Ever since Daniel Valcarcel launched his career as a translator in 2003, one of his goals has always been to obtain the American Translators’ Association (ATA) certificate—the gold standard in the industry.
While working in Europe, he made plans to travel to Oslo and take the exam, but year after year other obligations kept him from making it a reality. So when he relocated to the US, one of the first things he did was sign up to an ATA test in Nashville, Tennessee. The pass rate for his language pair (Spanish>English) is only 10%, so he set out for Nashville with confidence but a hint of apprehension. When he received the test results in early November, the entire FLS office celebrated at the official recognition of his expertise as a linguist and professionalism as a translator—and what it means for FLS customers.
ATA certification is one of the industry’s most respected and recognized credentials. The ATA Certification Program’s goals are to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and recognize translators who possess the knowledge and skills necessary to provide quality translations.
Daniel joins another FLS staff member who has earned the ATA certificate, Maria “Malena” Boyette. She earned her ATA certification in November of 2010 for her language pair English>Spanish. FLS is very honored to have these two highly qualified translators on our team!

“When you limit focus, you multiply achievement.”

-Michael Hyatt, Achievement Conference 2018.

FLS attended the 2018 Achievement Conference, held in Brentwood, Tennessee on September 14th and 15th.  This conference was organized and led by Michael Hyatt, the creator of the Full Focus Planner (FFP), and his team. Every FLS staff member began using the FFP this past July.  We attended the conference to make sure we were using the planner to its fullest potential and with the purpose of achieving our goals in all areas of life. Both days, dynamic speakers on the Michael Hyatt team provided thought-provoking, challenging, and useful insights on how to best use and get the most out of our planners.

Broken into eight sessions, each session’s speaker highlighted topics on goal achievement. One such session much appreciated by Elizabeth D’Angelo, Josi Sellers, and Maria Boyette focused on getting into the habit of daily journaling…a practice Josi said she had unintentionally stopped but was so glad to be reminded. Creating a daily journaling habit will increase your self-awareness, says Hyatt. Elizabeth found another of Hyatt’s ideas intriguing: “Journalism will help you observe your life– don’t let life pass by unnoticed and don’t be defined by one bad week or day.” For Maria, the quote “…watch your life from the outside and the inside…” further reiterated the importance of keeping a daily journal.

Megan Hyatt Miller’s, CEO of the Hyatt Group, spoke on the importance of protecting our biggest priorities, which resonated with Madison Hughes. To seriously set priorities, it is crucial to establish “non-negotiables”, the things that are essential to drive results in your work and personal life. The nonnegotiables mentioned centered around self-care, relational, and professional categories.

FLS’ Translation Manager Daniel Valcarcel chose “the difference between successful people and really successful people is that the really successful people say no to almost everything.” This is exactly what establishing non-negotiables is about—  you can have a “why” explanation to defend your “no”.

The Conference’s very first session was on Goal Achievement.  For Caroline Myers, from this first session, there were many takeaways.  “As FLS’s President, I valued most Hyatt’s repeated message of setting SMARTER goals and setting Daily Big 3 goals. With 252 workdays in a year, the incremental changes of achieving 756 daily goals should result in meeting both quarterly and annual goals. Incremental change over time is a way to learn lessons. As Hyatt pointed out, to climb Mt. Everest, you prepare and do a little at a time.”

Carolina Coates liked the idea of the importance of looking backward and forward to achieve goals. “Allow the past and future to inform the present, then use the present to transform the future.”  As a final thought, we can use the pursuit of our goals and the achieving or falling short of our goals to propel us to the future to constantly and consistently improve our work and personal lives, to become high achievers in all areas of our lives.

Julie Jaeger, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, is a long-time translator and friend to FLS. Julie began her translating career while living in St. Paul, Minnesota. While working full time at 3M and capitalizing on her education, she began providing translation services to outside clients to earn extra money. She discovered she enjoyed translation work and subsequently began freelancing full-time; Julie’s languages are Japanese and English.

A B.S. in Chemistry and Business with a minor in East Asian Studies set Julie on her path to becoming a professional freelance translator.  Her two-year tenure in Japan, where she absorbed both language and culture, solidified her career.  As FLS translation managers got to know Julie, they discovered they had found an excellent patent translator— her attention to detail,  knowledge of the technical language and prompt deliveries solidified FLS’s decision to include her in our “preferred” roster of Japanese contract translators.  This coincided perfectly with multiple U.S. Patent and Trademark Office contracts awarded to FLS over twenty years.  It is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of translation projects and documents Julie has performed for FLS; suffice it to say it might easily be in the thousands.

“By being a freelancer,” according to Julie, “there are more benefits than drawbacks: independence, no commute, no office politics, tax benefits, to name a few.”  From the start of her translation career, she had plenty of work. The benefit of retaining the learning of Japanese was that she could make a living out of it, but it truly comes from the enjoyment of foreign languages. Julie’s clients are mostly in eastern and southern states, like Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Julie currently resides in California. We asked Julie to provide us with an interesting fact to share with the FLS community. To end her spotlight, she has asked for prayers. Due to the wildfire outbreaks, hearts are heavy with victims who have lost their homes. For Julie, she has been very fortunate that her house has been saved multiple times from the Carr Fire and a smaller fire that happened four days earlier. She has returned home after being evacuated from this devastating fire just two and half weeks ago. So, if we could assist Julie in sending out our good thoughts and prayers for the people who have lost land and homes, FLS would greatly appreciate that!

In May 2017, FLS welcomed Madison Hughes to our in-house team.  Madison, a Huntsville native, brought a contagious sense of humor and a no-nonsense work ethic with her, both of which are much appreciated at FLS!  After graduating from Buckhorn High School, she began her college education at Calhoun Community College, transferred to the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) to study Psychology and later transferred to Athens State University to pursue a major in Elementary Education with a focus on Collaborative Education.

With the help of her Collaborative Education specialty, Madison applied the skills she learned at Athens State and UAH to become a Registered Behavior Technician. Working with children on the autism spectrum and performing applied behavior analysis was her career focus for the previous ten years.

Seeing a job posting at FLS, Madison visited FLS’s website to see what FLS was all about. Liking FLS’ core values, staff diversity, and intrigued by the variety of languages, perhaps there would be the potential to interact with people of different cultures on a daily basis and play a role in providing assistance to segments of the Huntsville community with a specific need. There could certainly be an added bonus of expanding her Spanish language learning.  Her curiosity piqued, she applied for the job of Administrative Assistant!

We asked Madison how she knew she could see herself being an employee at FLS. After all, this job would be very different from her previous work.  Her response: “After my first interview, FLS’s mission was very clear to me that helping this specific community of limited English speakers was important. The end goal was to help people.” With Madison’s servant heart and attitude, she makes a great fit for keeping that mission a top priority for FLS. FLS is very grateful to have Madison on our team!

Madison also assists in managing the Interpreting Division, along with a wide array of office management duties.  She keeps up with all the important things that make an office run, and in that capacity, is a great help to everyone.

Madison lives in Huntsville with her husband, Chris and their three dogs, Penelope, Clara, and Toby. She loves renovating her home, gardening, and the outdoors.  A nursery renovation is underway, as they look forward to their first child, a baby girl, in November.

FLS is pleased to spotlight Ray Ables, a Spanish contract interpreter who resides in Fairhope, Alabama. Ray’s interpreting career began at a very young age while living in Ecuador, where he was born. At the age of four, he accompanied some of his US relatives to the market. There he discovered he could communicate effectively (speak and understand both languages.) From then on, his parents urged him to use English at home to achieve native fluency in both languages. Ray began a second career teaching Spanish full-time (and on occasion Social Studies, History, Latin, and Guitar) in private schools for grades Pre-Kindergarten through Twelfth grade for eight years in various locations in the States. He also obtained a TEFL Certification to teach English.

The ability to speak Spanish and English fluently helped Ray earn both State and National credentials. In 2015, he received his Provisional Certification with the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts, later scoring in the 98th percentile on the Alabama Foreign Language Court Interpreter Written Exam and then passed the Oral Exam to receive full certification. Since 1999, Ray has been a Certified Medical Interpreter by the UAB International Medical Service.

We asked Ray why he enjoys his profession and his reply resonated with us: “I enjoy being of service and knowing that my expertise can help make a difference in someone’s life.” FLS has been grateful to have access to his expertise in the Spanish and English languages since 2015.
Ray has had the opportunity to travel and live in Ecuador and Argentina for a combined 16 years. Stateside, he has lived in Illinois, Arizona, and New Mexico before coming to Alabama, where for the last ten years, he has resided in Fairhope, Alabama and assists FLS mainly in South Alabama.

Ray is a world-wide traveler, and his language skills expand beyond Spanish and English. He is also conversational in Portuguese and can speak a little French, Italian, German, and Latin. And to add to his language skills, Ray enjoys music and plays the guitar, saxophone, and auxiliary percussion.

It is such a pleasure to work with Ray!

On April 6th, 2018, Foreign Language Services was pleased to host its Spring interpreter orientation, Well-being and Safety of the Interpreter, for contract interpreters and in-house staff.  The role of the interpreter is important, but often results in vicarious trauma to him/her, and, if this goes unrecognized or ignored, may cause harm. The orientation, designed and delivered by Maria Boyette, CMI, provided many useful tools that interpreters could take away and practice outside the classroom setting.

Ten freelancers participated in the orientation; many of them traveled from different areas of the state, giving up work hours to be part of the event.  They shared their own experiences, while following HIPAA regulations of privacy, and, by doing so, received affirmation from other interpreters in similar situations.

Interpreters left with several types of stress relievers such as breathing therapy exercises, stress balls, chocolate, and essential oils. The feedback FLS received from the contract interpreters who attended was positive. It was even more affirming when FLS staff attended the ITAA conference the following weekend and enjoyed a very similar vicarious trauma session!  This reinforced our belief of the importance of interpreters taking care of their health in the workplace.  We hope to repeat this orientation in the future.

War Eagle!  Caroline Myers, President of FLS, was invited to her Alma Mater, Auburn University, to speak at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature Awards Ceremony last Friday, April 13th.  What an honor to be back at Auburn to speak to many young language scholars, family members, and friends who traveled to Auburn to celebrate these awards. Dr. Giovanna Summerfield, Professor and Associate Dean for Educational Affairs, College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Traci O’Brien, Chair of AU’s Foreign Language Department and Dr. Julia Pittman, Professor and Chair of the Scholarship Committee welcomed the attendees and presided over the Awards Ceremony.

Pictured left to right: Dr. Pittman, Dr. O’Brien, Caroline Myers, and Dr. Summerfield

“I entitled my talk “Tiger Walk – AU to FLS”.  An Auburn fan ever since her family moved there in 1949, this seemed an apt description of her story. I began learning French in the Classe de Quatrième in Nice, France, majored in French at Auburn and spent her junior year at the Université de Dijon. “The Auburn administration was 100% behind me, even though at the time, the University did not offer a specific Junior Year Study Abroad program.  My story went on to describe FLS’s founding, i.e. why the co-founders…herself and Judith Smith…came up with such a bold idea, considering their backgrounds were in Liberal Arts and teaching French in Huntsville’s public schools.  Judy and I founded FLS in 1979.  “Today, I continue as FLS’s President and, with the help of five fantastic employees and over 75 contractors, continue FLS’s mission and vision to provide technical language services to our clients in over 80 languages.”

“As I was reflecting on my story, I realized that Judy and I must have had what business Author and Psychologist Angela Duckworth calls “Grit”…neither of us were talented translators or interpreters, but we knew there was a need in Huntsville for a professional firm who would be accountable to our customers. We would find appropriately trained and technical linguists to fulfill our mission.”

“I applied this idea of Grit to what students of foreign languages must have to study intensely and learn a language!  They must practice, practice, practice!  They must read, read, read to expand their vocabularies in both their native and prospective language.  The students receiving awards and named scholarships are challenged daily…many heads nodded affirmatively when they heard me say “Would you agree that learning to speak a foreign language is FLAT-OUT DIFFICULT?!”


Professor Gutierrez with students Taylor Mackowski and Peyton Camp

It was a pleasure for Caroline to meet one of the department’s professors, Jana Francesca Gutierrez, who teaches a translation class, and two award-winning students, Ms. Taylor Mackowski, winner of an Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and Ms. Peyton Camp, This is Research Student Symposium Award, among many others who attended the ceremony.”

Caroline also was pleased to meet another Auburn professor, Rachel Perry, who had provided Italian interpreting services for FLS!  What a small world!”

Attendees and their families

Amanda Darnell (Germany) and Sarah Pitts (Columbia) received Fulbright Scholarships; Amanda Darnell was also awarded the Eugene Current-Garcia Phi Kappa Phi Scholar’s Award; Bradley Bayuga received the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) honor and Elizabeth Farrar the RISE – DAAD (Germany) award.

Zac Jones received the Escarpanter Memorial Endowed Scholarship and the Mary and Michael O’Neil Scholarship.  In addition, two students, Amelia Grace Hill (Spanish) and Daniel Lane (French) were named Castanoli Young Scholars.  Gregory Crook, Amanda Harmon, Natalie Hester, Green Karp, Angela Lotito, Erin McDyer and Lexi Smith were recognized as Castanoli Abroad scholars.

Michelle Adcock, Madison Adlich, Rayna Burkard, Emily Coxwell, Amanda Darnell, Daniel Hance, Elisabeth Hess, Nicole Hogue, Matt Hulstrand, Jesse Jordan, Abby Knowling, Rebecca Leo, Meg McCalley, Audrey Olson and Calista Rogers all received the Wiatt Achievement Award.

Many students were inducted into the German, French and Hispanic Honor Societies.


German Honor Society



After the ceremonies, we all enjoyed refreshments.  It was especially enjoyable meeting many students and their families!  I am proud to be an Auburn grad!  War Eagle!

When it comes to the Korean language, Steven Bammel is no stranger. His skill has been a great asset to FLS as a contract translator. In his words: “learning the language (Korean) has been my passion for the last 25 years.” However, growing up in the Dallas, Texas area with his family, there was a strong focus on the Latin American/Spanish culture, part in due to his parents’ involvement serving in the Peace Corps in Chile in the 60s. In the 80s, he and his family spent a few years on short-term missionary trips to Colombia. Despite being surrounded by the heavy Hispanic influence it was the Indian culture that drew Steven’s interest!

While studying at the University of Texas at Arlington, (graduating in 1993 with a B.B.A. in Economics), Steven spent his 1989-90-year backpacking through India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Unsurprisingly, upon graduation, the thought of a 9 to 5 job was not quite as appealing as he had hoped. His journey of the Korean language began when he accepted a position to teach English.

Steven’s career as a Korean linguist began at LG International Corporation in Seoul, Korea, as an English editor. He then moved into translation, handling the company newsletter, website, and other public corporate materials, and less editing. In 1998, Steven received his first contracting job as a freelance translator. He started his freelancing career with multiple Korean translation agencies. By the year 2000, he was translating for US agencies.

Steven likes being a contract translator.  When asked what he enjoys most about this, he said: “It’s taken me a long time to realize just how much translation is what I was born to do. I enjoy analyzing a source text and figuring out how to render it into the target text. I also find working alone in my home office to be a comfortable way to earn a living. It’s nice that I can do most of it without phone calls, and instead interact with clients and other associates over email, which doesn’t require as much spontaneity. I don’t like to think on my feet, and translation lets me take the time I need to work on things at my pace and in ways I feel comfortable. I enjoy leveraging technology and learning about different topics.”   From our point of view, we have supplied him with plenty of topics…our records show he has translated over 300 jobs!

Steven Bammel plans to leave the hustle and bustle of the States and settle down indefinitely in Korea. He had a brief hiatus from Korea when he and his family came back to the United States in the early 2000s. Then, in early 2008, he moved back to Korea, with his family, to study at Hanyang University, the business graduate school. He received his M.S. in Management Strategy in 2011, and shortly thereafter entered the Ph.D. program. Working full time as a contract translator has slowed his progress of attaining his Ph.D.; however, he expects to finish his dissertation on self-employment in the Korean service sector in a couple of years. The Bammels live in the States now so that their children can graduate from high school in America. But with their son about to graduate and a daughter who is already in college, the plan to move to Deokjeok island, an island off the west coast of Korea, is becoming more of a reality. Steven is eager to have the experience of living on an island. But even with his indefinite move to Korea, he expects to have internet and plenty of work to occupy his time.

It is such a pleasure to work with Steven, and to leverage his knowledge of the Korean language and culture!


FLS shares the following excerpt, written by Stephanie Wiley, a certified Spanish medical interpreter and Education Manager at ALTA Language Service because it says so much about what interpreters face daily. It emphasizes why FLS believes fully in ongoing education and orientation for the interpreters whom we call upon. In Stephanie’s words:

“As our field develops and becomes more professionalized, we’re making incremental progress. People are beginning to understand why interpreters are necessary, and there are more and more training requirements for people who provide interpretation services. But many people in healthcare still don’t understand our role, and it’s still common to encounter interpreters who are working with no training. In many cases, we’re still equated with a bilingual family member instead of being seen as a professional part of the medical team. Which is why we hear things like, “Oh can you walk her to the pharmacy,” or “Do you mind just telling her what this surgical consent form says,” or “Would you just sit with her for 4 hours on a psych ward without a provider present.”

Here’s the thing: I think we are (at least in part) responsible for educating people about the role we play. Part of me really believes that interpreters will only be seen as professionals when we collectively insist on acting within our professional boundaries. We teach people how to treat us. When we break our ethics, the people we work with never learn what we’re actually there to do, and they grow to expect all interpreters to do the same.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the field of translation and interpretation is projected to grow by 18% by 2026, which is must faster than average. It’s my hope that as this field grows, the understanding of how interpreters form part of this equation will grow as well. This is just something that is going to take time, persistent education on all sides (interpreters, providers and patients), and a collective and deliberate commitment to holding ourselves to a higher standard. Let’s do it together.”

-Stephanie Wiley, Alta Language Services

This excerpt comes from a blog post sent to us by one of FLS’s contract medical certified interpreters, Mila Baker. The post in its entirety provides an insight into what interpreter’s face on a daily basis in the medical profession. As the interpreter, the role he/she plays is vital for conducting a successful appointment between the healthcare professional and patient. As the interpreting profession, especially in the medical field, grows, the need to understand the role the interpreter plays is crucial. Interpreters should be viewed as a professional and helpful resource and should not be viewed on the same plane as a “bilingual family member” with no formal interpreting training.

Mila said it accurately, we think, to paraphrase her words: “Sometimes (the interpreter) is the only one who can educate providers, not by lecturing them, but by doing our job well and acting according to the ethical principles of our profession.”

If you would like to read the entire blog post that was posted by ALTA, a language company in Atlanta, GA, you can follow the link below. I hope you enjoy this read as much as we did.


In February 2018, FLS hosted a Basics of Interpreting Orientation as part of our commitment to our community to provide interpreters with the basic tools needed to become an effective interpreter. The Orientation, which is held periodically, covers the right and wrong ways to interpret. The instructor, an experienced interpreter and Spanish CMI certified, with a pedagogical background, shares her own experiences and uses videos and role-playing to emphasize necessary skills. From dress code to ethics and the role of interpreting, attendees learn appropriate etiquette which is vital to performing the job well.

Ten individuals attended this orientation, which was held at Valley Hill Country Club, Huntsville, AL. These individuals traveled to Huntsville from all over Alabama and among them, spoke seven different languages: Spanish, Acateco, Gujarati, Korean, Hindi, Punjabi, and American Sign Language.  As we get to know these ten individuals and assess their interest in various settings, we will be able to better provide services to the state-wide community. FLS is looking forward to working with each one.

FLS also provides bi-monthly orientations, which relate to specific fields of interpreting. These orientations equip the interpreter with the appropriate vocabulary for their appointments and provide insight and information to aid the interpreter in providing the services to the best of their ability.  These orientations also encourage interaction and sharing of interpreting experiences. Our next orientation is scheduled for Friday, April 6th at Valley Hill Country Club, Huntsville. It will cover two subjects: Well-being and Safety of the Interpreter and Tax Tips for Self-Employed Contractors. This orientation is available to you if you have taken the Basics of Interpreting Orientation.

If you or someone you know has any interest in becoming an interpreter, and they have a native ability in another language or in American Sign Language, please have them contact our Interpreting Practice Manager, Carolina Coates. (CCoates@FLStranslation.com). She will add them to her ever-growing list!  We look forward to seeing you at our next orientation!