Advocacy in the Role of an Interpreter

Photo credit Matthias Zomer

The quality of a service is usually assessed based upon whether the end result met, exceeded, or fell short of prior expectations. For many services, this can easily be determined based upon one, straight-forward expectation of an outcome or result. Your cake, for example, is either dry, or it’s not. Your car, is either clean, or it’s not. Interpreting, on the other hand, has a unique standard of quality. By nature, interpreting has three expectations consistently at work in each experience: the expectations of the service provider, the expectations of the client, and finally the expectations of the interpreter themselves. Unfortunately, when these expectations meet and do not match up, there is a site of conflict around the quality of the service. For this reason, it is essential that all involved in an interpreting experience are aware of the role of the interpreter so the quality of the experience can be the best possible.

At face value, the role of a spoken language healthcare interpreter may seem relatively apparent – to strictly relay messages from one party to another, as a sort of disinterested mediator between the two parties with a language barrier. With this definition, anyone who can speak both source languages should be able to perform the duties of an interpreter. However, in reality, the interpreter’s purpose is slightly more complex than a game of telephone, as hard as telephone can typically be. The interpreter does more than provide a tunnel, they work to make communication so complete that no language barrier remains, the goal being that the consumer speaking a non-dominant language receives the same resources and treatment as one who speaks the dominant language.

To expand on the role of an interpreter in every experience, we must first separate the interpreter from “one who is bilingual”. LTC Language Solutions’ Quality Assurance Supervisor, Liz Essary says, “A professional interpreter knows how to work within role boundaries so that two people who speak different languages can communicate as if there were no language barrier.” Liz, who has 15 years of experience in interpreting in both medical and community settings, says an untrained interpreter may be “well-intentioned” but not be aware of the ethics involved with interpreting professionally. This lack of training may lead to unawareness of role limitations and tension between client, interpreter and care provider.

Secondly, advocacy within interpreting must be understood as an organic part of the interpreter’s role and rightly found within ethical limitations. While the interpreter as an advocate has historically been a point of conflict in the profession – since it appears to undermine the definition an interpreter in the first place –  advocacy actually occurs naturally as language barriers and systemic barriers are being broken down in order for those with language barriers to be treated in an equal manner to those without. Advocacy in this respect has little to do with bias and much to do with education and clarifying cultural expectations.

For Liz, sensitivity for role boundaries within advocacy are heightened in situations where she can personally relate: “I think in those situations where I see myself reflected [it is hard to separate from personal advocacy and the role of an interpreter], such as working with adult children who are caring for parents.” However, with clear checks, interpreters can guard against compromising professionalism and stay within their role boundaries. Liz says a good question she asks herself is: “If I advocate in this way, will it cause a conflict with my principles?” (Main principles are role-boundaries, confidentiality and impartiality.) Empathy as an interpreter is a good thing, so long as it does not interfere with accuracy or impartiality. “Engaging with the client outside of the interpretation” or “adding [your] own piece to the interpretation” are two things that would be in conflict with those principles. “Advocacy can be unprofessional when it starts to cause a conflict with our other professional values,” she clarifies.  Service providers will want to be looking for interpreters who stick to those principles and interpreters will want to make sure they set up the proper boundaries well.

Liz believes what separates bilinguals from interpreters most is training and experience. So, next steps for new interpreters could be to get involved in professional organizations, enrolling in interpreter trainings that explain ethics and professional values, or attending interpreter social events to network with experienced professionals in the field. Those who frequently request

interpreting services can start by deepening their understanding and simply engaging with their interpreters and interpreting agency about the profession, as well as asking about trainings and experience. LTC is excited to have begun providing education and training for interpreters in the opening months of 2017 to develop professionalism, ethics and awareness in the field. Additionally, below is a list of organizations where development opportunities for interpreters and service providers alike can be found. Happy interpreting!

National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare (NCIHC)

www.ncihc.org

Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI)

www.matiata.org

South Eastern Medical Interpreters Association (SEMIA)

www.semia.org

Community and Court Interpreters of Ohio (CCIO)

www.ccio.org

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)

www.najit.org

-Cassidy Tyler, Interpreting Events Coordinator

Thank You So Much, I Really Enjoy My Classes With Joyce I Love Her She Is Very Nice Teacher.

J. Nolaya

Juliana is even more than an amazing Portuguese teacher but also a cultural expert and a very lovely person. I will really miss her a lot…

Portuguese Student

Gabi was afraid to tackle speaking, until we just starting talking. She has now put out a yoga video with her speaking English. She will teach this class twice a week.

Maggie (Teacher in Atlanta, GA)

Joseph was an excellent instructor. He was very dedicated to teaching me the language skills I needed for my upcoming assignment.

Student from Government Program

I Appreciate Your Qualified Language Training Program Very Much. You Made It Possible To Improve My Knowledge In The English Language In A Lot Of Ways: A Significant Increase Of Vocabulary, Repetition And Consolidation Of Grammar And Practice The English Language By Using It In Conversations During Every Lesson. I Am Very Thankful For All They´ve Done And I´ll Always Recommend Your Institution In The Future.

C. Muth

The Classes With Katelyn Are Amazing. I Am Very Happy To Have Her As My Professor. She Is An Amazing Teacher And An Excellent Person. I Am Learning A Lot From Her. She Is Very Patient, Responsible, Punctual, Very Clear, And With Great Experience Teaching. She Is Helping Me A Lot To Improve My English.

Anonymous

I cannot express enough great things about this experience. Jeancois was absolutely fantastic- professional, flexible, and dynamic- qualities I have found that some interpreters don’t always demonstrate when working with the pediatric population.

Bilingual Professor

Thank you both very much for all you do. This translation project will go incredibly far in informing many of our Veterans and their families, on the important facts and information surrounding our current pandemic.

EEO Specialist (Equal Employment Opportunity)

I Enjoyed Studying With LTC. I Am Grateful For The Great Work With Ana And Her Professionalism To Customize Themes And Her Support In My Daily Life. I Feel More Comfortable With My Language.

D. Triviño

Overall, I Thought The Course Was Fantastic. I Feel Like I Learned A Lot And Improved Significantly. Astrid Is A Great Professor. She Took The Class Seriously And Made It Enjoyable. She Did A Great Job Of Recognizing Everyone’s Weaknesses And Helping Us Improve On Them. She Focused On Improving Our Grammar While Also Keeping The Class Conversational. The Lessons Were Well Prepared And Focused On Areas We Needed To Learn, Not Just By-The-Book. It Felt Like The Class Was Tailored To The Student’s Abilities. I Am More Than Satisfied.

K. Corrigan

Thank you so much for your interpretation service – it has been a blessing to work with you and has been so helpful in a meaningful way!

Current ASL Client

I appreciate you, Anya and Lauren for leading the training. It was very beneficial and I got to immediately use some of the material in my class.

Language Training Workshop Teacher

This Year Went Very Well. The Interpreters Were There On Time Every Day And Very Helpful To Catherine. I Did Not Have To Think Twice About Their Service. Thank You.

C. Carol

Several months of training with Judith passed very quickly. It was interesting, the atmosphere was great, I will miss our lessons!

Project Management Employee

We meet virtually now. He even gave me a cooking lesson….he tried his best to do it in Japanese but we ended up doing most of it in English ????. While I may have learned less words, I certainly got to learn how to make tempura!!

Patrick (Happy Student in Tokyo)

I Really Enjoyed My Time With Christine, She Is Amazing, As I Told You She Helped Me A Lot Improving My Conversation Skills. The Classes Were Really Dynamics\ And I Never Felt Like I Was In A Strict Class. I Want To Say Thank You Again And I Hope In The Future To Take The Training Again. I Will Recommend Ltc With My Venezuelan And Latin Friends.

F. Inciarte

When Covid hit we were cautious allowing anyone but the patient in the office and this is a wonderful helping hand in the matter.

Interpreting Location Manager

I Wanted To Take The Time To Thank You For Your Amazing Services, Both Tom And Hayley Were Tremendous Help Onsite And Even Prepping For It. Looking Forward To Doing Business With You Guys In The Future.

D. Henriquez

The ongoing lessons have helped break up the routine of quarantine and more importantly, a source of learning and personal improvement during these extraordinary times.

Jasmin (Student in Mexico City)

Thank you. I appreciate what you do to help our Company succeed with better communication for our fellow employees.

Director of Human Resources – Staffing Company

I have had wonderful interpreters from LTC in the past, who have done a great job providing precise and accurate interpretation. Ms. Li, however, goes far above and beyond what is expected. I’m so very grateful for her exceptional service to both this family and to ZCS.

Director of Student Services

On behalf of Freedom House, I would like to sincerely thank you for you and your team’s services today. Your presence helped us to ensure that the event went smoothly and that all of the attendees were able to participate. Thank you so much!

Freedom House

I thoroughly enjoy working with him. He has all the proper material and the patience. our classes are very instructive and he doesn’t waste time.  Alvaro has been really good at being able to construct the pieces and then put them in place so that it all comes together and becomes usable. 

Spanish student

I have to say that Karen has been an amazing teacher. She is very kind and always is searching the way to explain me everything. Always works in her class in advance. Long story short she is great.

Student from Mexico learning English

The LTC Is The Best English Training Compared To My Previous Language Training Experience Because They Really Understand What I Needed And The Important And Suitable Materials Useful To Apply At My Work. They Give Me Confident To Speak In English And My Writing Is Improving.

D. Sriyunilawati

Thanks Wendy for all your help! You are a terrific manager. What a difference between my GLobal LT experience and working with you!!

Teacher

Kazuko Is A Wonderful Teacher And A Super Sweet Person. Thank You For Your Services And Timely Responses In Everything. I Plan To Recommend Ltc To Any And Everyone I Know Interested In Language Learning. Thank You!

J. Brogan

I Would Recommend Ltc To Other Global Companies Requiring Interpretation Services. During Our Event, The Performance Of Ltc Made Me Feel At Ease Which Allowed Me To Focus My Attention On Other Aspects Of The Event. I Believe That When You Work With Ltc, You Will Receive A Professional And Efficient Team Of People Who Will Do Everything In Their Power To Deliver Excellent Service.

D. Hayden

Thank You For All Of Everyone’s Help With Fumiya. We Have All Seen Him Grow With The Ability To Communicate On The Daily Tasks. I Will Definitely Keep You On My Contacts In Future Situations Thank You Again Have A Great Day.

J.

My Classes With Connie Have Been Excellent. I Would Even Go So Far As To Say That They Have Exceeded My Expectations.

M. Bush

The instructor [Jeff] taught me not only English but also American culture, history, and food culture. He also gave me advice on getting a driver’s license, buying a car and furniture. Thanks to him, I started jogging and became healthier. He has helped me to make a full start in my new life. Thank you for introducing me to a very wonderful instructor.

Japanese student learning English

Our ENL (English and a New Language) team refers to her as a superhero and it’s no joke—she is truly amazing! Kitty does so much more than just interpret our conferences. She is someone who understands how school works and who can give us important cultural context, which is incredibly valuable.

Director of Student Services

I would like to commend Catherine Thille for her professionalism. The sessions were always on time and well structured.

French Student

Thank you so much to all of you for this workshop, I absolutely loved all the information you shared and will definitely continue to address cultural differences in class.

French Instructor

I wanted to say thank you for matching me with such a good teacher. I really feel much more confident after just a few lessons and this makes such a difference in my day to day happiness and feeling in Japan – the power to communicate is really important to me.

Japanese student

I really LOVE my Portuguese classes and Juliana is TERRIFIC… I never had a teacher as great as Juliana, she is amazing and it is teaching me not only to talk in Portuguese but also about the Brazilian culture that is helping me a lot to understand the way they communicate…

Student in Mexico

I can say only that Ruth is an amazing teacher. I am absolutely satisfied with our classes. Thank you so much for your attention.

Language Training Student

I Really Have Appreciated The Classes With Nancy – She Is Wonderful Teacher And I Was Very Motivated To Learn More (And Always Felt Badly When I Struggled Because She Inspires One To Want To Be/Do Better). I Am Very Appreciative Of Having Had This Opportunity To Work With All Of You. It Is One Of The Very Best Language Classes I Have Taken In Years.

A. West

The Classes Have Been Great. My Knowledge Has Increased Tenfold, Thanks To My Classes And Personalized Curriculum. The One-On-One Nature Of The Classes Ensures That Learning Is Catered To You.

K. Singh

Floriana was an absolute delight, and I could not have asked for a better teacher. She was outstanding, well-prepared, adapting course materials to my needs and interests, responsive, caring, dedicated to making course content fit with my context, and most of all a friendly and smiling face every week for someone new in town.

Student from Denmark learning Italian

Thank you for organizing these workshops for teachers, we learn so much from each other and grow to be better instructors.

Language Training Instructor

Kathleen, you have been an amazing and reliable addition to this student’s team for the past five school years. I want to express my gratitude to you as well as gratitude from the parents and student. We all appreciate your dedication to his access success!

Student’s School to Our Teacher

I’m so grateful to have you interpreting these important and complex issues for our student!

Current ASL Client

Their phone interpretation service is a very easy and convenient service for us to use when we are seeing patients in the office. Douglas Price is a great person there and is very good at communicating with our practice and helping us with anything we need. Great company!

Practice Manager

I Hope All Is Well. I Wanted To Follow Up Regarding The Translating Last Weekend. The Gentleman Helping Us Was Fantastic. He Was The Epitome Of Customer Service And Was So Knowledgeable. He Is The Biggest Asset You Have At Your Company.

Anonymous

It was the 3rd class with Kathy today. She is the best English trainer I’ve ever met. Her lessons really work good. So far I have nothing I need to ask you.

Nissan student from Japan.