Don’t shoot the messenger – International Translation Day at Glendon

Conflicts, constraints and physical danger are increasingly part of the work situation facing interpreters today. That was one of the grimmer messages when Glendon’s School of Translation and the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) jointly hosted their annual International Translation Day on Sept. 27. The event took place in Glendon’s Albert Tucker Room in York Hall.

Candace Séguinot, professor of translation at Glendon, was host for an evening that featured three guest speakers: Hazel Cole-Egan, a certified conference interpreter and translator; Lida Nosrati, community interpreter; and translator Lyse Hébert (BA‘ 86, MA‘ 04). All three spoke about their experiences working as translators and include references to an at-times stressful environment.

“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.”

Cole-Egan explained the role and activities of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), an umbrella organization for the Canadian Association of Conference Interpreters (CACI). Founded in 1953, AIIC brings together 2,800 professionals in more than 250 cities and over 90 countries, with 119 Canadian members, predominantly female. “In Canada, the largest group of conference interpreters is found in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto”, said Cole-Egan, “and while English and French continue to be dominant languages, Spanish and Japanese are steadily increasing in importance.”

Next, 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 a York MA in translation from Glendon. These interpreters work in varied settings, such as health care, social services and courts of law. Currently, some agencies or professionals group have their 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.”

Left: Glendon student Christiane Simard (left) received the Prix d’excellence de l’ATIO from Nancy McInnis, ATIO president

Hébert, currently working on her PhD under the direction of Glendon translation Professor Daniel Simeoni and also a lecturer of French studies at the Royal Military College of Canada, recently worked as an interpreter in Cuba. She 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.

Right: Chantal Evans (left), a new student this fall in the Glendon Translation School, received ATIO’s Financial Aid Bursary from McInnis

The president of ATIO, Nancy McInnis, encouraged those present to make use of the association’s enhanced Web site (, including 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.

The event also included a celebration for two Glendon students who received prizes awarded by the ATIO Foundation (FondATIO). Christiane Simard, who has just completed her specialized honours BA in translation at Glendon, conducted her studies 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 or 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.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny, in collaboration with Glendon coordinator of print and new media Marie Maher.