Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Do as I say, not as I did: The trainer goes back to school

Since I stopped practicing as a community interpreter about seven or eight years ago and started training interpreters six years ago, I have harbored a small piece of guilty knowledge. Here it is, guys. Please don't judge me.

I honestly learned more about interpreting as a trainer than I knew when I was actually interpreting. 

That's it! I was not an expert interpreter when I became a trainer. It was not until later, while managing and monitoring interpreters, and through self-study and eventually training as a trainer, that I really grew in my knowledge of what an interpreter SHOULD DO and HOW they should do it. And the more I learned, the more cognizant I became of the fact that my own capabilities were not the top shelf skills I thought they were when I was last hopping from appointment to appointment back in Seattle almost a decade ago.

It's logical that this would be the case, since I interpreted for less than three years and then landed a position of responsibility promoting best practices and teaching interpreters how to work. I was teaching a complex and often misunderstood skill set, and was often questioned about the best practices that I believed in, so I figured I had to know it inside and out, right? I learned how to explain ethics and best practices a hundred different ways, and talk new interpreters (and experienced interpreters with the bad habits of the self-taught) through the norms of their profession. I'm proud to have spent the last several years, both full-time and as part of ancillary functions of my other social service roles, welcoming interpreters into the profession and promoting excellence in interpreted communication. Yet, I worry that I myself was not the best interpreter at all times, and worse, that I didn't even know it. It's been many years and I can't effectively self-evaluate my performance from 2009, but I am fairly confident that I didn't consistently provide full, accurate interpretation. I liken this to what a zealous convert must feel, passionately preaching the good news but dwelling on the memory of past unconfessed transgression.

In search of redemption and for the love of this amazing, challenging, and critical profession of community interpreting, I've been waiting for the right opportunity try my hand at putting into practice what I've been teaching for the last six years. I believe I've found just that moment. I'm starting law school this fall at Georgetown University, which thankfully has an evening program which will allow me the opportunity to pursue my dream of getting back into language services and being the interpreter I've been telling others they should be.

Naturally, I want to re-build those skills (and maybe build some I never had before) and I am so grateful to be currently participating in a 70-hour training offered by Multicultural Community Services (MCS) here in the nation's capital. The next blog post will be about this incredible training and the insights I'm already pulling from it (both as a trainer and as a would-be interpreter), just two days in. Stay tuned! There's so much to tell.

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