“When suddenly, due to Covid, the need for a virtual interpretation solution presented itself, KUDO was ready to answer the call” – Thomas Norton
At KUDO, we pride ourselves on having an incredibly talented network of professional interpreters. While being a crucial part of every single KUDO meeting, they are often behind-the-scenes players that are heard and not seen. In this series of blogs, we are bringing our interpreters to the main stage and highlighting them and their stories.
This blog features Thomas Norton, a conference interpreter with over 21 years of experience. Thomas recounts one of his most inspiring stories working as an interpreter, as well as his thoughts on the future of KUDO in this interpreter feature.
How did you become an interpreter?
I spent my entire childhood/youth in Brazil, so I grew up speaking both languages with equal ease. I discovered early that I enjoyed writing, reading, and that I had a knack for grasping hint, innuendo, between-the-lines meanings, and for helping one person understand what another was trying to communicate. It gave me enormous satisfaction, as a teenager, when highly polished professional adults asked me to interpret for them in professional, educational, and informal situations. But it wasn’t until many years later, when I was 40 years old and had failed “successfully” at four other ventures that I found myself recalling the passion and satisfaction interpretation had always given me. So, I thumbed through the Miami Yellow Pages, called around to a few interpretation/translation agencies, and asked them if they ever used “freelance” interpreters. They said, yes. I took their tests. Within less than a week I began to live the amazing career I had always dreamed might exist.
Why do you love what you do?
First, I love dealing with the intense pressure of being essential. Second, people who do not speak the same language but must solve a problem together cannot do so, unless I am there to bridge that language gap. It’s intense and also intensely satisfying.
Please recount your most inspiring experience in this business.
I spent time in Rwanda interpreting a conference for women who are building small businesses in coffee, cacao, and honey on small-plot family farms. Rwanda inspired me more than any country I’ve ever visited. Everyone seemed so young, and those young professionals were survivors of losses I cannot imagine. They all seem to have the same look in their eyes: it says, yes you see tears in here, but you also see hope and joy and the willingness to build a better future. That’s what I saw, and it inspired me.
How did you become acquainted with KUDO?
Ewandro Magalhães, co-founder of KUDO, is a dear friend of mine. Back in 2012, we found ourselves living with our families in Geneva, Switzerland. He was chief interpreter of UN/ITU, and I was there because my wife had been assigned there in a diplomatic role on behalf of her country. Ewandro and I would meet for lunch at least once a week and we had an ongoing conversation about the future of the interpretation industry as technology developed. I’m proud to remind him often that I was there, I was a part of those seminal conversations, I was one of the people urging him to run hard and fast to make KUDO a reality for us, the interpreters. I’m really proud of the effort he put forth and the product he, Fardad and the KUDO team have carefully developed.
What’s are your predictions on how KUDO will change the industry?
It already has and will only continue to do so in growing degrees. When suddenly, due to COVID, the need for a virtual interpretation solution presented itself, KUDO was ready to answer the call. Through their iterative approach they continue to refine and expand the opportunities and benefits they bring to interpreters and to the organizations that rely on them. Now, I need to be honest about this: interpreters perform their best when they are in-person. As professionals, we consider our hands-on presence in a meeting essential to its success. And we prefer to do it in person whenever it’s possible. But it’s not always possible or feasible financially. That’s where KUDO comes in.