An Interview with Karen Borgenheimer

The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF), together with the Spanish Language Division (SPD) of the American Translators Association (ATA) and Florida International University (FIU)*, are proud to present an INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE on March 16-18, 2018 in Miami,  Florida.

In an effort to share more information about some of our presenters and organizers, we will be publishing a series of mini interviews. Below is our conversation with Karen Borgenheimer, Acting Coordinator of the Translation & Interpretation Program of FIU.

Please tell us about your background. You have worked as a certified court interpreter and instructor for many years. What major changes have you seen in the U.S. as it relates to our profession?

My professional trajectory as both an educator and T&I professional has taken on a life of its own over the years! I received a Masters of Fine Arts in Translation from the University of Arkansas, where I began both my teaching and T&I careers. Shortly after graduation, I was hired as director and professor for a bilingual program at the Real Centro Universitario “Maria Cristina” in San Lorenzo de Escorial (Madrid). During my tenure there, I studied interpreting at the renowned Sampere Escuela de Traductores e Intérpretes in Madrid.

Upon returning to the US nearly a decade later, I studied Legal Translation and Court Interpreting in the Florida International University (FIU) T&I Program, passed my certification exams, and began teaching T&I courses at FIU, where I have been a professor since 2002.

Over the years, I have seen major changes in the profession. As a classically-trained translator and interpreter, when I returned from Spain I was shocked to find out that the majority of interpreters and translators in the U.S. had little or no academic training in the field. Today, this is changing due to the new state regulations in force for judiciary interpreters. The continuing education requirement for state certification is helping interpreters become recognized as true professionals rather than a necessary evil.

As one of the representatives of Florida International University (FIU), you have had the enormous task of organizing this year’s Spring into Action Conference together with the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) and the Spanish Language Division of the American Translators Association (ATA SPD). Why would you recommend working in this manner to other ATA chapters or universities?

The ATA-SPD reached out to me well over a year ago about the possibility of holding “Spring into Action 2018” at Florida International University (Miami). This piqued my interest as we have one of the oldest Translation and Interpretation programs (1980) in the country. The wheels were set in motion.

FIU is a major university with a total population of 65,000, so reserving an entire building and ensuring parking, catering, and technical support was no simple task, but that was the first step. Spring Break in March was the only logical date for a T&I Conference on a campus of this size. Spring Break – Spring into Action, I knew I could sell the idea to university administrators, and indeed I did. The next step was for the ATA-SPD to contact the local ATA Chapter (ATIF) and sell the idea to them; they did! Now we are just six weeks away from this extraordinary endeavor!

Education is the key to success in any profession, and I believe that hard work does pay off when you truly believe in something. In the furtherance of the T&I profession, it is essential that ATA Chapters and local universities work together on future events of this type.

There are many more T & I conferences that will be held all over the world in 2018, catering to a variety of knowledge levels, networking needs, relaxation opportunities, and budgets. Why is Spring into Action different?

I believe that what sets “Spring into Action 2018” apart from other conferences is its smaller size, which gives participants the opportunity to truly participate and not just get lost in the crowd. Meeting industry talent from around the world is an amazing learning experience. Further, the fact that the FIU T&I Program is providing the space at no cost has helped ensure an incredibly affordable price for participants.

Why is Spring into Action important for a translator or interpreter who is just starting his/her career? What do you think experienced translators will take away from participating in this event?

I am thrilled that many of FIU’s T&I students and other novices will be able to participate in the conference in a “hands-on” capacity. This event will help broaden their horizons and enable them to see endless possibilities for their chosen profession. Education, self-motivation and meeting T&I professionals from around the world is a win-win situation.

This holds true for seasoned professionals as well. This is a chance for them to polish their skills and network with other professionals while learning new concepts. Becoming stagnant is not an option for T&I professionals. Just like doctors, lawyers and other professionals, we too need to keep up with the changes in a fast-paced global environment.

[Editors of this article for the SPD: Lisa Carter and Danielle Maxson]

Pilar Saslow is an English to Spanish translator and interpreter. For the past 34 years, she has helped Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, health and beauty businesses, and consumer products companies reach Spanish speakers in the U.S. and Latin America. She has also volunteered her time since the SPD was established in 1996 and was the first editor of IntercambiosOutside of work, she can be found reading, snuggling with her grandchildren, cooking, or travelling. You can contact her at

*DISCLAIMER: Florida International University’s Translation and Interpretation Program is providing space at the FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus as a professional courtesy to the American Translators Association’s Spanish Language Division and the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida for the event “Spring into Action 2018.” FIU/T&I is not responsible for the content, finances, or administration of the event.