You finally did it! After months of consideration and endless prodding from family, friends, and even that guy at the supermarket, you finally enrolled in an interpreter training program. Woo hoo! Your coursework will prepare you to interpret in the medical field, but there will always be more to learn than can be covered in a 40-hour, 180-hour, or even degree-level interpreter training program. (If you’re wondering how long it will take to learn everything there is to know about medical interpreting, this might not be the right career path for you.) Why not get a head start on learning beyond the essentials covered in your medical interpreter training program? Here are a few ways to do just that:
1. Do the required work, and then some. Study the required vocabulary, and then some. Practice interpreting using the exercises provided, and then some. Analyze common ethical scenarios, and then some. You get the idea. By all means, do prepare for your course exams, but don’t stop there. Your real exam will take place when you are on your own with a patient and a provider relying solely on your interpretation. Make sure you’ve done everything you can to prepare for this moment.
Chances are quite good that your instructor(s) will give you practical tools you can use for continued professional development and self-guided study. Take advantage of these resources early on.
2. Join an association for interpreters. Yes, believe it or not, such things do exist. And yes, thank heavens, students are welcome in many organizations – usually at a discounted membership rate! Not sure where to begin? Check out the International Medical Interpreters Association, the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care, and the American Translators Association. Don’t forget to investigate local and regional associations, too. Many can be found on the ATA Chapter and Affiliate webpage: https://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/index.php.
Joining a professional organization, especially as a newcomer to the field, is a great way to connect with other colleagues, grow professionally, and ensure that you are engaged with current industry trends and happenings (and I’m not just talking hairstyles and hangouts!).3. Grow your online network. Having professional business contacts is always a plus, but having an online network is about much more than just stuffing an electronic rolodex. You’ll need friends, sympathetic ears, sage advice, and a bit of inspiration to keep you thriving throughout your career. Of course, not everything posted in an online forum is good, correct, or valid (except for things I post, of course. That was a joke. But not really.), but even when faced with content that seems, well, bizarre, you’ll have an opportunity to consider and reflect on viewpoints that are new or contradictory to your own, and perhaps even learn from them. You’ll also have the chance to learn from the challenges that others have faced, and that, quite possibly, you’ll face yourself someday. Before long, you’ll even find that you have something to contribute to the online community, and you’ll have a place to do just that.
Getting online is easy and not at all expensive, provided you already have a computer-type device with Internet service. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, all offer free services. Upgrading for a fee is optional. Not sure where to start? You might try LinkedIn – create a profile, join a few relevant groups, and start learning from and with others.
What tips do you have for aspiring interpreters who want to enhance their formative training experience?