Meet the therapist who also works as a Spanish medical interpreter for the BPIN and Operations Supervisor for Desert Comms, Illian Ramirez
Each month at Boostlingo we highlight one of the interpreters assisting customers as part of the Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network. These 13,000 professionals are located all over the globe and represent over 300 languages.
Illian Ramirez is a medical interpreter and Operations Supervisor with Desert Comms Language Services who also works as a therapist. His background has made him uniquely suited to serve our customers on the Boostlingo platform, and we’re happy to share some of the contagious passion he showed during our team’s interview with him.
How did you get involved with interpreting?
Wow, that was a journey. I was in college, I remember that I was like 19 years old, I was actually thinking that I had too much free time back then and I wanted a new challenge.
I wanted a job, and I saw this ad on Facebook, after a long search of possibilities. I saw that they were looking for interpreters. My aim was that I wanted to work at something associated to what I was studying, which is psychology. I really wanted to continue being involved with and continue learning from them, because they always have different paths of life.
As a psychologist, I was gonna have to deal with that, and what better way [to continue being involved] than medical interpretation and mental health interpretation. For me, finding an assistant psychologist or something like that was really, really hard. This way I got to meet real people, you know, hear them out and hear what they were dealing with; and also seeing the points of view from different therapists in the United States, which is very different than what we do here [in Mexico].
That’s how I landed in the interpretation scene. I took a lot of courses throughout the years. And then finally, my amazing boss gave me the great opportunity to be qualified as a medical interpreter with ALTA which is really, really great. That’s it.
How did you pick up English as a second language?
It was mainly at home. My family was just like, “You gotta learn another language.” It will open doors, in this case, English. And I gotta say they were right. (Mom, Dad, thanks).
My parents, they worked a lot throughout the United States. So, I had to move with them, frequently. And I learned in different states and cities and schools, friends, books, media. I know, different lingo. And it’s just amazing to have an opportunity to take it all in. And I’m still learning. I mean, learning never stops when it comes to languages, or stuff.
Being bilingual, you were probably informally interpreting for a long time before you moved into the profession. Do you remember doing that as a kid?
When I was in elementary school or middle school, there was a program at the school that I was going to in California named the Helping Hands program. It was basically students helping other students. And one of the helping hand people when I got there, they helped me out and it really made things smooth for me. And then when I got the chance of being a member, I definitely said yes. I was actually interpreting there before I even knew what interpretation was.
So, I was just there minding my own business. And then suddenly, the clerk of the school currently just tossed a student into the room where I was with a teacher. And the teacher just gave her this whole Welcome Wagon, like, “Welcome to the school and here are all the services.” And the student was just nodding their head.
I knew right off the bat, she wasn’t understanding. And so the teacher just went on and on and on for like, what seemed to be hours. And I was just there standing stealing chocolate… I mean, getting my prizes. So I just kind of like, looked at the teacher and she kinda was like, “Oh, Are you understanding what I’m saying?” And the student just nodded her head again you know? I asked the teacher “Can I talk to her in Spanish?” And she said, “Sure, go for it.” And then I just asked her, “Do you understand this?” We had a conversation, and I just started helping the teacher with that. And then, I became the interpreter for Helping Hands at that school.
What is your favorite part of being an interpreter?
Connecting with people, I really like that. I actually used to be very introverted, so this job really dragged me out of my shell. It pushed me to be more social with people, which is great. Honestly, I’m very thankful for that. And, I guess just having a great time with the clients that I work with. Seeing that they’re grateful, seeing that I’m learning new things, I’m very grateful for that. I really appreciate learning and just having all that knowledge there. It’s just always a fun experience for me.
Has being an interpreter made you see the world differently?
Perhaps the way that I connected with people. I guess that just hearing their points of view and different parts of the Hispanic culture in my case really gives me a better idea as to how they’re perceiving the reality. The world as we know it, the news or just the headlines of the news, it’s just a point of view of someone that maybe is in your own town, or maybe it’s outside of Mexico, or you don’t even know what they’re reporting about. Maybe the heard it, and what they report on the news is very different than the way that people are actually living it.
I guess I see that maybe if you’re going to give out an opinion, or if you are meeting someone from a different culture, it gives me a better understanding of how they’re going through their reality. I would say that I’m more open to knowing more to learn more. I’m just open minded regarding whatever is happening out there.
When you’re looking for an interpreter, what are the traits you seek out for somebody who’s going to be successful?
They have empathy, they know how to use assertive communication, they like to read, they understand the importance of what we do. First and foremost, definitely, that they’re never tired of learning. Some of the people that we interview, they think that just because they’re bilingual, they know everything. But that’s just like the first step. You have to study vocabulary. There’s a lot of contexts in every single language. Going to medical appointments is not the same as going to the hardware stores. (I hate hardware stores by the way, it’s always something you need, and never something you want).
So there’s a lot of settings, you just have to keep studying. For instance, if I have a call, I’m always learning something new. If I have a call, and I’m not familiarized with like one or two words, I immediately start researching in that same call. I start pulling glossaries, I ask QA, I ask my coworkers, the other interpreters. And again, I go down this rabbit hole, and I just obsessively read about it. So that at least I can have enough basis on that setting for another call.
I mean, empathy is also just a really, really important part of being an interpreter because I feel like if you see that other person as maybe one of your family members, you give it your all. I’m always telling [our interpreters] “Okay, just think about it. So maybe that’s your mom and your grandma. They don’t know the language, wouldn’t you want them to have the attention they deserve?”
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