There are many different factors that influence a person’s ability to recall information, a rather important skill for medical interpreters. Familiarity with the subject matter is one of them, in no small part because it influences meaning, but also because it impacts your mental agility.
Gaining familiarity with a topic is much more than memorizing a list of words and their definition. Take the following example.
You’re probably very familiar with these words and their meaning:
But let’s string them together in the context of this message:
I finally tracked down the region at which to properly update this record (simply put, there are cascades of “DNS regions” directing traffic at different networking levels, each of which I’ve been trying to place this record), and it turns out that it’s properly handled at the server-colocation network level. I filed a support ticket yesterday to get this set up today, and they said it wouldn’t be a problem.
Unless you’re already familiar with this particular topic (computer networking), you’re probably a little unsure about what that message really means. Basic terminology has become quite complicated.
What is the impact on your memory recall? As your brain is frantically trying to piece together meaning, whole chunks of information are flying out the window.
Contrast this with a message of similar length about a topic that is familiar to you, and your ability to recall the message will be much improved.
Let’s give it a try with this message:
It is important for children to be fully immunized. Diseases that can be prevented with vaccines can be very serious – even deadly – especially for infants and young children. Immunizations have helped to greatly improve the health of children in the United States. Most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a family or community. Although most of these diseases are not common in the United States, they persist around the world. 
Not quite as intimidating to recall this message, is it?
So go ahead! Study up on relevant topics. Marinate yourself in them. Not because someone is going to ask you what medicine to prescribe, but so that you can give your brain cells an advantage when it comes time to piece the details of a message back together – in a different language, mind you! – while still preserving the meaning of the message.
How often do you marinate in new topics?
Want to learn more about the art of memory recall? Check out the Fighting Mental Decay continuing education course for medical interpreters.