Where’s the Training for MY Specialty?

by Cynthia E. Roat, MPH

In what venues do you like to interpret? Do you love helping social workers find much needed resources for people going through a rough patch in life? Or are kids your passion, and interpreting in school settings your joy? And do you then feel frustrated when the only training available seems to be for medical interpreters?

Here’s some good news for you! Medical interpreting, social service interpreting and educational interpreting are all considered aspects of community interpreting, and in most ways the knowledge, skills and attitudes you need in any of these venues are the same.

Let’s look at that more closely.

A good interpreter needs the following:

  • Understanding of “scope of practice” – that means, what is part of your role and what is outside your role.
  • Understanding of the ethics governing your work – that is, the rules for “right” and “wrong” practice.
  • Knowledge of the protocols accepted in this venue – or rather, how do you do your work.
  • Skill in converting the meaning from speech in one language into another.
  • Knowledge of topic-specific vocabulary in two languages.

All of these, except the last, are the same whether you are interpreting in a hospital, a social service agency or a school. So generally, community interpreters are trained together, and an effort is made to teach the venue-specific bilingual vocabulary of all three.

What about court interpreters? And interpreters working for the police or in jails? These interpreters work in a legal environment in which most conversations are adversarial, not collaborative as in healthcare or social services. So the scope of practice, the ethics, and the protocols involved – not to mention the vocabulary — are quite different. As a result, the training for legal interpreters is also different from that of the rest of community interpreters.

So when you look for basic training or continuing education as an interpreter, don’t be too concerned as to the venue focus. Most of what is taught in a course for healthcare interpreters will be directly applicable to interpreting in a school or interpreting in a social service setting, and vice versa. The most important thing is to take some kind of training, so that when you get out there to work, you have the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully bridge that language gap for the professionals and community people you serve.

Be the Bridge!
Learn more about getting trained as an interpreter at
https://www.vcinm.org/.

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