I couldn’t do what you do!
This is the first thing I hear when people finally comprehend what exactly it is, I do. Depending on the platform I’m working with, I can either be in front of my computer sitting down or walking around on the phone. Most of the time people will just hear that I’m speaking away hidden away in my home office, in two languages like some sort of evil entity took over me or simply trying to make a podcast and being funny about it. Or when on the phone, depending on the type of interpreting session I am doing, I get the liberty of walking around my home within reason. So, to an outsider’s perspective I spend the day chatting away on my pc or walking around my house on the phone.
On a rare occasion, someone takes to the time to listen and understand what it is an interpreter does or listen in on a conversation and the best of their curiosity gets to them and ask me what it is I am doing. After some explaining and some examples the person starts to grasp the extent of the complexities of being a professional language interpreter. Scream out “Oh!”, I could never do what you do.
I entertain the idea for a moment because it brings me back to the first days when I was trained as a basic customer service interpreter and how scary it was to sit down in my first cubicle to take my first call alone while being shadowed by my quality assurance supervisor. Only one thing was said before I took my first call, “You passed our training, and it isn’t easy to get to this stage, just follow what we taught you and you’ll be fine.” For the next three months between basic interpreting and training, I was tested and passed to be able to handle Nursing, then Insurance (Recorded Statements), afterward Emergency and so on until I reached the Medical interpreting. All in all, the entire process took about five years. About two years later could handle arbitration hearings to finally be qualified to handle legal interpreting. So after about seven years of ongoing training to be able to achieve each level of qualifications required to reach my current interpreting level.
Now I have reached another milestone which I had been avoiding because I enjoyed a certain level of anonymity as an interpreter because I only handled audio calls, video interpreting. Why did it take me so long to accept video interpreting, on top of the enjoying anonymity, I have two kids to call my own, and at the time video interpreting begun to take hold of the interpreting industry, I was scared that my kids would decide to come in to my office and just show up on live on camera. From a young age they learned to stay quiet when Dad was working, but curiosity to see what is on my computer screen was at times too much of a temptation. Now they are a bit older and understand that they must stay out of my home office when I’m working, which is why I felt ready and prepared to accept the challenge of video interpreting.
I have no regrets now that I have begun video interpreting, I was sort of skeptical at first, what difference would it make, I still must be able to hear the Non-English Speaker and the English speaker to be able to assist them. Until the day I helped an ER Doctor communicate with her patient who suffered from cerebral palsy. I dare say, if it was not for the live video feed and being able to watch both doctor and patient as they said their respective segments, in an only audio scenario it would have been a much longer session, and this would only be in detriment to the well being of the patient. Seeing the parties involved allows the interpreter to get a better grasp of the context and possible feeling being transmitted by the speaker. Therefore, I can only conclude that video interpreting has only helped me improve as an interpreter.
Finally, after over a decade as an English-Spanish Interpreter, that has gone through certain ups and downs as the industry has evolved. I have no regrets and would advice anyone who would like a different career path or try a part time job while going to school as one of the best jobs there is. You will get paid to help people and you will act as a cultural barrier, the best part you get to learn about all sort of topics, the training and learning is on going and the skills sets developed as an interpreter can apply to many other industries, specially the ones that demand working with people and under pressure. Don’t be scared, there will be people there to help you and train you.