By Molly Yurick
This year’s ATA School Outreach Contest winner gave a weeklong summer class on interpreting skills in Portland, Maine.
Above photo: From left: School Outreach Program volunteer Anne Connor, School Outreach Program volunteer Molly Yurick, ATA School Outreach winner Majlinda Mulla-Everett, and School Outreach Program Coordinator Meghan Konkol at ATA’s 62nd Annual Conference in Minneapolis.
Majlinda Mulla-Everett, an ATA member from Saco, Maine, won a free registration to ATA’s 62nd Annual Conference in Minneapolis through ATA’s 2021 School Outreach Contest. Majlinda won for submitting a story and accompanying photo she took with students at a weeklong interpreter training summer class she taught at Portland High School.
Teaching In-Depth Interpreting Skills to Multilingual Students
Majlinda worked hard to prepare materials to teach students in Portland High School’s Exploring Interpretation as a Career summer class, which ran four hours a day for one week. All students were high schoolers from 9th to 12th grade and spoke Arabic, French, Lingala, Portuguese, and Spanish. “It was a great opportunity to give the students a chance to learn how they can use their language skills,” she said.
Majlinda started by visiting ATA’s School Outreach resources page to get ideas for the class and then built her materials off her real-life experiences working in Maine. “My aspiration was to provide students with all the tips and knowledge I have. I wanted to make sure they understood how valuable it is to be bilingual and how to turn that skill into something that can help the community where they live and potentially make a living out of it,” she said.
Majlinda covered a wide range of topics, including understanding the difference between an interpreter and a translator, the languages that are utilized in Maine, the principles and ethics of interpreting, misinterpretations, funny translations, remote interpreting during the pandemic, decision-making, and certification.
“With the variety of topics covered during those days, I wanted to give students a sense of the real deal of the business. From community to medical to court interpreting, the students found each of the settings to be intriguing,” Majlinda said. “I invited different interpreters as my guest speakers to share the firsthand experiences they’ve had during their professional lives.”
Majlinda said the best part was seeing how the students started exchanging their language knowledge with each other. “One of the funny moments was when we were doing a role-play exercise that took place in a hypothetical medical setting and they were unaware of the medical term ‘stool.’ Once they received a definition, they burst out laughing.” As the week progressed, Majlinda said the students would ask each other for opinions on different words to make sure they were providing accurate interpretations.
“When we played a memory game, I showed them the importance of practicing,” Majlinda said. “We did three rounds of the same case. By the third round, they would interpret without any omissions. It was great to see the impression and excitement on their faces.”
At the end of the week, Majlinda received lots of positive feedback from students. “Students were thankful for the opportunity to learn from a real-life interpreter. I loved working with these compassionate students.”
Inspiration for the Winning Photo and Story
Majlinda said she has attended hundreds of trainings and conferences throughout her professional life and loves taking photos at them to preserve her positive memories and experiences. “When I noticed how the students were getting closer to each other and working together during role-plays, I thought that was an important moment to catch.”
Majlinda admitted that she almost didn’t submit her photo and story to the contest because she assumed she wouldn’t win. “I started jumping up and down when I read the email with the news,” she laughed.
How Majlinda Got the Gig
Majlinda works as a medical and legal interpreter and interpreter scheduler at House of Languages, a company that provides language services in Maine for over 30 languages. She is also a Maine State Notary Public.
House of Languages works with many schools in Maine, including Portland Public Schools (PPS). There are 61 languages currently spoken in PPS, where 34% of students come from families that speak languages other than English at home. The school district was also the first in Maine to offer the Seal of Biliteracy. In collaboration with various community organizations and language access advocates, PPS started offering Interpreting as a Career Opportunity classes for high school students 20 years ago. Currently, they have an Exploring Interpretation as a Career class at each of their high schools.
Last spring, Portland High School’s extended learning opportunities coordinator reached out to House of Languages to see if they could teach a summer class on interpreting skills. The company’s president thought Majlinda would be a good fit, and she was thrilled to take on the challenge.
A Language Career that Started with Telenovelas
Majlinda was born in Pistina, Republic of Kosovo, and grew up in a multilingual home. “My father’s primary language is Albanian and my mother’s was Montenegrin.” Majlinda learned the importance of language inclusion from a very young age and has been passionate about interpreting for as long as she can remember.
“When I was growing up in Kosovo, there wasn’t much TV content in my native language, Albanian. My mom and I would watch Spanish telenovelas subtitled in Albanian together, but my mom didn’t speak Albanian,” Majlinda explained. “I would simultaneously interpret the Albanian subtitles into Montenegrin to her. I developed a fast interpreting pace and even learned a bit of Spanish.” This is when Majlinda started to think about becoming an interpreter one day.
Majlinda also received a multilingual education. Classes were taught in Albanian at Majlinda’s elementary school, in Bosnian at her high school, and in Albanian at the University of Prishtina, where she earned a BS in political science.
“Because my mother’s native language was Montenegrin, I easily learned Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. I’ve learned English and Macedonian throughout the years,” she explained.
When asked what she enjoys most about her work, Majlinda said she likes the quick decision-making interpreting requires. “Producing an accurate interpretation provides me with deep happiness and satisfaction,” she said. “Seeing the client receive an interpreted message with ease makes me fall in love with languages more. Interpreting is part of my daily life and it’s impossible to imagine my day without it.”
Majlinda knows the importance of maintaining her interpreting skills. She has completed a 12-hour basic skills of interpreting course and a 50-hour introduction to medical interpreting course. She has also attended many Cross-Cultural Communications webinars, conferences hosted by the New England Translators Association and the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care, and various legal trainings on different topics.
Majlinda moved to Maine in 2015 to marry her husband and currently lives in the city of Saco, where she is raising her daughter in a multilingual environment. On top of her work at House of Languages, she also serves on the Intercultural Competency and Awareness Ad-Hoc Committee at the City of Saco Municipality. “The purpose of this committee is to bring together the members of the community, councilors, and staff to address inequality and bias issues in our community,” Majlinda said. She is also an associate member of Saco’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Majlinda said she was thrilled to have received free registration for winning the School Outreach Contest, especially because it was her first ATA conference. “What a great way to visit Minneapolis, get educated, network, socialize, and on top of it all become an ATA School Outreach Contest winner,” she said. “This is proof that if you want to thrive in your life, you cannot just sit and think about it. It has to be done. The ATA62 Conference has brought me so many great memories to take back with me and cherish them until next year’s conference.”
Getting Involved in the School Outreach Effort
ATA launched the School Outreach Program in 2004 to educate students about translation and interpreting and to spark interest in these rewarding career fields. Through the program, professional linguists speak to students at all levels, highlighting the career benefits of learning another language and the increasing potential for exciting work for those with language skills. Using a variety of model presentations and activities available on ATA’s website, presenters outline the requirements for becoming a professional translator or interpreter, emphasizing that these careers demand far more than simply being bilingual. For more information, visit https://www.atanet.org/career-education/school-outreach/.
Don’t miss your opportunity to make a difference—join our efforts! The 2022 School Outreach Contest is now open, and the winner will receive a free registration to ATA’s 63rd Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California, October 12–15, 2022. We accept submissions of photos and stories from presentations to any age group in any educational setting, from pre-school to college to adult education. School presentations may be made in person or virtually. The deadline is July 22, 2022. For more information, visit www.atanet.org/career-education/school-outreach/contest.
Molly Yurick is a Spanish>English translator, subtitler, and copywriter based in northern Spain. Specializing in tourism and hospitality translation, her subtitles can be found on the world’s largest streaming service. In addition to participating in ATA’s School Outreach Program, she serves as deputy chair of ATA’s Public Relations (PR) Committee and is a member of its PR Writers Group. firstname.lastname@example.org