Welcome to my telephone and video remote interpreting journal. This is the section of my youtube channel where I discuss the highlights of my workday as a medical interpreter. My name is Nanyi Mateo. I’m the founder of InterpreMed.com and I’m a certified Spanish medical interpreter. Before we begin don’t forget to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss any of my new videos. Let’s get started!
Screen sharing for Zoom
First, let’s talk about how useful is screen sharing for certain interpreting sessions. I’m doing a lot of IEPs and annual reviews over Zoom these past few days. IEP stands for ‘’individualized education plan’’. During these meetings, parents and teachers talk about the goals, strengths, and areas of improvement for a student receiving special education and how can the school support them to succeed. They often times share and read the teacher reports about that particular student’s performance in their courses. Whenever somebody reads off a document, it’s very difficult for the interpreter to interpret in the consecutive mode for a couple of reasons
- The language used in written documents is sometimes very dense and more challenging to remember. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if the teachers would read each goal or a couple of sentences at a time, but they usually tend to read the whole document in front of them without any pauses, so interpreting consecutively becomes extremely difficult.
- I noticed that the teachers recently started to share screen these teacher reports and IEP modifications on Zoom. So now, instead of interpreting consecutively those lengthy documents, I sight translate them. This has made my life so much easier. So, sight translation is possible in remote interpretation, at least with Zoom and I’m glad that teachers know how to use it and take advantage of technology to help LEP parents.
- This also reminds me of another type of sight translation that consecutive medical interpreters engage in, for example, when a doctor sent me the screening questions in the chat and asked me to sight translate them for the patient. This wasn’t necessarily ideal for the patient since the doctor isn’t directly asking the medical history questions to the patient but it can happen.
- It also reminds me of one time that I had to explain the different kinds of insulin pumps to a diebetic patient or when I was explaining a genetic disorder to a parent using Power Point slides and interpreting consecutively. So it wasn’t a sight translation directly but having the Power Point visuals really supported the delivery of the message for both the interpreter and the patient.
- If we compare educational interpreting with medical interpreting I feel like teachers have a much wider knowledge of linguistics and how the interpretation process works than doctors. They are very kind and rarely in a rush, unlike some providers who seem to be running like a chicken with its head cut off. In fact, one of the teachers actually advocated for the student when she said that the teachers shouldn’t rely on Google Translate to translate directions into Spanish for the student, that it was better to have a human translator because Google translate is not that good for this kind of tasks. I felt very good when she said that because she’s aware of our value as interpreters and translators.
Improving simultaneous interpreting
My second insight is about simultaneous interpretation. I’ve been breaking into conference interpretation through different volunteering opportunities for non-profits, especially when the topic to discuss is related to underserved communities like the LGBTQ, indigenous people, local communities, etc. I’m also training for 2 hours every day in the simultaneous mode. And this is one of the insights that I had in terms of acronyms in English and Spanish.
English-speakers love acronyms, and they come very naturally to them, but in Spanish, we don’t use a lot of acronyms, and it feels weird to use them because. The everyday Spanish speaker doesn’t use acronyms as much as an English speaker. So, as a rule of thumb, in Spanish, you always expand the full acronym to convey more meaning, and it also feels more natural. However, in the Simultaneous mode, you have to stay on top of the speaker’s pace. An acronym that takes them 2 seconds to say, in Spanish, it may take 5 o 6 seconds each and every time, so if you don’t want to stay behind, lose your focus, or omit something, you have to use the acronym in English to preserve the accuracy of the message and ensure smooth delivery, that your speaking style is pleasant to listen to instead stumbling upon these acronym expansions all the time.
I also think this is something that English-speakers working in multicultural settings must be aware of. They don’t need to use the expansion of the acronym each and every time but repeat this expansion at different times throughout the meeting, so it’s easier for attendees to understand what they are talking about.
Building rapport in social services
My third insight is about building rapport in social services. So, I got a call from a social services institution and a 64-year-old homeless Spanish speaker who was receiving an interview to retire because he was going to turn 65 very soon.
I really liked that the English speaker tried to empathize with him by repeating some Spanish words back to him, but not in a condescending way. Instead, he was showing understanding to him. The LEP seemed to be confused with very simple questions, and he would use words like ‘’shelter’’ in English instead of the Spanish translation. And sometimes, when I was addressing him, I would use the terms that he used, like ‘’shelter’’ in English, even if they weren’t the ‘’most correct’’ ones, according to some prescriptivist interpreters. Especially in exams and courses, they tell you that you should avoid using English words or Spanglish, for example, in a rendition into the other language. But in this particular circumstance, it was more appropriate to use the terms that the LEP was using because those are the terms he’s most familiar with. So there is not a hard and fast rule that says we should use X translation or this group of words only for the translation of X term. I think interpreting is much more complex than that. Of course, taking the liberties to change the register and the words of the message because you think the LEP is not smart enough to understand them. We have to use our critical thinking and soft skills to choose the most appropriate word given the situation. At the end of the day, we are here to help people communicate and not teach them how to speak properly.
The latter is a more descriptivist approach which is something that I’ve been learning in my linguistics classes. Being descriptivist means that you don’t try to impose your own language use over others because you think it’s ‘’more correct’’ or ‘’valuable’’ and that this is the way that people should speak. People who do this are called prescriptivists because they prescribe how language should be used.
There is a very interesting quote that summarizes the point that I’m trying to make here, and it’s from Fasold and Connor-Linton.
‘’Linguists approach language in the same way astronomers approach the study of the universe or that anthropologists approach the study of human cultural systems. It would be ridiculous for astronomers to speak about planets orbiting stars “incorrectly” and inappropriate for anthropologists to declare a culture “degenerate” simply because it differs from their own.’’
I think this is a good mindset for interpreters and translation to have!
Let me know in the comment section if you have any comments about the insights I shared. The first one was about screen sharing in Zoom for educational appointments. The second one was about the use of acronyms in simultaneous interpretation and this third and last insight.
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