I was recently interviewed by Thumbtack and am now featured in their Spanish Lesson Spotlight! Check it out here:


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.



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.


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


A preview

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


Life is not this

Perhaps this should be part of my So You Want To Be An Interpreter series, but after more than a few years at this whole interpreting game, I’m pretty confident in admitting the following:

1. FACT: Interpreting for high-volume language (i.e. Spanish) is a very, VERY competitive field.

2. FACT: Referrals are a good thing, and you should expect to benefit FROM them and expect to benefit others WITH them. Having friends in the same industry (who speak the same language!) is POSITIVE. I know, just read on.

I mention this because I think one of the biggest traps in interpreting (and, really, in any contracting field) is to let fact number 1 overwhelm any other logical thought that may come into your head. And as scary as it is, it’s really just silliness. To break it down:

  • Yes, it’s true — there ARE a whole ton of Spanish (or Russian, or Vietnamese, etc.) language interpreters out there. Oh, so many. You see them everywhere you go. And the rub is that contract interpreting (especially medical interpreting) is based on your hourly rate and how many hours you can grab, and when you’re running all over town just to make ends meet it’s a little discouraging to know that there are a gazilliion other folks out there ready to do your job. But seriously…
  • You cannot do every job yourself! Repeat it with me: I cannot do every job myself. I know. I KNOW. It sucks. The money would be awesome if it were that way — but it isn’t. You must admit this to yourself and move on. (OK, take a second and imagine it….All right, you’re done. A continuar).
  • If you get to know some of those folks you see at jobs with other patients, you might find that you actually LIKE them. And that they are actually good interpreters! And then when someone wants to book you and you’re already booked, you have a name of someone who you is GOOD and who you actually LIKE (or, you know, close enough) to recommend. And this is not a bad thing. It’s quite the opposite.
  • Contrary to what our brains may tell us, people WILL actually call you back if you occasionally say no. Not if you, like, ALWAYS say no, but believe me — clients WILL call you again if you accompany that “no” with referral for a very good backup. Because, frankly, clients don’t want to spend an hour of their day calling interpreters, and if you can provide one for them, well, that’s another service you are offering that will therefore making you more valuable to them.
  • Referrals are a two-way street. Anyone you refer out should be willing to do the same for you. This creates rapport, which in turn creates more jobs. Crazy, right?
  • PLUS, as much as you yourself may like contract interpreting, not ALL your buddies are going to stay contractors forever. They may move on to work for companies and organizations who will eventually need — you guessed it — interpreters. And then who they gonna call? You go it.
So make friends. LOTS of friends. For me it was slightly counterintuitive because travelling from job to job working along all day is a solitary business. But as soon as I started opening up to my colleagues, inviting them to things, accepting their invitations, etc., a funny thing happened — I started getting more work.
Just sayin’. Saludos.

I almost put in a picture of pink slime to illustrate this post. You’re welcome!

This has been a very tumultuous week. Not in an entirely bad way — and I don’t want to get into it too publicly (the internet is forever, dontcha know) — but my work/personal life has been pirouetting in a range of colors, with results not unlike those spiral paint thingies we all begged our parents for when we were five, and my emotions have been along for the ride. Some thoughts about this (wouldn’t go so far as to call them conclusions):

  1. Portland is a small town. And yet it isn’t. But in ways it kind of is…as in I see the same faces and hear the same names in seemingly different and often surprising contexts, but there’s always so much more networking to do…and then you run into the same people along the way and it’s like, “how do you know such-and-such?” or “wait, you went to
    event X, too?” etc.
  2. I have some seriously mixed feelings about interpreting companies. I understand the service they offer, and I greatly appreciate that service and depend upon it, that is not questioned whatsoever, but lately I’ve been having this rant going through my head (and out loud) about how interpreting is kind of like pink slime (stay with me on this) because people will eat pink slime because otherwise the price of their meat will go up, and interpreting is like that a little because companies charge a rate that might be fair and would allow for taxes and insurance and continuing ed if, in fact, the entire thing actually WENT to the interpreter, but it doesn’t, it can’t — company overhead must be paid, and I get that — but consumers are so used to paying this rate, which is actually quite low when it gets back to the interpreter, that they balk at an actual fair offer and choose a less expensive but also lower-quality (i.e. pink slimy) company, when really the service should have been offered at a higher price to begin with and then the consumer perception of what the service actually costs would be more realistic. See what I’m saying here? And I’m not sure if the blame all needs to fall on interpreting companies because not all of them are like this…but ones that fall into this flawed model of “undercut ‘til you get the gig, now send any untrained warm body to interpret” are also not hard to find.
  3. These things are not new. I guess this is all coming into focus for me because since my certification work has been picking up — as has my rate — and I’m starting to look back and see how I was the same thoughtful, professional interpreter doing work that was just as important as I do now, yet I was being paid sometimes, literally, one-third of what I make on some jobs now because of consumer perception of service and this undercut battle, especially in the medical field. Not sure where Portland as a small town falls into all of this, but this post is called “random” thoughts, not “carefully organized and put through a filter” thoughts.

And with that…saludos

Got an urge to see what Wordle came up with when I entered this blog. My favorite are the ones right in the middle (see subject) 🙂 Click to see the full image