Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination: Report

A few weeks ago, I (Judy) took the written portion of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE for short), which is offered every two years. For those of you who are curious about the exam, here is a brief report. As a matter of course, I will not divulge what's on the exam specifically, but I do want to give you some insight into the process and into my experience.

  • For the first time, the exam was offered on the computer at Prometric testing locations throughout the country, which seemed like a great and convenient idea in theory.
  • However, the exam hasn't been updated to reflect the fact that it's electronic, so many instructions tell the test-taker to "mark the correct answer on the answer sheet." Of course, there is no answer sheet.
  • It appears to me that  Protemetric folks spent a lot of time looking for the worst possible location in which to have a testing center in Vegas, and they succeeded to secure a small office in the back of an industrial area where you take the exam accompanied by the sounds of 18-wheelers backing up right outside the exam room.The headset provided to block out the noise was cheap, hard, and hurt my ears immediately, so I had to tune the noise out by sheer will (a challenging endeavor).
  • Contrary to what it says on the Prometric website and contrary to the e-mail confirmations received from the testing folks, lockers were indeed available to store one's belongings, even though the company had insisted they were not. That's the reason I only showed up with my driver's license, car key and water bottle and had to leave my purse in the car in a rather sketchy area. Test takers are not allowed to park directly in front of the almost-empty parking lot, but rather across the parking lot. I am not quite sure why paying customers should not be able to park in front of the business they are visiting. Who else is supposed to park there? Employees? Random 18-wheelers? Multiple signs remind you that you will be towed if you park in front of the building. I found this highly puzzling and not very welcoming.
  • The exam lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes. You are not allowed to bring in your water bottle. Trust me: this is quite brutal in the Vegas summer. For some reason, watches are not allowed either.
  • The exam starts with an oath that you will not divulge anything that's on it. Fair enough. It's followed by a short tutorial on how to use the mouse, which I didn't really need. However, the instructions on how to mark a question for review, then come back to it and unmark it could have been more clear. I am a highly proficient software user, but this really could have been explained better.
  • The exam starts with the English section, which consists of 100 questions. You can take however long you want on each question, and you roughly have a minute a question. Reading comprehension is first, which is a challenge on the computer. I am used to underlining important phrases and to write on the paper. You cannot do that on a screen, so that's a significant disadvantage.
  • In order to see sample questions, you can order a practice booklet for $30, which comes in very handy. The exam includes sections on synonyms, identifying translation mistakes, etc. All questions are multiple choice.
  • I finished the English section in 45 minutes. In general, I thought the English-language portion was less challenging than I had anticipated, even though I tend to score higher on the Spanish sections.
  • The Spanish section also consisted of 100 questions in the same order (reading comprehension first). In general, I thought the Spanish sections were higher register than the English ones.
  • I finished the Spanish questions in 50 minutes, so I had a lot of time to kill. I decided to review some questions, and then called it a day at 2 hours and 10 minutes or so, so I had more than an hour left. I think the time is sufficient, but I am also a very quick reader. By the end of the exam, my eyes were quite fatigued, and I was tired of the truck ruckus outside the exam room.
  • I am not sure if I passed or not -- it's quite hard to tell. As opposed to other exams in this format that I have taken (GMAT, etc.) one does not get the score immediately, which is a bit odd. Rather, the results will be mailed in 8-9 weeks (whew). I will keep you posted!
If you took the exam or have anything to contribute, we'd love to hear from you! We are looking forward to comments.

Job Posting: Senior Project Manager in Vienna, Austria

A few days ago, we received the following job posting through a dear friend and colleague, who highly recommends this agency, ASI (he works for them as a contractor). Note: we do not know this employer personally, but have heard that they are a reputable business. As usual, job postings on this blog, which we do for free as a courtesy to the potential employer, are not endorsements in any way, shape or form. This job is in Vienna, Austria. The unedited job description is below. Please contact the employer directly if you are interested in this position. By law, Austrian employers have to disclose the salary range, so it's listed on this job description. We have to be honest: we are a bit floored by the low minimum salary, especially for a company that lists large multinational corporations as its clients, but it is just the minimum salary that they have to disclose.  Hopefully qualified applicants would receive a more appropriate and professional salary. 

By the way: Vienna is a gorgeous place to live!

Job opening:

Senior Project Manager

ASI, one of Austria’s leading language service providers, supplying large multinational corporations, government agencies, NGOs, PR agencies and major law firms with cutting-edge language services, is currently looking to enhance its team of project managers.

This job would be an excellent fit for outgoing and ambitious persons who thrive on challenges and embrace a stimulating, fast-paced team atmosphere.

Projects matter to us personally, as does the success we generate from them.

The ideal candidate possesses the following qualifications/skills

  • Language degree, either in translation studies and/or linguistics/philology
  • Fluency in German and English
  • Ability to assess translations and other language material, both from a linguistics and translation studies perspective
  • Ability to provide linguistic counselling to clients
  • Profound knowledge of project/process management
  • Experience in compiling complex glossaries/terminology management
  • Sound notions of knowledge management
  • Specialist knowledge of, and expertise in, Trados/Trados Suite, MultiTerm
  • Affinity towards all things IT
  • Highly developed negotiation and interpersonal skills
  • Experience as a project manager in the language industry, ideally at a translation agency
  • Ability to work both independently and within a team setting
  • Service-mindedness, meticulousness and hands-on mentality
  • Ability to prioritise and meet – often tight and conflicting – deadlines
  • A keen eye for detail and unwavering commitment to ensure top-notch quality

Further skills/qualifications (optional)

  • Additional languages at near-native level, preferably a Romance and/or Slavic language
  • Knowledge of further CAT tools and DTP programmes (InDesign, FrameMaker, etc.)
  • Experience in localisation


  • Managing translation and other language projects in a targeted and profit-orientated manner
  • Building on and enlarging service portfolio for assigned clients
  • Compiling glossaries and providing project-specific instructions to external language experts/translators as well as team members
  • Choosing and coordinating (teams of) linguists for each project
  • Negotiating rates on an as-needed basis
  • Acting as point person for all parties involved in a project (translators, editors, proofreaders, in-country client reviewers, type-setters, graphic designers, clients, etc.)

  • Supporting external services providers
  • Negotiating and meeting deadlines
  • Maintaining accurate records of all services rendered and the costs thereof
  • Ensuring accurate project controlling
  • Regular reporting to management

What we offer to you is

  • a competitive salary above the minimum (EUR 1,948.85) stipulated in the applicable collective agreement, depending on your qualifications, paid annual leave and fringe benefits
  • a clearly structured, unerring pathway to success at one of the most successful and vibrant translation agencies in Austria
  • prominent clients entrusting us with exciting projects
  • a multicultural and multilingual atmosphere (German and English are just our main working languages – but by far not the only ones we use on a daily basis)
  • a goal-orientated working culture with a strong focus on the essentials
  • team-minded, welcoming colleagues who will help you thrive on your challenges and further your career

So, why wait and see? Give us a call or send your CV straight away and explore your opportunities at ASI. We have the answers to your questions.

David Faffelberger
Deputy Managing Director
Superior Service with a Smile
T: +43-1-714 33 76-22
F: +43-1-714 33 76-19
Sechskrügelgasse 2/17
1031 Wien

Google AdWords: Win $100 Certificate

Google keeps on sending us many free certificates for $100 in Google AdWords for new users, and we are happy to raffle them off. As usual, we will raffle off the certificate to a colleague (freelancers only, please) who answers one question correctly. We will e-mail the access code to the winning person so he or she can get started with Google AdWords. The certificate expires September 30, 2012.

A caveat: you have to be a NEW user of Google AdWords, as this certificate is not valid for existing users (in that case, we'd probably use it ourselves).

Here's the question: where were these pictures taken? Hint: it was not in the U.S. This is an easy one, and both pictures were taken in the same place. Give us the city and the country and you will win the prize. Votes must be received by September 1, 2012. We will announce the winner that day. The first person to guess correctly will win.

Good luck and have fun!

Sounds Fishy

A few days ago, a potential client contacted us with a personal document that had to be translated for immigration purposes. Even though these certified and notarized translations can be quite painful and time-consuming, we accept them occasionally, especially when people need them for immigration purposes (Judy has been through that difficult process). 

As usual, we asked the client, who had given her name, Lucrecia,(we made this up; not her real name) to send us the document, which she said she'd do right after she returned home. She promptly did, but as soon as we opened the document, we knew that something was off. The client claimed the letter was from a Swiss nursing home (we made this up, too, to protect the client's privacy), but it was a very unusual Word document. Official entities in the German-speaking world rarely issue official correspondence via e-mail, and when they do, it's always in the highly inconvenient PDF format. That was our first red flag. Here are the others:

  • A spelling mistake (the name of the month) on the first line
  • Multiple references to a person's name, but the second reference did not match the first 
  • No signature
  • The offiicial who supposedly wrote the letter did not include his title (he's probably a doctor), which is unheard of in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. They love their titles.
  • The letterhead looked unofficial, too. We did a quick web search, found the nursing home, and realized that the images had been taken directly from the website.
  • We were really suspicious at this point. We checked the properties section under Word, which lets you see who authored and who edited the document. Sure enough, the document had been created the same evening -- by our potential client.
  • The potential client used the name Lucrecia to identify herself on the phone, but in all e-mail correspondence, which came from a very generic address, she used the name Eulalia (we made this up, too).
We spoke with our pro bono lawyer, Judy's hubby, who was unsure about what sort of fraudulent activities were underfoot. However, he did tell us to stay away from the translation, which had been our first instinct as well. It was relatively evident to us that someone was trying to defraud someone, and we certainly don't want to be an accessory in a crime or be involved in aiding and abetting a criminal activity.We e-mailed the client back and told her, in general terms, that we did not think the letter was an original document and that we could thus not translate it. We don't every want to wrongly accuse anyone of fraud (and we did not), but we think we did the right thing here. Again, we are not sure what the potential client was trying to do, but we are glad we ran for the hills. 

What would you have done, dear readers?

What to Expect at a Deposition: Interpreting

When I (Judy) first became a certified court interpreter, the biggest challenge I encountered wasn’t one of terminology, but one of procedure. Even though my home office is well-stocked with fantastic dictionaries and resources about the American and Mexican legal systems, civil procedure and textbooks, and I’ve taken classes in criminal and civil procedure, I was never quite sure what to expect during the many types of legal situations for which I interpret. I had a hard time, for instance, finding out exactly how civil depositions are conducted. I looked high and low, and found limited information, so I learned it by doing it. Perhaps there is a resource out there that I am not familiar with (please let me know if there is, dear readers!) that explains the processes well, but I wanted to share my informal (and by no means exhaustive) list of procedural structure with you.
Ready to interpret!

  • Most of the civil cases for which I’ve interpreted during depositions revolve around either car accidents or some type of personal injury (think slip and fall). There are also many others, such as construction defect. Most depositions last 1-2 hours.
  • Depositions are usually held at law offices, either at the office of the plaintiff’s or the defendant’s attorney. There are usually at least five parties present: deponent, his or her counsel, opposing counsel, court reporter and the interpreter. Complex cases with multiple plaintiffs and defendants can have up to a dozen people in the room.
  • In general, the party or law firm who requested the deposition will pay (this is very important with direct clients, so be sure to clear this up beforehand). Be sure to get the case name and the deponent’s name for invoicing purposes.
  • Court reporters will be present at all depositions. They are taking down the record in English only, so your interpretation into English will become part of the official record. Be sure to sit next to the court reporter so she can hear you (I’ve never met a male court reporter). The deponent should sit next to you on your other side, and his or her counsel will be seated on the next chair. The opposing counsel will traditionally sit across the table in a typical conference room setting.
  • The court reporter will swear you in. Be sure not to agree to “faithfully translate.” As annoying as it might be, I always correct the record to reflect “interpret.”
  • After that, the court reporter will swear in the deponent. This is when you start interpreting simultaneously.
  • Keep a blank piece of paper handy on which you will jot down difficult names and places for the court reporter, who will have to produce the transcript. I usually write down things like Eulalia, Amecameca, Tuxtla Gutiérrez – generally cities and names that are challenging for non-Spanish speakers to understand.
  • The deposing counsel will introduce him or herself and explain to the deponent how the process works. When interpreting into Spanish (or any other language) for the deponent, I usually lean close to the deponent and speak in a softer voice so I don’t disrupt the court reporter, who is taking down the English for the record. When interpreting into English, I speak up so the court reporter can hear me. Portable interpreting equipment is traditionally not used in depositions.
  • Attorneys love to object to each other’s questions. Unfortunately—and they obviously know this—there is no judge to issue a ruling on the objection. They are just trying to get on the record with their objection, and you must interpret the objection, which can be confusing for the deponent. Usually, their counsel will instruct them if they should answer the question or not. Attorneys will also say things like: “For the record, I think defense counsel is being unreasonable,” which you must also interpret.
Part two of this series will follow next month. I hope this information has helped you gain some insight into what’s ahead if you get called to interpret at a deposition. If you have anything you would like to share: please do so by leaving a comment. 
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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