Our Colleague Barry Slaughter Olson Discusses Interpreter Code of Ethics on NPR

Monterey, California is home to several institutions and companies that justify its claim as “The Language Capitol of the WorldTM.” More than just owning the trademark on the phrase, the Monterey area is host to several world renown language institutions and companies, the most prestigious of which is the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS).

Linguists from all over the world come to MIIS to receive intensive master’s degree training for translation and conference interpreting. Translation By Design’s close proximity to the campus, and connection to their faculty and graduating students, gives us unique insight into who are the best interpreters in the world. 

One of the individuals responsible for the high standards of the interpretation program at MIIS is our colleague Barry Slaughter Olson. At the link below you can hear his interview with NPR regarding the interpreter who served President Trump during his meeting with Russian’s President Putin, and whether it is right for the interpreter to be called before congress to testify about what was discussed in the meeting. It’s a quick listen that provides useful information about the “Interpreter’s Code of Ethics.”
What the interpreters code of ethics says about conversations in private meeting

We are occasionally asked by our legal clients, “How can we be certain the interpreter is unbiased?” You can be certain because of the interpreter’s code of ethics adhered to by all professional interpreters. Furthermore, legal interpreters swear an oath before the court to provide a completely impartial translation of what the parties in a case are saying.

Example Text of a Legal Interpreter’s Oath

How is an interpreter sworn to interpret before the court? By swearing an oath to interpret the proceeding with complete impartiality. Here is a sample text for an interpreter oath, borrowed from Riverside County:


Oath of Language for Certified/Registered Court Interpreters

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that: I will make a true interpretation to the defendant/witness in, a language that the defendant/ witness understands and will make a true interpretation of the defendant’s/witnesses’ answers to questions to counsel, court, or jury, in the English language, with my best skill and judgment.

This oath pertains to all proceedings for which this court calls upon me to interpret from (LANGUAGE) to English and English to (LANGUAGE).




Submitted and sworn to before me on this  (DATE)  at Riverside, California.


*Note: Interpreter oaths can vary depending on your jurisdiction. It is best to check with your local court to determine if they have a specific oath on file.

Translation By Design’s Shih Tzus are stars of the Feast of Lanterns Cultural Festival

Sandra’s twin Shih Tzus, Bixby and Quigley, have been the un-official mascots of Translation By Design since she was given them 10 years ago. This past weekend, they were the stars of the Pacific Grove Feast of Lanterns Pet Parade!
For more than 100 years the City of Pacific Grove, California has held the annual “Feast of Lanterns” festival. It is meant to honor the cultural heritage of the first non-indigenous settlers of the area:  the Chinese, who first came to Pacific Grove in the mid-1800s. The weeklong festival welcomes thousands with streets and homes decorated with Chinese lanterns, family-friendly activities, a Chinese-style pageant, a Dragon Dance, and fireworks at Lover's Point Beach.
According to Wikipedia: The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese language word for "lion" because this kind of dog was bred to resemble "the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art." 
Language and cultural significance aside, our president, Sandra DeLay, has always loved Shih Tzus. She is fond of pointing out, “They are the dog that would sit in the Emperor’s Sleeve." So it was fitting, as part of our sponsorship of the festival, that the daughter of a staff member hand-sewed little outfits and decorated a royal carriage (a pet stroller) to carry Bixby (dressed as Scholar Chang) and Quigley (dressed as Koong-Se) down the main street of Pacific Grove…to the delight of many!
Read more about their performance in the Monterey Herald:
*Translation By Design is headquartered in Pacific Grove, California. Less than a mile from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS), which is widely recognized as the top Master’s level training program for translation and interpretation in the US.
**We would also like to point out that the festival is put on by volunteers and, while it has Chinese cultural advisors, most people recognize that it is not a perfect representation of Chinese culture. The organization works to make it better and more authentic each year.

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NAPABA - Promoting Justice and Equality for All

Proud Sponsor at the 2017 NAPABA Western Regional Conference

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) held their Western Regional Conference in San Jose, California last week. It was hosted at the new Silicon Valley USPTO office and was the largest regional conference in NAPABA’s history.
The Conference’s host chapter, APABA Silicon Valley, was formed over 30 years ago with a mission to foster professional development, advocacy, and community involvement for Silicon Valley's Asian Pacific American legal community, and to promote justice and equality for all.
Translation by Design had the pleasure of attending the event as one of its sponsors, a distinction doubly enjoyed since many of our clients and colleagues are members of the organization. We are proud to support the work of these legal professionals who are fighting, through both their professional practice and pro-bono efforts, to ensure everyone in this country has equal access to and equal treatment under the laws of the United States of America.
Our work with them IS Translation for Justice.

MEarth: Inspiring Future Environmental Leaders

Environmental Leaders in the Making

MEarth is an environmental education nonprofit organizaition located in Carmel Valley, California. With programs like "MicroGreens" for kids in Kindergarten thru  2nd grade, to "Grow.Cook.Eat. - A Culinary Bootcamp" for early teens, the team at MEarth works to educate and inspire young people about the importance of environmental stewardship and knowledge about from where their food comes.
Translation by Design supports the MEarth mission financially and by donating translation of program materials to ensure ALL members of our community can benefit from MEarth's programs.
Empowering young people to create a healthier planet for everyone...that's Translation for Justice™!
Click here to learn more and support their programs.

Using Translated Comics to Unite Nations

English and Arabic Annie Sunbeam Comic Book Covers

The latest comic book from Comics Uniting Nations, Annie Sunbeam, is available now in five languages! For the past two years Translation by Design has been the official language support partner for these comics. We’re proud to do our part to help educate and empower young people around the world to make a difference in their communities. A big "Thank You" to our linguists and graphic design team for donating a portion of their time and expertise to make this project possible!

Click here to learn more about Comics Uniting Nations and the organization’s work to bring the message of the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development to young people in a fun and exciting way!

Download the comic for free in one of the following five languages:

Arabic, French, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish

Translating "Rogue One"

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor in Rogue One

Oftentimes, when I think of a dubbed film, visions of a Bruce Lee movie come to mind…the actor’s mouth moves, but the voice does not correspond with the movement. However, almost five decades later, technology and globalization have pushed the dubbing industry to new heights. NPR’s short clip, Dubbing Rogue One, by Latino USA details just how difficult and intricate a task film dubbing is today and how it hinges on the translation.

When it comes to the translation phase of the dubbing project, the difficulty lies in finding the right words not just to convey the proper meaning of the English words, but also to match the actor’s lip movements to make it appear as if the actor is actually speaking in the foreign language. This task is further complicated with high-profile films such as Rogue One when their confidentiality levels are so high that the linguist is not allowed to see the film for fear of leaks getting out. This hinders the linguist from gleaning visual context. Unable to see a scene and unsure what it’s about can lead the linguist to incorrectly translate a line since a word can have many different meanings depending on the context. To add to these hurdles, the linguist must also keep in mind the linguistic differences within the Spanish language.  

Another important issue is the fact that while Spanish is spoken in many different countries, this doesn’t mean that the Spanish is the same all around. In other words, a word may mean one thing in one Spanish-speaking country while in another, that same word may mean something completely different. Therefore, oftentimes different words and different slang are used to convey the same meaning. In these instances, the linguist must find the most neutral word that will not only convey the proper meaning, but also match the actor’s lip movements. 

Imagine if this much care was omitted during the translation/dubbing of Rogue One. Imagine if this much care had been given to the Bruce Lee films. 

If your message matters, your translation matters. Contact us for expert support with your media translation and localization projects. Call us or email

"My parents worked at the World Trade Center on 9/11."

*The Oculus and One World Trade Center

In early August, 46 floors above the memorial pools and the white spires of the dove-like Oculus, Jeremy stepped into the all glass conference room in One World Trade Center. His bright smile, courteous manner and shining sky blue eyes instantly won over the four of us in the room. Jeremy was the epitome of excellence in guest service. It was 9:07am. He was early.

We were completing set-up for our cultural training seminar for the members of the guest services team at the new Westfield World Trade Center. Soon the largest retail space in NYC would open and the concierge team would begin welcoming the estimated 400,000 shoppers and travelers passing through the center each day.

Translation By Design's role was to equip the team with the knowledge and skills to provide a culturally sensitive guest service experience for visitors whose customs, communication styles, and customer service expectations differ from ours.

*Peter helps the team overcome their frustrations when assisting a guest visiting from China.

As we began the seminar, we asked everyone to introduce themselves. When it was Jeremy’s turn to speak, we were captivated.

"My parents worked on the upper floors at the World Trade Center when the towers were attacked on 9/11." 

Our hearts sank, anticipating what he would say next.

“But unlike so many other families who lost loved ones, I didn’t. My parents changed to the evening shift three days before the attacks. That's why I am so proud to be here today. The rebuilding of ground zero is a sign of the resilience of the City and the spirit of our community. It means so much to be working here, representing my family, this company, our country, and to be welcoming people from all over the world. 90 countries lost citizens on 9/11. I want to do just as good a job welcoming guests from those countries as I do guests from mine. I am really looking forward to this training today.”

*An image from the training material

Everything about that day was inspiring. From the architecture of the Oculus, to Westfield’s commitment to welcoming guests from other cultures, to the attitude of their concierge team members, and stories like Jeremy’s.

Congratulations go to the entire Westfield team on the successful opening on August 16th. It was humbling to be in the presence of your efforts as the heart of New York City is reborn. 


*The view inside the Oculus during the opening celebration. 

The day was filled with heartfelt performances and memorials honoring those who were lost and their families. 

*John Legend closing the ceremony with a solo performance on the piano


“I’ve lived in New York for a very long time. I was here back in 2001. We know what the city went through. But we’re stronger than all of that. We’re strong enough to recover together, to love each other…”- John Legend

Translation By Design was honored to play a small role.

Thank you.

Spanish Language Interpreting for Presidential Candidate Rally

We dropped everything after that call...

The phone rang late that afternoon. A campaign staffer, frazzled and exhausted from weeks on the road, explained their unique opportunity. The presidential candidate would be arriving the next morning for a rally in the agricultural hub of Salinas, California. An undocumented farm worker was willing to take the stage to give voice to the concerns facing her, her family, and thousands like her that have come to find work in the US. The problem: The worker's voice is Spanish. In order for her message to have maximum meaning for the hundreds gathered, her voice needed to be heard in English as well. The campaign needed an interpreter.
We sprang into action, motivated by this courageous person, not by the politics.

It would be difficult. We explained the challenge of finding a qualified linguist at this late hour. The staffer said, "It's fine. Worst-case we’ll get someone who is bilingual."

We agreed. Using someone who isn't a trained interpreter for a situation like this is a worst-case scenario. We weren't going to let that happen. 

Late into the night, after hours on the phone, we were able to find a Spanish interpreter who could take leave from her assignment in court the next morning to be at the rally. The interpreter would make it possible for this undocumented worker's voice to reach the ears of the English audience with the same meaning and emotion in the worker's native Spanish...the same meaning and emotion in her heart.

As the worker told her story and her hope for a brighter future, the Spanish speakers in the audience cheered. As the interpreter translated, the English speakers understood, joined-in, and together their cheering shook the auditorium.

The Beauty of Literary Translation

The third book in the "Another" series by Japanese author, Yukito Ayatsuji. We just received our advanced copies of the English translation we provided for Yen Press. The book is available for pre-order in hardcover via Amazon and other book retailers. 


It's no secret. We love languages.

The beauty and art of the script.

The sound of the words spoken or sung.

The complexities of the meanings and metaphors in different cultures.

Our work is particularly rewarding when we are able to contribute translation for creative projects, such as marketing translation and literary translation. It’s a fascinating exercise, moving a creative person's work (their meaning, thier vision, thier dream) from one language and culture into another, because it goes beyond translation.

Metaphor, idioms, slang and hidden meaning pervade creative works and most times there is no cultural equivalent for them in the new language.

In Spanish there is saying a saying, “Salir en un ojo de la cara.”

It literally means, “To take an eye from my face.” Not only does it sound like something horrible from a book you probably wouldn’t want to read, but the translation is also incorrect. What it actually means is, “That is really expensive.”

However using that translation, while correct, would lose the spice and flow the original author wanted in her writing. A good literary translator that is fluent in both English and Spanish cultures would replace the phrase with something like, “That costs an arm and a leg.”

Literary translation is so challenging because the translator is so often tasked with finding more than the right meaning, but the right metaphor. The right voice. The right mental image that conveys the author’s creativity in a culturally relevant way for this new audience.

One of the greatest examples of the importance of literary translation is that of the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Originally written in Spanish, one of the best lines from the book is:

“Demasiada cordura puede ser la peor de las locuras, ver la vida como es y no como debería de ser.”

Had lines like this one from Don Quixote been given to someone who was simply bilingual we might not know the man from La Mancha. A straightforward translation of the line above would follow something like:

“Too much good sense can be the worst of follies, to see life how it is and not how it should be.”

Instead, a literary translator gave us this:

“Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

The difference, makes all the difference.

Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your literary translation or other multilingual creative project. Call 831-655-9588 or email

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