LEO7: Embracing the Future

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by Mila Bekoeva

Linguist Education Online (LEO)’s 7th Virtual Conference hosted in June brought together language industry professionals from around the world for an engaging and enlightening experience. Together with over 400 attendees, I had the opportunity and pleasure to participate in various sessions and panel discussions that covered a wide range of topics, from the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on interpreting to the importance of language access in healthcare. I thought to share my input here.


The conference kicked off with a thought-provoking panel discussion titled “What the Future Holds,” featuring AAITE Chair Giovanna Carriero-Contreras, ATA President-Elect Veronika Demichelis, and ELIA President Diego Cresceri, who shared their insights on AI and its implications for language professionals. The panel emphasized the ethical considerations surrounding technology and the importance of continuous learning. I feel confident that the future of our industry is not at all bleak as I thought before this panel.


What the Future Holds panel

The “crowd went wild” with the panel on Tech-Savvy Freelancing that provided helpful practical tips for embracing technology in our work. Presenters Paul Tracy, Nora Díaz, Lorena Ortiz Schneider, and Katharine Allen shared their expertise on different technology tools to enhance efficiency and integrate them seamlessly into our professions. We were all particularly fascinated by demonstrations of ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, which showcased the potential of AI in language-related tasks. While everyone acknowledged the limitations and potential pitfalls of AI, we recognized the importance of staying on top of technological advancements and not letting fear hinder our learning.

The presentation on AI and the language industry by Nimdzi’s Senior Consultant Laszlo Varga shed light on the role of AI in translation and its impact on the

language industry. While there were concerns about AI replacing human interpreters, we were left inspired, realizing that human linguists still play an invaluable role in editing and adding value to AI-generated translations. I felt that this session brought some calm perspective into my viewpoint of AI after my mind was nearly blown by the impact of the previous sessions.


Laszlo's presentation

The conference then delved into legal aspects with sessions such as “Translation of Contracts with No Fear” presented by Gulnara Shigabutdinova, and sessions on advocacy by NBCMI Chair Gustavo Negrete and federal compliance expert Bruce Adelson. We enjoyed the practical advice provided by Gulnara for deciphering legal contracts to make them easier to translate and appreciated the breakdown of legal terminology and structure.

In their respective advocacy sessions, both Gustavo and Bruce emphasized the importance of advocating for language access in healthcare settings, addressing discrimination, and understanding the legal framework. Bruce focused on the overall goal of advocacy captured in the title: Winning! We left feeling empowered to be agents of change within our respective fields.

And that was just the 1st day of LEO7!


The second day of the conference started with the Legal Panel on “Language Access, Health Care Disparities, and the Biden Administration”. As always, the dynamic duo of Bruce Adelson and Carla Fogaren provided practical insights into the legal aspects of language services, emphasizing the consequences for non-compliant entities. Carla, a National Consultant on Equity and Language Access in Health Care, struck a chord with the audience sharing her experience as a child interpreter, acknowledging the challenges of language access coordinators, and advocating for their recognition and support. Bruce shed light on the legal obligations surrounding language access, including effective communication. This panel discussion not only deepened our understanding of health care disparities, access to insurance, and language assistance but also provided actionable takeaways on how to address these issues within our own organizations.

the Legal panel

Robin Ragan’s presentation on interpreting for the psychosocial evaluation also received glowing testimonials from participants. Robin provided an excellent explanation of the differences between therapy and evaluation, highlighting the unique structure of the psychosocial interview, as well as valuable preparation tips, including setting up a suitable workspace for long interviews, clearing the mind, honoring the story, and having items of comfort nearby. 

CCHI’s Director Natalya Mytareva delivered an informative session on elevating healthcare interpreting standards through certification, specifically focusing on the CoreCHI-P. Many participants shared their commitment to staying up to date with continuing education requirements and acknowledged the doors that certification opens for job opportunities and recognition in the healthcare and education sectors.

Natalya extensively discussed the differences between CoreCHI-P and CHI certifications, focusing on the development and purpose of the EtoE exam. The presentation offered valuable tips for improving skills, and expressed hope that the well-developed exam could help more interpreters get evaluated and certified.

Bruce Adelson and Natalya Mytareva

The lighthearted closing presentation by Caitilin Walsh specifically addressing Craiyon (a free AI art generator), Sydney (Microsoft’s new Bing chatbot AI), and ChatGPT (the current version of the OpenAI language model) captivated the audience with visual examples, where spooky-looking hands imagined by AI were causing a whole spectrum of emotional reactions from the audience. Caitilin emphasized the need to strike a balance between AI and human involvement, as AI can curate information but lacks a genuine understanding of it. It also falls short on ethical decision-making, sensitive and personal interactions, creative and artistic pursuits, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Attendees appreciated the advice to exercise critical thinking, verify information, and expand their horizons in the face of advancing technology.

One of the highlights of the conference were the interactive breakout rooms, where attendees had the opportunity to engage in discussions with industry experts. The rooms, hosted by Scott Mirsky, Bruce Adelson, Mireya Pérez, and Janis Palma, provided a platform for deeper exploration of specific topics from legal matters and compliance, to branding and marketing. Attendees had the chance to interact with the renowned professionals, ask questions, and exchange ideas with fellow participants, further enriching our conference experience. We could also hop from room to room, which allowed for even more flexibility.

LEO’s 7th Conference was a resounding success, providing all of us with a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and networking opportunities. It raised awareness about potential issues with AI, including data bias, algorithmic bias, and hallucinations, which can render AI unsafe or outdated. We were encouraged to advocate for safety measures such as human review, the prohibition of subliminal messages, and disclosure of AI usage. The conference served as a reminder to continuously learn, adapt, and advocate for language access and ethical practices.

LEO’s commitment to organizing such informative online events has undoubtedly contributed to the growth and development of the language industry. I don’t’ know about you, but I am eagerly anticipating the winter installment – LEO’s 8th Conference in December, and the opportunity to continue expanding our horizons within this ever-evolving amazing field that is the language industry.

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