That Interpreter Blog

health care interpreting, interpreter services, language access, medical interpreting, working with interpreters

Five Things Your Interpreter Wishes You Knew

Your interpreter wants a word with you!
Your interpreter would like a word with you.

Curious about what interpreters do?  Wondering how to best work with interpreters?  Here are some common misconceptions surrounding interpreters, and some helpful points to know about working with them!

Translators write and interpreters talk.  Although there are some professionals who do both interpreting and translating, the terms are not interchangeable.  If you’re speaking, you’re working with an interpreter.  Now you know. Continue reading “Five Things Your Interpreter Wishes You Knew”


Where My Spanish is From

myspanishPeople often ask me, “Where’s your Spanish from?”

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 US, 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”

culture and language

The Wave and a Lesson in Cultural Awareness

cultureHere’s an update on cultural diversity: It’s still hard to function in a multicultural environment! And it’s really hard to function in another country where you speak the language fluently, have lived before, and make things worse for yourself by thinking, “I should be better at this.”

I worked in Spain this summer, and at the beginning of my trip I met up with a colleague from the US. I told her hesitantly, “I’m struggling to navigate Spanish society.” Hesitantly, because I thought it was just me. But the look on her face when I said it told me that it’s not just me. She said, “It’s because you can’t just make a blanket statement and say, In X country people do Y.” It should be obvious, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s not. Continue reading “The Wave and a Lesson in Cultural Awareness”

new interpreters

Writing to an Interpreter

florian-klauer-489For years now I’ve gotten all kinds of written messages asking for advice about interpreting. If you’re just starting out as an interpreter–especially if you live in an area where you’re not connected to a professional network–it can be tough to know what steps to take, and writing to an established interpreter for advice can be a huge help. It can also be hard to know how to do it so you get a good result. Here are my top tips for writing to an interpreter (or any professional, really) to ask for advice. Continue reading “Writing to an Interpreter”


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?”

conference interpreter training, grad school, Interpreter Training, new interpreters, oral exam preparation

The Interpreter and the Salami

salami-technique.pngIn my grad school training, one of the techniques we learned was called “the salami”. If you ask an interpreter trainer about it, you might hear some why-do-we-call-it-salami-when-we-already-have-a-perfectly-good-name-for-it-which-is-segmentation grumbling. The salami technique, or the technique formerly known as segmentation, is tough to articulate.

Here I present to you some specific, language-neutral examples that bring the salami technique (including the rhetorical question) to life. Continue reading “The Interpreter and the Salami”

conference interpreter training, grad school, Interpreter Training, new interpreters, self discovery for interpreters

Yes, conference interpreting is a thing

A view from the training booth!

During grad school, when I was living in Toronto and constantly traveling back and forth between the US and Canada, I got used to this question as the customs agent saw the student visa in my passport: What are you studying? It took me a while to come up with a short answer, because when I said, “conference interpreting”, I was just met with more questions about what conference interpreting actually is, as if I’d made it up. Continue reading “Yes, conference interpreting is a thing”

health care interpreting, interpreter services, Interpreter Training, medical interpreting, new interpreters, standards of practice for interpreters

The Tenth Standard of Practice: Don’t Be Alone With the Patient

An empty waiting room and…

Just kidding. There is no tenth standard of practice, and there is no standard that explicitly states, “Don’t be alone with the patient.” But the way interpreters and interpreter trainers talk, you’d think there was. I am guilty of participating in the creating and reinforcing of this belief.

“Just DON’T do it,” I remember telling interpreter trainees back in 2009, when I was cutting my teeth as an interpreter trainer. “Don’t EVER be alone with the patient.” Continue reading “The Tenth Standard of Practice: Don’t Be Alone With the Patient”