new opportunities. My mother was born in Sacramento, California. My father was a San Franciscan. They met and married in Los Angeles, and I was born there.”

―George Takei, actor

 

“I arrived in the U.S.A. in 1935, to San Francisco. I got the boat from China, and I didn’t even speak English. I could read a little, perhaps write a little, but that was all. It was a 17-day journey, and I learnt to speak English from the stewards.”

―I. M. Pei, one of top America’s architects

 

“I call myself Zimerican. I was born in the Midwest to Zimbabwean parents. My father was a professor at Grinnell College in Iowa.”

―Danai Gurira, actress


“I came here to the US at age 6 with my family from the Soviet Union which was at that time the greatest enemy the US had, maybe it still is. It was a dire period, the cold war, as some people remember it. And even then the US had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees. This country was brave and welcoming and I wouldn’t be where I am today or have any kind of the life that I have today if this was not a brave country that really stood out and spoke for liberty.”

―Sergey Brin, founder of Google

 

“I came to America because of the great, great freedom which I heard existed in this country.”
―Albert Einstein

 

“I come from a part of New York that was almost entirely immigrants. I was born in America, but all of my friends’ parents, everybody’s parents, including my own, had come to America from Europe. ―Christopher Walken, actor

 

“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

―George Washington

 

“I have an immigrant mentality, which is that the job can be taken away at any time, so make sure you earn it every day…immigrants come here they have no safety net-zero. I landed here with $500 in my pocket. I had no one here to pay for me.”

―Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

 

“I liked the America of Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – it was all a dream, of course, but a very alluring dream for a young man from China.”
―I. M. Pei, one of top America’s architects

 

“I was born in Europe… and I’ve traveled all over the world. I can tell you that there is no place, no country, that is more compassionate, more generous, more accepting, and more welcoming than the United States of America.”

―Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and politician

 

“My folks came to U.S. as immigrants, aliens, and became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen, went to Hollywood and became an alien.

―Leonard Nimoy, actor

 

“My mother was an activist, so was my father. They came from a generation of young Somalis who were actively involved in getting independence for Somalia in 1960. So I remember when I was five how busy our house was. People would come in the middle of the night, meetings after meetings, and protests and all that. I grew up in the midst of all of that. And she instilled that in me. The fact that nobody can take your self-worth unless you give your consent. I am the face of a refugee. I was once a refugee. I was with my family in exile.”

―Iman, fashion model

 

“One more thing I would say with regard to immigration generally: There exists on the subject a fatal miscomprehension. Unemployment is not decreased by restricting immigration. For unemployment depends on faulty distribution of work among those capable of work. Immigration increases consumption as much as it does demand on labor.”

―Albert Einstein

 

“On my father’s side, I’m descended from immigrants, one of whom was a Syrian refugee from the Armenian genocide, and my mother was an immigrant from Germany whose visa had expired and, for a year and change, was undocumented here in the U.S.

―Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit

 

“Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”
―Robert F. Kennedy

 

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
―Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

“The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources–because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.”
―Lyndon B. Johnson

 

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”
― George Washington

 

“The truth is, immigrants tend to be more American than people born here.”

―Chuck Palahniuk, writer

 

“To this day, my father worships JFK and LBJ for what they did to have the laws changed so that his family could come. I was 12 when I came, and I remember thinking it’s truly a different world. You know, you go from bicycles to cars, from shopping in the village market to supermarkets and from Chinese to English. We did not know the alphabet. So we started from step one, and it was a culture shock on top of a language barrier. We were each given an English name, hence — I’m David. And my father did it very simply, Dae He is D-A-E, and he just thought David was the closest thing. My training has been entirely American, while culturally I am a large part Chinese.”

―David Ho, scientist, heavily influenced the understanding, investigation and treatment of HIV/AIDS worldwide

 

“We came to America, either ourselves or in the persons of our ancestors, to better the ideals of men, to make them see finer things than they had seen before, to get rid of the things that divide and to make sure of the things that unite.”
―Woodrow Wilson

 

“We showed up here with the equivalent of $50 and a piano. We came halfway around the world without money, without a set job, no place to live and couldn’t even speak the language. What saved us was my father being a musician and slowly meeting other musicians and gigging on weekends, everything from weddings to you name it to make money.”

―Eddie Van Halen, one of the most well known hard rock musicians

 

“When [my family] came from England during the war, people said, “You are welcome here. What can we do to help?” I am a beneficiary of the American people’s generosity, and I hope we can have comprehensive immigration legislation that allows this country to continue to be enriched by those who were not born here.”
―Madeleine Albright

 

“When you get to know a lot of people, you make a great discovery. You find that no one group has a monopoly on looks, brains, goodness or anything else. It takes all the people – black and white, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant, recent immigrants and Mayflower descendants – to make up America.”

―Judy Garland

 

“You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is ‘illegal’. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”

―Elie Wiesel, the writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor

 

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