Yoshie talks about her experience working as an interpreter and a language teacher
When did you first start interpreting and how did you become interested in interpreting as a profession?
It started when I was working in Tokyo. I was working for an office in Tokyo representing the state of Nevada. Large states have offices in Tokyo to foster economic development in their states, such as by Japanese companies interested in building factories or offices in the U.S. And I was the only Japanese staff in that office at the time. That put me in a position where I needed to interpret, translate, conduct meetings, and so forth. So that was when I first started interpreting.
When did you move to the United States?
I’ve been back and forth, but when I married my husband, I permanently moved. It’s been twenty-four years now. I’ve been here longer than I’ve lived in Japan now.
And you’ve been working as an interpreter all these years?
I also taught Japanese at a school on the East Coast. While I was working as an interpreter, I was getting certified to become a Japanese language teacher who can teach in English-speaking areas. I taught Japanese at a university here for a while, then went back to Japan and eventually found myself working in Tokyo for an investment bank based in Boston. And that’s when my husband and I met. We moved back to the States after we got married.
When did you first start working for CLI?
I started about ten years ago.
What are some of the most important tools and resources you use as an interpreter?
I try to keep myself updated by reading Japanese language newspapers. I read online newspapers and articles about a lot of different topics: science, current events, economics. You never know what will come up in the interpreting field today or tomorrow. And I read a lot about the medical field. I have a few online tools I use for medical terminology so that I don’t become rusty. By reading, I am able to keep my Japanese the most natural and native sounding as I can.
What experience in your background has benefitted you the most as an interpreter?
I’m just so thankful I was trained in Japan and had work experience there. There’s a business language that they use in Japan, so that experience was golden. I’m just really fortunate to have that training.
View of Tokyo at night
What does your workspace look like?
I used to have more paper resources, such as notebooks, binders, and folders, but I’ve moved away from that. Now I have a notepad, pencils, and my computer. I work at a desk and have a jug of water so I can take a sip if I need it during a long call.
What is the hardest part about being a professional interpreter?
One definite hardship I have is when the LEP is elderly and hearing impaired. That’s very difficult for me because I cannot hear the LEP nor can they hear me. I really hope that artificial intelligence can one day supplement our work as interpreters so that what I’m saying can be written out while I speak, allowing the patient or client to see everything.
Another situation that’s difficult is delivering the news of unfortunate events such as death or a child being taken away. Those are always really hard, but I try to stay neutral.
What is the hardest part linguistically about interpreting between English and Japanese?
The Japanese sentence structure is quite different from the English sentence structure. So where in Japanese you have a subject or object at the beginning of a sentence, in English you might have a verb. And English speakers hear right away whether it’s a negative or a positive. But in Japanese, because the verb is always at the end of the sentence, you don’t know whether the sentence is positive or negative or a question until you hear the sentence. So, sometimes an English nurse or clerk might get impatient because I’m waiting for a patient to finish their sentence, and the nurse might interrupt to ask what the patient is saying. In these situations, I have to explain that the client hasn’t finished their sentence, and I have to ask the client to let the LEP finish their sentence so I know what the client is saying.
What do you think the biggest challenge people with your profession are facing right now?
It’s hard for me to say because I am not connected a huge interpreter circle. I am one of the few people who is not on any social network. Personally, I’m in a good place right now, but maybe one of the hardest things as a phone interpreter is that you really don’t see your colleagues and competitors. You don’t have any direct supervisor telling you how you’re doing. So that might be hard, having to work independently.
What changes have you seen in the interpreting industry over the years?
I haven’t notice many drastic changes, per se. As an independent contractor, I am seeing myself receive more calls not just the U.S. but from other countries as well. So I know the need for interpreters is there internationally. When I started 10 years ago, I was based pretty much locally, and then requests for interpretation just started expanding out to different parts of the world. And as far as interpreting goes, it’s still about the same. I might receive fewer medical calls now, but I’m still pretty busy on the phone. If it’s not medical, it’s something else.
Where do you see the industry headed in the future?
I think the industry is going to try to implement new technologies, especially artificial intelligence. I think the industry will use that type of technology in conjunction with in-person interpreting and phone interpreting. There will be many modes of interpreting: in-person, over the phone or video device, or totally artificial. I think that’s kind of the way it’s going.