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Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 12:24:16 PM CST

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U.S. job projections proving true for rise in interpreters and translators

by Lauren M. Davis
Jun 5, 2013


Lauren Davis/ MEDILL

Victoria Casimiro says she has interpreted for her father as long as she can remember. When she's not around, José Casimiro says he usually requests help from an interpreter.

José Casimiro, originally from Mexico, has lived in the U.S. for 18 years but said he hasn’t learned to speak English.

The 40-year-old father said the language barrier has been difficult. His 15-year-old daughter, Victoria, interprets for him on most occasions, but when he is alone and has to visit the doctor, he said, he relies on interpreters.

“As soon as the doctor starts to talk about some words that he doesn’t understand in English that’s when he asks [for an interpreter],” Victoria said.

Casimiro’s free access to an interpreter in public agencies and hospital settings, he said, “is one hundred percent good.”

Casimiro is one of many people in the U.S who require interpreting services for assistance. This need, along with the need of translation, a written form of interpretation, has steadily grown over the past years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected in January 2012 that the employment of interpreters and translators would increase 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

In May 2012 the employment number of interpreters and translators, not including self-employed workers, was 50,320, said Teri Morisi, branch chief of the Division of Occupational Employment Projections at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May 2010 it was 44,200.

Chicago, Joliet and Naperville are part of a metropolitan division with one of the highest employment numbers of interpreters and translators, according to 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational employment data.

John F. Bukacek, president of the Chicago Area Translators and Interpreters Association, said he has seen an increase in the job market for independent workers especially. Many agencies contract out for translation and interpreting services, he said.

The overall market, Bukacek said, has increased because of the globalization of business and also because of state laws.

“For example in medical interpreting, for a patient in the state of Illinois and in many states,… the law requires that an interpreter be available for them,” he said.

Eduardo Alvarez, a certified health care interpreter for University of Chicago Medicine with 18 years of experience, said he has seen an increased need of medical interpreting in recent years in languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Arabic.

There are no stipulations limiting who can access these services, Alvarez said. Every patient or family member who speaks limited English is entitled to have a qualified medical interpreter under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Language Assistance Services Act.

Scott Homler, director of the program in translation and interpreting at the University of Minnesota, said that because of the laws and presidential directives in place, all immigrants, regardless of their legal statuses, can access language services in hospitals, schools and in courtrooms.

If the proposed immigration reform bill, expected to reach the Senate floor next week, is passed into law, Homler said, it will most likely have little effect on the growth of the interpreting and translation job market. But, he said, there has been more attention on the rights of these immigrants.

“There is a growing recognition that these services haven’t been provided adequately,” he said, adding that more institutions have recently put plans in place that provide lawful interpreting services.

An executive at Smartling, a translation management company based in New York City, said the proposed immigration reform could substantially increase growth in the translation and interpreting market.

“In my view it would fuel not just the demand for translation services but actually increase the economic opportunities for many sectors that might not currently be able to serve those markets because of legal issues," said Nataly Kelly, vice president of market development.

Kelly said the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections mirror what she's seen in the field and she expects the translation and interpreting market will continue to flourish.

Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for the years 2012 to 2022 will be released at the end of this year.