My Healthcare Interpreting professor put forth an excellent question: What do you like about interpreting? What led you to be an interpreter. You might expect these answers but I thought I’d go ahead and declare my love to the world.
- The linguistic sport. The feeling when you’re keeping up , you’re disappearing, everyone is understanding, you’re remembering obscure terms. Oh this is nice.
- The human connection. Being able to smile at someone in surgery or use dialect-specific language to help a patient feel more at home. Just feeling useful, like I can help in some way is a gosh darn gift.
- The constant education. The never-ending research. Learning about the actual subjects we are interpreting.
- Not being at a desk! I love that I’m often on the go between departments or buildings. This might change with more remote interpreting. I’ll have to learn how to pace in a small space.
- My colleagues. I have had some rad colleagues. Yep I’m talking about you NYULMC. See this post for more on wonderful coworkers.
Now for the whole gushy history.
Like many in this field I didn’t set out intending to be an interpreter. In high school I liked English, writing. Many teachers praised my writing, and others used it to practice with their red ink pen. I didn’t want to let down the people who believed in what I wrote nor did I want anyone criticizing something so abjectly personal—or at least what felt very personal to an adolescent.
So I found my way to Spanish. I liked tinkering with the words, trying to get into a flow. And it was a foreign language so no one expected me to be good at it. So the story of Spanish and I began because it was safe, but stuck around because of the amazing people and art that it’s allowed me to meet along the way. For example, while living in the Dominican Republic, I met women more loving and open in a way so distinct from the Southern US; men who danced and kissed other men; children who smiled and fluttered and ran to buy sodas for guests from the corner store. You know what I mean. You’ve been there too. And you know how it makes your heart feel.
A stroke of luck in College introduced me to interpreting formally. We had a professor who was also a professional interpreter and rustled together some grant money together to teach a rag-tag bunch of French and Spanish students the basics of simultaneous and long consecutive. It was quite a challenge. Nerves, adrenaline, performance—in fact, it was the perfect substitute for the division I soccer world that I had quietly exited the year before. I don’t remember being particularly good at interpretation. But I wasn’t flagrantly bad at it either.
Following college I worked to get into the medical interpreting field because it seemed to be the best way to stay in contact with Spanish. Living in Athens, Georgia it was the most prominent interpreting setting around. I didn’t know any court or conference interpreters.
But interpreting evolved from a great job into a career commitment for me for two main reasons. The first is that, one day long ago, someone asked what God is to me. I probably say something different every time this subject comes up but this time I said quite without thinking, “It’s the space between two people. That’s where the Divine might be.”
Much later I reflected and thought, “How natural that I would become an interpreter!” As an interpreter I get to sink my hands and heart into that divine space and try to get to know it, learn from it, and contribute to it daily.
The second reason is because I tried working as a Web Editor in an office in front of a computer the whole stinkin’ day and it doesn’t work for me. Nope. Not one bit.
If you’re an interpreter reading this blog, you could tell me what you like about interpreting as well so that I can say ooooh, ya, that too! Or if you’re a chef or an accountant tell me what you love about that.