The Houston Translators and Interpreters Association has in recent years been a model of competence in the industry. Yet the current bylaws amendment ballot looks more like a model of practices to avoid. The online bylaws dated April 14, 2010, define members as follows:
Article III – Membership…
Section B – Classes and Qualifications
The Association has three (3) membership classes: individual, corporate and institutional.
Individual: An individual who is engaged in translating, interpreting or related work (and may include students)
Corporate: A business with an interest in translation or interpretation
Institutional: An institution with an interest in translation or interpretation.
Directors elected in single-candidate elections now propose to change those member classes by creating a special class of students who at this time would not be allowed to vote to elect their teacher nor be listed in the online members directory (where the public expects to find professional linguists). To propose the change, voters were told that “new text is indicated by underlining, deleted text by
strikeout.” But for the ballot proposal sent to members to change the bylaws, the board of directors approved the following:
Section B – Classes and Qualifications
The Association has four (4) membership classes: individual, corporate, institutional and student.
The above introductory sentence (followed by four, not three bullet items) appeared with no underlining for the new text nor
strikeouts for deleted language. It gives the incorrect impression–instructions elsewhere to the contrary notwithstanding–that the student category already exists whether one likes it or not, and that there is mere quibbling to be decided on some trifling point of verbiage in the last of four preexisting bullet points.
In an association of quilt-makers, brewers, basket-weavers or kickboxers, the omission might be brushed aside as simple incompetence, the result voided and new ballots produced. Indeed, one such error in ballot translation into Spanish for the Texas State government had precisely that outcome and cost taxpayers about $100,000 to reprint.
The bad ballot language at issue, however, is presented as approved by the very people immigrants depend on for legal defense of their individual rights in courts that order execution by letal injection. Credible fear reviews can shield dissenters or whistleblowers from extrajudicial execution or torture by junta-style dictatorships, and HITA hosted a presentation on those. Professionals educated abroad want their syllabi competently translated with all legalities accurate so they may exercise a profession despite entrenched lobbyists erecting barriers to entry. Our newsletter and web tips just now alerted linguists of at least a dozen different fraudulent scams. But more perfidious scams are perpetrated from within the profession. Must we circulate ballots that are an indictment of the board’s competence to frame and edit a simple bylaws amendment proposal?
For over a decade beginners were advised by prominent HITA and AATIA members not to bother to apply for municipal and county court interpreting in Texas. From a position of public trust they emphatically proclaimed that a license was required as a prerequisite. Nevermind that this was a law urged by three individuals claiming to represent the profession without their lobby efforts appearing in our trade publications. The persistent lie was finally exposed at a regulatory meeting at which a government regulatory attorney explained on the public record that the law meant nothing of the sort.
The old law merely formalized a procedure for showing an incompetent interpreter the door and ordering up a substitute, typically someone grandfathered in irrespective of real credentials or ability. The dissembling was a sales platform for quickie diploma mill courses pushing test answers, podiums for grandfathered insiders to talk down to aspirants, and a loophole enabling agencies possessed of counsel to quietly and without fanfare exploit inexperienced youngsters at pauper rates. The law was only repealed after a libertarian interpreter put up a website playing a recording of the regulatory lawyer’s explanation in language too clear and simple to falsify.
If sidetracking students from earning a degree liable to make them employable is deemed a good idea, it ought to be passed by honest vote of fully-informed members using a ballot prepared in conformity with its own instructions and specifications. Leaving out the underscores and strikethroughs is a demonstration of lack of competence or subterfuge that can only lead to the outcome being challenged. That is not the sort of attention the board needs to be focussing on the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association.
Any association of actual linguists can raise revenue and provide a public service by hosting interpreting contests. Winners selected by the attendees could thereby earn credible credentials by live testing. A similar competitive approach is used to select and rank athletes, speakers, dancers, writers–even tire-changers or jugglers performing at association events. An interpreting contest need be no more complicated than a live debate or a spelling bee, and its results would carry weight with the membership, judges, attorneys, doctors and honest regulators interested in an objective assessment of competence in performance.
If you are an interpreter or translator interested in the honest defense of individual rights, by all means do get in touch.