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. 

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 Russian Medical Interpreters Part 2: Podcasts

Why podcasts?

This post continues a series of posts suggesting resources specifically for Russian language interpreters. The first post listed some books in Russian that I think will be helpful for healthcare interpreters. In this article, we`ll turn our attention to Russian-language podcasts.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, when people live abroad, it can be difficult to find opportunities to maintain their native language. Personally, I was alarmed to discover that, despite my recent trip to Russia and the fact that I keep in touch with friends and family back in Russia, I was completely unaware of a new trend in the Russian language: feminization of certain job names. For example, it is suggested that a female blogger should be called блогерка (blogerka) and a female author авторка (avtorka). I actually heard my good friend Yana use these words, but since I’d never heard them before I blithely assumed that my dear friend was using Ukrainian words, as she often does (and thus helps me learn Ukranian without trying). To my surprise, I heard the very same words in a new podcast about the Russsian language and linguistics. The moral of the story that podcasts are a very handy tool in an interpreter’s arsenal and a good way to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to new trends in the Russian language.  And if you need more convincing, here are a few other reasons to listen to podcasts:

  • If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time on your phone. In addition, as an interpreter, you probably spend a lot of time driving, commuting or walking 8f9b2663-715f-4697-976e-40ae96cadfbabetween appointments and waiting for the patient to show up. In addition, you might get easily bored when doing chores or walking your dog or going for a morning run. For all these times, podcasts are the answer.
  • When listening to medical podcasts, you’re actively developing your personal medical glossary and furthering your knowledge of all things medicine.
  • When listening to non-medical podcasts, you are maintaining your Russian language, keeping up to date with modern Russian words and expressions as well as the Russian culture, attitudes, and mentality. All of the above are important things for an interpreter to know.

Continue reading “Resources for Russian Medical Interpreters Part 2: Podcasts”

Resources for Interpreting in Cancer Care

IMG_7654One of the interpreter training workshops I offer is Interpreting in Cancer Care (if you live in Washington State, there’s one coming up in Wenatchee, WA on September 14, 2019 and in Tacoma, WA on November 2, 2019.) At a recent workshop, many of the participants commented on the curated list of resources I put together as part of the workshop handout and I decided to share it with my blog readers.

Now, oncology is an enormous field with many sub-specialties and nobody can know everything – not even medical providers. However, as interpreters, we should always strive to develop our knowledge and our glossaries. Whether you’re a seasoned interpreter who wants to brush up on oncology terminology before an appointment or a new interpreter who wants to be ready for interpreting in cancer care, I hope you’ll find this list of resources helpful. Continue reading “Resources for Interpreting in Cancer Care”

And best of all, they are free: suggested podcasts for medical interpreters

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Listening to the Sawbones podcast while walking my dog

Whether you are someone thinking of becoming a medical interpreter, are about to take your medical interpreter exams or are a seasoned interpreter wishing to expand your knowledge of all things medicine, you will need resources –  to help you learn more, to bolster your knowledge of medical terminology, and to practice interpreting skills. One way to access such resources is to take a training course – and in fact, both organizations certifying medical interpreters on the national level require interpreters to take at least 40 hours of training. Outside of prerequisite training, there are hundreds of opportunities to get those  CEUs (continuing education units) that are required for re-certification. There are training opportunities that are free or paid, online or in person, lasting from 2 hours to 3 days.  In fact, I`m teaching one such seminar this month. But what if you want to access resources outside those formal training sessions? Something you can do as part of your leisure time, or maybe on the go while you’re commuting to work? Something  that is free?

In my previous two posts, I wrote about using TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy as a resource for medical interpreters and described the ways books about doctors and medicine can help medical interpreters not only to gain more knowledge, but also to hone their interpreting skills. In this post, I`m going to talk about a third source of information and skills practice – podcasts. For those of you who are new to this concept, I will explain what podcasts are and where to find them, and I will also provide a list of podcasts about health and medicine as well as a list of episodes centered on the topic of medicine from podcasts that are not medical in nature.

Continue reading “And best of all, they are free: suggested podcasts for medical interpreters”

Read, Lead, Succeed: suggested reading for medical interpreters

unnamedWhy read?

Reading is life! I am an unapologetic bookworm and I attribute my success in learning English to my insatiable appetite for reading. In addition, by reading books about doctors and medicine, I have gained insight into the medical world and have learned a myriad of new words and expressions that helped me do my job of a medical interpreter.

As I wrote in this post, where I recommend that medical interpreters watch TV shows in order to improve their medical vocabulary and get some interpreting practice, stimulating input is a key factor in learning. And chances are, if you are a medical interpreter (or are thinking about becoming one), you are interested in medicine. This is where books about medicine come in!  Please note that the books I`m talking about are not medical textbooks on anatomy and such, and neither are they novels set in hospitals. I’m talking about books about medicine and medical providers, often written in the form of memoirs. Such books are a perfect source of the following:

  • general insight into the world of medicine and medical training
  • information on diseases, symptoms, treatments, complications, and outcomes
  • medical vocabulary, which can be general or specialized depending on the book
  • interpreting skills practice (see the section on audiobooks below for more details on how to practice).

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Netflix and Learn: Unconventional Resources for Medical Interpreters

This is a blog post where I finally get to talk about how great Grey’s Anatomy is and nobody can stop me! On the serious side, this blog post will describe a possibly unconventional resource for medical interpreters which can be used to add to their medical glossaries and contribute to their overall knowledge of medicine and healthcare: medical TV shows. You can find a list of more conventional resources in my blog post here. 

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About 5 years ago, when I was living in Novosibirsk, Russia, I got to interpret at a lecture on totally thoracoscopic radiofrequency ablation of atrial fibrillation. The lecture was given at one of the leading medical institutions in Russia by a visiting professor. It was decided that I would interpret consecutively by standing next to the professor and speaking into my own microphone. As far as arrangements for preparations went, it couldn’t have been more perfect – I was given the lecture presentation slides in advance and allowed to meet with a cardio surgeon from the institute so that I could go over the terminology that I had questions about and run some translation choices by him. The lecture itself  went smoothly and afterwards, when the visiting professor thanked me for my help, he asked me if I’d had any medical training. I told him about my extensive preparations but also said I learned a lot from watching Grey’s Anatomy. The professor started laughing until he saw that I wasn’t joking. I’m not sure what he made of that but I stand by my opinion: watching medical TV shows can be a valuable tool for medical interpreters.

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