Community

Katharine Allen

Director of Language Industry Learning at Boostlingo

Author, Educator, Founder, Volunteer
Bishop, California, USA

I have spent my career in the least recognized and resourced side of language services, where immigrants become linguists and practitioners become activists. To be recognized in MultiLingual magazine as someone who has had a consequential impact means everything to me.

My journey as an interpreter began in 1990 in Cahuelmo Fjord, a remote finger of ocean reaching into Chile’s rugged Andes mountains. Standing next to a Chilean Air Force helicopter pilot, I acted as the ad hoc interpreter for an unruly group of American scientists, nature photographers, and journalists waiting to be ferried up to the jutting, vertical peaks rising above us. Thus, by happy accident, as for so many in our industry, I got hooked.

The language industry, for all its focus on technology, lies at the heart of human connection. Without the ability to overcome language barriers, our world would be a pale shadow of itself. The opportunity to be at the junction of human communication drew me into this field; the chance to help it evolve has kept me busy ever since.

I began as a community interpreter, helping educators and doctors speak with immigrants seeking services. But I am a restless person. I soon wanted to impact what I saw beyond the act of interpreting: the inequities, the burdens placed on under-resourced interpreters, the lack of provider understanding, the almost complete absence in the 1990s of a formal profession to ensure language access, and eventually, the coming tidal wave of technological disruption.

I raised my hand to volunteer and found many others on the same path. Together, we have created professional associations, built training programs, run conferences, partnered with language and technology companies, worked to break down barriers inside interpreting, and advocated to raise its profile on the outside.

At every step, I have been mentored and empowered by outstanding colleagues, too many to name here. I thank you all, for everything. You have blessed my life.

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ACCOLADES

Katharine continues to have a profound impact on the professionalization of our fields. The deep insight with which she embraces new challenges is nothing less than inspiring.

Katharine has always worked hard to help younger people in their life’s journey.

Katharine wholeheartedly applies her extensive knowledge about the T&I professions to foster growth, collaboration, and positive change across a variety of arenas. She is forward-thinking and strategic.

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By Morgan Teller

If there is ever a “Language Industry Hall of Fame,” Katharine will surely be among the inaugural inductees. Katharine is an established healthcare and community interpreter with over three decades of experience. As co-founder of InterpretAmerica, Katharine worked for 10 years to raise the profile of interpreting. She helped form the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California and was a member of the American Translators Association Advocacy Committee. Katharine is former president of the California Healthcare Interpreting Association and is a founding member of the American Association of Interpreters and Translators in Education. An accomplished author, Katharine wrote The Indigenous Interpreter, The Community Interpreter, The Medical Interpreter, among other books.

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