Where My Spanish is From

myspanishI’m often told, “You don’t look like the interpreter.” People ask me, “Where’s your Spanish from?” There’s no simple answer.

My Spanish is from Spain, where I lived for two summers–Once as a student, and once this very year as faculty for a study abroad program. It was the first place I travelled outside of the U.S., and though I didn’t come home the first time speaking much Spanish, I did spend time thinking about why I wanted to study Spanish, why I wanted to speak it, what interested me about the language and the culture. I had the chance on that first trip to Spain to feel the effort required to learn another language, to function in another culture, and I pursued it anyway. Surely that is worth something. Continue reading “Where My Spanish is From”


Stop the Language Shaming

As an undergrad, I took a Spanish phonetics class, which is the study of the sounds of language. On one occasion, the professor brought to class with her a hand-written traffic ticket she received while driving in the Dominican Republic. The officer who’d written the ticket misspelled just about every word. It was a fascinating specimen, the professor explained, of this regional accent, since the words had been spelled out phonetically. She actually told us that this traffic ticket was one of her linguistic treasures.

This professor was known for her rigorous classes. So it fascinated me that someone so demanding, who set the bar so high for us as students, could be so enamored of what some people would write off as “bad Spanish”. This made a lasting impression on me and my approach to language–We can cherish the way individuals express themselves, rather than holding them in contempt. An academic approach to language is important (and interesting!), and we can apply academic tools outside of the classroom not to judge, but to learn. Continue reading “Stop the Language Shaming”


A Fish Out of Water

Just keep swimming?

This Spanish interpreter got to attend a 5-hour workshop for interpreters–ASL interpreters! I felt like I was sneaking over to the other side, and I was really trying my best to fly under the radar. I got there early to introduce myself to the trainer, Josh Garrett. I quietly asked if there might be a seat in the back for me, someplace out of the way where I could discreetly observe. NOPE! There was a seat for me front and center. After all, that’s where the interpreter was, who would give me a whispered simultaneous interpretation of the workshop content that was in ASL. Continue reading “A Fish Out of Water”


What Does Language Fluency Mean for an Interpreter?

totally fluentOver 20 years ago, with a couple years of college Spanish under my belt, I left to study for the summer in Spain. I remember actually saying these words: I can’t wait to just be fluent by the end of summer. As if it were a chore, something I had to gut through. As if it were possible! After that, I spent an academic year at the University of Costa Rica, graduated with a B.A. in Spanish, and worked a lot on improving my second language before I finally had the fluency to work as an interpreter. Even then, there was a steep learning curve for the first couple of years. That was in 2002. Continue reading “What Does Language Fluency Mean for an Interpreter?”


The New Girl, Again

colored-folders-1239719Hurrah!  You’ve finished your healthcare interpreter training and you’re ready to go out and work!  Here are some tips to get you started as an on-site interpreter, based on my second time around as a freelance interpreter.  (You can read my first New Girl post with more tips here.)

How do I get the work?  I’d recommend working with an agency.  They do all the leg work, and then pass on the assignments to sub contractors.  I think there’s another post to be written about how to tell a good agency from a bad one, but I wouldn’t work with anyone that doesn’t have a good reputation or who tried to get me to lower my rates, or who didn’t pay me on time.  Make sure when you apply to the agency, you’re accurately representing your qualifications.  If you took a training course for medical interpreters and received a certificate of completion, you’re a trained interpreter, not a certified interpreter.  If you’re confused about trained interpreter versus certified interpreter, you can check out this post that also has info about the certifying bodies. Continue reading “The New Girl, Again”


Bad translation mysteries 

A while back, I posted a sign from a local (to me) construction site that said you had to have a “sombrero duro”–very literally, a “hard hat”– to enter. This sign is from a local bar, and while I appreciate their stab at multilingualism, the Spanish is mystifyingly bad. I ran the English version thorough Google translate and a bunch of other translation apps, all of which came up with less horrible versions in Spanish. Who is coming up with this stuff?

certification for healthcare interpreters, Interpreter Training, terminology, Uncategorized

Summer of Interpreter Training!


This summer I’ve taught two 40-hour Bridging the Gap interpreter trainings (whew!) and I’m super excited to be teaching a medical terminology workshop for interpreters this Saturday! I looked at the roster today and was so happy to see names of friends, colleagues and former trainees. In the meantime, I’m working on a new post about visiting the RID conference that was in Indy last week. Hope everyone’s had a great summer!


Interpreters Are Everywhere!

I’m a lover, not a fighter, so I was confused when a colleague sent me a link to this interview with a fighter. What he wanted me to see was the interpreter’s consecutive interpretation of the fighter’s speech (it starts at about :45). Of note was the crowd’s response to the interpreter’s interpretation. Often, as an interpreter, there is a thrill in anticipating the listener’s reaction to the interpretation you’re about the deliver. Also of note was the interpreter’s note taking! The speaker spoke for so long, there’s no way the interpreter could have delivered anything accurate without notes.