Podcast Interview With Natalia Ferreira


Narrator:                             00:00                     Hello and thank you for listening to Subject to Interpretation, hosted by Agustin de la Mora. My name is Claudia. And my name’s Kayla. And we are the producers of this program. Before we get into today’s interview with special guests, Natalia Ferreira, conference interpreter, who was also recently elected as the new secretary of AIIC. We wanted to bring you the latest announcements from de la Mora Interpreter Training and to remind you if you found us on Facebook, we’d like to let you know that you can download us directly to your phone wherever podcasts are available. Now onto some more exciting news. First, we are happy to announce our next monthly webinar will be taking place on October 27th, presented by our very own Agustin de la Mora. This webinar will be addressing the Interpreters’ Four Agreements. Join us and find out how four simple statements can make a world of difference in your day to day interpreting activities. Through our student membership, you will have access to all webinars for only $19 a month, or you can purchase the one webinar for $45. Also, don’t forget our annual Finding the Parallels summit is returning here in Orlando, November 9th, 10th, and 11th. Take advantage of the early bird registration price before time runs out, and don’t forget, Florida interpreters can earn their 16 cie credits all in one weekend. Don’t miss out on this rewarding educational opportunity and for more information, all details will be included in the description below. So stay tuned for next week’s podcast featuring Osvaldo Aviles who is the interpreter program administrator at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania courts. And last week we asked you once again to send in your questions for us to answer on air and here are the top three questions. So first, how can I access past webinars? You can access all of our webinars through your student membership, once again, which is $19 a month. Not only will you have access to live webinars every month, you will also have access to the library of webinars that have taken place already this year. Or you can purchase a one time webinar access for $45 to which you will have the recording to view over and over again. Okay, and do you offer language neutral court training? Yes, we do. Our next language neutral court interpreter training, live online, will be taking place this December, December 11th, so don’t miss it. It is our very last language neutral court interpreter training class of the year. And do you offer community or immigration interpreter training? Actually, this one is really exciting for us to announce because the answer is yes for the first time we will be offering community and immigration interpreter training next year, so stay tuned. Although the schedule has not been published on our website yet, it will be soon. We appreciate you all for listening in and we pride ourselves in being one of the very few podcasts for professional interpreters out there, so please share us with all of your colleagues. We would love to hear your questions and feedback and we will continue to be answering your frequently asked questions here on the podcast, so please feel free to contact our office and you will most likely speak to one of us. Until next week. Now enjoy the interview with Natalia Ferriera. Goodbye!

Agustin:                               03:29                     Hello everyone and welcome again to another edition of Subject to Interpretation, our podcast where we share with all of our listeners the stories and the comments and the good information provided to us by many of our distinguished guests. And today I’m very proud and happy and honored to have another very distinguished guest. We’re batting a thousand as far as I know, uh, on guests, and today we have Natalia Ferreira, and Natalia Ferreira is a regional director for AIIC USA, and uh, I will let her tell us who she is, so welcome Natalia, how are you doing?

Natalia:                                 04:04                     Thank you so much for this great opportunity to speak to your audience. Uh, it’s, it’s a privilege and an honor for me and as a matter of fact, I’m the regional secretary. We have a chairman, we have a president which is Aitor Arauz Chapman. He’s a United States, well, United Nations actually, staff interpreter, myself as the regional secretary. We have Cyril Flerov, who is our webmaster based in San Francisco, and an interpreter. And we have Annie Tseng, who is, our treasury and is also based in New York State. So we are four, and we are the regional bureau. Uh, I was recently elected, it was March that I was elected as regional secretary. I am taking this position, of course, it’s a voluntary position, I’m taking this very seriously. I’m really, really happy with what I’m doing, and I want to reach out to as many conferencing interpreters as I can who are nonmembers of AIIC to explain exactly who we are, what we do, or how to become members, and also trying to demystify this idea that AIIC is a club. No, no, we are not. We are professional association, which was founded more than 65 years ago, as a matter of fact, it was 1953, right after the Nuremberg trials.

Agustin:                               05:45                     And Natalia, I want to talk to us about that, but I really would like to start by asking you, how did you become an interpreter? I think it’s very important as you probably know, many of us come from many walks of life and every time I ask somebody, hey, you know, when you were a kid, did you want to be an interpreter? And most of them have told me, no, I wanted to be a fireman, an astronaut, a ballerina. But very few of us started this path by thinking we’re going to be interpreters when we grow up. Did you have that idea when you were growing up?

Natalia:                                 06:21                     No, no, not really. I am an attorney. I studied law in Brazil, I’m from Brazil. And I went to law school there. After that, after I graduated, I lived for two years in Europe, in the Netherlands, and then in Brussels. And when I came back, I pursued a master’s degree in international affairs and diplomacy in the university in south of Brazil. Florianopolis was the name of the city where I lived for three years. Really, really nice, had 42 beaches! It’s an island. Yeah. It was a wonderful time of my life. Um, so after I graduated, I’m telling you a little bit of my story so I can get to the point of how and when and why I became an interpreter. So after I graduated, after I finished that mastery in Florianopolis, I went back to Rio, and I was hired to work as a legal consultant for a think tank that was recently created by the Coca Cola company that offered research, pretty much was research, and education, educational materials and information about solid waste management and recycling for municipal, and really, in all other parts of Brazil as well. And so I worked for the think tank and that’s how I met my husband. He was the president of the think tank and the first environmental manager of the Coca Cola resident division. That’s how I met him.

Natalia:                                 08:09                     And this is important because that’s why I moved to the states. So, in 1998 he was offered a position at Coca Cola Corporate in Atlanta. So we moved to the US and I, but we had a short assignment and his contract was going to be from three to five years. So I, at that time, I was teaching environmental law at a university in Rio. And my plan was to go back with another degree. So I started studying. I got into the PhD program at Georgia Tech in public policy. But then things, you know, life got in the way. It doesn’t matter the plans you make, right? And we decided that the PhD was going to take me a long time and then I had to go back and take some of the classes from the master program, and things were not going that well for him at Coca Cola. We had an opportunity to be relocated and move back to Brazil or become locals, which means don’t be expecting more. So I decided, okay, I better finish with something– a degree that is shorter, right?. So I ended up finishing with another master degree in public policy. We decided to stay in the U.S., Coca cola, gave us a green card. And then anyway, after I graduated from Georgia Tech in 2003, I was looking for a position, looking for a job, and the reality of the market in Atlanta for international organizations, the kind of thing that I was planning to do was very limited.Atlanta is now a much more international city, but at that time, almost 15 years ago, it was completely different. And I couldn’t travel. I have this kind of limitation because my kids were little and my husband was traveling all over the world, so I started working in a kind of a nonprofit, which was very, very interesting, in Atlanta and the mission of this nonprofit was to advocate the American people about international issues and we do that by providing a in-house books about specific regions of the world. Let’s say, we pick Latin America. We would hire an expert that would write the book and also make activities for high school teachers and social studies teachers mainly, and we trained those teachers. So it was fascinating. It was really, it was a great opportunity. I didn’t make much money but I was so, so happy and I felt really accomplished. I left this organization, I turned out not to be very well financially and I, by chance, one friend at that time asked me if I did want to go replace her at a conference at the CDC and I tell that, because we all have to start, and I’m not ashamed to tell my story, because we all have to start one way or the other, right? And I went to replace someone. I would not even say that this person was a professional interpreter because he left on the second day and never came back.

Agustin:                               11:31                     I can sympathize.

Natalia:                                 11:31                     So it was a loan for one day, you know, this is totally unacceptable. And I got in there and then I realized with myself “oh, what am I doing here? I can’t actually do this kind of job,” because it’s very hard. But I could do it when one of the presenters started speaking in Portuguese, I was able to put it into English. And then, all of a sudden, I was into it. You know, I think I, some people they might have a natural talent and I honestly, I think it’s my case, but I didn’t stop learning. So that’s how I started. And I started with one particular agency in Atlanta. We became friends. I worked a lot for them, Universal Language Solutions, the name of the agency, Giovanna and Carlos Solits. And um, after that I decided I really love this. It is fascinating.

Natalia:                                 12:23                     It’s so interesting, and so much. You have this kind of a freedom, you know I can be the leader of my time, and it was a very crucial moment in my life when I was trying to decide what I’m gonna do and I found that career path and it was something unique for me. Special. So I decided that I–so I started searching, researching and I joined a ATA and I found out about AIIC, um, and I set a goal for myself. I said I’m going to become a conference-level interpreter. I want to work for international organizations. I want to work for the State Department. That’s what I want to do. Of course I started, really, in the beginning, I did a lot of medical and community interpreting as well, because we have to acquire the experience and the knowledge and the practice. Um, this is all vamped. I see this as a very valued experience for me.

Natalia:                                 13:24                     And so in 2011 I decided that I needed to, to do some kind of professional development courses. I needed to brush up and I needed to improve. So I went to Cambridge. In Cambridge, in the UK, they have a very good and very interesting course which is called Cambridge Interpretation Course it’s CIC, if I’m not mistaken. And I was there for two weeks. It’s super intense. Extremely intense. Yes. It’s almost like an immersion. You were there, I was staying in the hotel where the training was going on. It was from 8:00 to almost 6:00, and working with interpreters from all over the world, pretty much. Very international. Their instructors were high law, like NATO, one was a senior director, senior entrepreneur from NATO. Uh, some of them worked in European Parliament, OACD , you know, United Nations, of course, State Department as well, very high level. And I absolutely loved that experience.

Natalia:                                 14:37                     Um, so after that–and all of them were AIIC members– I continued working, doing private conferences here and there. And yeah, that’s pretty much I got to this stage where I am. And I was, I have to say that I was really, really lucky and fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues, senior level colleagues, who were extremely generous and they opened a lot of doors for me because they were able to see that I was dedicated, that I would, that I would always prepare myself, that I would study and that I was competent. I was professional, I would deliver at a very good level. So, and I say, I say that because I’m extremely grateful. And I can mention some of them, one of them has passed away a few years ago. And other colleagues from the IMF. So I’m honestly, extremely thankful for the colleagues that were kind, and generous, and helped me through this way.

Agustin:                               15:56                     It resounds with me because I think that, uh, that has been my experience and, you know, now everything is a community. So the interpreter community, that has been my experience, that most of the time you’re very well-received, people are willing to help you out, to teach you, to take you under their wing. There is no, uh, animosity. On the contrary, I mean, the first time I worked the booth, my booth mate was so generous because I had never worked a booth before. He sat me down and showed me the ropes and told me if you need anything, just push the bell and I’ll take over. And it was very, very interesting to see that kind of cooperation in it. When I came to the states, the idea was that everything was very competitive and nobody wanted you to succeed. I didn’t find that at all, and apparently you didn’t either, in our field. So then all of a sudden now you’re, you’re learning all these things, so which of all those things you mentioned did you get certified on first? Did you go to the State Department and get a certification there or did you come in and become an AIIC member first? What was it?

Natalia:                                 17:02                     Well, first of all, I became a certified court interpreter in the state of Georgia. That was my first goal. Um, and then um, the State Department. I applied, and I had passed the seminar level exam. You see, the department, they don’t have a certification program. It was just credit, you know, just a credit as a seminar level administrative interpreter or conference level. A few years later after working a lot as a seminar interpreter, and I absolutely adored those projects because you get to travel, you get to visit a lot of places in the U.S. that you would not go, you know, that you didn’t even know existed. Exactly, exactly. Like one place that I went that I absolutely thought it was fascinating. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you know, I could visit the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone. So it was beautiful. And so a few years later I passed the conference level exam. So I work as a conference level, as well, as well as a seminar interpreter for the State Department. It was pretty much like that.

Natalia:                                 18:12                     I entered AIIC in 2013. I worked with wonderful colleagues that were gracious enough to offer, to sign for me and now I have five years, so now I’m in the situation that I can sign for colleagues that if you are competent, professional, follow our working conditions, and the rules of AIIC, and everything else. And um, and then as I said last last March, this March, our previous regional secretary, she had to move back to her country, Argentina, because her husband is a diplomat and they were moving back to Argentina. So the position was vacant and I decided to, to apply, you know, we had an election and I, and I won. Um, so that’s, that’s, in a nutshell where I am.

Agustin:                               19:09                     Right. And so then you come, you become a member of AIIC, and I really want us to get into that because I will be honest, I, I’ve been a federally certified interpreter for many years, and from the outside looking in, I always heard that, oh my God, no, entering AIIC, I mean, you have to have all of these friends because they don’t want you to be a member and nobody wants you in there, it’s an exclusive club and so on. I’m pretty sure that’s probably just rumors and people that are uninformed about what it is. So why don’t you tell us exactly what AIIC is, and is it true that nobody can make it in? Apparently some people can make it in because you made it in, right?

Natalia:                                 19:51                     A lot of people can make it in. It’s, it’s, it’s not an exclusive club. I understand and I know that a lot of people have this idea of AIIC, this perception, but it’s honestly some misconception. It’s not true. It is a peer-review association. It is, indeed. It’s not like a self-proclaimed association that you say I am a conference interpreter, there’s no way anyone can attest for that. No, AIIC is different. So it’s an association. We have around 3,000 professionals from every part of the world. Members of AIIC, and it means International Association of Conference Interpreters, that’s what the acronym stands for. As I said before it was founded in 1953, right after the Nuremberg Trials. And we were in San Francisco, so we saw a little bit of the exhibition. The history of all those meetings is, wasn’t it fascinating? It’s fascinating when you read about all these people, and so, that’s how it started, pretty much.

Natalia:                                 20:58                     And AIIC you know, it’s around 65 years that we are around. Um, what do we do? You know, it’s an association that tries to promote good training practices through it’s best practice recommendations. And we have also a list of interpreter schools, and we also try to advise people that are interested in becoming an interpreter what they need to know about the profession. And we want to tell people that it’s not that complicated to become a member, you know? So, you can start, all you need to do, you can start as a pre-candidate, if you are an established conference interpreter, again, you can again start as a pre-candidate. You only have three people, colleagues, that will just sign saying, you know, I, I know that so and so works as a conference interpreter. And then through your work, through your experience, and the job opportunities that you might encounter, you can be lucky enough to work with another AIIC colleague. and if this colleague realizes and sees that you want to become competent and dedicated and a good, a good candidate for us to join our association, I’m sure that colleague will most likely sign for you. So you need, you need three colleagues to sign for you and all they need to sign for your A-Language. The A-language, it’s the language that you are native on. It’s your mother tongue, it’s the language that you can speak, you know, that you’re raised in. And then you have your B-language. Your B-language is the language in which you speak fluently. For instance in my case, it will be English. And you can also have C-languages. In my case, I have Spanish and I have French, which are the languages that you interpret from into your A-language. Only A. The combination C to B is not recommended, yeah. But you know, I’m honestly not the best person to give all this kind of advice, because I’m new as the regional secretary, but you know, I can recommend you to look into our website where you can have all of the information necessary on how to become an AIIC member, but pretty much that’s how, that’s how it works. That’s how I did it. Yeah.

Agustin:                               23:46                     So I wanted to make it clear for everyone because not everybody– as a matter of fact, we’re talking AIIC, AIIC, AIIC, but I know many of our listeners have never heard of AIIC. I’ll be totally honest. I had been interpreting in courts for years and I had never heard of AIIC until I went to Chicago one time and one of our colleagues, a federally certified interpreter, Moira Pujols, and I know that it’s, it’s kind of a very close knit of members. They know each other because they work conferences together all the time, so Moira was the first person to mention to me, AIIC, and I didn’t know about it. So AIIC is not going to give you a certification. You’re not going to say I’m a certified AIIC member, you’re just a member.

Natalia:                                 24:35                     Correct. Exactly. It’s just a member. Yes. It’s an association that it’s, its professional competency is highly recognized. You know, you can have access to a global network of colleagues because as I said, we have 3,000 members all over the world, in every continent, and that we are divided by regions, for instance, United States is a region, it’s the USA region. Canada is another region. And you have Brazil. Because it’s such a big country, it’s another region. And then, South America, Chile, and Argentina, they are a region, and the rest of Latin America, South America is another region. And then we have Central America, and Mexico, and the Caribbean region. So anyway, that’s pretty much how it works. And we get together a lot. We had the beginning of January, we had our general assembly, which was in Valencia. So we had more than, I think more than 1500, um, 1500, yes, 1500 members attended. Well maybe, maybe a thousand, not 1500, but you know, a lot of people were participating and attending. You know, it gives you such a feeling of belonging, you know? You get to be part of a group, you’re part of association that’s trying to defend your profession, your cause, and it’s very fulfilling. That’s how I see it.

Agustin:                               26:05                     I would assume that members promote each other quite a bit. Once you’re a member of AIIC and they tend to, “you know somebody that does Portuguese?”, and you’re gonna say, “oh yeah, I know so-and-so because they are also members of AIIC.

Natalia:                                 26:16                     Exactly, exactly. But not necessarily because they are members. I also worked with colleagues that are not members, and they are very competent, very professional, but unfortunately never had an opportunity to work with an AIIC member, you know? So they can’t get in. But um, but most of the time, I try to recommend AIIC colleagues because I know, I mean, I can vouch for them. Uh, and so that’s, I think, that is the sense, and that’s the reason most people think we are an exclusive club. It’s because we’re always recommending the ones we work with, but it’s not true. We are open. And we are honestly in the process of trying to change this perception. That’s why at our regional meeting we want to have more of this kind of reaching out, with meetings, you know, in order to welcome more members and have this kind of conversation. So you want become a member? What do you know about us? I mean the working conditions, and how we think is the right way to work. You know, what you should accept, what you should not accept. But of course it’s a free market, right? We have to be very careful with that because AIIC cannot set rules about–we cannot define rates. We don’t do that. It’s just a professional association, and we are trying to defend the best practices for our, for ourselves.

Agustin:                               27:45                     Right, but what I, what I do tell people about AIIC is the fact that some years ago I was giving a seminar for judges and one of the judges finally said, but obviously, well I get it now. I understand why people should be certified court interpreters versus just anybody that says they can do it. “I understand certification, but I have another problem,” he told me, “now I don’t speak 72 languages so I don’t know if the interpreter is that good or not? And I told him precisely, so, judge, when you go to a dentist, you also, you didn’t study dentistry. You have to trust the fact that some association gave them some kind of credential. And because there’s no specific credentials for conference interpreting, there’s nothing better than AIIC, because AIIC is kind of that peer review that is giving you that confidence. These people have gone through some kind of betting that is pretty rigorous, I would assume, because it’s peered reviewed, and you said that you have to work with three AIIC members.

Natalia:                                 28:48                     Yes. And you have to have 150 days. 150 days of working the conditions set up by AIIC like a conference, a conference event, and things like that. So, um, and again, we don’t provide certification it’s just when you join, it’s, it’s almost like being recognized as a very good and professional trumpeter because you vetted by and prompted by three are also recognize colleagues. So that’s how it works. And honestly, I think it’s fair. I think it’s a very fair system and we um, don’t try to exclude anyone. If you are a professional interpreter, if you’re competent, if you follow the rules, if you want to join. Yes. If you have the days, if you have the opportunity to work with colleagues that can vouch for you, that can sign for you, why not join us? We need more volunteers.

Agustin:                               29:53                     That’s good to hear. And also if you become a member of AIIC, is there a fee to become a member of AIIC?

Natalia:                                 29:57                     Yes. Yes. Uh, it varies according to each region of the world. Of course here in the United States– and this is setup by Geneva. It’s important to say that because the headquarter, it’s based in Geneva in Switzerland. So here in the U.S. it’s around, because the price comes in Swiss francs, so it’s around $600 annually. It’s an annual fee of $600 for you, that you have to pay. This is your annual dues that you have to pay. Yeah.

Agustin:                               30:35                     Now I’m curious because you know, becoming a member of AIIC seems like a very important, interesting thing, and it’s a good path for interpreters who are going to become conference interpreters. But because it’s peer reviewed, is there a possibility for somebody to be asked to leave AIIC? Like can you be kicked out of the association? I would assume if you don’t pay, you get kicked out, but can you be peer reviewed out?

Natalia:                                 31:00                     Yeah, I think that if you don’t pay, we send, we send messages, you know, and you can be suspended, right? You can be suspended because you didn’t pay. And then in order to rejoin you have to pay all your dues, all the dues that are, that are due exactly. And uh, but if someone can be, can be expelled in a way I don’t. Please don’t quote me on that because I’m honestly not the best person to provide this kind of answer. But I think you can, if you’re not, if for some reason so Amman denounced as you because you’re not following go the rules of procedure of the AIIC routes or something like this. I think it’s possible. It is possible and you can challenge. And another thing, for instance, if it’s a new candidates drawings association and if you for anyways, and you know that candidate, you know that that person might be a good interpreter that however, professionally and ethically speaking, not a good candidate because you know, because you have worked with him or with her in the past, you can challenge that as an IEP member. They can challenge that, you know, so it’s activated because it’s a peer with you. The power. It’s within the members, people you work with.

Agustin:                               32:40                     That sounds very interesting. Now I, I, you know, we’re already at the 30 minute mark so I don’t want to keep you because I know you have to go study for your conference. But I just wanted to ask you one more thing. So, uh, is gonna hold, or does it hold any specific trainings for nonmembers and is it training? Does the training for anything other than to have been trained in does not get you closer to membership, correct?

Natalia:                                 32:54                     No, it doesn’t give you closer to membership at all as a Santa process to draw to become a member is the one I explained that. Well we have recently created was actually last year we created a, a training committee, so I eat use when we start. We have started this year, so last year to offer trainings. We had had a few trainings with a wonderful conference interpreter that she’s based in Brussels to um, how to market yourself, spreading much as a conference interpreter, how to negotiate contracts. We had a main in February of this year. We had another one with you? Yeah, in July in New York. So we are trying to have manners and not at seminar trains and these seminar training. So you’re open to the part, to any conference in trumpet that wants to participate. We give a discount for members, but anyone knowing EAC members and she wanted to participate, it’s more than welcome and we trying to announced that and disseminate when you’re going to have our trainers. On our website, most of the time in all the newsletters as well, and we’ve seen a communication to, to members. Um, wonderful.

Agustin:                               34:15                     Well, I mean anytime you want to send any, uh, notification to us, we’ll be happy to put her on our website and publish it on our Facebook and we do have a few hundred, maybe a thousand photos and that if I or anybody wanted to become a conference interpreter, what’s the first thing that you would say? How do you go about it?

Natalia:                                 34:36                     Well, I think you can, you should want to become a conference interpreter if you can apply to anyone to some alternative versus here and seeing us that offer this kind of training as a, as an under grad or even as a graduate student. I think that’s the main, the main way of how to become a conference interpreter. Like the Monterey Institute, they have a very well recognized and established undergrad graduate program as well in verse in Maryland as well. So I think that’s the main way. Feel young. They leaving just just graduated from college and he decided he want to become a conference in trouble. Walking those international organizations, becoming a United Nations interpreter, that will be the key path for you, I’d say.

Agustin:                               35:26                     Alright, well thank you very much. I really appreciate your time, Natalia. I know you have to go, but, once again, I wanted to thank you and AIIC for sharing your time and your expertise with us and we want to open our doors to communication. We want to be a bridge, uh, between associations and luminaries and people who are important in the field. So feel free to come visit us anytime you want.

Natalia:                                 35:52                     Thank you so much, Agustin, I’d really like to thank you for this wonderful opportunity and yes, same, same here with us. We’d like to continue collaborating together and see how we can improve our profession.

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