Happy Monday! To start the week off, here’s some positive and negative news from the language world:
- Positive: I was just listening to NPR‘s Talk of the Nation while eating lunch, and today’s segment featured an interview with NPR’s longtime (and now retiring) war correspondent, Anne Garrels. Garrels started her career reporting in the former Soviet Union and was one of the few Western journalists to remain in Iraq at the height of the U.S. invasion, which provided the material for her excellent memoir Naked in Baghdad. My favorite moment from the interview (which you can listen to tonight on NPR’s website): a caller asks Garrels something along these lines: “Ms. Garrels, how about the role of foreign languages in your career? Especially now that foreign languages are being de-emphasized in American schools?” and Anne Garrels immediately responds “Knowing Russian changed my life” (seriously!). Garrels then went on to describe how she never would have been offered the chance to report from the Soviet Union had she not spoken Russian. At that time (I believe she’s referring to the early 80s), the only interpreters available in Russia were also employed by the KGB, so “unauthorized” reporting was done by the very few Western journalists who spoke Russian. I’m excited to see the transcript of this interview when NPR publishes it; a beautiful moment for language awareness in the US. Update: the transcript of this interview is online here.
- But then: If you want a less rosy take on the state of our industry, read Terena Bell’s blog post Is our industry disconnected from clients?. In this very thorough post, Terena describes her experience attending the recent Harvard Social Enterprise Conference and specifically the conference’s global health track. Warning: it’s depressing. Terena describes sitting in the audience as a professor from the Harvard School of Public Health dismisses medical “translators” (a.k.a. interpreters) as fundamentally incompetent and the Pentagon’s International Health Specialist Program director doesn’t realize that medical interpreting is a profession. There is also a lot of excellent information in the comments on Terena’s post.