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Published September 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

Interpreters help assist foreign guests

How do you make sure a small army of foreign guests has a smooth experience touring Big Iron? With a small army of interpreters, of course.

How do you make sure a small army of foreign guests has a smooth experience touring Big Iron? With a small army of interpreters, of course.

For the third year in a row, the U.S. Commercial Service recruited a team of volunteer translators – mostly students from Fargo-Moorhead colleges and universities – to help keep the lines of communication open between North Dakota agriculture vendors and the

100-some foreign visitors who gathered here for the show this past week.

That contingent represented 12 different countries, and required the services of translators in seven different languages: Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Kazakh, Ukrainian and Uzbek. About 20 volunteers worked rotating shifts at Big Iron, donning neon orange hats and jackets labeled with the languages they spoke.

Heather Ranck, an international trade specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service in Fargo, said the program is a good fit for students looking for experience in international business and international affairs.

Some participants use the program as a career opportunity. Eugene Korotkin, an MBA student at North Dakota State University, said he volunteered in part to make business contacts and to get hands-on work in international business.

Did he get involved because he’s a student who happens to speak Russian? Try again, says Korotkin, who is from Moscow: “I’m a Russian who happens to speak English.”

Others are just happy to get the chance to put their native tongues to use. Like Daria Kirilenko, who was born in Russia but has lived in the United States for a decade.

“God knows there are not that many Russians in Fargo,” said Kirilenko, who works at a nonprofit in Fargo. “The only people I speak Russian with now are my parents, and my Russian is getting a little rusty.”

When it comes to translating for agribusiness guests, however, Kirilenko ran into a few challenges.

“They gave us a big packet of all the agricultural terms that we would probably be using here, and I have to say, I didn’t know probably 70 percent of the words,” she said. “I didn’t even know the words in English.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502

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