change, court interpreting, health care interpreting, interpreter life, Personal

A Day in the Life of a 2020 Interpreter

Happy International Translation Day 2021! Please enjoy this post that I wrote for ITD last year, but didn’t publish until now.

As usual, there’s no one day that looks “typical”–Even working from home hasn’t changed that. So let me tell you about yesterday.

It was a busy one: a three-hour remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) job that started at 10am, followed by a 90 minute online class for conference interpreters based in Brazil, and just enough time in between to catch my breath and work on some other projects.

Frank the kitten is all grown up!

6:30am: My alarm sounds, and I put the coffee on while I stretch, journal, and ease into my day. Remember my kitten Frankie who I’d adopted right before I published last year’s a day in the life post? He’s all grown up now, and loves to stretch out with me in the morning.

7:30am: My husband is awake now, and we head out for a walk. I just relocated from the Midwest to Houston, and I’m still acclimating to the weather. Over the weekend, the really intense humidity broke and we have much cooler temps in the mornings–Perfect for walking and getting a little movement in before jumping into work.

8:30am: Showered and with a belly full of breakfast, I read aloud some of the documents I’ve prepared in Spanish for today’s job. I feel those usual pre-interpreting butterflies, so I practice some breathing exercises and check in with myself. Today I’m working with a partner I really love, as well as a new teammate who I really like but haven’t worked with before. Our tech rehearsal went well last week, and I’m ready. I turn the “fun” switch on.

9:00am: Logging onto the platform for mic check, morning greetings with the client leadership team, checking the backchannel to communicate with my partner and our colleague who’s on tech support, with plenty of time left over for some last-minute stretching and a coffee refill.

Good times with RSI!

10:00am: And we’re off! I’ve got the first turn on this RSI job. All’s well, the speakers all sound great, and for the next few hours my partner and I pass the mic back and forth, and are able to help each other remotely. We’ve worked together many times before, and each time we find a new way to make our teamwork go even better.

1:00pm: Debrief with my partner. This is a habit we have, where we very briefly go over what went well and what could have gone better. Unless we absolutely don’t have time, we like to do this immediately following a job so the experience is fresh in our minds.

1:30pm: Lunch.

2:00pm: Nap.

2:30pm: Today I’m double and triple-checking the upcoming social media posts for Seven Sisters Interpreter Training & Consulting, where I’m a partner and I do most of our social media-ing. This week we launched our new 3-day intensive course, and a lot of work from the team went into making sure everything was just right before we announced it. I spend some time looking for articles, podcasts, and events to share on our channels, and queue up our posts for October.

3:30pm: Grading! I left my position teaching undergrads last year, and this year I started teaching an online healthcare interpreting course for Glendon, where I finished my graduate work in conference interpreting in 2016. As any instructor will tell you, if you don’t keep up with grading, it buries you pretty quickly. It’s a breeze though, as I’m really enjoying reading about my students’ initial impressions of healthcare interpreting and walking them through their first steps in deliberate practice.

4:30pm: Prepping for my online interpreting class that begins in an hour. This course is totally different than my Glendon course. This is for i2B, a non-academic program based in Brazil, and I’m working with interpreters who are getting their simultaneous interpreting skills off the ground and (for the most part) are working into an English B from Portuguese. Here, the focus is the delivery into English and the topics we work with are broad and interesting. I’ve worked with i2B for a few years now, and I love it. Through working with the students in this program, I’ve become very interested in Brazilian culture and language. In fact, this week I have my very first Portuguese lesson!

2020 is a rich year for interpreting memes!

5:30pm: And they’re off! The students take turns interpreting and listening, and we rotate between interpreting rounds, feedback in pairs, and large group debriefs where I give my impressions. The 90 minutes of this class fly by, as usual.

7:00pm: Tuesdays are usually long for me, since I teach in the evenings. Fortunately, there’s a taco truck in the parking lot of my building, and dinner is served.

This day was a bit longer than most, with a lot more screen time than I normally shoot for. On days when I’m not logged on for long stretches of interpreting and teaching, I make it a point to break up my day with off-line reading and journaling.

This year has truly changed my work, which doesn’t make me different from anyone else. The bulk of my work has shifted from mostly court work to mostly conference work, and I’ve returned to teaching. I’ve also worked a lot more on the interpreting intensive courses I run with my partners at Seven Sisters.

Pre-pandemic, I was already doing a lot of work online, and had been doing RSI from home for a few years. This made it easier to transition, in addition to the fact that while my husband has transitioned to working from home, we’ve never had a scheduling conflict where both of us needs the office at the same time.

The biggest change to my days lately has been the isolation. No surprise there. Pre-pandemic, I routinely met friends and colleagues for co-working or happy hour (or co-working disguised as happy hour). It was easy to walk to the coffee shop across the street from me for a change of scenery, and to work among other humans. I could easily visit my family. With all of that gone, I’ve had to fill that void with something, and on a positive note, I’ve had a chance to dive back into language learning, and I’ve explored some other hobbies, like playing guitar and drawing.

Whatever 2021 brings, I’m grateful to have the resources and the network to have adapted to the changes 2020 brought. How has 2020 changed your work life?

[You can read my Day in the Life post from 2019 here.]

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