The ATA Chronicle - May/June 2020 - 13

planning of this event became a dress
rehearsal that gave us the confidence to put
on the much larger InterpretAmerica 2020
exactly one week later.
The GALA Interpreting Roundtable,
"Interpreting Tech and Business
Continuity: Delivering Interpreting Services
During a World Health Crisis"6, was held
March 19, 2020, on the KUDO platform.
The target audience was made up of GALA
members and conference registrants. But
as word spread on social media about the
roundtable, concerned end users, language
services companies, and interpreters
from around the world signed up for the
event. Over 200 attended online. Remote
simultaneous interpreting was provided
into six languages (English, French, Italian,
Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish). What
we had originally envisaged as a small
online discussion for GALA conference
registrants had morphed into the largest
online event we had ever organized. Our
audience had grown far too big to engage
in a live, interactive discussion about
the impact COVID-19 was having on
interpreting. So, in what would become
a proof of concept for InterpretAmerica
2020, we made use of polling software on
KUDO to gather crucial information about
what was happening on the market.
The results were stark. Even as early as
mid-March, the coronavirus was clearly
wreaking havoc along the entire interpreting
service delivery pathway, from agencies
to practitioners to trainers. A majority of
the participants attending the roundtable
had already experienced significant job
cancellations, with interpreters losing
income in the thousands and tens of
thousands of dollars, and some companies
registering losses in the millions. Almost no
one was working onsite anymore.
The message was clear: the entire
interpreting supply chain needed to go
remote along with the rest of the world,
and those who could help lead the way
needed to step up to the task.

PUTTING INTERPRETAMERICA
2020 TOGETHER
The idea for InterpretAmerica 2020 began
to crystallize as we pulled the GALA event
together. The need was clearly there. A few
days before the GALA webinar, nudged
along by Marjory Bancroft, director of CrossCultural Communications, the national
www.atanet.org

United States: 770
Saudi Arabia: 119
Mexico: 45
Portugal: 1
Germany: 19
Italy: 30
Switzerland: 3
Brazil: 98
Canada: 58

Austria: 2
Belgium: 4
Egypt: 8
Paraguay: 3
Peru: 15
Costa Rica: 2
Japan: 13
Guatemala: 10
Algeria: 2

Spain: 36
France: 12
Chile: 2
Greece: 1
Poland: 5
Argentina: 19
Turkey: 4
Netherlands: 2
United Kingdom: 17

Slovenia: 1
China: 1
Panama: 26
Hungary: 3
Taiwan: 2
Ukraine: 2
Angola: 1
Oman: 12
Hong Kong: 3

Ecuador: 1
Indonesia: 1
Pakistan: 1
Palestinian Territory: 2
Rwanda: 1
Norway: 2
Dominican Republic: 1
Sweden: 1
Romania: 2

Iran, Islamic Republic of: 1
United Arab Emirates: 1
Bulgaria: 1
Ireland: 1
Colombia: 2
Yemen: 1
Russian Federation: 1

Figure 1: Geographic Breakdown of Participants (Note: FLOOR stands for the number of
participants who listened to the original audio in whatever language the presenter was speaking.)
training agency for community and medical
interpreting, who encouraged us to do
something similar for a bigger audience,
we committed to holding InterpretAmerica
2020. We announced InterpretAmerica
2020 at the close of the GALA webinar
and opened registration for the event a
few hours later. We knew time was of the
essence, given the urgency of information
that came out of this first webinar.
To hold an event, you need a focus,
and Cindy Roat, the well-known language
access veteran from the health care
interpreting world, gave it to us. In an
initial brainstorming meeting, she insisted
that the critical issue had to be access to
language assistance, of all kinds, whether
for diplomats, business, or health care.
Her quote became our theme: "The
continued use of interpreting should be our
number one priority."
And the rest flowed from there. We
designed an event we hoped would provide
everyone with a comprehensive view of
how interpreting services were currently
structured so we could then understand
which links along the chain had to shift
most to be able to use remote technologies.
(See Figure 2 on page 14.)
We reached out to top leaders in our
field who we felt could give us that
knowledge in brief, clear five-minute talks.
(See the speaker list and topics discussed in
the sidebar on page 14.) We asked KUDO
if they were willing to host another event
and provide the interpreting at no charge.
We recruited a team of four to analyze
the data coming in from the Mentimeter
polls we planned to hold in real time. We

quickly designed a webpage and asked
everyone we knew to spread the word
about the event. And not a single person
said no. Some we emailed at midnight,
and the answer would ping back almost
immediately ("Count me in!" "Whatever
I can do."). Everyone gave their time,
for zero payment, for nothing in return,
including ATA President Ted Wozniak. The
response was beyond moving.
Then the registrations started pouring
in. By the end of the first 24 hours, we had
over 100, by the end of the weekend, almost
500, and by the evening before the event,
when we finally shut registration down, over
1,500. They came in from all over the world
and from every part of our profession. We
knew then that we had tapped something
bigger than us. We were seeing, in real time,
the complete disruption of a profession,
with thousands now seeking information
and guidance for what to do next.

THE BIG QUESTIONS
Our program sought to cover the challenges
we're facing and offer some beginning
guidance for where to go. We wanted to
answer the following questions:
■	

What can we do to help our face-to-face
workforce-whose work has disappeared
overnight-find work as remote
interpreters? How can they be visible to
those who need to hire them?

■	

How can we help our language services
companies access remote platforms
(telephonic and video) to dispatch
work to their linguists? What are the
technology solutions they can use to
American Translators Association

13


http://www.atanet.org

The ATA Chronicle - May/June 2020

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