Demand grows for interpreters
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/23/06
BY BILL WOLFE
GANNETT NEWS SERVICE
While working on her Spanish minor at Centre College
in Danville, Ky., in 1997, Terena Bell wanted to study
abroad. The closest she could get to a
Spanish-speaking country under the school’s
study-abroad program at the time was Strasbourg,
Bell “fell in love with the language” there and
changed her minor to French.
Nine years later after following a path that
included jobs at three television stations, additional
travel to France, two-and-a-half years in sales at
Mall St. Matthews and a crash-course master’s degree
in French at the University of Louisville Bell has
transformed her passion for things French into a
career as owner of In Every Language, a year-old
translating and interpreting company.
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“Nothing in my life has ever been the straight path.
I’ve always kind of taken the roundabout way to get
anywhere,” said Bell, 29.
But Bell believes she has found a field ripe for
expansion and officials involved with immigration
and international business agree. The need for people
skilled in the use of foreign languages, they say, is
only going to grow.
“This morning I fielded a call from someone who was
looking for a Hindi interpreter,” said Omar Ayyash,
director of Louisville, Ky.’s Office for International
Affairs. “Yesterday it might have been Spanish. The
day before it might have been Arabic.
“There are more businesses that are doing business all
over the world,” Ayyash said. “As the world becomes
more flat, the need to understand and speak other
languages becomes crucial, becomes a must.”
The international affairs office refers calls for
language assistance to services like Bell’s or to
individual interpreters and translators listed in a
“community language bank.”
“There are all kinds of translation issues that
companies need help with,” said Susan Cook, senior
trade specialist with the Kentucky World Trade
Center’s Louisville, Ky., office. Cook said she speaks
French and is able to provide some help directly.
Another trade specialist can assist with Mandarin
So who needs translating and interpreting services?
“It’s everybody,” Bell said, from farmers working with
Mexican laborers to teachers who need help
communicating with an immigrant student’s parents or
companies that must translate their product manuals
for international markets. “It’s phenomenal just how
large the increase in the need for these kinds of
services is. It just blows me away.”
Bell is In Every Language’s only full-time employee,
but she works with hundreds of contract interpreters
and translators representing 60 languages in 53
Fees for translators and interpreters vary widely.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median
hourly pay for salaried workers was $16.28 in May
2004. The highest 10 percent earned more than $27.45
Business clients sometimes balk at paying professional
providers. But people who aren’t experienced in
translation and interpretation might not know slang
and informal expressions from another language, she
“It is a profession,” Ayyash said. “I am fluent in
Arabic, as well as proficient in German and in
English, but I’ve never been professionally trained as
an interpreter and I’ve been put in a couple of
situations particularly in legal situations where
I had to do interpreting, and quickly realized I was
not qualified for it.
“Just because you have a bilingual employee in your
department or your organization or your business, that
does not necessarily qualify them to conduct business
in that language,” he said.
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