A smiling interpreter reads The Remote Interpreter: An International Textbook, Vol. 1, Foundations in Remote Interpreting.

A New Tool for Your Interpreter Toolbox: The Remote Interpreter

🧰🧠💬

Our QA Department recently received a shipment of The Remote Interpreter: An International Textbook, Vol. 1, Foundations in Remote Interpreting.

Our team comprises eight highly skilled interpreter/QA specialists with over 100 years of interpreting experience combined. In fact, many of our QA specialists still provide remote interpretation services daily.

So, we were thrilled to get our hands on this book. As soon as we unboxed them, we quickly flipped through in anticipation; it was hard to wait any longer.

The catalyst

The excitement began during this year’s CHIA (California Healthcare Interpreting Association) conference in San Diego, where we were given a sneak peek into the contents of the much-anticipated work by the authors. A collective laughter could be heard from the audience as the authors highlighted the challenges that come up in our profession: There’s the remote interpreter who could not resist the urge to interpret from his tropical vacation, Mai Tai in hand, or the remote interpreter who could not check her attitude during the call, leading to frustrating consequences.

Jokes aside, most interpreters are very serious about our role, and we have all been waiting for a book like this to help increase the visibility of our profession, offer professional guidance, and serve as a powerful resource for all stakeholders in our industry.

Covid-19 prompted many linguists to adopt new ways to deliver interpreting services. Many had to pivot quickly and learn new skills associated with remote interpreting. This global event was a catalyst for publishing a book like this, and we welcome it with open arms.

Who is this book for?

The newbie interpreter

A team member of mine shared a story about his buddy who recently arrived to the U.S. and decided to become an interpreter. Equipped with the valuable skill of speaking a language of limited diffusion, this interpreter got to work offering video interpreting services. However, he was told by the company that contracted with him that his office chair did not meet quality standards of professionalism, and it had to be replaced.

This interpreter had not realized that patterns and various color schemes would be distracting to other participants during his interpreting sessions. He’d purchased the best chair on the market, guaranteed to keep him comfortable for hours, and now he could not use it!

This book can help folks who, like the example above, are new to the industry but need guidance on the expectations surrounding professionalism.

❖ What we love

“Checklist #1: Prepare for Remote Interpreting” will be a valuable asset for those who are starting their career as remote interpreters. It’s a checklist of the setup you’ll need (headset, computer, quiet space, internet, etc.) to provide remote interpretation, along with recommendations and tips on what to avoid.

The seasoned interpreter

Contrary to the popular idiom, we feel you can teach an old dog new tricks and it is possible to break out of old habits. Interpreter self-assessment is a recurring theme that stood out to us as we read this book.

Idalba, one of our Spanish QA specialists and longtime interpreter, reflected on some of the self-assessment opportunities offered by this book:

“As we do things repeatedly, we tend to get overconfident. We live by the motto ‘Practice makes perfect,’ but it does not; in fact, ‘Practice makes permanent.’ We get used to doing things a certain way. The book gives us the tools to self-evaluate and helps us question the way we do things so as to avoid falling into bad habits.”

❖ What we love

Chapter 8 offers useful “Positive Scripting” suggestions that can be used by interpreters of all skill levels and can help make interventions more successful. Table 8.1 is one of our favorites because it includes a list of words and phrases that can help create a positive, professional environment (such as “Grateful for your patience”), and words and phrases to avoid (such as “It may take a long time” or “That’s not the way it’s done”) that can be seen as unhelpful or off-putting.

The lifelong learner interpreter

I am often amazed by the energy and work that many interpreters put into their profession. Many in our field constantly seek ways to improve vocabulary and protocols, and stay up-to-date with technology. They do this all with the goal to help others and do work that is meaningful.

Lifelong learners in our industry will find this book thought-provoking, and will welcome the authors’ point of view related to one of our profession’s biggest questions: When should interpreters intervene?

Our favorite takeaways: bias, critical thought, and intervention

Our team enjoyed learning about the concept of “communicative autonomy,” which means that all participants are in control of their own communication. Understanding this helps us think twice before intervening.

When interpreters become more experienced, some may start to gain the confidence to intervene more frequently, or act out of habit without careful consideration, even when intervention is not needed.

To ensure that other participants maintain their autonomy during an interpreted encounter, interpreters must examine their assumptions (bias) and think critically, a practice that the authors highly encourage.

When discussing bias, the book suggests that opportunities for bias increase with the number of sessions interpreted by a linguist. Yet Helen, our QA specialist and Russian video interpreter, sees opportunity to help challenge her own biases in every interpreted session. Some of her most valuable takeaways from this work include:

  • Do not assume
  • Do not define (this is the role for the provider)
  • Wait and see if the problem resolves itself
  • Engage in System 2 thinking (analytical, deliberate, rational) (found on page 391)

What we love

Table 7.2 offers various scenarios and scripts that interpreters can use to aid in interventions during a session. The sample scripts cover situations for requesting repetition, requesting clarification, cultural differences, and language differences and mismatches.

It all comes down to growth

Interpreters need years of intentional practice to master remote interpretation. Whether you are a new linguist, driven by a desire to help others communicate, or you are someone who has practiced this profession for years, there is always room for growth. We found that The Remote Interpreter gives us the tools to continue that journey.

***

The book lives on my desk, next to my workstation, and has taught me many lessons that I like to share with my colleagues. Our team will continue to reference it in our day-to-day QA work, and we encourage all interpreters — regardless of experience level — to get their hands on a copy, too!

If you’re interesting in contracting with us as a remote interpreter, check us out!

The Remote Interpreter is available in both hardcopy and ebook versions.

Authors: Katharine Allen, MA; Marjory A. Bancroft, MA; Tatiana González-Cestari, PhD, CHI-Spanish; Danielle Meder, RID-NIC; Caroline Remer, MA; Dieter Runge, M.Ed; Sarah Stockler-Rex, MA, CHI-Spanish