Interpreting Now and Then:

This article was originally written for the ATA’s Interpreters Division newsletter, The Interpreters Voice, in 2004, following the ATA 45th Annual Conference, in Toronto, Canada.

ATA 45th Annual Conference takes us through history and into the future

– By Gio Lester

I was lucky this year that I could attend two of the pre-conference seminars. One of them, pertinent to our Division, was Daniel Giglio’s Basic Note-Taking Techniques for Practicing Interpreters. Our colleague Georganne Weller-Almeida had led a workshop on the same subject a year ago in Miami, offered by the Florida Chapter of ATA but, as one of the organizers, I could not take full advantage of Georganne’s expertise. However, what little I could apprehend whet my appetite for more.

This time I was ready: nothing to distract me and I knew what specific information I was looking for. Also, Daniel’s style and personality made the experience easy and pleasant. He had loads of practical information and some theories to share. I came back with many pages full of notes that I am now organizing.

ASET International Services Corporation brought an interpreting booth for their presentation. Attendees had the opportunity to try both analog and digital equipment, and the setting was perfect for the active Q&A section the presentation turned into. Having never used a personal interpreting device before, I was glad to learn about their differences, drawbacks, and advantages. Some of my colleagues who use one or the other type of equipment, but their personal accounts did no justice to my hands-on experience. I can also appreciate better the work that goes on behind the scenes for the agencies and technicians who make it all seem so easy.

A trip back in time

None of the sessions I attended compared to the emotional and intellectual rush I felt when listening to Mr. Peter Less. Our colleague Tanya Gesse brought Mr. Less from Chicago to share with us his experiences at the Nuremberg Trials. We were not prepared for the number of attendees: there were people standing, and others sitting on the floor. No one complained.

Mr. Less’s presentation was not chilling and gory. It was objectively and professionally delivered. We learned about the conditions, difficulties and some personal moments experienced by him and his colleagues while staying at villas confiscated from top Nazi officials or segregated as guests in a castle and as “honorary” members of the military corps.

Once I got home, I reread Tanya’s interview with Mr. Less in [that year’s] September issue of The Chronicle. This time I could hear Tanya’s and Mr. Less’s voices in my head as I read the questions and answers. It was almost like being in the City Hall room of the Sheraton again.

Reading what I have just written makes me feel as tough I have traveled through time. Starting with the precarious conditions of Mr. Less’s era, going through Daniel’s note-taking techniques and practical advice, ASET’s technological display and ending with Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas’ presentation of Digital Voice Recorder-Assisted Consecutive Interpreting- a futuristic-looking trend that is a reality for many colleagues now.

Giovanna Lester started working as a freelance translator and interpreter in 1980, in her native Brazil. She is the immediate past president of ATA’s Florida Chapter-FLATA* and currently is the Assistant Administrator of the Interpreters Division. Gio can be reached at **

* FLATA ceased operations in 2007;
** this email is no longer active. Try


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