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.]

change, grad school, Interpreter Training, Personal, self discovery for interpreters

Time to Put on Pants

Photo by kinkate on

A couple of months into my graduate work, unable to understand what was happening to me, I pulled up Google and searched: Does grad school make you depressed? Shortly after, I melted down and confessed to my now-husband, “I don’t know if I can do this.” Until that moment, I’d been his happy-go-lucky girlfriend. I’d been a confident interpreter and boss of a large language services department. Having overcome some big obstacles, being on top of my game for many years, there hadn’t been anything I couldn’t do. That out-loud confession of feeling not-able-to was a turning point, the beginning of an unraveling. Continue reading “Time to Put on Pants”

change, court interpreting, grad school, health care interpreting, interpreter life, interpreter services, leadership for interpreters, medical interpreting, new interpreters, self discovery for interpreters

“Getting It”: One Interpreter’s Reflections on Jonathan Downie’s Interpreters vs Machines

Known for his “troublesome” pushing back against the status quo, Dr Jonathan Downie structures Interpreters vs Machines: Can Interpreters Survive in an AI-Dominated World?— his second book — as a game, and invites us to play.

The robots are pretty cute, actually.

OK, I’m in.

He speaks from his experience as a researcher and conference interpreter, but from the beginning he brings us all into the fold– spoken and signed language interpreters in every setting. No matter where we’re working, we’d all do well to pause and reflect on how we understand and talk about our work. The fundamentals of what we do and how we talk about it to clients also seem relevant to my previous work in running an interpreter services department in the healthcare setting, where even though in theory, the services were required by law and hospital policy, in practice, we still very much had to sell interpreter services (even though the service came at no cost to the users!).

Continue reading ““Getting It”: One Interpreter’s Reflections on Jonathan Downie’s Interpreters vs Machines
change, health care interpreting, Interpreter Training, medical interpreting, new interpreters, self discovery for interpreters, teaching and training

Swimming, Interpreting, and Reflexions On Experiential Learning

Somewhere near the beginning of this semester, I took up swimming lessons. A few sessions in, my teacher introduced the breast stroke. “Arms, legs, and gliiiide”, she told me. But I couldn’t get my arms and legs right for the glide. She told me the breast stroke is a resting stroke. But it was so effortful, just to move forward a tiny bit. My shoulders hurt. My neck hurt from holding up my head when I felt like I was pulling myself underwater so long I couldn’t come up for a breath. Continue reading “Swimming, Interpreting, and Reflexions On Experiential Learning”

change, conference interpreter training, grad school, Interpreter Training, language fun, Personal

Everything I know about interpreting, I learned in the kitchen

Nearly twenty years ago, Untitled design(9)I moved back to the US from Costa Rica, and I dropped out of school with a handful of credits left to finish my BA.  I went straight to work in a restaurant.  I started waiting tables in this Italian place, and I was going to stash away all my tips until I had enough to go back to Costa Rica.  Turns out I hate waiting tables, but I wasn’t ready to leave the restaurant.  There was something happening in the kitchen that called to me.  I ended up working in the kitchen for years, until I decided I needed to go back to school and finish the semester’s worth of credits to earn my BA.

Something similar happened on my road to conference interpreting.  There was something going on in the kitchen (or the booth, rather) that I couldn’t ignore.  Just as in the kitchen, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I stepped into the booth.  It’s true: Everything I learned about interpreting, I learned in the kitchen. Continue reading “Everything I know about interpreting, I learned in the kitchen”

change, conference interpreter training, grad school, grad school life, Personal

Back to the Booth

12309533_10153465986341865_8688022386764836542_oA trainer recently said about interpreting practice: You practice. And then you do it again. And again, and again, and again. And when you’re tired of it, you do it some more.

When I first arrived to our interpreting lab in Toronto, I was in awe. Fourteen brand-spankin’-new booths! I could practice again and again, and then some more when I got tired of it! All booths, all the time!

It didn’t take long for me to change my mind about the booth.  Continue reading “Back to the Booth”

certification for healthcare interpreters, change, health care interpreting, interpreter services, medical interpreting

New Year’s Resolutions for Healthcare Interpreters

happy new year!Just starting out?  In a rut?  Wondering how to up your game as a healthcare interpreter in 2016?  Here are some ideas to get you started!

Learn about certifying bodies for healthcare interpreters:  In the US, you might be in a state that offers state-level certification.  For most of us though, the only certification available is on a national level.  Check out the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and the National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters.  These are the only two national certifying bodies in the US.  The National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare (NCIHC) and the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) are professional organizations, NOT certifying bodies.  It’s important to understand the difference, especially if you’ve been certified.  If who does what is a bit murky to you, check out this short post that will clarify it. Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions for Healthcare Interpreters”

change, Personal, self discovery for interpreters

La Despedida (The Farewell)

IMG_3757At my first job as a hospital staff interpreter, my colleagues would scold me because I would never saludar–say hello–at the beginning of the workday (I will just never be a morning person). They’d also razz me because I’d never despedirme–say goodbye–at the end of the workday when I’d leave to go home. I’d just slip out quietly, usually after a very tough and very busy day of healthcare interpreting. La despedida–the goodbye, the farewell–has never been my strong suit.

Earlier this year, in July, I said my goodbyes to the house that I bought the summer I turned 30 and then rented out this summer–the summer I turned 40. So many great (and not-so-great) parts of my life unfolded in that house, but I know that I can keep all those parts of my life and all those memories without still living in the house. I don’t need that house anymore. Somebody else lives there now, but after I left I’d still catch myself just about to suggest dinner or drinks at my favorite neighborhood haunts. But, I’m not there anymore. Farewell, house. Farewell, neighborhood. Farewell, all the places where I met with friends, debriefed after a rough day, plotted and schemed, planned so many of my next moves–including grad school and my move to Toronto–over drinks. Continue reading “La Despedida (The Farewell)”

change, health care interpreting, interpreter services, leadership for interpreters, medical interpreting, remote interpreting, supervising interpreters

Remote Interpreters Need Love Too

Love for ALL interpreters! How's about it, guys?
Love for ALL interpreters! How’s about it, guys? (stickers from

Managing the switch from on-site to remote interpreter services: Lessons learned from the hospital.

What do you think about telephonic interpreter services? Video remote interpreter services? Yeah, I know. Everyone wants an on-site interpreter. Any time I see an article about remote interpreter services, and I read the comments, I cringe. People are super mad about integrating the use of remote interpreter services into patient care. And I mean, all people. I’m disappointed that those people include interpreters.  Continue reading “Remote Interpreters Need Love Too”

change, grad school

Opening the Veuve

poppin' champagne? poppin’ champagne?

I had this nice bottle of champagne, this bottle of Veuve Clicquot I’d been meaning to open, but I could never quite find the occasion to do it.  It started over a year ago, when I began the process of applying to graduate school for a Masters in Conference Interpreting (MCI).

In January 2014, I sent a letter to the Glendon School of Translation in Toronto expressing my interest in their MCI program.   They seemed interested in me too, and scheduled the interpreting aptitude tests for me.  A win! I passed the first round of tests, and then the second one.  Another win! But no, I wasn’t ready for the Veuve.  Just passing the aptitude tests wasn’t enough of an accomplishment for me.  I was consumed by anxiety while I waited for the results, and when they finally admitted me to the program, guess what?  Yep.  Still no Veuve.  Instead, I was rushing around, panicking, trying to figure out how I’d go to school full-time and work full-time. Continue reading “Opening the Veuve”