“Joe [name has been changed] has schizophrenia. He speaks English, but he sometimes reverts to Spanish when he is not having a good day. I’m hoping that you can be there to interpret for him at his citizenship interview in case he needs you.” This was the first phone conversation I had with an attorney customer about a possible upcoming interpretation assignment. I had recently translated birth certificates, affidavits, and other documents for this client, but I had never met him. I was nervous.
“I would be happy to help,” I said, worrying that the client would not pause for interpretation or slow down at the interview. As the day approached, I told myself that this assignment would finally help me overcome my fears of interpreting in front of immigration officials.
Yet on the day of the interview, I barely needed to interpret. Did the client still benefit from my services? At first glance, I wasn’t much of a conduit during the interview; then, I reflected on how I started interpreting and translating as a law student to help Central American immigrants. I realized that by being an interpreter I had put the attorney, client, and immigration officer at ease. I had been professional and demonstrated competency in the brief moments when the client required interpretation. I realized then that the quality, not the quantity, of my work made the difference.
I believe that even small acts of interpretation and translation, when performed confidently and exactly, help immigration clients enormously. In my first twelve months as an interpreter and translator, I have helped Venezuelans fleeing the Maduro government apply for political asylum, transgender clients fight discrimination in the U.S., mothers struggle with the courts for custody of their children, and several Central American minors find hope and an escape from the violence in their home countries. In all of these experiences, I prepared extensively for interpretation assignments and reviewed several times each document I translated. Giving a lower quality translation or interpretation would, in my mind, defeat the purpose of helping others.
My ten years’ of experience speaking professional Spanish, combined with my knowledge of the law and my formal trainings as an interpreter and translator, have all helped me to assist attorneys and clients in need. But the first half of each battle is showing up. I plan my routes for interpreting appointments and triple check deadlines for my translation assignments because I know that even a single missed appointment or deadline could change a client’s life.
As an interpreter and translator, I care more than in any job I have ever had about the attorneys and clients I work with. If given the opportunity to receive a Translator Business Starter Kit, I will promote my business mainly to pro bono attorneys and their clients for reasonable fees, and I will continue my interpretation and translation work as an attorney monitoring in-court interpreters on behalf of clients after graduation.