Review of Alfonso Villaseñor’s Conference Interpretation Workshop

Conference Interpretation, a Workshop presented by Alfonso Villaseñor at Vision for Equality in Philadelphia from September 26-28, 2014, was absolutely superb.

Just like the advertising flyer stated, the requisite skills for simultaneous interpreting were clearly expounded, and the participants had many opportunities to put them into practice under the keen ear of the professor.

The workshop consisted of three full days of practice and learning.  After each lengthy practice, which was recorded by the professor, we listened to each of the participants’ renditions followed by the professor’s specific feedback.

On the last two days we were able to interpret from interpreting booths just like in a real conference setting. It gave us a feel for the work of the conference interpreter and an opportunity to use the equipment.

By way of value added, we were near the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, and thus it was an easy walk for lunch with our colleagues. There was plenty of parking and public transportation was conveniently located.

Without a doubt this was one of the best workshops I have experienced in a while, and I believe this feeling was unanimous among the participants.

Many thanks to our capable professor and our congenial and talented colleagues.

Cecilia Spearing
English<>Spanish Interpreter and Translator
AOPC Certified

Attendees practicing their conference-interpreting skills

Attendees practicing their conference-interpreting skills

Alfonso Villaseñor instructing the attendees of the Conference Interpretation workshop

Alfonso Villaseñor instructing the attendees of the Conference Interpretation workshop


The Nuremberg Trials: Where Interpretation was Born

DSCN9384 web largeThe Nuremberg trials are a historical landmark. For the first time ever, the leaders of a defeated nation were brought to justice in front of a jury. Instead of being summarily executed, they were allowed a voice to defend the acts they had committed during war time.

The Nazi leaders brought to trial, and probably their attorneys, spoke only German. The jury members from the Allies (the nations fighting against Germany and its Axis) spoke English, French or Russian.

Out of this unique circumstance, the interpretation profession as we know it today was born.DSCN9386 web large

That is why for us, translators and interpreters, listening to Dr. George Sakheim’s personal account of his participation, as a German-English interpreter, at the Nuremberg trials is such a rewarding, humbling and inspirational experience.

If you missed it last October, you can watch the video recorded by our fellow member Rudy Tellez by clicking here: Dr. George Sakheim’s The Nuremberg Trials.

After you do, don’t forget to post a link to this post in your Facebook or twitter accounts.

You can read Vicki Hain Poorman’s post on this event here:


Presentation “A Witness to History” by Dr. George Sakheim

Saturday, October 12, 2013 at La Salle University

Vicki Hain Poorman

The presentation by Dr. George Sakheim on his experiences in WWII and as an interpreter at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials was so interesting that the hardest part of writing this will be deciding what to omit.

It was a pleasure to see such a large turnout of DVTA members and others on the La Salle University campus. The presentation started a few minutes late, and went longer than planned, but I never felt the time dragged. Dr. Sakheim, in his 90s, moves and speaks a little slowly, but every word was interesting, and the accompanying slide show he presented was remarkable.

Dr. Sakheim was born in Germany; his family left in 1933 and moved to Palestine at his mother’s insistence. She had lost her job solely because she was Jewish, and she feared for her family’s future in Hitler’s Germany. In 1938, George came to New York City to attend high school and later university. He was drafted at 19 into the US Army and served as an interrogator with Army Intelligence. He was among the troops that liberated the Nordhausen concentration camp.  Upon his discharge in 1945, he learned of the upcoming war crimes trials in Germany and applied to work as an interpreter for them. He was only 22 years old.

The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials in 1945 and 46 involved the first extensive use of simultaneous interpretation, with equipment. As such, it was a watershed moment in the history of our profession. Dr. Sakheim’s comments on interpreting were not the majority of his presentation, but did show that he and his colleagues were applying some of the same principles and practices we use today. A colleague of mine mentioned being especially impressed by a couple of anecdotes:  At one point, the young George had to stop interpreting for the former German economics minister, because his own knowledge of the subject was not up to the task. He and his colleagues had to remain neutral in the face of revelations about what had happened to so many Jews and others under the Nazi regime, even though many of the interpreters had themselves been Jewish refugees from Germany.

Part of his slide show included pictures of Nordhausen camp just after it was liberated. I’ve seen such pictures before; they are always appalling, and rightfully so. We need to remember the horrible things that happened in them. His photos of the trials were both fascinating and disturbing; the interpreters at their work, the defendants laughing among themselves during breaks, the judges and attorneys at their tables.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here to thank all of our colleagues who put this together. Rudy Tellez, member of the DVTA Board and adjunct instructor at La Salle , heard of Dr. Sakheim, proposed asking him to speak, and provided much organizational effort; La Salle University allowed the DVTA to use their facilities; CETRA Language Solutions sponsored the enjoyable reception that followed. There were, I know, many more people whose volunteer work helped carry off this event. I am grateful to all of you.

ATA-certified translator, Vicki Hain Poorman holds a Master’s degree  for Spanish and English Translation/Interpretation from Monterrey Institute of International Studies and works as a professional medical interpreter at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia  as well as an adjunct instructor at La Salle University .

Special DVTA Guest Speaker Event – “A Witness to History”

get-attachmentSaturday, October 12, 2013 – 11 AM to 2 PM

This special event is co-sponsored by DVTA Corporate Members, La Salle University and CETRA Language Solutions.

WWII Veteran, George Sakheim, will speak  about his experience as an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials.  Location: La Salle University, Dan Rodden Theatre 1900 W. Olney Avenue – Philadelphia, PA 19141 The Nuremberg military tribunal prosecuted nearly two-dozen top Nazi leaders between November of 1945 and October of 1946. Apart from its historical importance, it also laid the ground work for the interpreting profession as we know it today. Join us on Saturday, October 12, 2013 (11:00AM-2PM) at La Salle University’s Dan Rodden Theatre, where we will be privileged to listen to Dr. George Sakheim’s story, “A Witness to History.” Dr. Sakheim, having served in World War II in the U.S. Army’s 104th Infantry Division as a prisoner-of-war interrogator, was recruited to serve as a civilian interpreter during the Nuremberg trials. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone who is interested in hearing a first-hand account of such a significant event.

Approved by the Administrative Offices of PA Courts for 3 CEUs.
Approved by the American Translators Association for 2 CE points.