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Below are a collection of frequently asked questions pertaining to the topic of trilingual interpreting. You can find more information on the topic at the trilingual interpreting specialization page or the frequently used terms.
According to the 2010 Census, 308.7 million people reside in the United States. Of this number, 50.5 million (or 16 percent) are of Hispanic/Latino origin and 2.1 million are also Deaf. It is estimated that by 2050 this number will grow to 102.5 million and include 4.2 million deaf individuals. In other words, in 2010 one in every eight Americans was of Hispanic/Latino origin, and in 2040 this number will increase to more than one in every four Americans. It is certain that during their lifetime, a number ofthese individuals will be exposed to a “trilingual experience;” some will experience effective interpretation, others perhaps not.
There is a staggering demand for trilingual interpreters, especially as brought on by the growth of Video Relay Interpreting. The need for trilingual interpreters intensifies in areas of large ethnic populations, especially Hispanic, Asian, and also Russian.
As professionals working in the field of interpreting, we are acutely aware of the fluidity and constant evolution of language and its uses. Terms evolve over time as a result of invention, technology, identity dynamics and current political culture. The nomenclature described above is a good example of the fluid nature of linguistics. Today, you will see all of these terms used differently by individuals representing divergent cultural sectors, generations, and geography. With such rich and wide-ranging diversity, what is a comfortable term to one may be offensive to another. Know your audience and your community. They will guide you to the correct nomenclature for the audience and the setting. Council de Manos is an excellent resource.
The field of interpreting has long recognized the importance of Deaf interpreters to creating optimum communication access. They ensure a more accurate communication exchange, in particular when the skills of the interpreter do not match the language and message intent of the parties using the interpreter. With 23 varieties of Spanish and as many varying cultures, the potential for a communication disconnect between all three parties (Deaf, hearing, and interpreter) increases. As such, experienced trilingual interpreters, when confronted with such a scenario, often request a Deaf team member. More information on Deaf interpreting can be found at the Deaf Interpreter Institute website.
At this time NCIEC is aware of one academic certificate program offered in the United States, the Trilingual Enhanced Certificate, offered at San Antonio Community College. Academic requirements require graduation from an ASL/English interpreting program and/or BEI or RID certification.
Not at this time.
With the exception of a few interpreter preparation programs that offer trilingual interpretation courses or a program of study that includes Spanish, there are few educational opportunities available specifically to trilingual interpreting. Most practicing trilingual interpreters have acquired their skills through general exposure and study, thus both language proficiencies and cultural competence vary widely among trilingual interpreters.
In addition to participating in formal education, interpreters are encouraged to engage in formalized mentorship activities with respected and experienced trilingual interpreting mentors. Aspiring trilingual interpreters should seek out mentors who are certified, preferably as both a bilingual and trilingual interpreter, and who have received some level of training as a mentor.
Prospective trilingual interpreters may need to take formal Spanish courses and become familiar with Latino culture, even if they are heritage or native learners. The exceptions, perhaps, are Puerto Rican and foreign-born and raised interpreters whose academic language is Spanish. These interpreters may benefit from additional coursework in English.
In some instances, ASL/English interpreting programs will introduce the concept of trilingual interpreting to students, but it is rare that an aspiring bilingual interpreter would be given instruction on the highly complicated task of trilingual interpreting. It is always advised that a student acquire a comfortable level of interpreting skill between two languages before introducing the third language.
It is highly recommended that interpreters seek certification as an important indicator of their qualifications. In addition to RID Certification, trilingual interpreters may wish to pursue the trilingual certification currently offered through the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI), created by the University of Arizona National Center for Interpretation Testing, Research and Policy (UA NCITRP) and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services-Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DARS-DHHS).
The NCIEC Task Force recommends that any instructor or mentor of trilingual interpreting content possess no less than the following qualifications:
- Thorough current knowledge of the subject matter.
- Possession of a degree from an accredited college or university.
- Interpreting certification (BEI preferred) and/or be a consumer who has extensive experience in trilingual settings.
- Several years in the field as an “in the trenches” trilingual practitioner or consumer of trilingual interpreting services.
- Direct racial/ethnic life experiences in the Latinx community.
- Working knowledge of adult learning and individual learning styles.
- An ability to communicate information in a creative and innovative way.
- An understanding of the importance of evaluation, both pre- and post-assessments, to measure learning.
- For online mentoring, an understanding of technology and how to most effectively use it.
Mano a Mano is the only national organization dedicated to professional development of ASL/Spanish/English interpreters. RID and the American Translators Association (ATA) serve broad-based professional development for bilingual ASL/English interpreters and spoken language interpreters respectively.
Mentoring, as a term, is often viewed differently by individuals seeking a mentoring experience, commonly described as one of three very discreet processes, whereby:
- a novice practitioner connects with a highly skilled practitioner who takes the novice “under their wing” and guides them into the field;
- a novice or experienced practitioner connects with a highly skilled practitioner to engage in a clearly defined self-improvement event with established goals, objectives, and timeframe; or
- a learner seeks out peers and others with skills in the areas that the learner seeks to improve.
A qualified mentor will possess all of the qualities of an instructor and understand the importance of establishing a well-defined mentoring plan.
As you move forward, it is important to consider the following factors of mentoring success:
Do you have the time to commit to a mentorship experience?
Do you have clear goals regarding the areas in which you would like to improve upon?
Does your mentor have the time to commit to a mentorship experience?
Can you mentor articulate their mentorship style or philosophy? Is it mentee or mentor-driven?
Will you have geographic or logistic challenges that could impede the mentorship experience?