The Paperless Interpreter


Two New Tools for Better Email in Gmail

Like many business owners, I manage multiple email accounts. For many years, I used Mac computers exclusively. The native email client, Mail, never quite cut it because it was difficult to strike a balance between storing enough old email to be useful and having so much old email that it bogged the computer down. Fortunately there are many nice little Mac programs that will add a Gmail monitor to your task bar, so you can quickly see and reply to incoming messages.

Now that I’m using Windows again, I thought I would be able to use Outlook to manage my accounts, but for the life of me I cannot get it to reliably access more than one account. So, through it all, I have been using Google Business Apps to manage my business email accounts through Gmail. I use Chrome to access my accounts; several funnel into a main email account, and for others I have to log out and log back in to access them. This isn’t my ideal setup, but it does allow me to use a couple of very nice extensions I found that make Gmail even better.

Rapportive – This free extension replaces the ads that appear to the right of your email text with details for your contact. It pulls information from LinkedIn, MailChimp, and your own contact data to show your contact’s photos, job title, location, and recent updates, making it easier to add a personal touch to your communications.

Right Inbox – This extension adds my number-one most-wished-for feature to Gmail: the ability to draft an email and schedule it for delivery at a later time.  This is great, for example, for scheduling an appointment confirmation as soon as I book the appointment.  It also has some nifty features for recurring emails, reminders, and attaching private notes to emails, but so far I’ve only used the delivery scheduling feature. It’s free for use with up to 10 emails per month, and after that it’s a few dollars a month to upgrade.


Do you use similar features in other apps? What are your favorite extensions or tools for email in Mac? Let me know in the comments below.


Content Copyright © 2016, Preciso Language Services

PERMISSION TO REPRINT: You may use any items from this article in your print, blog, magazine or electronic newsletter. But in order to do so, you must include the following paragraph, including a link to

“Information courtesy of Preciso Language Services and,where Certified Translator and Master Licensed Court Interpreter Holly Behl blogs on language, technology, and justice from Dallas, Texas.”


Interpreter Training for a Mobile World

A few days ago I got the great news that my latest paperless project–an online court interpreter orientation course– has been approved by the Judicial Branch Certification Commission of Texas to fulfill the orientation requirement for Texas court interpreter licensure applicants.

Online JBCC Court Interpreter Orientation

I’ve taken some online interpreting training over the years, but it always seemed like the technology was outdated and limiting in the results offered. After years of toying with the idea of modernized interpreter training and making notes for course material, I finally found the kind of platform I wanted–one that actually works for students and people looking for a career switch by allowing them to access the course and make progress on-demand, from any device. Now I can combine my two passions–interpreting and teaching–with my ninja-like tech skills (hyperbole) for the benefit of the next generation of aspiring interpreters. There are talented people across Texas who would be a great asset to our profession; I believe this online orientation will allow more of them to determine whether this is a career path they’d like to pursue and understand what to do next if they want to move forward.

Do I think that an interpreter’s training should be 100% online? No. I can say without a doubt that my time in intensive coached training has been critical to my professional development and I sorely wish I had jumped in and had more onsite training earlier in my career. But, this orientation is supposed to provide a brief overview of interpreting in general and the court interpreting profession in particular. So I think it’s perfect for online delivery of some of the basic information, combined with remote live sessions for interactive practice and Q & A.

If you are interested in becoming a Texas court interpreter, feel free to check out the course signup page and see if you think this course is a good fit for you. I’m offering a 40% discount for anyone who signs up before the official launch date. I’ve also put together a Quick Guide to getting your Texas Court Interpreter License, which you can request for free on the course page.

Sign up using code PRELAUNCH2016: Roadmap to Success: Online Licensed Court Interpreter Orientation (JBCC APPROVED)


Content Copyright © 2016, Preciso Language Services

PERMISSION TO REPRINT: You may use any items from this article in your print, blog, magazine or electronic newsletter. But in order to do so, you must include the following paragraph, including a link to

“Information courtesy of Preciso Language Services and, a website with tips on translation and interpreting by Certified Translator and Master Licensed Court Interpreter Holly Behl.”

The Paperless Interpreter Experiment Part III: Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Since my successful experiment in using the Galaxy Note Tab 2 for interpreting notes, more than two years ago, I have happily used my tablet for consecutive note taking. My initial hesitations about push-back from judges or court security officers turned out to be unfounded—I haven’t had a single issue in being questioned on my use of a tablet, other than out of curiosity (“Does that thing translate everything for you and tell you what to say?”).

I now feel confident arriving to work with my tablet as just another tool of the trade, and would feel comfortable defending my use of it if necessary. (There is, undoubtedly, a protocol to bringing technology into the courtroom, but that is the subject of another post).

Today I’m excited to share my experience with what is truly the next generation in digital note taking: the just-released Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

My beloved Samsung tablet, though it’s now a little older and moves a little slower, still works perfectly for note taking. So I had no justification for upgrading. Until now.

Read more

My Four Favorite Tools for a Paperless Office


Growing up in Northern California meant care for our environment was celebrated and integrated into daily life. I’ve been recycling for as long as I can remember. At school, Earth Day was a week-long celebration, and in third grade I performed the “Recycle Rap” at a school event.

Now that I have a small business, I still believe in environmental stewardship and social responsibility. This means, in part, looking for ways to minimize the use of paper in my workflows and administrative processes. The only thing I consistently print is the final draft of my translations for final proofreading, since it is proven that typos are easier to spot on paper than on a screen.

Today I am going to share the four things that have made the biggest difference in drastically reducing paper usage in my workflows.

  1. Scanner with an Auto Document Feeder and two-sided scanning (the two most important features). I have a fairly fancy Kodak model and it was a game changer. It has a quick-access menu on my taskbar with multiple presets that include scanning specifications, default file name, and save-to location for my common documents. For the few clients that regularly produce billing paperwork, it takes less than a minute to scan it and have it securely stored in the correct folder.
  2. Adobe Acrobat. I love efficiency, so I really dislike having to print out a form, sign it, scan it, and email it. That paper lives a rather useless 5-minute life for an unnecessarily complicated process. I believe Acrobat Reader is sufficient to digitally fill out and sign PDFs without need for printing. However, the advantage with Acrobat is I can also create interactive forms for my contractors and clients, with a digital signature field and “send” button—and their completed document goes directly to a designated location on my computer. No one has to print anything.
  3. Tablet (Samsung Galaxy Note Tab 10.1). As I have written before on digital note taking for interpreters, I switched from legal pads to a digital tablet and stylus. Before, I was going through four or five bulk packs of legal pads each year. Now, I only keep a small notepad to use as a cheat sheet for recurring names and dates, and to write out spellings for the court reporters.
  4. Donated paper. Sometimes printing is unavoidable, so I try to re-use previously printed pages whenever possible. Most people I know also print two-sided to save paper, but occasionally one-sided printing happens. My printer does it once in a while when it goes on the blitz, printing a few hieroglyphs on the margin of each page until it runs out or I turn it off. I have let my close friends know that I will use such paper, since most of what I print is for internal use only (such as proofreading). During one conference I interpreted, the organizer printed each interpreter a 200-page stack of event materials, all one-sided. She consented to let us take the paper home to re-use it; it lasted me years, and it got two  uses before going into the recycle bin.

These are the tools that most drastically reduced my paper use. What are your favorite tips for a planet-friendly workflow?

Thinking About Taking a State Court Interpreter Exam? Here are my Top Recommendations

Last week I had a wonderful lunch with a talented young woman who is interested in becoming a court interpreter.  I learned about her background, motivations, and fears, and I believe she came away with a clearer idea of what lays ahead if she chooses to move forward. While I don’t know everything, I am always happy to share what I learned along the way.

Below I’m going to share some of the (mostly free and digital!) resources I recommended to her. These suggestions assume a university-level command of both languages and at least a basic understanding of legal concepts and procedures; what it takes for any individual to reach that point will vary.  In my case, I had lived in Mexico, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with specialized coursework in Translation and Linguistics, and worked as a community interpreter for several years before attempting a court interpreting exam.

I think aspiring court interpreters need to focus on two areas: preparing to interpret and preparing to be a business owner.  Weakness on either side will result in a rough path, regardless of the test results.

A glimpse of Holly's study sessions on Instagram @hollybehl

A glimpse of Holly’s study sessions on Instagram @hollybehl

Preparing to Interpret

I recently read some great advice for preparing for interpreting exams: Prepare beyond the exam.  Real-life court interpreting is full of mumbling witnesses, Spanglish, bad acoustics, witness stands designed for only one chair, instructions read into the record at lightning speed, and a thousand other suboptimal conditions for interpreting.  The exam, on the other hand, will be in a quiet room with clearly recorded speech, and you will be able to control things like the volume.  So, instead of focusing on the exam, focus on preparing extensively for real-life court work, and the exam will be relatively easy.

Practically, a basic principle of exam readiness is to be familiar with the exam format. The examinee should know the format so well that you know exactly what to expect at each stage of the exam.  Further, it should not be  necessary to listen to the exam instructions during the exam itself; know them so well that instruction time is a moment to breathe deeply and relax in the familiarity.

As for subject-matter study, memorization of decontextualized vocabulary lists is not recommended.  Instead, practice interpreting sample recordings as much as possible.  Look up new words and interpret the recording again until you can provide a smooth rendition.

Here are the resources I recommend to start your study:

I took the practice exam as a benchmark before starting any studying, and scored 45%–a huge distance from the 70% needed to earn a Master license in Texas. This informed my strategy for studying and test timing, and I later passed both phases of the state exam on the first try.

Before moving to the next section, I’d like to say that I can’t recommend enough the Agnese Haury Institute for Court Interpretation’s 3-week course in Tucson, Arizona. I attended in 2014 and it is absolutely worth the time, funds, and energy invested–my only regret is not attending at the beginning of my career.

Preparing to be a Business Owner

At least here in North Texas, staff positions for court interpreters are rare.  Instead, most interpreters work as freelancers for the courts, agencies, or direct clients.  To someone who has always worked as an employee, freelancing requires some radical lifestyle changes.  You will be master of your flexible new schedule, but you will not get paid for any time you take off or don’t find work.  You will charge a high hourly rate, but will see your revenue whittled down by overhead expenses and taxes.  You will have the ability to earn more if you invest in yourself and your business, but there will inevitably be slow periods when you will wonder if you’ve made the right choice.

To ease the transition, I recommend overpreparing, especially in learning about bookkeeping and accounting and in saving for your transition phase.  Fortunately there are many successful translators and interpreters blogging about their businesses and sharing a wealth of knowledge.

Here are a few resources I would categorize as required reading:

Now it’s your turn–what resources have proven essential for you in preparing for the state exam and transitioning to the freelance life?

Updated 2/15/2016: If you are looking to become a Texas Licensed Court Interpreter and you would like to enroll in my online orientation (which fulfills the JBCC orientation prerequisite for examination), click here: Roadmap to Success: Online Licensed Court Interpreter Orientation (JBCC Approved). I look forward to meeting you!



Content Copyright © 2016, Preciso Language Services

PERMISSION TO REPRINT: You may use any items from this article in your print, blog, magazine or electronic newsletter. But in order to do so, you must include the following paragraph, including a link to

“Information courtesy of Preciso Language Services and, a website with tips on translation and interpreting by Certified Translator and Master Licensed Court Interpreter Holly Behl.”

Evolution of a Dictionary Project: Interview with Legal Dictionary Author Javier F. Becerra

Each year, Mexico City’s Escuela Libre de Derecho announces a law-school elective course inconspicuously titled “Legal English Workshop.” Now approaching its twenty-fifth year, the course is still taught by attorney, professor, and author Javier F. Becerra. The professor has written two legal dictionaries, the Dictionary of United States Legal Terminology (with Spanish explanations) and the Dictionary of Mexican Legal Terminology (with English explanations), each more than 1,000 pages, that are prized assets in many legal translators’ collections.

Dallas Texas court interpreter interviews legal dictionary author Javier Becerra

Becerra’s dictionaries on my shelf, in brown and yellow.

The Walking Dictionary

To understand Becerra’s dictionaries, however, we must leave the professor at his lectern for a moment and find him as a young Mexican lawyer, Read more

Top 3 Apps to Increase Productivity This Year

Even after seven years of freelancing, I still look for new ways to be more productive during work time. The more efficiently I work, the more I can truly enjoy my time off — instead of thinking about what I still need to get done.

So, here are my top three apps for increasing productivity:

  1. Expensify (iOS + Android) – During the year-end break, I finished up my bookkeeping for 2013. Although I’m happy that it improved over the previous year, it wasn’t up to the level I want. Ideally, I would like mileage and expense logs to update instantaneously, so I never have to spend time catching up. Finally, Expensify offers a streamlined solution. I can quickly snap a photo of a receipt, categorize it, and specify whether it’s a billable expense, all in the same upload. For business mileage, all I have to do is hit a button at the start of a trip and let the GPS track me. All my data is available from the Expensify website and I can easily export it Excel. Bonus: My CPA suggests that keeping up-to-date logs is the best way to benefit from all possible deductions.
  2. Timesheet (Android) – Until now, the time trackers I had found just didn’t fit my style. The Printable CEO has good Pomodoro-type printouts, and there are a ton of programs to help you log project times. But I test drove Timesheet on a recent forensic-transcription project (Preciso’s newest service offering, yay!) and it turned out to be the project tracker I was waiting for. It lets me annotate work completed during each time period dedicated to a project. It gives me analysis across a project and allows multiple projects.The widget on my phone makes it easy as pie easy to start and pause tasks. As an added bonus, having the break timer ticking was a nice motivator to get back on task.

    Timesheet - Productivity for Translators

    Timesheet – Productivity for Translators

  3. Facebook – Surprised? Well, my suggestion is actually to take Facebook (or your time sink of choice) and uninstall the app from your phone. We all have those sites we like to check in on for one or two or forty minutes when faced with a work task we’d rather not do (see #1, in my case). It’s time to take control and save these sites for a hard-earned, guilt-free break. At minimum, turn off all notifications so you only log in when you’ve decided you have some time for it.

These are my favorite productivity boosters right now. My sister, who works from a home office as a mortgage underwriter, just started using Timesheet and loves it. Do you have a favorite timekeeping app for Apple? Other productivity apps we should know about?

San Antonio for Translators – An Insider's Guide

Today, translators and interpreters around the world are gearing up for the 54th American Translators Association conference in San Antonio. I’m excited to meet everyone in such a uniquely Texan city. The downtown has a wonderful art deco feel, and the area still preserves a lot of flavor from its roots as a Spanish colony.

Of course, you can visit the Alamo. And any guide will tell you to visit the San Antonio Riverwalk, a special downtown hub for restaurants where you can ride a gondola or take a water taxi after dinner. But, there are a few other authentically San Antonio destinations that are well worth a little excursion.


  1. Boerne, Texas grew from communities founded by German revolutionaries who conversed in Latin. Now, it’s a lovely town with a nature center for birding and hiking, a Wild West theme park (open Saturday and Sunday only) and two living caves.
  2. Bandera, Texas is authentic cowboy country. Bandera hosts events almost every day, including a Western display on Saturday afternoons and a Cowboy Camp with traditional cowboy music on Sunday. You can also visit one of the dude ranches for hiking, horseback riding, fossil digging, and more.
  3. John T. Floore Country Store is part of a select group of Texas venues with terrible acoustics and a long history of hosting some of the biggest names in country music. It also also has a café where the food is named after musicians, and you can try country fried steak or fried pickles. There are shows on Friday and Saturday nights during the conference, and every Sunday Floore’s hosts a free dance with live music.
  4. King William Historic District. Named after King Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, this area offers a neighborhood full of 19th-century mansions and the historic Guenther House Restaurant. Guenther House is built on a flour mill property and gets very busy for brunch on the weekends, but in the meantime you can stroll the grounds and peruse the store for pancake and waffle mixes to take home as souvenirs. This District is located at the opposite end of the Riverwalk from the convention center.
  5. Japanese Tea Garden. An interesting, peaceful haven not far from downtown.
  6. Ranch at the Rim. By special request, I checked into the best place to buy cowboy boots and the answer was Ranch at the Rim. They offer boots, hats, and western accessories at a variety of price points. Click here for a free boot care kit with purchase. Cabela’s is another, less local, option.
  7. San Antonio Spurs. Basketball fans can catch a home game versus the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night or the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
  8. Legendary San Marcos outlets. I usually seek cultural and historical destinations rather than shopping, but these are not your average outlets. There are high-end stores like Burberry and Barney’s New York, and with 140 stores, there is a lot of price competition to attract buyers with the best deals. I’ve found some truly incredible deals on quality items. Serious shoppers make a week-long vacation out of this place. Tip: Guest services will sell you a $5 coupon book entitling you to a single-use additional discount on your entire purchase at many stores. Student, teacher, and military IDs can get you this book for free.

Finally, a mini attraction: I’ve got a few things up my sleeve for this conference. One is a special Texas edition sticker, and the other is a Galaxy Gear smart watch! Look for me around the convention center to get your sticker and a futuristic watch-camera portrait.

Dallas interpreter technology

See you in San Antonio!


The Paperless Interpreter Experiment: Part II

When I posted about my first experiment with paperless interpreting a few months back, I heard from interpreters around the world who had come to the same conclusion: the iPad is great for accessing references, but not for taking notes while interpreting.

But I’m happy to announce that I have since gone (nearly) paperless, thanks to the Galaxy Note Tab 10.1.

First the summary, then the details. Click on any photo to see a larger version.


While it’s still not a perfect device, the Galaxy Note fulfills my requirements and continues to delight me. I still bring half a reporter’s pad to interpreting jobs out of paranoia (and to jot down unusual spellings for the court reporter), but I’ve now successfully used the Galaxy tab rather than paper for notetaking for several months.

The Experiment

Hardware: Samsung Galaxy Note Tab 10.1″ + integrated stylus


  • S-Note (included)
  • iAnnotatePDF (free)
  • Dolphin Browser (free)



  • Interpeting Notes. PASS

This is the first tablet I’ve found that is actually designed for handwriting. l like that the tablet will register my actual handwriting for interpreting notes, as opposed to converting handwriting to typed text.

The Note integrates its stylus in a lot of neat ways, with the Android customizability that I’ve grown to love. l can set a shortcut so that a program of my choosing opens automatically when I dislodge the stylus from its nest. Also, when the stylus is disconnected, certain programs turn off recognition of my hand or fingers entirely, rather than masking certain parts of the screen à la iPad.

My fingers do occasionally hit the OS taskbar and open menus unintentionally, but I fully expect to find an app that allows me to customize the taskbar as I did with my Android phone (which I’ve set to hide the taskbar that shows battery, network, etc. until I pull down from the top of the screen with two fingers).

  • Reference: PASS

Glossaries and apps are equally accessible as with iPad but this tablet has a couple of additional capabilities that knocked my socks off:

Split screen. The Note allows true multi-tasking, with split screen or moveable floating windows.

iAnnotate. This app allows me to overlay handwritten notes on a PDF. I can export the whole thing to a PDF and store it in Evernote, email it, or print it.

  • Work during downtime: FAIL

It was only fair to fail the Note in this area because it won’t replace my laptop entirely. However, I definitely use the Note for word processing much more than the iPad.

Composing documents using handwriting recognition has enabled me to get more done during those little lulls between interpreting jobs that are too short to go back to the office. The handwriting recognition engine is the best I’ve seen, by far. Rather than recognizing strokes or letters, the engine recognizes the whole word as I write, even if I go back and add a letter in the middle of the word. The latest update also fixes an annoying need to manually add a space after each word.

Note: The photos show an inaccurate conversion because I took the photos while the handwriting was still visible to show the engine at work. Once I stop writing, the recognition engine finalizes its choice, which is usually correct, but by that time the handwriting is no longer visible.

The downsides to real work on the Note is that it requires a Microsoft-compatible app rather than allowing me to actually use Microsoft Office. This means that formatting sometimes gets messed up after I open a document in the tablet. Interacting with Word and Excel documents is definitely easier with the Note’s stylus compared to the iPad, though.

If this were my top priority l would buy the Surface, which offers the real Microsoft Office and very sleek external keyboards.

  •  Entertainment: PASS

As l mentioned last time, my criteria are low for this, but l can use Twitter and read the Economist.

So there you have it, a perfect excuse to justify a new gadget as a business expense and save some trees at the same time. What do you say?