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The 5 Biggest Interpreting Mistakes in History

August 21st, 2019 by

Interpreting is not easy. Interpreters are expected to be able to work across a variety of subject matters, often under enormous pressure. So it should come as no surprise that interpreters, like everyone, often make mistakes. However, some mistakes are bigger than others. Here is an overview of the biggest interpreting mistakes in history.

1. Horny Moses
When translating the Old Testament, St. Jerome translated the Hebrew word for “radiance” as “horned”. Poor Moses was depicted with horns for hundreds of years and an offensive Jewish stereotype was born.

2. Explosive Remarks
In July 1945, shortly after the US demanded the surrender of Japan, Japanese Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki called a press conference. To one question, Suzuki responded: “No comment. We are still thinking about it.” Unfortunately, the interpreter’s version was “We are ignoring it in contempt”. A few days later, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

3. Jimmy Loves Poland
In 1976, US president Jimmy Carter, while addressing a Polish audience, asked them about their hopes and dreams for the future. His interpreter translated this as Carter ‘desiring the Polish carnally’. Talk about taking diplomacy one step too far.

4. Heating Up the Cold War
At the Polish embassy addressing several Western officials, one interpreter translated Nikita Khrushchev’s “We will outlast you” as “We will bury you”. At the highest point of the Cold War and with the US population terrified of a Soviet atomic bomb, nuance definitely matters.

5. Mahmoud Ahmadinewhat?
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave his speech in 2006, he said that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”, in an attempt to appease tensions in the Middle East. However, the interpreter translated his words as “I wish Israel be wiped off the map.” 

We hope you have not made interpreting mistakes as big as these, but feel free to share any mistakes you have made yourself. After all, to err is human!

Interpreter Misclassification in California: Why It’s A Huge Problem

August 12th, 2019 by

In one of our previous blog posts, we explained what the Dynamex ruling might mean for Language Service Providers. Well, it does not look like matters are heading in the right direction. Recently, a bill was passed in the California Legislative Assembly that would reclassify all translators and interpreters in California as employees of their clients. Interpreters and translators typically work for many different clients as independent contractors, so this bill could have disastrous consequences. Not only would it place additional financial and administrative burdens on translators and interpreters, it would make it harder for language service providers to hire them, putting a serious strain on the translation and interpreting industry in California.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the sponsor of the bill, wants to prevent large corporations from taking advantage of their employees by hiring them as independent contractors. Hiring independent contractors is significantly cheaper as it exonerates employers from having to pay worker benefits. Although this bill would offer much needed protection in some cases, it would do the opposite for interpreters and translators. 

Interpreters and translators work as independent contractors because they typically work for many different clients, often for very short periods of time. Given the complex and varied nature of many interpreter assignments, it is highly complicated to make a living working for just one language service provider. If the bill passes and does not exempt interpreters, it would force them to act as corporations, which would entail considerable financial, administrative and reporting duties, severely limiting their income. For language service providers, the bill would make it too expensive to hire interpreters for rare assignments. The negative outcome here would be twofold: less business for LSPs and interpreters, and a less inclusive language policy in courts, hospitals and social services.

The bill already exempts doctors, lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers, insurance agents, real estate agents, hair stylists as well as marketeers and HR professionals with advanced degrees. However, interpreters and translators are NOT included in this list. If the bill is passed by the senate and signed by the governor, and if interpreters and translators are not exempt from the bill, then it will put the livelihood of thousands of interpreters and translators in jeopardy, not to mention the livelihood of California LSPs. Moreover, California is a legislative trendsetter in the United States, so if the bill goes through, it does not bode well for the interpreters and translators in the rest of the country.

If you are a translator or interpreter, we urge you to sign this open letter to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez explaining why language professionals should be exempt from the bill.

5 Common Myths About Interpreting

August 7th, 2019 by

1. “Any bilingual speaker can be an interpreter”

This should be obvious, but it is worth repeating that not anyone who is bilingual can be an interpreter. Bilingual speakers may be fluent in more than one language, but that does not make them an interpreter. Being an interpreter requires extensive training. Not only do you need to master translation techniques, you also need to be able to deconstruct the linguistic components of a language in order to accurately and clearly translate from one language to another. Bilingual speakers may be fluent in two languages, but they usually struggle when trying to convey a message from one language to the other. This is what interpreters are trained for. Moreover, interpreters work hard to master industry-specific vocabulary, so they can interpret in legal or medical settings for example. Bilingual speakers usually do not have industry-specific jargon as part of their everyday vocabulary. Another thing that sets interpreters apart from bilingual speakers is that interpreters are aware of the deontology of their profession. Interpreters are aware of their role and are able to mediate the interaction in a way that avoids any type of bias or misunderstanding to guarantee an optimal exchange of information between two parties. Abiding by this specific code of ethics is a practice most bilingual speakers are unaware of.

2. “Technology is reducing the need for interpreters”

With the rise in automation and artificial intelligence, it has been said more than once that technology is reducing the need for interpreters. Some say it might even eliminate the need for interpreters altogether. However, that notion could not be further from the truth. Interpreting is one of the few professions that has not been affected by automation. On the contrary, it has created more interpreting jobs than ever. With globalization, the world is more connected than it has ever been. Businesses are becoming increasingly international, which means there is a growing need for interpreters as well. Companies need to be able to communicate across their global offices, they need to be able to communicate with their international client base, and they need to be able to communicate with other companies around the globe. Aside from multilingual communication, technology has just not come far enough yet to pose a serious threat to interpreting jobs. If you want to read more about this topic, then check out another blog post of ours on why technology won’t be replacing interpreters anytime soon.

3. “Translators can be interpreters”

Translating and interpreting are terms that are often used interchangeable by the general public, but they are two very different activities. The two main differences between translating and interpreting is that translation is written and interpretation is verbal, and that translation does not occur under severe time constraints in the way interpretation does. As interpreters translate verbally, they need to pay attention to their pronunciation, intonation, pace and general oral expression. These are elements translators usually needn’t worry about. Interpreters also have to be able to translate in real-time whereas translators have more time to find the perfect translation for a specific word or phrase. Another major difference between translators and interpreters is that translators do not have to be able to mediate and manage the interactions between two parties. For interpreters, this is a key component of their assignment. So given the specific skill set that is required to be a good interpreter, it is safe to say that translators cannot be interpreters.

4. “Interpreters are too expensive”

Interpreter rates depend on a number of variables (read more about interpreter pricing here). Generally, however, in-person interpreters typically cost $50 – $145 per hour and interpreters that are phoned in usually charge around $2 per minute. For many businesses, this is considered to be too expensive. Small businesses usually rely on an acquaintance or somebody in-house that happens to speak the right language to do the job. It goes without saying that this is a big mistake. When negotiating a deal, when communicating with prospective clients or even when communicating in-house, mistranslation can lead to misunderstanding, which can lead to losses that are potentially greater than if you had hired an actual interpreter. Business deals have fallen through purely because of bad translation or because the so-called interpreter was simply not able to properly translate the terms of the negotiation. The takeaway here, in other words: don’t save on the essentials of your business, or it might cost you dearly.

5. “We all speak English. We don’t need interpreters”

The need for interpreters is often waved off because people believe they will understand each other just fine. Most often, this occurs when both parties are able to speak (some) English. Once the small talk is over and both parties get into the nitty-gritty of the topic of conversation, they quickly realize their proficiency in the common language is not sufficient. This tends to happen when negotiating the specifics of a business deal, when going over technical details, when discussing the legal aspects of an operation, or simply when a concept from their native language is too hard for them to translate into the common tongue. As we mentioned earlier, not everyone is capable of being a translator or interpreter, so don’t hesitate to hire a professional to do what they do best so you can focus on what is important to you.

Why Technology Won’t Be Replacing Interpreters Anytime Soon

July 31st, 2019 by

“Technology is reducing the need for interpreters and translators.” You hear and read about it all the time. Many sources claim that the need for interpreters and translators is being reduced because of the rise in automation. Some even claim that technology will eliminate the need for translators and interpreters altogether. However, we would argue that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

It is definitely true that automation and technological advancement is eliminating a significant amount of jobs, but that is not necessarily the case for translators and interpreters. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for interpreters and translators will even increase by 18% by 2026. If we take a look at the landscape of international business right now, that should come as no surprise.

Because of globalization, companies are now more international than ever. Companies’ workforce is often spread all around the globe, which requires communications in different languages, not to mention the cultural differences that go along with doing business in different parts of the world. In the interest of economies of scale, more and more corporate partnerships are being established as well. Negotiating those deals could not be possible without translators or interpreters.

Secondly, companies now sell their products across the globe as well. That means every product needs to be adapted to the target market. Not only does the content need to be translated, but the images, colors and even the reading direction need to be changed depending on the culture of the target market.

Corporate policy has also changed dramatically over the years. Many Western corporations for example strive towards an all-inclusive language policy, which means they have been investing significantly in sign language interpretation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for sign language interpreters is expected to rise 46% from 2012 to 2022.

Aside from the growing demand for translators and interpreters, there are significant technological limitations to keep in mind as well. Machine translation and artificial intelligence does not (yet) have the interpreter’s capacity to mediate interactions, to fully grasp the interaction’s cultural context, or to read emotion and register. These elements are indispensable for a successful exchange of information and a successful interpreter assignment.

Computer-assisted translation tools or web translators may facilitate the translation process, but they are definitely not yet able to replace the important role of humans in the translation process. Also, again, given the increasingly globalized landscape of international business, it is fair to say that the jobs of translators and especially the jobs of interpreters are not going anywhere in the near future.

If you are a language service provider, check out how Interpreter Intelligence can help your organization to thrive in today’s globalized world.

The Intricacies of Interpreter Pricing

July 23rd, 2019 by

Determining the price of a service can be complicated. That is no different for interpreting services. The pricing of interpreting services depends on many variables. Here’s what you need to know:

Hourly Rates

First of all, freelance interpreters and language service providers often charge differently. Most often, interpreting services are compensated hourly. This applies to most in-person interpreting gigs. Within the industry, it is common for interpreters to have a one or two-hour minimum assignment. This allows them to be compensated for other costs such as transportation.

Daily Rates

Even though hourly compensation is most common, interpreters are also often paid daily. If the duration of the assignments exceeds two hours, the interpreter often charges half a day (or four hours), or a full day (eight hours). Per-day rates make sense if the duration of the assignment is not as clear beforehand. For example, if you are hiring an interpreter for an exposition or a guided tour, it is best to negotiate a daily rate.

Rates per Job

Another pricing method is per job. This allows the customer to accurately determine the cost of the service beforehand, even though per-job pricing tends to be relatively higher on average. For example, if a foreign delegation visits a certain country, it would make sense to pay your interpreters for the entire job.

Rates by the Minute

For remote interpreting or video interpreting, it is not uncommon to pay your interpreters by the minute. This way, as a language provider, you avoid hourly minimums since interpreters do not need to be compensated for their travel or lost time.

Travel Expenses

Whether an interpreter is paid hourly, daily, per job, or by the minute, most interpreters will request to be reimbursed for their travel. Most interpreters have a fixed mileage rate. Depending on the organization the interpreter belongs to, these rates are often negotiable. Sometimes these rates are not calculated by distance, but by travel time. Additional travel expenses can include parking, tolls, etc.

Type of Job

Another factor that needs to be taken into account when determining the pricing for interpreting services is the type of job. Interpreters that have highly specific expertise tend to charge more. These interpreters for example specialize in medical or legal interpreting. 


Some assignments also require certification. Think of court proceedings for example. These interpreters need to be certified and can charge a premium in this case. 

Language Combination

Finally, the language combination is an important factor to take into account as well. Interpreters that are proficient in very rare languages tend to charge more. Obviously, in this case, that will often depend on the location of the assignment.


When the assignment is cancelled, most interpreters will charge a cancellation fee. The cancellation fee can be a flat rate, a percentage of the total job cost or it can be a specific fee determined by the interpreter itself.

Rush Fees

For last-minute assignments, many interpreters will charge a rush fee. Rush fees are compensation for interpreters who are asked to change their schedules last minute. Again, the extent of these fees depend on the interpreter or language service provider you have booked the assignment with.


In conclusion, pricing of interpreting services can get very complicated, especially if you are a language service provider dealing with hundreds of interpreters who each have their own rates. This is why it is necessary to have a centralized platform that can automatically incorporate and calculate all the rates seamlessly. Check out the Interpreter Intelligence product features and see how our Rate Plan and Rate Zone Setup can streamline the process for you.

Are You Being Productive or Busy? Why Administration Requires Automation

July 16th, 2019 by

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of running a business. Answering phone calls, replying to emails, scheduling meetings, sending and receiving invoices,… The list goes on. To get more out of your business, it is crucial to move away from these mundane tasks and focus on what actually pushes your business forward. According to a survey from The Alternative Board, the average business person spends 70% of their time on day-to-day tasks and 30% of their time working on achieving business goals. To focus on growing your business, it is important to correct this imbalance. Instead of taking a reactive approach, take a proactive approach by automating the basic administrative duties of your business:

Scheduling Appointments – Let’s All Get On The Same Page

Scheduling appointments with multiple people can be a real pain. Instead of emailing back and forth trying to find a time that works for everyone, work with software that can synchronize everyone’s calendars so you can see everyone’s availability at a glance. Not only will you save yourself and others valuable time, the synchronized calendar makes things much more clear and reduces mistakes!

Database Management – Does Everyone Have Access to the Same Info?

Managing your database can require a lot of work. Customers, business partners,… Their contact details all have to be stored in a convenient location. Unfortunately, managing your customer database will always require some degree of manual entry. The least you can do is work with a unified platform that prevents your colleagues from doing any unnecessary work!

Invoicing – Are You Still Doing It Manually?

Nowadays, having a system that automatically generates your invoices is indispensable. There is no longer an excuse for manually calculating and creating every individual invoice. As many customers have different prices and rates, automatically generating invoices will save you a ton of time and energy. Even if you are using accounting software, chances are you have not fully integrated it with your own rate plans and pricing. Streamline the invoicing process and save yourself tons of time and headaches.

Creating Job Offers – Are You Still Emailing Back and Forth?

Coordinating job offers can take forever. With so many people involved, it can take a lot of emails and text messages to finalize a job offer. Consolidate all information in one place and seamlessly coordinate with your business partners and clients. With streamlined software, you can create better job offers in less time!


If you are a language service provider and if you feel like you are wasting valuable time and resources on everyday administrative tasks like these, then check out Interpreter Intelligence and see how our software can stop you from being busy, and help you being productive.