By Yana Schottenstein
Whenever I tell people that I am a professional interpreter, they usually are not quite sure what that means and what my job entails. In truth, interpreters can take on many different and widely varying roles, and I like to think of my fellow interpreters as the unsung heroes of the globalized modern world.
As an interpreter, you can choose to specialize in the medical field. This involves specific training in medical terms, understanding how to interpret procedures into multiple languages, and often understanding the health insurance and payment options for non-citizens. As a healthcare interpreter your job is invisible but crucial. If an elderly patient is visiting his family from out-of-country but he suffers an injury, you must make sure that the communication between him and his doctor is clear.
Working in hospital settings can certainly be emotionally difficult at times, especially when there is bad news to interpret. However, the services that you provide are gratifying and truly make a world of difference to a family who does not understand the local language. Many of my peers relay their own heartwarming stories of non-English speaking patients thanking them for making their hospital stay a little bit easier.
If you have ever seen a Sign Language interpreter standing at the front of the classroom, rapid-fire interpreting a lecture, you understand that signing is hard work. In interpretation settings, ASL interpreters usually work in teams of two and trade off every half-hour or so, quickly following along with an instructor's lecture and transforming that into Sign Language. This system makes a classroom education possible for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
Companies are developing cochlear implants and hearing aids for those hard of hearing. However, those technologies can often cost too much for a family to afford, and many individuals simply elect not to undergo implant surgery. Regardless of anyone's hearing status, quality education should be available to all, and that's where Sign Language interpreters step in. As an ASL interpreter, you can work in elementary, high school or university settings, and even beyond in academia. The job is never boring, and serves to make education accessible to everyone who desires it.
Interpreters make United Nations and other international conferences possible. This may seem obvious, but interpreters are the backbone of global dialogue. Being a UN interpreter is a highly prestigious career and the pay isn't so bad. However, to be considered for a position as a UN interpreter, you must be able to think on your feet, be familiar with diplomatic language in multiple global contexts, and know usually at least three languages. It's certainly a hefty responsibility, but the work you do literally affects the whole world!
Interpreters are by no means restricted to a typical career. If you are more interested in a fast-lane office culture, you can always be hired as an ASL interpreter at a concert! The Americans With Disabilities Act mandated that public venues be accessible to everyone, which included handicap-accessible spaces as well as Sign Language interpreters at music festivals.
Artists from Lady Gaga to Nine Inch Nails have played at massive events while a dedicated ASL interpreter signs along to the side of the stage, for the enjoyment of everyone in the crowd. Unsurprisingly, events that hire professional high-quality interpreters also see greater ticket purchases and attendance from the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
Yana Schottenstein, founder of Access 2 Interpreters, contributed this article. Access 2 Interpreters is a leading translation and interpretation company in Columbus.