The ATA Chronicle - January/February 2021 - 21

over-the-phone assignments

in advance. Some agencies

it was " her time. " I could tell

use to moisten her lips? "

with an agency. The vendor

have feedback forms the

that Paola's mouth was so

When Naomi offered one,

manager will match the

interpreter can fill out to

dry she could barely speak.

Paola responded favorably.

skills of an interpreter with

report positive or negative

When Naomi offered ice

the requirements of the

experiences, which can be

chips, Paola didn't respond.

got clearer and stronger and

client and the nature of the

very helpful. For example,

At this point I intervened

she uttered more hopeful

assignment, so the more the

there was a time when a

and explained in English to

phrases about " wanting to

certain obscene caller kept

Naomi, " That's a cultural

get better. " It was a

getting routed to my phone.

thing. Italians are not real

remarkable transformation

By reporting him, I got the

fans of ice chips. Do you

from being " ready to die "

attention of the agency

have one of those little wet

to being " ready to live " -

sponges on a stick you can

and I helped!

manager knows about you
the better.

I never know what
the next call will be,
which I find exciting
and stimulating.

staff and together I think
we've managed to discourage
his harassment.

A Happy Ending
I want to leave you with
this anecdote from a recent

Evaluations
" Calls may be monitored
for quality and training
purposes. " You may have
heard this phrase while
waiting on hold for customer
service. Over-the-phone
interpreters occasionally
do get monitored. I've done
some work as an evaluator
where the goal was to provide
constructive feedback to the
interpreters. Some of the
skills evaluators hope the
interpreter demonstrates
during the call include
accuracy, interpreting in
the first person, providing
clarification (using the
third person), effective
turn-taking, using the
proper formality register

3

I want to thank Simon Nazir, global resource manager at
CETRA Language Solutions, for much of this information about
training, recruitment, and evaluations. Simon has more than
10 years of experience in recruitment that includes more than
four years in the language industry. In his current role, Simon
is responsible for developing sourcing strategies to attract and
retain qualified contractors (translators and interpreters) aligned
with the company's strategic objectives, and executing those
strategies across the business units. This includes sourcing,
vetting, on-boarding, and providing support after activation.

4

For more information on the Bridging the Gap program,
visit https://bit.ly/bridging-training.

5

Training is available through Cross Cultural Communications,
which offers a free webinar series entitled The Remote
Interpreter, delivered by the authors of the forthcoming textbook
of the same name (Danielle Meder and Tatiana Cestari). Visit
www.interpretertraining-online.com/tri-webinar-series.

a patient, whom we'll call
Paola. During the call Paola's
voice was extremely raspy
and weak, so it was difficult
to understand what she was
saying. The first intelligible
words I heard (in Italian)
were, " It's time for me
to die. " Naomi responded
immediately with a caring
tone and reassurances that
she was there to help Paola
feel better. Paola had just
come out of the operating
room and was waking up
from the anesthesia. All
this was explained to Paola
through me.
I used my most warm
Naomi's tone. Paola sounded

the callers, using standard

so despondent, vulnerable,

grammar, and politeness. For

and weak. She was in pain

scheduled calls, punctuality is

so Naomi increased her

obviously also important.

intravenous pain medication.
When Paola wanted to

shared with the interpreter.

use the bathroom, Naomi

Agencies will try to honor

explained that there was a

the client's request for

catheter in place.

www.ata-chronicle.online

A pre-session is a short explanation of how the interpreting
session will work. The interpreter should make it clear that
the content will remain confidential and that everything will
be interpreted. This is also the time to remind the client to
speak in short chunks, allow pauses for interpreting, and
that the interpreter will speak in the same person and may
intervene when necessary.

who was at the bedside of

and friendly voice to match

when calls are scheduled

2

nurse-let's call her Naomi-

information not said by

a preferred interpreter

NOTES
1
You can practice medical terminology using training videos
available on YouTube. Search for " Doctor patient conversation
in English " or " Medical Interview. "

call. I was interpreting for a

consistently, avoiding adding

Client feedback is also

Eventually, Paola's voice

Paola still sounded
miserable and repeated that

Linda Pollack-Johnson, CT is a freelance
translator and interpreter. She is a Core
Certification Healthcare Interpreter (Certification
Commission for Healthcare Interpreters). An
ATA-certified Italian>English translator, she is a
member of ATA's Italian Language and Medical Divisions.
She is also a member of the Delaware Valley Translators
Association (an ATA chapter). She has mentored many aspiring
translators and interpreters, proctored numerous certification
exams, and given many ATA School Outreach presentations.
pollackjohnson@verizon.net
American Translators Association

21


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The ATA Chronicle - January/February 2021

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