Why interpretation? When I was little I always pictured myself being a dolphin trainer or a marine biologist due to the fact that I love marine animals. However in reality, I’m a terrible swimmer so it wouldn’t have been easy. As I got older I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and as high school came to an end I had to make a decision.
Growing up, I saw how my parents and other family members struggled at times due to the fact that they weren’t fluent in English. I always helped out as much as I could: interpreting at the store, translating documents, etc. as most us first generation kids would do. When it came to deciding what career I wanted to pursue I learned that interpretation/translation was a real job and not only that but a large community, I fell in love with the idea. At first I also didn’t understand the entirety of what came with it, but the more I learned the more I realized it’s not a simple task. There is so much that goes into it. I’ve been asked this question by friends and family. Most of the time they are curious about the profession, other times they seem to genuinely not understand why I would chose to pursue interpretation as a career. I tend to always answer the same. If I can help out my community and do something rewarding, why not?
Sometimes people tend to believe interpreting and or translating must be easy due to the fact that we can speak two languages. However just because one is bilingual it doesn’t necessarily make us interpreters. Interpreting is NOT just getting paid to speak in Spanish all day. As interpreters we switch between both Spanish and English. We must interpret EVERYTHING accurately and completely. We don’t only need to speak and understand the language fluently but we must know things like non-verbal cues, slang, idioms and even jokes. We must be trained in all the different forms of interpretation which include: Consecutive, Simultaneous, and Sight translation. During my training, I learned this would require me to be able to multitask, have good listening skills, and learn the process of note-taking. I decided to go into Medical (Healthcare) Interpretation however there are other specialties such as Legal, Educational, and Social Services, all of which require different vocabulary. Apart from the skills I mentioned prior, we must develop cultural awareness and be aware of cultural differences. I haven’t started taking assignments yet since I want to be fully certified first (which is a whole other discussion in itself) but interpreters must always prepare before an assignment. We need to research the topic, review any information that was provided and make sure we understand the context of the topic that will be discussed. As interpreters we must also maintain the flow of communication and not knowing the language completely can affect our interpretation and cause information to be lost.
Now from the interpreter point of view, interpreting can affect ones mental health as with any job. There are a lot of factors that could affect ones mental health. Kelly Henriquez and I discussed this in my previous blog post “Lets get real about Interpreter Mental Health with Kelly Henriquez”. I will state only a few with you but I definitely recommend giving that post a read. These are some common stressors interpreters face: Interpreting difficult topics and situations, feeling unappreciated, mistreatment of the interpreter, feeling alone, and audio quality and other tech issues. Therefore, now the question is, what do you do after challenging encounters? That’s something Kelly and I will be discussing soon. I personally would like to mention that having someone who understands how you’re feeling or has gone through the same situation is always helpful. I can personally say that’s what has helped me. There are many ways to network with colleagues so that one doesn’t feel alone. There are many Facebook groups out there, LinkedIn is an easy way to connect with others and Instagram of course.
Some interpreters work remotely, others are in person, or even over the phone. Therefore, each interpreter has their own challenges they face daily. I have had the opportunity and privilege to have amazing mentors who have helped me find my way. Without them and the full support of my family, I truly believe I wouldn’t have pursued this career. I would have gave into my imposter syndrome and done something I wasn’t as passionate about.
Being an interpreter isn’t just being bilingual, we are someones voice. We promote communicative autonomy which is “the capacity of each party in an encounter to be responsible for and in control of his or her own communication” (Sofia Garcia-Beyaert).