Author/s

Dan Steadman

The modern interpreters story

For a job that’s so essential to everyday life, there isn’t a great deal of awareness surrounding what an interpreter actually does each day. It’s certainly not as straightforward as some may think.

There’s often a great unknown for interpreters, as interpreters don’t always know from one call to the next what sorts of conversations they are going to participate in; often they are regular calls to telcos, or energy providers, possibly querying a bill or maybe changing their service. Pretty run of the mill calls.

But then there can be some very challenging calls as well:

  • Parents being told their child is suffering from Kawasaki disease
  • All sorts of refugee calls for assistance
  • Police victim support calls
  • Midwifery calls (we’ve had calls where the interpreter had a lovely connection with the woman who asked her to be the interpreter for her birth)
  • A call where a LGBT teenager had told his mother and had been thrown out of home. The Agent was calling to see if the mother would take him back or leave him to live on the streets (she wouldn’t, and the Agent and interpreter showed incredible discipline in remaining polite and respectful, though you could hear how much they felt for the child).
  • Calls relating to COVID19 quarantine, or even COVID related illnesses

All of these calls take their toll on interpreters, and they can need a support network to help them deal with some confronting situations. Thankfully at ezispeak, we recognise that peoples’ mental health is of paramount importance, and we regularly check in with our interpreter workforce to ensure that they are in the right headspace, and help them when they need some support.

Another mental issue that can affect interpreters, is the level of concentration and focus they need to maintain to do their job properly. It’s a demanding job, with the quality of interpretation being of critical importance. As result, interpreters need to probably schedule their work day to avoid fatigue, or in the longer-term, burn out. Again, at ezispeak, we work closely with interpreters in an effort to see the signs, and give them the support they need.

And then there’s another complexity that is almost never talked about – interpreters having to train others on how to best work with them. Having an interpreter in a conversation isn’t a natural feeling for most of us – you’re taking a two-way conversation and turning it into a three-way conversation. Unless you have experience in working with an interpreter, there’s going to be a learning curve, and often it falls onto the interpreters’ shoulders to train the others in the conversation. That can sometimes be a frustrating process, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

You also can’t overlook that you need to be highly proficient across multiple languages. Anyone who has ever learned a second language knows how difficult that can be, yet interpreters are able to not just speak multiple languages, but also think in real time across multiple languages, and ensure that each participant is getting an accurate account of what’s being said.

At face value, interpreting seems like a simple job, but there’s a lot more to it than most think. At ezispeak, we’re proud to recognise just how demanding a job interpreting can be.

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