Paula Irisity and Aleyna Maria Tusa interviewed Tianlu Redmon for this report.

How did you get into translation and in particular into the interpreting field? What do you like best about being an interpreter?

Tianlu Redmon

Tianlu Redmon

Three words: Harvard, Homer, and home.

I used to tell people I wanted to go to Harvard when I was a child. I was born and raised in China and started learning English at 6. I loved it. When in high school, I used to spend half an hour every morning listening to recordings of native speakers and imitating their pronunciation and intonation. I also loved studying grammar and would spend entire evenings taking down phrases and idioms from dictionaries in my notebooks. But most importantly, I enjoyed how a language can open a whole new world. In the end, I didn’t actually apply to Harvard, but I did go to college to study English literature and then came to the U.S. to study western classics at St. John’s College Graduate Institute.

While at St. John’s, I met my husband in a class when translating Homer’s Odyssey from Ancient Greek into English. My plan of returning to China to teach English fell apart, so I stayed here and started teaching Chinese at a small university in North Carolina. There I met a group of translators and interpreters, and I realized I would never stop learning if I do what they do (and make more money!). I also enjoyed interpreting for people at doctor’s visits, especially when the majority were perinatal visits. It was always amazing to share with parents the intimate moment of seeing their baby for the first time on the ultrasound and to continue helping them throughout the pregnancy.

That’s when I found ATA, a home for translators and interpreters. I went on to obtain my Court Interpreter Certification from North Carolina and began to explore the world through the eyes of a conference interpreter. I enjoy the exposure to different subject matters when I translate and interpret, but I especially like the human touch when I interpret. I learn a little more from the people I meet at every interpreting assignment, and I treat every assignment as an opportunity to raise awareness of our profession. I also enjoy meeting and working side by side with my colleagues. I have received so much support from the colleagues and friends I met at ATA. ATA is truly my home, and I am glad I found it by becoming a translator and interpreter.

You are also a translator. How do you combine both professions?

I interpret court proceedings and depositions, and I also translate and edit legal documents. While translating reinforces terminology and prompts me to do research, interpreting helps me stay sharp and think on my feet. They are mutually beneficial.

“ATA is truly my home, and I am glad I found it by becoming a translator and interpreter.”

I also worked intermittently for NBC Golf Channel for a year. I barely knew anything about golf when I joined. My job was to translate into Chinese and do voice over of interviews, panel discussions, and golf analyses during the day and to simultaneously interpret into English Chinese anchors’ commentary for producers and directors in the control room at night. I learned so much golf jargon, history, and culture when I was on a translation team of very talented people, among whom was an elderly gentleman who wasn’t always the best translator but was undeniably a walking dictionary of golf. I jotted down every new word and phrase in English I came across in translating or listening to his commentary while watching a tournament together; then at night, I would use those expressions in my interpretation and sound like an expert!

What do you see as the most important issues facing ATA?

“I also want to serve the place I call home by addressing some of the issues we face that are not unique to interpreters.”

The most important issue is membership engagement. This means getting our current members involved and reaching out to potential members. ATA is an association for language professionals. How do we provide information and support to our members and remain relevant to them? What kinds of content can we create to help them develop and sell their services? How do we help cultivate a community within the profession that engages long-time members as well as non-ATA members of ATA chapters, affiliates, and sister associations in our industry?

Another way to put the question is, “What are the most important issues ATA members face?” The answer is market and technological changes. I grew up in the Internet Age and have watched machine translation develop during my career. I have listened to my senior colleagues talk about the “golden age” for translators and interpreters, and I have heard the concerns of how our jobs might be or have been replaced by machines or foreign labor. We talk about finding clients and client education at every conference. And language companies share these concerns with freelancers.