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 between 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.
If like me, you are living in the US and working as a medical interpreter (or planning to become one), you are surrounded by the English language – and the endless opportunities to improve your knowledge of all things medicine through watching TV,reading books and listening to podcasts. – or picking up brochures on various diseases and procedures every time you are in a medical office. Indeed, when I first started preparing for my interpreter exam, I realized that, despite being a native speaker of Russian, it was my Russian language I needed to work on more. After all, my husband and I speak English at home, the majority of my friends are English speakers and my work at the time (teaching English) involved, as you can guess, mostly speaking English. So I set about improving my Russian – in particular, medical terminology and language for speaking about healthcare in general. I used a wide variety of resources to help me in this endeavor. For example, there are medical dialogues and bilingual patient handouts that you can use to build up your terminology and interpreting skills (check out this post on general healthcare resources and this one on interpreting for cancer care). But because I believe that stimulating input is a key factor in learning, I also leaned heavily on books and podcasts, which I read and listen to when waiting in between interpreting assignments, doing housework, walking my dog, hiking etc. In this post, I`ll share a list of Russian-language books about doctors and medicine. In the following posts, I`ll share some recommendations for Russian-language podcasts and some other healthcare-related resources. I’ll also share some tips about making sure your Russian-language skills stay sharp.
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.
Doctor: “Tell him to hop up on the exam table… Now, has he had these symptoms for a while? Ask him if he’s taken anything for it…” (Wait, why is the doctor talking to me and not the patient? What do I do now?)
Patient: “Oh dear, that doctor looks too young to be practicing medicine… Wait, did you just interpret this? Why would you do this?” (Oh no! Now the patient won’t trust me!)
If you are a professional medical interpreter, chances are that you have encountered similar situations. If you are only just starting out in the profession, somebody might have warned you about these things happening. Yes, on an ideal interpreting assignment, the doctor and patient speak in utterances of reasonable length and at a reasonable pace, not saying anything they wouldn’t want to be interpreted, all the while making eye contact and speaking directly to each other. In real life, things may not go so perfectly – and not because people involved don’t want us to do our jobs, but rather because they might not have worked with interpreters before and therefore might not know the best way to fully utilize the help of a professional interpreter. They might also have concerns about having another person present at a doctor’s appointment – one that is not wearing scrubs or a white coat and at first glance does not look like part of a healthcare team. As a result, patients might be reluctant to divulge sensitive information in the presence of an interpreter. The list goes on.
As interpreters going into a healthcare encounter, we can either hope that none of the above happens, or we can help ensure that conditions are created that enable us to interpret to the best of our abilities and allow us to do our job – that is, enable people to communicate as if they were speaking the same language. One way to make this happen is by having a pre-session.
What inspired me to write about self-care for medical interpreters?
This weekend I went on my first road trip from Nashville, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama to attend ITAA’s Second Annual Conference for Professional Interpreters. ITAA stands for The Interpreters and Translators Association of Alabama and the conference they put on was one of the most wonderful conferences I’ve ever attended. The speakers were truly inspirational, the talks were relevant and informative and everything was extremely well-organized. Not to mention the fact that I attended the conference with my good friends from the medical interpreter training course, unexpectedly ran into our instructor Dennis Caffrey from the very same course, and met two new Russian colleagues – it can get a bit lonely for Russian interpreters here in Nashville!