That Interpreter Blog

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

Featured Post: 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 “Featured Post: Five Things Your Interpreter Wishes You Knew”

court certification, court interpreting, grad school, health care interpreting, interpreter life, interpreter services, Interpreter Training, language access, leadership for interpreters, medical interpreting, new interpreters, Personal, self discovery for interpreters, teaching and training, working with interpreters

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Interpreter

As a freelance Spanish interpreter working in legal, court, and conference settings, my days vary. A lot.

Working from the booth, one of my favorite places to be!

A bit of background first: I’ve been in the freelance market for two years now, and it’s been three years since I finished my graduate work in interpreting. Before grad school, I worked as a staff interpreter and an interpreter services supervisor for about ten years. Before that, I worked as a subcontracted interpreter for an agency for a couple years while I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in Spanish, and for a while after I finished undergrad. So while I’m not new in interpreting, I’m still pretty new as a freelancer.

Continue reading “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Interpreter”
certification for healthcare interpreters, certification prep, conference interpreter training, court certification, grad school, health care interpreting, Interpreter Training, medical interpreting, new interpreters, oral exam preparation, supervising interpreters, teaching and training

The Interpreter and the Sandwich, or: Why Feedback Is Not About Your Feelings

Feedback forms from my work in this year’s co>lab interpreting intensive in Mexico City. These comments from colleagues are like nuggets of gold!

There’s a funny thing about feedback and interpreters. We all claim that when it comes to feedback: Tell it to us like it is! Don’t mince words! I can take it! Bring it on! As if feedback is this awful thing we must brace ourselves for.

I’ve (very generally) seen feedback divided into two main camps: We should be gentle in our feedback so that we protect the interpreter’s self esteem. Or, we should just tell it to them straight because this is the real world and clients aren’t going to handle them with such care. But there’s another approach that is considerate, yet straightforward: We should base our feedback on goals that are established by the interpreter so that it is useful. Continue reading “The Interpreter and the Sandwich, or: Why Feedback Is Not About Your Feelings”


If You Give An Interpreter a Word

giveaninterpreteraword[My riff on the popular children’s books, for my scientist husband, and for anyone who loves an interpreter.]

If you give an interpreter a word, one that sounds interesting, that catches her attention, it will bounce around in her mind for a while, doing cartwheels and backflips. You’ll hear her repeat it to herself aloud (sometimes really aloud), sing-songy, with no context, probably in multiple languages, in languages she may not really speak, probably while she’s fixing dinner or curling her hair or pouring wine or wandering around the house while she should be doing something “productive”.

After a while, it may try your patience. Continue reading “If You Give An Interpreter a Word”

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. A few lessons 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”


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”

culture and language

The Wave and a Lesson in Cultural Awareness

cultureWhenever I speak to a group about culture and communication, the first thing we do is brainstorm and name elements of culture. We humans are pretty good at this exercise, but there are some favorite cultural elements, like food and music, that can be difficult to use as concrete examples of how different values and expectations can cause breakdowns in communication.

I’ve noticed over time that a great example of the difficulty of functioning in a multicultural environment is navigating how we’re expected to greet each other, and how we say farewell. Here we go:
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.┬áIf 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?”