Q&A with Russian Interpreter Liudmila Vasilevskaya

[h4_heading]Q: Ezispeak: Pls tell us how you got involved with the Language Telephone Interpreting industry[/h4_heading]

A: Liudmila – I think there were three things that put me on the right path:

  • my love to help
  • my love for my country and
  • my love for the English language.

Being an interpreter is a perfect job to be able to help your people AND communicate with them using the beautiful English language, although I am still making mistakes with it!

[h4_heading]Q: Ezispeak: What are your top 5 tips to other interpreters to ensure a smooth interpreting call[/h4_heading]

A: Liudmila – My main tip is: try to be empathetic:

    • I am always trying to walk in both the customers and the agent’s shoes. Whether it’s a
      • nurse that is trying her hardest to explain something to a patient who does not want to cooperate for some reason; or
      • that very patient who had it with the hospital and it’s rules and
      • a squadron of nurses that want something from him/her and he can’t work out what it is
    • Whether it’s a pensioner who received a bill that is going to make a hole in their tiny budget and is terrified by it
    • Whether it is a customer service officer that explains “gazzzilion” of bills like every day and still has to be polite and patient with the frustrated caller.

Trying to understand what each of individual is going through is the key.

[h4_heading]Second Tip: Do not add or omit words[/h4_heading]

My understanding of the situation does not mean that I lose my impartiality. I don’t colour the language, I colour my voice with whatever I hear in the person’s voice.

My recommendation would be not to add or omit words if people are rude. I do not try to soften the person’s frustration. I believe doctors and other service providers need to know what they are dealing with. They are professionals too!

Frustrated callers hear themselves from the “outside”, and most of them do realize they are speaking in a rough manner. Their behavior eventually changes as they calm themselves down, which normally results in an apology by the end of the conversation.

[h4_heading]Third Tip: Don’t take things personally[/h4_heading]

Quite often people have already been annoyed by something before we as interpreters are connected to the call.

They are only human. It’s their frustration with the situation they are in: getting high bills and no high wages; being in chronic pain; having a lousy spouse or facing redundancy.

Just remember……..It’s not you. Take it easy. 🙂

[h4_heading]Fourth Tip: Do not rush the caller[/h4_heading]
I could never understand the following comment from a caller: “Oh, thank you for not rushing me”.

I cannot imagine myself rushing anybody on any call let along leaving a caller halfway through the call, unless something drastic occurs.

[h4_heading]Fifth Tip: Try to slow down the conversation when speaking with a frustrated caller[/h4_heading]

If something hinders the conversation, I’ll let people know no matter what it is. I fully understand that a person can be feeling frustrated or angry, it’s not a problem for me. But we know that angry people speak fast, don’t they? Or we don’t understand what they are saying.

I know it’s not easy to do but we have to slow them down. I do, and it helps. Sometimes they get carried away again, and I just remind them again about being patient. It works most of the times. 🙂

[h4_heading]Q: Ezispeak – What are the challenges of a telephone interpreter?[/h4_heading]

A: Liudmila – Below are some challenges I have encountered:

  • The service providers who are trying to rush everybody through the conversation
  • A frustrated caller who would jump at everyone and interrupt everyone who is speaking
  • I find one challenge particular funny: a person could type, or rustle the papers on the desk, or printing something without realising that it affects hearing the person speaking.
  • Another one is sweet but it is not easy to handle. No matter what you say the NESs almost always feel that we are on their side and that we are there to advocate for them. The expectation that we must “tell” that person they cannot treat them like this, etc., or we are there to listen to their stories and then just tell the other party the “guts” of it.

“ I think all of them could be described as one: people do not know what our role is, how we work and why”.

[h4_heading]Q: Ezispeak Describe one scenario by where the call was difficult to interpret and how did you turn it around to a positive experience?[/h4_heading]

[h4_heading] A: Liudmila – I guess I could describe one caller who was frustrated with one provider;[/h4_heading]

Sure enough she wanted to say it all in one hit and wouldn’t react to any of my recommendations to stop or slow down.

When she finally stopped to take a breath I stepped in and said something like:

“Please listen to what I am going to say. I want to help you. I want to interpret everything you are saying! But I am not a machine. I understand this conversation is emotional for you, and you want to say it all in one go. I won’t be able to remember everything if you say too much at one time. It is becoming difficult to relay everything you are wanting to advise the customer service representative.  Please say it in smaller lots and I will pass it on in in a few goes… Is this all right with you?” ………

The customer agreed and we were able to continue the call. I was then able to explain briefly what was happening to the customer service representative who was listening quite tensely to our exchange. I swear I could feel his tension. 🙂

As we continued with the call, the customer continued to demonstrate frustration by speaking fast again. Normally I leave it up to the customer representative to ask the person to wait and give them some time. In this case, because I had established some kind of a “connection” with the customer, I opted for another scenario.

As an alternative, I provided the following recommendation to the customer to:

  • Run through her list of the questions one by one
  • Obtain an answer from the customer representative and then to move on to the next question

The customer’s fear with this approach was that we would run out of time due to her all her questions, and that we would hang up on her.

My approach to her further frustration was to:

  • Reassure her that we would not hang up on her and that this would only occur if the line was accidently cut off
  • To gently remind her throughout the call to have patience whilst the customer service representative was providing their response

This resulted in a smoother call for all parties involved and the customer was able to obtain responses to her questions.

[h4_heading]Q: Ezispeak – As an interpreter what type of training or personal development do you recommend to other interpreters[/h4_heading]

[h4_heading] A: Liudmila – I personally follow the NAATI accreditation requirements, however below are some additional tips I can recommend:[/h4_heading]

  • Asking a doctor or a service provider to spell a term that I have not heard before
  • Taking a note of the word and looking up the meaning afterwards for future reference
  • I have my own dictionary where I write (I am an old school 🙂 expressions or words that I meet more often than others. This allows me to learn them quicker (I am a visual type of a learner, I need to write it down and sometimes it’s enough for me to remember).
  • We just need to know what works for us as an individual and use it.


About Liudmila
Liudmila is one of our Professional Russian Interpreters who has worked with ezispeak since the company’s inception. She is an MVP and is a lead Interpreter working on our Video Interpreting Program. You can find out more about Liudmilla here