Thank You For the Words: Building Your Interpreter Glossary

I’m not sure where this drawing is from but from time to time it makes rounds in various interpreter groups on social media. Aside from being funny, the image captures the true nature of the interpreter profession: it’s a highly-skilled job. Being a good interpreter involves well-developed listening and speaking skills, a strong memory, note-taking skills, sound knowledge of the code of ethics in your chosen field(s) – and being the proverbial embodiment of a walking dictionary.

It’s certainly true that no one can know ALL of the words related to a particular subject – after all, the English language contains roughly 1 million words, and most adult native English speakers have a vocabulary which includes only a fraction of that – about 20,000–35,000 words. However, interpreters must possess a professional vocabulary that encompasses a wide variety of terms they can expect to encounter on a daily basis, be it medical, legal or political terminology. The building of your glossary starts when you begin preparing for certification exams and stops… well, never. It never stops. Even the most knowledgable and experienced interpreter will encounter new words and expressions or will need to prepare for a new kind of assignment. So, as interpreters, we need a way to work with our personal glossaries: organizing terminology, learning it, revising it, and sharing it with others. This blog post will suggest some options for glossary management.

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For Interpreters by Interpreters: Useful Resources and Interesting Content

Sometimes, it can be hard for interpreters and translators to meet in person. My friend and a fellow interpreter Angelika and I work for many of the same agencies and often take appointments at the same hospitals, and so we often joke that our favorite meeting place is hospital parking garages – because that’s where we often meet and snatch a few minutes of hurried catch-up before running off to our respective assignments. There are, of course, conferences and other events put on by professional organizations and associations – I’m a proud member of NOTIS (The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society), which not only organizes classes and workshops for interpreters (some of which I teach) but also puts on a fabulous annual conference (which this year took place in the Museum of Flight!) and fun holiday parties. 

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Conferences, workshops and holiday parties are a great opportunity to learn, to network and to meet new friends (and to show off your ugly Christmas sweater!), but how do you connect with fellow interpreters and translators outside of such events? Luckily, we language professionals are nothing if not resourceful and there are many online communities, blogs, groups and other places where interpreters and translators can talk, ask for advice, and share their wisdom and experience with others. This blog post will outline some resources and content created by interpreters, for interpreters – and translators, too! 

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Resources for Medical Interpreters: Skill-Building and Medical Terminology

Below is a collection of resources that can be used to practice consecutive and simultanious interpreting skills, and sight translation skills. I am hoping these resources will be useful for healthcare interpreters with all levels of experience – those just starting out and preparing to take their exams or their first assignments, or those with years of experience wanting to brush up on a specific topic. This list is constantly updated as I find new resources and I welcome your suggestions – leave a comment below or get in touch using the Contact tab.

Medical Dialogues and Scenarios

Video and audio-based medical dialogues and role-plays

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