ITI Professional Development Committee member, Nathaniel Elcock, discusses training with renowned interpreter, speaker, and tech start-up co-founder, Ewandro Magalhaes
Tell us a little bit about yourself – your background and what you do.
I am essentially a conference interpreter and have been for the last 30 years. I started in my native country, Brazil, really by accident. I was working as a clerk for the lower house of the Brazilian parliament and was asked to interpret in a meeting with the late Duke of Edinburgh – all because I spoke some English and happened to be wearing a suit and tie on that day! But I enjoyed the experience, and this planted the seed of interpreting in my heart. In due course, I undertook formal training, and eventually ended up as the Chief Interpreter at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva. At the end of 2016, I was invited to co-found KUDO Inc. in the USA; I am what we call the Chief Language Officer.
For people who don’t know, what is KUDO?
KUDO is a cloud-based meeting platform with full multilingual support. That means, at the click of a button, you can participate in the meeting in your own language, thanks to human conference interpreters who can be based anywhere in the world.
You’ve been doing a lot of work over the last couple of years to set up and run training for new interpreters on KUDO. Why was this such a priority?
There are two main reasons. Firstly, because of our promise that KUDO would be centred on the interpreters. The aim has always been to make sure interpreters have what they need to do a stellar job. By serving the interpreters, we are automatically serving everyone else’s needs. Secondly, because we are breaking new ground. The notion of asking interpreters to work remotely is a paradigm shift, and there was understandably some concern at the beginning. The only remedy to this is knowledge and training, and making sure people are comfortable on the platform. And the only way you do that is by getting people in, showing them the ropes, asking them to give it a try and allowing them to make mistakes.
What training do interpreters receive before they get their first meeting on KUDO?
First and foremost, they need to check a box which guarantees that they are a conference interpreter – KUDO is a tool for conference interpreters, not for anyone to just ‘have a go’. Once we know you are a conference interpreter, there is a process which you have to follow to get comfortable and proficient with the platform. The journey starts with an online tutorial in which we walk you through the many things you need to learn: platform configuration, hardware required, contractual aspects etc. Following the tutorial, you need to attend at least one “KIOW” – KUDO Interpreter Onboarding Webinar. This is a free webinar where we give you a refresher and run through some speeches for you to practise interpreting. You work on relay and handover, and apply everything you have learnt in theory. We now have over 11,000 colleagues who have taken this journey.
Does KUDO offer any sort of CPD for interpreters?
Yes. Because we value and depend on interpreters (many KUDO staff are trained interpreters), and because of how fast we are growing, we are rolling out a programme right now to give back to the interpreter community. We want to not only reassure interpreters about the technology, but also equip them with the knowledge they need – and not just for KUDO. So, we are lining up a number of renowned trainers, and sponsoring specific courses which we will then offer to interpreters free of charge on a rotational basis. We want to foster a community which continues to be excited, and which feels it has a voice and a role to play.
Looking ahead, what advice about training would you give to interpreters?
If I were still working as an interpreter every day (I still interpret occasionally!), this is the advice I would give myself: the sooner you try some of the new things on the horizon, the better off you will be. History teaches us this. At the Nuremberg Trials, the interpreters who ended up changing the world were student interpreters from the University of Geneva. That’s because the celebrity interpreters back then said simultaneous interpreting couldn’t be done, and they pushed it away, effectively saying, “Not on my watch!” But there was a ‘business need’ for simultaneous interpreting. And there is a business need today to make multilingual meetings possible online. And there’s no harm in trying! If, tomorrow, it’s business as usual, and we’re all back to physical meetings, you’re no worse off – you just learnt a new tool. So, keep an open mind, and give it a try – whether it’s remote interpreting or any of the other tech tools out there like AI.
Nathaniel Elcock is Client Success Representative at KUDO, Associate Lecturer in Translation at the University of York and a trained conference interpreter and translator.
See full video of the interview below.