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Interpreter Spotlight: Abhijit Bhandari, Nepali to English Medical Interpreter

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Meet Abhijit Bhandari, the Nepali to English medical interpreter with an engineering background.

Every month at Boostlingo, we take a moment to recognize one of the interpreters who make our work possible. This time around, we’re excited to shine the spotlight on Abhijit Bhandari, a Nepali to English medical interpreter whose unconventional journey has led to a fulfilling role in the world of interpreting.

On his path to becoming a medical interpreter, Abhijit has leaned on his past professional experience, intertwining his technical knowledge and passion for helping others. His time spent as an insurance surveyor and in the engineering field have shaped the way he approaches interpreting, lending an element of practicality and precision to his work.

Abhijit believes that the core of interpreting is understanding and communication. He says, “you will be hearing people, communicating with people, going through many different things. You cannot even imagine sometimes what things are coming. And you just have to explain what they are saying.”

Additionally, Abhijit emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence in interpreting. For him, it’s about more than just translating words – it’s about capturing the speaker’s feelings and conveying them accurately. He explains, “you have to find out the correct emotion. For every word they are speaking, if they are angry at a particular word…So rendition is really important here, and rendering it properly.”

For aspiring interpreters, Abhijit’s advice is to dive in. Interpreting can be a way to escape from the hectic pace of life and engage in meaningful connections with others. It’s about being a people’s person and simplifying complex information for others to understand. He encourages, “if you want to explore yourself in the field of vocabulary, and how you’re able to make people understand in a simpler way, this is a really good place.”

Looking towards the future, Abhijit doesn’t see himself leaving the field of interpreting. His next goal is to delve into the realm of thermodynamics, with an aim to merge his knowledge from both domains and contribute to innovation in the future.

Here is a selection from our recent interview with Abhijit:

Hey there, Abhijit, can you introduce yourself?

Yeah, my name is Abhijit Bhandari and I have been interpreting for the last three to four years. It’s been about three and a half years to be exact. It’s been a really good experience for me.

I’m from an engineering background and getting along with people – I’m more into design and table works – so, being with people, socializing, communicating, it was not my cup of tea. I was totally a sidelines kind of guy.

Later on, I got this opportunity. I don’t know how it came to me. Maybe it’s some kind of luck now. But I just got into it. And right now I’m really enjoying communicating with people. Being their words, explaining how they’re feeling, their desires, their sorrows, joys and everything. That’s really good.

And also, I’m an insurance surveyor. So it happened to be like, I must know the skills of communication. Otherwise, how can I convince people who are really agitated after some kind of insurance claims, accidents and all. So, this has been really, really helpful in improving my communication skills.

How did you end up getting into the field of medical interpretation?

Actually, I did my biology in high school. So, it’s not like I don’t know any medical terms or biological terms. Since I have already been at the high school, it was quite a bit easier for me to get into it.

During my mechanical course, and my AI course, we happen to learn a lot of neural networks things, right?

So due to those medical terms that I was learning from it, and due to my high school in biology and everything, it happened to make things a lot easier for me to understand those things.

And I have a pretty good interest in the human body as well. Like, we are human bodies. So we must be interested about what’s going on inside and how the system is functioning. And I’m that sort of guy, so I liked it, the medical interpreting and everything.

What is it like interpreting in Nepal?

I think AI is a good comparison here. For example, the language I interpret in is Nepali and it’s quite lagging behind in terms of AI. There is a lot more work to do in my language context in comparison to English because people have been training a lot in English.

Many things are lagging behind in Nepali. The thing is Nepal has a limited data set available right now, like English has a lot of data sets available, but we have less data available. So the training is limited, right?

And in the case of interpretation, what happens is like there are a lot of things and we cannot find out an exact term of that English term in Nepali. It gets really difficult in figuring out an exact term.

I have to explain the meaning sometimes because we have to make the communication go on. I cannot break it and make the provider or the client feel like he has been breaking the conversation.

Sometimes it happens, we will be using so many words that I have to keep on breaking the conversation. And if I keep on doing this, the conversation won’t have a good flow. So, I just happen to explain the meaning sometimes, so that the other person can understand it better, and I can keep the communication going.

What qualities are important to be an interpreter?

Well, the most important thing is you have to learn to listen to people. People will be giving a lot of information. They will be in some kind of scenario expressing themselves with a lot of emotions.

So, you have to find out the correct emotion. For every word they are speaking.

Like, if they are angry at a particular word there, you have to look at that word where they’re really angry. So rendition is really important here and rendering it properly so that the other party can understand better what kind of scenarios the person is going through. It’s really important for everyone to understand those feelings.

What’s one of your most memorable experiences as a medical interpreter?

I don’t know if it goes into medical interpretation. But this guy was very drunk, okay. And he was taken by the police to the hospital, he was arrested, and he was at the hospital being checked up.

And what happened was, the guy was so amused by the scenario. I don’t know why he was amused. He was laughing, making the doctors and the other person out there laughing and all. Suddenly, he started dancing there – he was singing and dancing!

And the doctor, who was so amused looking at him, and they asked me “What kind of song is he singing?”. He was singing some kind of funny song, which I had never heard of. And it was really like, I never expected those things to happen, but it happened.

I really cherish that moment being an interpreter.

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