Meet Ayat Mohamed, the Arabic to English medical interpreter who found her passion in interpreting.
Each month at Boostlingo we feature one of the interpreters who make our work possible. This month, we’re excited to shine the spotlight on Ayat Mohamed, a dedicated consecutive medical interpreter whose unique background led her to finding her passion in being a full-time interpreter.
Ayat Mohamed is an Arabic to English medical interpreter, who started her career off as a veterinarian. She eventually moved into scientific research before ultimately finding her passion in a career in interpreting.
Hi Ayat, can you introduce yourself and share how you got started with a career in interpreting?
Yes, sure. First of all, I’m a veterinarian. I graduated from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, but for some reasons I was unable to work in that field, so I worked for two years as a medical representative where I marketed some products for a pharmaceutical company to the doctors at clinics and pharmacies and so on.
Then I got married and had my first kid, so I paused my career for a while. I resumed my career and was doing a master’s degree in virology, which is a branch of science that deals with viruses in poultry and the subject was about the avian influenza. After accomplishing my master’s degree, I tried to use it in my career and to work with it. But for some reasons, actually, I was unable to do so.
Then I traveled to Saudi Arabia with my husband, and I started to look for some jobs that match my experience. And three years ago, I started my journey as a medical interpreter.
It came by accident. I saw an Ad for an academy that provides interpretation courses, and it was something that I had never heard of before. So, I applied for those courses, and I passed the exams with an exceeding expectations score.
I started my career at that time, which was a career that I really found my passion in. It’s a career that merges all my experiences together. It merges different languages, different dialects, my medical background, and customer service skills. That’s why I love this career.
What was the transition from being a veterinarian and scientific research to an interpreter like for you?
Actually, it was a great transition, because I had a two year pause between every career. And when I chose my career as a medical interpreter, I had many choices.
So, I was comparing between different jobs that I wanted to work in, and I chose this career because I can work from my home. And it provides me with many choices and options that don’t exist in other careers. I’m now a mom and I have two kids which is a lot of responsibility.
As a medical interpreter, I work mostly in medical assignments. I get to use my medical background, because I am familiar with medical terminology, different specialists, different specialties, different diagnostic methods, and all of those terms I’m actually familiar with. When I worked as a medical representative, I was marketing pharmaceutical products, it was all depending on active listening, and on customer service orientations.
And so, in the interpretation field, yes, my main job is to interpret , but it also encompasses a bit of customer service because you have to handle different situations. So, I use my customer service skills that I experienced from my previous work as a medical representative.
As a medical researcher, you are seeking accuracy. That’s it, you seek accuracy when you interpret, because you should not drop any words, you should not alter any meanings. So, I merged all my previous experiences into interpreting.
As a medical interpreter, you’re sometimes placed into difficult situations interpreting. How do you manage the emotional impact of interpreting in these situations while maintaining your professional obligations?
Yeah, this is actually a great skill that you should have. I feel like I’m blessed that I have only a short-term memory. After interpreting you should erase your memory because if you don’t, you will get stuck in those situations. It will be very hard for you to bear it.
When you interpret you should keep your emotions in check, because you will come across difficult situations and you may come across topics or interpreting topics that you might not fully accept or agree with. So, you will have to abide by your role as an interpreter and to convey only the message not to alter any meanings, not to add it, not to drop anything.
To remain unbiased, you will have to convey the message with the same emotions with the same facial expressions and to mirror. You are only a conduit; you’re only mirroring the words. But after the assignment you should erase your memory in order to be able to go on. After ending the call, you will have to go to another call. So, you will have to erase your memory to be able to focus and to concentrate in the following call.
How has technology impacted your work as an interpreter?
We have to use technology, especially when you come across a term that you are unfamiliar with. You will intervene using our protocols and you can say, “Excuse me, this is the interpreter speaking. Would you please allow me to look up a term I’m not familiar with?”. It’s a real quick search that will not take except a few moments to look up terms that you are unfamiliar with.
And yes, even if you are an experienced interpreter, you will come across different terms and new words.
I think that currently, we are exposed to, and we are more open to different cultural backgrounds. For example, now we are in Ramadan, and most of Muslims are fasting. When I’m receiving calls from different providers, I think they have this information that the patient is fasting because of Ramadan. So, I think we are all more informed that there are differences and cultural backgrounds partly because of technology.
Finally, as an interpreter there is a lot of information you have to put down into things like intakes and so on. When you focus more on writing down intakes and paperwork, you lose your concentration on doing your main job as interpreter. On Boostlingo, I don’t have those problems. I can easily type my intakes, and then focus on my job as an interpreter, not on paperwork.
What is your advice for someone looking to start a career as an interpreter?
The advice that I would give for interpreters, especially beginners, is to practice, practice, practice. Because the more you practice, the better you become, the more confidence you will display when you perform your tasks.
You will have to practice not only your language skills, but also mirroring whole words and the same intonation with the same tones. Even facial expressions, because you will have to convey the message, as it was said by the speakers you are assisting. So “practice” is the most important advice.
My next advice is to expand your vocabulary as much as you can. Even if you are an experienced interpreter, you will come across new terms and new words on a daily basis. You should look up those terms and try to convey the whole message as it is.
Finally, taking specialized courses would be very helpful for medical interpretation. I think there are many academies offering those interpretation courses that you should use before becoming an interpreter.