It’s hard to choose the favorite experience as all my interpretation experiences are unique and memorable. There is one project that I worked on a couple of months ago though that I felt had a very good outcome for the student, his family and the school since all the stakeholders were very interested in this boy’s succeeding. The project involved a new student enrolling in a middle school after the start of the school year because he and his family had just moved to the U.S. 10 days prior. The student had an initial diagnosis from his home country that took several physical, psychological and cognitive evaluation sessions in addition to family meetings and Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings. This was a pretty technical project due to the technical nature of it, where it required the knowledge of technical terms, adaptation of cognitive tests based on cultural differences in the American culture for a student who had just moved here from Russia and did not know certain sports, etc. that are characteristic of the American culture and may not be present in the Russian culture, and my prior experience with working with special needs students, evaluating a student for the autism spectrum and ADHD diagnosis, and providing simultaneous interpretation during the IEP meeting. The outcome of that last meeting with the family and the school staff and specialists was that this student was placed with an appropriate student age group and a specialized, unprecedented individual education plan was developed for this student as a result of the evaluations conducted. Everyone was very happy with the result.
What has been the most difficult thing you have seen as an interpreter?
The most difficult thing for me as an interpreter has been working on bereavement cases. One such case involved a young mom who was 36 weeks pregnant with her second baby, who came to her regular prenatal appointment and ended up having an emergency C-section because her baby had died in the womb two days prior. Losing a child is unbearable for any mother… For me, a mom of a toddler myself, being part of this experience, seeing the deceased baby and dealing with the parents’ grief, was one of the most horrible experiences I ever lived through. On one hand, I shared the immense grief of loss with the mother who had just lost her baby. I felt it like it was my own. On the other hand, I was part of the provider team, along with the doctors and nurses. I had to do my part and remain professional and keep interpreting despite my pain and distress. For the rest of the provider team, they had been through these experiences before, but for me, this was my first experience interpreting in this situation and it was the hardest interpretation I have ever had to do in my life.
How have you seen the art of interpreting change over the years?
Like every other profession out there, interpreting has had to evolve – and that means adapt to innovations in technology. Interpreting over the phone and video interpreting are gaining speed while in-person interpreting is becoming a more expensive option for some clients. Those interpreters who want to really succeed in this field will have to learn to employ the best tools to become the best and stay on top. That means getting certified, attending continuing education courses, networking and constantly honing their skills.
How would you advise someone who is interested in becoming an interpreter?
If your interest is in helping people, you’ve come to the right place. There is a starting point for everyone, which means that all it takes it to start somewhere. Join a professional association, get a mentor, learn who is the best in the field and make friends with your colleagues. Also, start with a vision: imagine where you see yourself in this profession five years from now. And never, never give up 😊.