Vocalink Global sends its on-site interpreters out to interpret around 170 times every day, on average. Most businesses that use interpreting services see only a small slice of the interpreting world – the minutes or hours spent with the interpreter at their own appointments. It’s always fun to “peek behind the curtain” to gain new knowledge and perspective. With that in mind, Vocalink’s American Sign Language interpreter, Brittany Charles, offers this look at a day in the life of an interpreter.
Interpreting is Hectic but Rewarding!
A day in the life of an interpreter can be summed up in a word – hectic. After a morning full of cases in court, you can be called to interpret for a medical emergency a nearby hospital for an hour or two. If you are lucky enough to grab a quick bite, it’s on your way to your afternoon appointment, assisting an English as a Second Language teacher in a school full of little ones.
The constantly changing atmosphere of the locations around you, the different types of energy from the people with whom you interact, and the different subject matters you must know to properly interpret keeps you on your toes. You can never fully predict what your day will look like and how best to prepare for it. Each environment may place different demands on the style or mode of interpreting (simultaneous or consecutive), and a world of information flows through you. In a given day, an interpreter may need to match a prosecutor’s intense tone during closing arguments, then match a first-grade teacher’s fun, upbeat tone during arts and crafts, and then relay a patient’s heartfelt emotion to a doctor (while trying not to cry) when discussing limited choices for a disheartening diagnosis. All of this while rushing from location to location. These, of course, do not even take into account everyday challenges everybody faces, but can be catastrophic for an interpreter.
Everyday Inconvenience? Disaster for an Interpreter!
What if you drip ketchup on your shirt at lunch and don’t have time to change before your next appointment? A professional appearance is vital in the interpreting world (and doubly so for ASL where clothing is a key element in visual distraction!). What if an unexpected rainstorm pops up, leaving you soaked on your way to an all-day surgery in a cold hospital? Or what if you’re heading to an unfamiliar part of town and your GPS dies?
My fellow interpreters and I, of course, plan ahead to deal with emergencies like these (typically by turning our cars into well-stocked, mobile offices), but as is true in most things in life, the unexpected can and does arise. We interpreters must not only to keep our language skills sharp, but also our mental agility. Interpreters must be able to think on their feet, react quickly to new situations, come up with solutions, and implement them. Clients rely on us to arrive on-time, looking professional, and prepared to facilitate vital communication. Every Vocalink Global interpreter understands this deeply, and knows it’s up to us to rise to the challenge and meet (and exceed!) client needs.
Compassion is Appreciated!
On occasion, true disasters arise that no amount of planning or mental agility can surmount. When a six-car pile-up happens right in front of you on the highway, shutting down traffic completely, there’s no way around it. You’re not going to make it to your appointment. When a monkey wrench like this is thrown into an interpreter’s day, the interpreter is just as upset about missing the appointment as the client. Even where another interpreter swoops in to cover or video remote interpreting is used to make sure the client’s needs are met, we still feel terrible about it and sincerely appreciate our client’s compassion and understanding.
Being an interpreter can be hectic, but it is one of the most rewarding professions out there. Every day, we know that we’ve helped people communicate, whether doctor and patient, lawyer and client, social worker and family-in-crisis, employer and employee, teacher and student, or any of a host of people and brands needing to be heard and understood across languages and cultures.
Vocalink Global is continuously recruiting bilingual and multilingual individuals interested in becoming professional interpreters, as well as experienced interpreters looking for new ways to help people and brands be heard and understood. Are you or someone you know interested in pursuing an interpreting career? Check out our Careers page today!