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Developing Interpreter Talent through Fellowships
Posted by Hélène Pielmeier on December 21, 2016  in the following blogs: Interpreting
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Users of interpreting services don’t like gambling with unproven talent. It’s a lot easier – and a lot less risky – to rely on resources that you already trust rather than try out new ones. This aversion to risk makes it really hard for recent graduates of interpreting programs to break into the profession. Recognizing its own challenges with newbies, one language service provider is trying a new approach with it “Cadence Cares Fellowship.”

The team at Cadence, a platform that matches interpreters to job opportunities, designed a program where handpicked graduates of interpreting programs spend half a year rendering roughly two to four hours of translation and interpretation services weekly for a non-profit. Cadence pays the fellows a small stipend.

The pilot program will start in January with the United Foundation for China’s Health as its first partner. This non-profit provides international-standard health care to underprivileged Chinese communities. The fellows will have the opportunity to ride in a mobile clinic alongside international medical staff and interpret interactions with patients. To give them some context for their activities, the organization’s leaders will also provide fellows with mentoring on the inner workings of a non-profit.

Source: Cadence – Fellows tour the Wheels for Life mobile health bus

Jonathan Rechtman, Cadence’s Head of Partnerships, very clearly said that the company doesn’t intend to spoil the market by providing no-cost interpreters: “We aren’t trying to send a signal that non-profits shouldn’t pay for language services.” Cadence carefully vets recipient organizations to ensure they have a legitimate social cause and are not trying to avoid spending their budgets on language services. The company will rotate non-profit partners and fellows in order to avoid perpetual fellowship cycles or the abuses seen in some internship programs.

The initial pilot will involve two fellows, but Cadence would like to double or triple that number once it irons out the kinks. What’s in it for all parties?

  • Cadence builds its brand with interpreters and potential customers. Fellowship candidates become more aware and interested in working for the company. Non-profits and business clients get exposure to Cadence. Partner organizations may send overflow business or continue the relationship with paid services after the fellowship is over.

  • Partner organizations gain free services. These institutions would otherwise not be able to support interpreting services. It could also provide them with a case study on the benefits of language access to eventually get budgets to secure ongoing interpreting support.

  • Interpreters gain exposure and experience. The selected fellows already have great talent and will probably find a way to succeed in the marketplace, even without this program. What the fellowship brings to them is a platform to develop their skills and speed up their path to become distinguished interpreters in the field.
Cadence selects fellows with a great interest in helping the community and who want a chance to get an insider look at the non-profit world. After all, many interpreters end up working behind a glass screen and thus lack the intimate experience of being in the middle of the action.

Rechtman mentioned he “would love to inspire a greater sense of social responsibility with other language service providers.” CSA Research has been encouraging interpreting industry participants to take a more active role in developing the talent of the future, especially when it comes to interpreting. LSPs are increasingly involved in partnerships with academic institutions and even developing their own training programs. While theoretical training is helpful, providing concrete hands-on opportunities that help interpreters develop their skills is the next step to transition graduates from their studies to the real-world.

Are you doing something special to train the next generation of linguist? Feel free to e-mail us at CSA Research to share your stories.


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