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I was recently interviewed by Thumbtack and am now featured in their Spanish Lesson Spotlight! Check it out here: http://www.thumbtack.com/or/portland/spanish-lessons/

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who uses the 3..2..1… countdown of the impending new year as an opportunity to reflect upon the last. What goals did I set and meet? Which ones did I miss entirely? Which ones morphed into something new? Looking back at where I was a year ago compared to now really goes to show that while 365 short days seem to just fly by, they are also chock full of cambios. I present: a list.

— One year ago I had heard that I passed the court interpreting test and was knee-deep in court observation while keeping up a pretty full medical interpreting schedule. My thought at the time was that I’d end up with a schedule that would be pretty balanced between the two. Not so! Now I take the occasional medical appointment, but the majority of my work is in the courts and simultaneous meetings and conferences.

— 2012 was mostly occupied with making the shift from medical to legal — new marketing, new systems, and figuring out that the differences between the two fields were way more complicated than I originally thought. As we start this year, I find myself MUCH more comfortable in the legal setting and what it entails…but still with a ways to go 🙂

— Speaking of marketing, I am starting 2013 with more direct clients than 2012!

As I’ve discussed before, my views on the interpreting world are constantly in flux. I think if I talked to myself a year ago about the merits and disadvantages of interpreting companies, I don’t think I would even recognize myself. And let’s not even talk about my thoughts from five years ago…!

One thing that has been crystal clear, however, is that all the work I put in to getting my court and medical certifications has been totally worth it. Every hour and every cent was well-spent in terms of knowledge and income earned this year as opposed to last. If you’re on the fence about whether to expend the time, energy, and money it takes to get certified, DO IT.

Make it your new year’s resolution.

Saludos

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I won!

Below is my winning entry in the International Medical Interpreter Association’s annual essay contest.The prizes are a free registration to the IMIA annual conference in Miami in January and an IMIA membership renewal. They will be updating their page with the winning essays soon. Thanks for reading!

The Impact of Certification on the Medical Interpreting Industry: One Interpreter’s Interpretation

After nearly a decade of working as an interpreter in several states and internationally, I can attest that interpreting is as varied and colorful as an industry can get. From boardrooms to delivery rooms, convention centers to courthouses, interpreting always offers up something different to learn about, some new challenge to overcome, skills that must be constantly honed and perfected.

Of them all, however, medical interpreting has always been near-and-dear to my heart. Medical interpreting offers an insight into other peoples’ choices and lives like no other profession. Vocalizing — in first person — the thoughts and opinions of a stranger is a unique experience. Medical interpreters see firsthand how some of the most important decisions of a person’s life are made, and we are often present to see the consequences — good and not-so-good — of those decisions. The stakes are high in medical interpreting; accuracy and completeness are key. And yet, unlike its other high-stakes counterpart, court interpreting, the majority of the states in the U.S. do not require that medical interpreters be certified, nor do they require that interpreters pursue continuing education.

And that has got to change. Which is why I became certified.

I received my NBCMI certification last year, and the benefits were practically instantaneous. Among them:

  • A higher hourly rate. Of all the different styles and modes of interpreting I perform as a contractor, medical interpreting has historically paid the least. A higher hourly rate not only translates into a better standard of living and a feeling of being more adequately compensated for the important work that I do, but it also means that I can afford to take those required continuing ed classes that help me keep my certification and continue to improve my quality of service for patients and their providers.
  • Increased recognition — both on the business side and the advocacy side. Being on the NBCMI roster has been a boon for my business (more employers are seeking me out now as opposed to the other way around). Plus, it gives me a great starting point to advocate for more of my colleagues to get certified, which several of them have since done. This helps increase quality of service across the board.
  • Increased pressure on interpreting companies and clinics, hospitals, etc. to require certification and raise the standard. The more of us who become certified, the more difficult it will be for those entities to deny that certification is the wave of the future and that they better get on board. Again, certification equals higher quality of service. Who doesn’t want that?

I hope to remain a part of this dynamic field for a long time to come. I also hope to see more and more hospitals, clinics, medical offices, and, of course, interpreters embrace certification as the pathway to more consistent, accurate, quality care. Our patients and their providers deserve — and should demand — trained professionals to act as their voice.

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More than two years ago I started what would be the fairly long process of getting my court interpreter certification. After all the studying, taking the test (twice), completing the ethics portion, and finishing my 20 required observation hours, I felt pretty durn positive that I was ready to go in and knock ’em all dead. I felt sure that I knew what I was doing.

I did not know what I was doing.

Court interpreting has not only put my professional skills to the test, it has been a study in self-confidence and doubt. There’s nothing quite like standing up and having your words count for the record as what another human being has said. Don’t get me wrong — I never take this lightly in any setting. My motto is “nuance is everything” and I mean it. But while medical interpreting is done (usually) in a private setting in which it may just be you, the patient, the provider, and maybe a family member or two, court interpreting is practically an on-stage performance. Judges, lawyers, witnesses, defendants — they all hang on every phrase, every single word of which is recorded by the various microphones all around the courtroom. And while this may all be stuff I knew going in, it’s enough to make even an experienced interpreter do a lot of self-questioning (did I really phrase that in the best way possible…? I explained out a saying but I wonder if there is an actual equivalent in Spanish…?) as well as a lot of self-flagellation (I had to officially correct myself for the day of the week for crying out loud! How basic can you get?!). I guess I didn’t realize that battling nerves would be another skill I had to hone. Probably sounds funny coming from someone with a music performance degree, but honest is honest. Maybe if I had majored in sight-reading it would have prepared me more 🙂

But, while I think that a break-in period was to be expected, I have high hopes for what court interpreting will do for my skills and confidence as a professional. Talking out phrasing and idioms with colleagues who are equally committed to doing the best job possible has been both enlightening and therapeutic, and I look forward to getting even more experience under my belt.

More to come but until then, Saludos.

The good news keeps coming — got my reciprocity with Washington state, which means I am now a certified court interpreter for two out of 50 states. Hey that’s 1/25 if you reduce it! 🙂

Either way, I’m excited to get some jobs up in Vancouver et al, and to keep my experience coming. Stay tuned for some reflecciones about my first few months as a court interpreter. They’ve been…not boring!

Hasta entonces, saludos

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A preview

New LLC, new design, new logo, new promo shots — I’m in business, baby! Check it out here:

http://www.almalunaspanish.com