April 28, 2023

How to Make a Difference as Translators and Interpreters

The MS in Translation and Interpreting program invited Graciela Isaía y Ruiz, PhD, Certified Translator, CEO at Excelsus Translation and Training Center, to speak to NYU SPS students about the field of legal translation and how translators and interpreters can make a difference by going beyond their traditional roles for clients navigating U.S. civil procedures, with a focus on depositions.

Graciela prefaced her talk by emphasizing the importance of context when translators and interpreters handle sensitive legal documentation: “Pay close attention to context. What a word means in one context may be different from what it means in another context.”  She encouraged students to explore various resources that can help them develop their practice across contexts by conducting extensive reading of texts of a similar topic in the target language, expanding specific knowledge of legal systems, continuing to specialize through coursework and credentialing, and consulting subject matter experts such as lawyers, accountants, and judges.

After explaining the various components of discovery, which is the process that parties use during pre-trial to gather information in preparation for trial, Graciela shared a case study in which the deponent (her client) was concerned about the interpreting work conducted during their deposition. Graciela reviewed the deposition transcript and found errors that her grateful client was then able to correct before trial. She shared two lessons from this experience: (1) Accuracy is critical to this work: “There are severe consequences that come with errors and inconsistency on the part of translators or interpreters when working in the legal field.” (2) Try sharing your knowledge beyond the text with your client, which will build loyalty and lead to additional opportunities.

Graciela also facilitated a roleplay exercise where students took on the role of lawyer and interpreter using a script from the deposition in her case study. When asked to analyze the exchange, students shared their insights on the role of certification in the interpreting profession and how opposing attorneys negotiate to identify qualified translators and interpreters to assist in legal proceedings. Graciela then reinforced the purpose of her talk: translators and interpreters should go above and beyond to provide quality work to their clients, which involves paying careful attention to detail and continuing to advance their skills, education, and expertise.

Graciela concluded that the work involved with meeting and exceeding the needs of clients is a very rewarding experience for translators and interpreters. Not only does a strong work ethic advance the goals of your client through their legal proceedings, but it offers the opportunity to develop your brand within the industry, expand your client base, and “make a difference while bridging the cultural gap.”



A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for PALA’s MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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