?Translation isn’t always thought of as a creative process. Some view translation as a simple act of moving already created sentences and phrases from one language to another. Translation is actually much more complex. As a translator, you act as a gateway between two languages, as if you are standing along a border, balancing two worlds. It requires an understanding of the complexities involved in not only the original and translated languages, but also an intimate understanding of the two cultures. Creativity is present, and even necessary, within the process of translation.
Creativity, when defined as “seeing the intersection of seemingly unrelated topics and combining them into something new” (Brian Clark), nearly perfectly defines the life of a translator. Another definition that perhaps fits even snugger proposes that creativity is “starting with nothing and ending up with something. Interpreting something you saw or experienced and processing it so it comes out different than how it went in” (Henry Rollins). Both of these definitions fully ?capture the role and scope of translation.
Creativity is sparked in many different areas of the brain. It requires heavy use of the prefrontal cortex, an area responsible for higher level thinking, logic, and cognitive flexibility. However, depending on the type of tasking and creativity you are engaging in will indicate which area will be used. For translators, Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are more likely to be used in the creative process. Armed with knowledge on the neurobiology of creativity has given researchers and other professionals tools to cultivate it.
How to cultivate creativity?
1. Increasing Curiosity
Curiosity often leads to creativity. Like a developing child that has an innate drive to curiously explore his or her world and creatively provide input back to his or her environment, so too do adults have these needs. By borrowing the wonder of a child, we can use your five senses to explore the world in curiosity, feel the need to creatively input into our world, and thus grow our creativity.
2. Setting a creative mood
You can alter your environment to boost creativity. What we take in through our senses can be soothing, energizing, and can change our moods. It is worth experimenting with different sights, smells, textures, audio or music, and tastes to see what engages your brain into action. Remember, though, what works for one individual may not work for someone else, and this will require you to experiment with different environments, sensory tools, etc, in order to figure out what works for you.
3. Titrating Creativity
Going back and forth from the opposite forces of creativity and disengagement can lead to a boost in creative moments and decrease moments of stagnation. Further, a longer and more serious disengagement like sleep has been shown to boost our ability to find insight – that is, the sudden gain of knowledge or spark of idea, which are the offspring of creativity.
4. Collaboration and Gathering Feedback
Creativity can be sparked when we bounce ideas off one another, because sometimes we are too close to an issue or problem to be able to step back and find a new creative path. Asking for help and advice from friends, peers, and people from your personal network that you trust and respect can provide valuable input to start the creative process. Every person has a unique skill set, experience, and knowledge. A fresh outside perspective can spark some new, creative thinking, particularly when ideas are stuck.
5. Do Something Different, Do Something Fun, or Do Nothing at All
Finally, when we are stuck and creativity is no longer flowing, it can help to change things up, step out of your professional role, or simply do nothing, Sometimes unplugging your mind rather than actively engaging it can give your mind the break and the rest that it needs. Sometimes the best ideas are born from spontaneous insights rather than active thinking processes.
Creativity lives within interpretation. The transformative aspect of translation requires it. When creativity stagnates, there are research-supported ways to boost it. Not just for painters and authors of children’s books, creativity is found in all of us, and often in heavy doses in translators.
Whether freelancing is your full-time job or a side hustle, it takes more than just time to build up a network of clients, partners, and contacts. Working as a freelance translator or interpreter can be extremely rewarding – from cherry-picking the projects you take on to working at your own pace and building stronger relationships with clients. A freelance translation job can expand your expertise and open the door to new markets and experiences, not to mention the potential income.
At the same time, freelancing can sometimes spell financial instability, irregular hours, and a fluctuating workload. Therefore, before your freelance life starts spinning out of control, review our tips and tricks to stay on track and thrive.
Become an expert in your field. Be it court interpretation or medical translation, it is imperative that you master the ins and outs of your field. Learn the specific terminology and know the minute differences between synonyms. Apart from that, what can really help you stand out from the competition is an insightful and comprehensive grasp of your focus area. Be the translator or interpreter who goes beyond the realm of the language and context and can enjoy educated conversations with the lawyers, doctors, and social workers they work for.
Stay open to new up-and-coming trends. Staying current in your field and constantly honing your skills shouldn’t get in the way of exploring adjacent areas. If you focus on legal translation and court interpretation, why not read up on business and management? While it might not be realistic to branch out to a completely foreign territory, identifying the areas that you can build on with your existing knowledge will diversify your linguistic repertoire and clientele.
Let your talent shine. From social media to a personal blog, workshops, conferences, journal papers, presentations, and educational sessions, the avenues for revealing your passions abound. Do you specialize in interpreting at agricultural conferences? Share the hardest terms you’ve encountered or tips for taming interpretation nerves.
Another great way to pass your experience on to fellow translators or interpreters is by joining a professional organization or association such as ATIA. Not only do we run conferences and workshops, but we also offer mentorship opportunities so you can contribute your expertise to others in the field.
Go an extra mile for your clients. Don’t just send off another assignment or project: build relationships with your clients, anticipate their needs, and find out how else you can make their lives easier. Although you will most likely juggle multiple projects and aggressive deadlines, don’t just wall yourself off from the world. Take the time to get to know your clients. Use translation and interpreting to learn about their business, services, competition, and clients.
Follow the market. The demand for translators and interpreters has constantly been in flux – the top fields for translation and interpreting of today might succumb to nascent new areas of tomorrow. Stay abreast of the news and updates pertinent to your field, sign up for newsletters, attend conferences and workshops to better plan your career trajectory. Keep an eye out for emerging new industries that might need your services and develop the skills to match their needs.
This month, ATIA sat down with Mayagwe founder and director Bill Dodd to talk about how the platform is revolutionizing access to professional interpreters. With numerous ATIA members represented on the tech platform, Mayagwe represents the way of the future for clients to connect with certified interpreters and procure their services.
What is Mayagwe?
Mayagwe is a software application that connects clients who need the assistance of language interpreters and professional language interpreters looking for job opportunities. Currently the way clients access interpreters is that they have to contact a company and submit a form. They get an invoice and have to pay a company who then has to issue payment to an interpreter. Mayagwe eliminates the middle person and clients are connected directly to interpreters who are independent contractors. It’s like the difference between taxi cab companies and Uber. The utilization of technology makes the system much faster, more efficient, and more cost effective. There is a reason “Uber” or similar apps like “Skip the Dishes” are is taking over from the traditional methods of doing business. Mayagwe is doing the same for the interpretation sector.
What does the name mean?
Mayagwe is an Ojibway word meaning “he or she who speaks a strange language”. Mayagwe is a Canadian company and nothing could be more Canadian than honouring an Indigenous language in the name of a language company.
Where did you get the idea for starting this organization?
When I was a member of the Calgary Police Service, an incident occurred where investigators required a language interpreter ASAP. A person had been detained in relation to a bomb threat at the Calgary Provincial Court building. As a result, the court building and surrounding area had to be evacuated, displacing thousands of people and tying up multiple police resources for hours. It took over 5 hours to find an interpreter so that the situation could be resolved. This exposed the inadequacies of the current methods of finding qualified language interpreters. The Chief of Police at the time tasked me with finding a solution to this issue. As a result, I discovered that the Calgary Police Service was not unique. No other police service or other organization in the country had an effective system for accessing in-person language interpreters. As a result of funding and contributions from the Calgary Police Service, Alberta Health Services, and the Calgary Foundation, Mayagwe was born and a custom-made software application developed in Calgary was created to address this need. What use to take multiple hours (like the court house incident), or sometimes even multiple days, can now be handled in literally minutes.
Creating a system that makes using interpreters was not easy. Many problems needed to be overcome, including issues around what constituted a “professional” interpreter, favoritism, a lack of transparency, a lack of cooperation between agencies competing for government funding, siloing of resources, exploitation of new immigrants or as some immigrant service agencies like to call them “volunteers” etc. Mayagwe addresses these issues by creating a democratic and transparent system that protects the needs of clients requiring language assistance and the needs of interpreters providing that assistance. Language assistance is a professional service where people need to be treated fairly.
There was also the issue of out sourcing of interpretation services, meaning either over the phone interpretation or in-person interpretation. Because of the arduous old process of contacting many “interpreter providers” who don’t cooperate with each other and don’t share their “interpreter lists,” big clients such as Alberta Health Services began to outsource thousands and thousands of tax payer dollars to foreign companies – money and resources that could instead stay here in Alberta and support the local economy while creating good paying jobs. Everyone who uses an interpreter agrees that in-person interpretation provides better outcomes and the research also support it. The justification for over the phone is that it is more convenient and less expensive. Although there are times where over the phone may be a better option, with the Mayagwe system, we are demonstrating that using an in-person interpreter can be just as easy, and as cost effective as other options.
What’s your background?
My background is that I was born and raised in Calgary and am a unilingual English speaker so it may seem odd for me to be working in a company that is all about other languages, but I don’t think it is at all. I became a police officer because I wanted to help people and make a difference in my community and I truly admire those who can communicate in multiple languages. (they are so much smarter than me). Mayagwe is a way to continue to contribute to my community.
How did you get into this?
During my work I saw that language can be a huge barrier to providing critical services to under-served Calgarians. I met many people in our community who also wanted to help and who had the languages skills that could make a difference. One powerful example of this occurred a few years ago. The Calgary Police Service has a team who assist victims of crime called the Victims Assistance Unit or VAU. The members of this team contact Calgarians who have been the victim of a crime and offers assistance. This team does absolutely fantastic work on a daily basis and one of the people who has worked on this team is a wonderful woman named Amina. Not only is Amina a terrifically smart and empathetic person, she also has the added ability to converse in multiple languages. A few years ago a situation occurred where a woman who had recently come to Canada was the victim of a terrible crime, and the police were needed. The officers who attended to her did their best, got her to place of safety and filed a report. By chance Amina was the person from VAU who got the file and contacted this women offering assistance. During the conversation Amina recognized that she spoke the same language as the victim. Once they could fully converse it became clear that so much more had happened than the initial investigating officers had been able to determine. The victim was able to tell her whole story which was so much more complicated. As a result, more appropriate and much more serious criminal charges could be brought against the perpetrator of this crime. Amina was able to help this person navigate an unfamiliar system, help with her family situation, her immigration situation and so forth. It is a long story and brings people to tears when they hear it, but it is no exaggeration to say that Amina’s intervention and her ability to communicate fully with the victim literally saved this person’s life (the victim’s own words). Unfortunately many people still fall through the cracks and even though there are many examples like this, leadership of critical social serving agencies such as the police still do not provide their front line workers with the tools they need to provide the best service possible. We hope to help fill some of those cracks.
What are the principles and vision behind what you do?
Mayagwe is a nonprofit whose vision is to make language assistance as efficient as possible to anyone who requires it, create good paying local jobs and contribute to a better quality of life for everyone in our community.
What are the benefits for participating Interpreters?
- Provides fairness and equal access to job opportunities.
- Provides employment opportunities with maximum flexibility for participation.
- Provides business experience as independent business operators.
- Provides connection and understanding of social serving agencies, reducing any stigma which may exist about the roles of these agencies.
- Eliminates favoritism or cronyism in offering employment opportunities to a select few.
- Recognizes interpretation as a professional service.
- Quick direct payment for service.
What are the benefits for Client Agencies?
- Direct access to trained interpreters.
- Maximum flexibility in scheduling, from immediate requests to long-term scheduling.
- Ability to set criteria for interpreters unique to each organization.
- Ability to customize interpreter requests.
- Assurance of accreditation standards.
- Cost-effectiveness by only paying for services provided.
- Providing connection to people in the communities they serve.
- Reducing risk of miscommunication and improper service.
- Demonstrating commitment to inclusiveness.
What is a good story you have heard in relation to Mayagwe that you would like to share?
A good story about Mayagwe is that more and more people are recognizing the positive social impact this can have in our communities. A good example is the Canadian Western Bank who has recognized the positive social impact this will have in communities in which it operates and has provided generous financial assistance to help expand this service to Edmonton.
What is the future of Mayagwe?
The Mayagwe application is unique in Canada and plans to expand this service to social serving agencies across the country.
What’s one thing you would like interpreters to know?
If you are providing Interpretation services, you need to make certain that they are covered by professional liability insurance. If you are being contracted through a company or social serving agency to do this work, ask them to provide you the details of that insurance policy such as: the policy details, policy number, coverage amount etc. If you do not, you are potentially exposing yourself to personal risk of a lawsuit.
To join the database of interpreters on the Mayagwe system, just go to www.mayagwe.com and follow the easy steps detailed there
?Are you looking to establish and build a new career as a translator or interpreter or are you an already an established professional looking for ways to continue your professional development? Interested in becoming more actively engaged in your chosen field of translation or interpretation? Membership in a professional association has numerous benefits for both early career translators and interpreters and more seasoned professionals.
Some of the benefits of joining a professional association are practical and tangible. A professional association is a trusted source for clients seeking translators and interpreters, so being included in a respected association’s directory will make it easy for prospective clients to find you. Membership, whether at an associate or certified level, also designates you as a professional in your field. This indicates to prospective clients and employers that you have a certain level of experience and training. ATIA members undergo an application and certification process tailored to their specialization. There are five categories of ATIA membership: Translator, Court Interpreter, Community Interpreter, Medical Interpreter, and Conference Interpreter, and members may attain certification in multiple categories.
In addition to standardized membership requirements and certification, many associations offer professional development opportunities and resources such as seminars and webinars. ATIA has offered webinars in topics ranging from exam preparation, to how to freelance as a translator, to elevating your English grammar skills, as well as mini-courses on different specializations within the field of translation and interpretation.
Other advantages of involvement in a professional association, such as collegiality and a deeper engagement with your chosen field, are less tangible but are still important to developing a successful and rewarding career. For younger professionals, joining an organization opens opportunities to network, learn their new industry, and access a degree of professionalization while building early career experience. It is often recent graduates and new professionals who are most likely to seek and utilize networking opportunities, but experienced professionals should not underestimate the importance of collegiality and connection. Participating in a professional association is a way to maintain and develop professional connections and to stay in touch with industry developments and news. Ongoing learning and active engagement keep skills fresh and careers dynamic.
? Professional organizations, whether at a provincial level such as the ATIA or national, contribute to the health and strength of the entire professional field. By developing and implementing standardized certifications and Codes of Ethics, professional associations maintain the quality and consistency of the field, protecting the interests of both clients and providers. Standardized certification and regulation ensures that the expertise that translators and interpreters work hard to attain is recognized as a profession. It also ensures that clients and employers are able to connect with consistent, quality services. A professional association’s strength is in its members, though! Each individual who joins a professional association contributes to making that association a robust and active presence in its field.
The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta is itself a member of the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), and through the CTTIC is affiliated with the International Federation of Translators (FIT). To find out more about the ATIA membership categories and the membership process, check out the Membership page. ?