"Interpreting is interpreting"...
Is it really
all the same?
As an interpreter I provided services in many places and had the opportunity to work and chat with dozens of spoken-language professionals. Some loved court interpreting's criminal matters, others preferred working with medical material or in hospitals, and some would never change conference interpreting for any other type of interpreting no matter how daring or prestigious. My first interpreting work was in the medical field. I loved it. I had grown up reading about diseases, studying anatomy, and watching Quincy; I loved everything from physiology to forensics... in any language. One day in court, a colleague was preparing for a lecture on medical interpreting. "Why? I asked. You're a court interpreter and don't even like medical work." "Interpreting is interpreting," the court interpreter responded. I was quiet, thinking: Hmm...The code of ethics extends to all types of interpreters. Canons such as confidentiality and accuracy must be upheld, as well as professional demeanor. “I guess you’re right,” I responded.
Now that I have somewhat more experience i think that i would respond differently to that comment. Obviously, there are differences in terminology and procedure, but the spirit of the interpretation is not exactly the same in the medical and court interpreting fields. The difference is ]much more than Medical interpreters allowing themselves to act as cultural brokers or convey a need for clarification if they perceive the message isn't understood; misunderstandings in the medical field could affect a patients' health and well-being. When interpreting in court, it is the LEP's duty to request a lower register if he or she does not understand. The LEP, in court, must be diligent, aware, and ensure his or her own understanding. I was aware of these similarities and distinctions but hadn't really questioned if they were merely distinctions in the practice of the professions, while the essence of the remained one, the same. The mind set in court and medical interpreting are not the same and the interpreter must prepare before a session to ensure he or she does not violate the code of ethics of each profession. Working and training strictly in one field and expecting to organically merge or expand into another with minimal training would be unwise. Observation and shadowing are helpful in understanding the role of the interpreter in each field of work, as well as learning to recognize stress and secondary trauma sometimes suffered by interpreters involved in cases of abuse and violence.
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