Each month we get to know one of the interpreters in Boostlingo’s Professional Interpreter Network (BPIN). This month we sat down with Jordan, a Spanish medical interpreter who is also the owner of Desert Comms. Desert Comms and our other language service partners are the backbone of the network of 10,000 interpreters who provide interpretation on the Boostlingo platform.
As the owner of Desert Comms, Jordan works with an interpreting team to help staff virtual interpreting sessions. Still passionate about the field, he also takes Spanish medical interpreting calls every day and is studying for both his simultaneous interpretation certification and his legal interpreting certification. In this interview, Jordan shares insights from his ten years of experience as an interpreter. Jordan discusses how he got started in the industry, offers advice to fellow interpreters, and tells us what he loves most about the work.
Q: Tell us about how you got into Spanish medical interpreting.
I’ve been interpreting for my parents — my parents are Mexican — ever since I was small. That was my first job as an interpreter, not paid, of course.
The way I got into this industry, first, I started off in customer service, but I was just not feeling the part. We were just like robots, I wasn’t really helping anyone.
I needed to look for something different, something that would make me feel that I was actually making a change or helping someone. I decided to study to get certified as a medical interpreter because my father suffers from an advanced type of diabetes.
Q: What was the process of becoming a medical interpreter like?
I read books, learning the parts of the body, parts of the brain, parts of the human bone. You need to study and study and study and study a lot. One of my coworkers is a nurse. I started becoming friends with him and learning from him. I got certified with ALTA, it’s an online course.
This is something that you have to study every day. Even if you already know it by heart, every day, you must grab a book again and start reading it. There’s a lot of free courses, there’s paid courses, there’s channels on YouTube.
I’m a pen and paper guy. So, you have to write everything down, it’s an everyday learning experience. There’s new words sometimes you don’t know. And I decide, for example, if I don’t know a word in a call and have to say I’m not familiar with that term, it gives me an opportunity to look for it. Then I write it down in my notebook, and I write it down 10 to 20 times until I remember it. The next time I get it, I’m not going to be confused on that term. But yes, every day you learn a new word.
Q: What is your process whenever you don’t know a word?
Multitasking for me is the key word. Not all doctors are patient enough to give you an opportunity to look for that word. So, let’s say they give me a hard word and while they’re saying the rest, part of my mind is saving what I’m going to interpret and the other part is literally working on looking for that word.
It’s all about your work area as well. I have a huge picture of the human anatomy and I have a lot of little handy things to look at. I download all the glossaries and I have them separated by folder. So let’s say we get a call about diabetes, I open up my diabetes folder. I pay a lot of attention to the call, as soon as you get it, you’re going to know what the call is about, and you’re going to know what terminology you’re going to use. So as a professional, you must have that folder available.
Q: How do you balance the stress of emotional calls during your workday in your personal life?
We all have feelings. We all have emotions. In this field, you have to be mentally well, emotionally well, and well within yourself.
If you’re showing your emotions to someone that’s already receiving bad news, you’re not going to be of help. You kind of change your tone to a compassionate tone, but without affecting or showing your feelings. So, you have to be their hero and leave your feelings for later. At the end of the job, go run, go out, go hug your family, go to a psychologist and share your feelings.
Q: What advice do you recommend to people interested in becoming an interpreter?
I really, really take care of who I recommend this job to, because of the love I have for it.
You have to invest in your personal tools, your brain is the main tool here in interpreting. If you’re tired, you’re going to sound tired. You have to invest in yourself as a professional and of course, respect the industry that you’re working for. As a professional, you have to invest in your brain, invest in your knowledge daily, because this is a job where you learn every single day and you must be prepared.
Q: What do you love about interpreting?
I would say the feeling of satisfaction of helping someone. No other job can give you that feeling.
There’s all types of calls, so that’s awesome as well, you get to be a lot of professions, just sitting in your chair.
Q: How has being an interpreter changed the way that you see the world?
Now that I’ve become an interpreter, I’ve learned how to talk to people and respect them. Yesterday, I ran into this elderly person that was feeling bad. I’m not a doctor, I called the doctor right away of course, but I started to ask him, ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Do you have a temperature?’ Things I would ask in an interpretation call.
I try to help people now that I’m more knowledgeable about the things going on in the world. It’s helped me learn about different types of cultures as well. I love to hear different types of English, different types of Spanish. It’s made me more friendly and more knowledgeable about cultures.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for interpreters who want to be their best?
My advice to an interpreter who wants to be the best is practice, practice. There’s a lot of tools these days. There’s a YouTube channel called Interpret Your World. It’s really neat because it pauses and it says it’s time for the interpreter to interpret. So, never finish practicing.
And like I mentioned before, invest in your mind, invest in yourself.