I had the opportunity to participate in a speed-networking activity as part of the Alverno Interpreter Institute’s workshop which took place this last weekend. I’ve participated in speed-networking before, so I was familiar with the format. This time, however, participants were given a series of questions to ask each other, which served as a great catalyst to talk about things beyond the usual speed-networking topics. There were seven questions ranging from the basic get-to-know-you to deeper, make-you-think reflections on your professional experiences.
The question that I found the most interesting to ask the other participants was “What resources are most helpful to you as an interpreter/translator?”
I confess, I asked this question with an ulterior motive. I was digging to see what additional resources I might add to my own library as well as resources I could share with my interpreter colleagues at Connecting Cultures and beyond. The responses were for the most part what you’d expect: particular websites, dictionaries, etc.
The resource that came up most consistently, however, is one that cannot be found on Amazon.com or at any public library. That resource was “my colleagues.” Most of the interpreters I had the pleasure of meeting in the brief activity work as employees at a hospital or health system. As such, they have the opportunity to collaborate and connect with other interpreter team members.
The richness of being able to collaborate and “talk shop” with other interpreters is unlike any other reference material. Don’t get me wrong. Non-human resources (websites, reference books, audio/video materials, etc.) are all indispensable tools for the interpreter’s toolkit. However, when it comes to active, engaged, real-time learning, it’s hard to find a better resource than a skilled colleague who understands the needs, skills, and contexts in which the interpreter works. This is especially true for interpreters who work in languages that do not have an abundance of resources at the ready – print or online. But it is no less true for interpreter whose language pairs do offer an abundance of non-human resources.
So, what can managers of interpreters, take from this?
Your team benefits from collaborative, interactive, informal professional development activity. Create an environment and incentive program that fosters collaborative learning and professional development. There’s more on this in the post Collaboration: A Win-Win for Medical Interpreters and Their Managers.
What can interpreters take from this?
If you work independently or are not technically on a team with other interpreters, find a team that you can join, even if it is as an “honorary” member. Connect with interpreters in your local area. Find and participate in online professional communities for interpreters. If you work on a team, make it a point to collaborate with your interpreter teammates. Block time to meet face-to-face, create an enterprise social network to connect virtually, or even do both. There’s more on this in the post Accelerate Medical Interpreter Professional Development with Shared Learning.
And interpreters, remember this: Just as your colleagues are an excellent resource for you, so too, are you an excellent resource for them. Never hesitate to share your questions, brilliance and insights.
And what can conference and workshop organizers take from this?
If you’re planning a speed-networking activity during your event, you might consider offering participants some specific questions to help inspire an engaging exchange between participants. (Hats off to Sue Couture for planning and facilitating the speed-networking event during the workshop!)