Interpreting: challenging but a very satisfying job: Rosibel Alcolea, Interpreting Canterbury

Rosibel a trained Spanish-English interpreter working with Interpreting Canterbury for the past one year moved to Christchurch six years back from her native Mexico City after marrying a Kiwi. Here she shares her initial struggle, her path to becoming a trained interpreter, and the challenges and rewards her job brings everyday.

“Yes training is important because being bilingual doesn't make you an interpreter. Lots of interpreting is actually about dealing with hospitals, immigration, and the justice system, which involves a great deal of technical vocabulary. You have to study forms, understand the nomenclature, and find the most relevant explanation/words in ethnic languages. More so, ethics and confidentiality are an integral part of interpreting. You must not change the message while interpreting even if the message is rude or non-coherent.”

This is what Rosibel’s message is to all those who don’t realise the importance of hiring trained interpreters, which by the way is required by law for all government departments.

She explained it even further by giving an example. “If you’re helping a doctor diagnose a patient during which the doctor asks about the patient’s previous meal, and the patient replies by explaining what he or she did during the day. The message is non-coherent, but you must pass it as it is because it may be a symptom of some neurological disorder.”

A trained and practising psychologist - not in New Zealand as her qualifications are not recognised here but via skype for her patients back home in Mexico - Rosibel understands the very basic human need of “being understood”.

“Just the other day I got a call from Wellington [she does on-site as well as tele-interpreting jobs] where the doctors needed me to convey to a family that their relative who was in a very bad shape can no longer survive and they had done what all they could have done. While it was emotionally very draining for me to convey the message as well as for the family to receive it, they were all very grateful that at least they knew what’s going on. That’s why I always say that interpreting is a very challenging but at the same time very satisfying job.”

Interpreting is also, as Rosibel says, a peculiar profession where you have to do multiple tasks at the same time. While you are listening, you are also translating, as well as spelling out the message at the same time, which is sometimes very hard.

Rosibel’s story of interpreting is her way of contributing to NZ’s labour market. “While I would love to contribute as a psychologist too (she also teaches some online masters and bachelors psychology courses for Mexican universities from here), till the time that happens, this is my way of expressing gratitude towards a country which has given me so much.”