Interpreters have the unique opportunity to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers with every assignment we accept. Often patients, clients, and providers are relying on us to facilitate effective communication. We get to be the peace of mind for a cancer patient who fears they may not understand their diagnosis or a new mother who wants to ensure she has health insurance for her child.
For this reason, SWITS believes that interpreting is a vocation, a meaningful occupation that requires our total devotion. That is to say, although one may be interpreting part-time, he or she ought to have a “full-time” commitment to the vocation. This means actively seeking out training and professional development, continually building one’s vocabulary in both the source and target language(s), and consistently practicing different modes of interpreting. Think of interpreting skills like a muscle, without flexing them regularly and challenging them with new exercises, they will not remain strong nor will they have the opportunity to grow.
As interpreters, no matter how many appointments we take, we need to always be striving to improve to best serve our customers. To do so, we can make personal study plans at home to work on vocabulary building, memory skills, reading comprehension, and more. Try analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses and then searching for exercises to help you with the skills that need improvement. By taking these steps, we can ensure that we are always ready for any potential assignment.
Finally, if you ever need extra motivation, SWITS encourages you to reflect on the meaningfulness of your vocation. Maybe you find it in the smile of a child who can finally understand his teacher or the sigh of relief from a woman who knows she won’t have to be guessing at what her doctor told her that day. When we reflect on the impact of our services to the LEP persons in our community, we can find the strength to give it our all.