The annual cost of being a professional trilingual interpreter

I recently received the following request in my inbox: “If you know of any events or organizations I can get involved with, that would be great as well (I joined Mano a Mano).” I figured instead of answering just one person, this information could be helpful to other trilingual (ASL, Spanish, English) interpreters as well, hence why I’m posting the answer as a blog. And as I started to think of the various organizations I’m a member of, and the others it would be a good idea to be a member of, I realized that, in the vernacular, it ain’t cheap!

Here is a list of the professional organizations a trilingual interpreter might be a member of, links to their websites, and the membership dues for each. I’ve included figures both certified and non-certified interpreters.

  • RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf). This, of course, is the organization that provides national certification (between ASL and English), and it doesn’t hurt that their newsletter, the VIEWS, has won some awards. Annual dues for certified members are $160.00 and for associate (non-certified) members they are $130.00.
  • RID Affiliate Chapter. To be involved in professional, sign-language interpreting issues at a local level, it’s a good idea to join your state chapter of RID. Affiliate chapter dues run about $35.00 a year.
  • Mano a Mano. This is the first and only organization specifically for trilingual interpreters in the United States that I know of. They don’t offer certification, but thanks to a collaborative effort with the NCIEC (National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers), registering yourself as a trilingual interpreter in the national database is FREE! Click here to register. Joining as a bona fide member, whether you’re certified or not, will cost you $25.00 a year (or the equivalent of only five iced venti soy chai lattés from Starbucks).
  • ATA (American Translators Association). With membership in the ATA and access to their quality newsletter, the ATA Chronicle, you will gain insight into the world of translation and interpreting beyond American Sign Language. I feel it’s important for trilingual interpreters to be aware of news and information related to spoken language interpreting, since a portion of our work touches upon it. The ATA certification is the preeminent standard for translation in the United States, and while it’s commendable if you do aim for it, the reality of it is impractical. Translation requires a different type of theory, training, and practice than does interpreting. Also, don’t let the name of the organization fool you. The ATA is welcoming to interpreters, and the ATA Chronicle frequently has articles of interest to trilingual interpreters. Annual dues are $160.00.
  • ATA Affiliate Chapter. This is where the good stuff happens. I don’t know how other ATA state chapters work, but the one in Florida has frequent socials and puts on several workshops a year. Affiliate chapter dues will be about $35.00 a year.
  • NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators). This is the only organization, besides the IMIA (see below), that I know of that is wholly inclusive of both sign language and spoken language interpreters. While not all trilingual interpreters engage in legal interpreting, the camaraderie of the membership is magnetic and the contributions on their email group are invaluable. NAJIT also produces good articles in its newsletter, Proteus, and while it does offer legal certification, I must admit that the court certifications offered by the National Consortium of State Courts (NCSC) and the Federal Court Interpreter Exam (FCIE) are more recognized. If you’re an active legal interpreter, dues are $105.00 per year, and associate membership is $85.00 per year.
  • IMIA (International Medical Interpreters Association). I’m not an IMIA member (I lean toward legal and conference interpreting)… yet. While RID offers specialist certification for legal interpreting (the SC:L), the IMIA recognizes the importance of interpreting standards for medical interpreting. I’ve heard rumors that it’s even advocating for ASL-English medical interpreting certification, either through RID or its own methods. Annual membership is $60.00 a year.
  • NCIHC (National Council on Interpreting in Health Care). This is another medical interpreters’ association, suggested to me by a friend and colleague. According to her, the NCIHC is also inclusive of sign language interpreters. Individual membership is $45.00 a year. (Added 5/9/2013)
  • WASLI (World Association of Sign Language Interpreters). The interpreting situation in the U.S. isn’t the best, but you have to admit that we’re still in a position to help other countries around us. One way of giving back is by becoming an individual member of WASLI. Not only will you be supporting efforts to professionalize the field of sign language interpreting around the world, you’ll also receive WASLI’s newsletter, which informs you about what’s going on with our colleagues in foreign lands. Membership dues vary depending on your country of provenance, but for the U.S. it’s $25.00.

There you have them: my recommendations for organizations that will make a well-rounded trilingual interpreter. If you’re certified and do some legal interpreting, you need to budget $650.00 a year, and if you’re not RID-certified (your state may have its own certification) and focus more on medical interpreting, you can set aside $600.00: useful figures in case you need to advocate for a differential!

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