Welcome back! This week sees a different approach to the Bella Lingo blog posts. Instead of an article focussing on a translation topic, may I present to you a 2 part interview on life as a public service interpreter. The aim is to highlight the different facets of the job and give an insight into the profession.
This week we have the pleasure of welcoming a lady who I have the pleasure of calling not only a colleague, but also a good friend, Kasia Pranke, who will give us a sneak peek into her life as a public service interpreter in the health service here in Northern Ireland. Take it away, Kasia…
Place of origin: Poland
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kasia Pranke and I am a Polish-English translator and interpreter originally from Wielkopolska, but currently living in Northern Ireland.
How did your journey as a public service interpreter start?
When I moved abroad, my primary aim was to work as a translator and gain qualifications in this field. It took two people (a friend, who is a pharmacist and a fellow translator) and about two years before I got my foot into interpreting. I started with getting qualifications (Level 3 in Community Interpreting, Level 6 Diploma in Public Service Interpreting). Around the time when I gained the DPSI I was informed that my application to become a health and social care interpreter was successful. I was thrilled!
What area do you mainly work in?
I mainly interpret in the health and social care settings: hospitals, GP surgeries, health centres where I help health care professionals to communicate with their patients.
What attracted you to becoming a public service interpreter and how did you get in to working in the field?
First of all, I was not completely sure if interpreting would be my cup of tea, but I found the prospect of the DPSI course very attractive. At that point I thought it was a good idea to enrol for the course as it would help me to build on my knowledge of medical terminology. On the course there were interpreters with a few years of experience and me having barely any – it definitely motivated me to do my best and invest time in preparation for the exam. I spent long hours in the library reading, watching medical videos and preparing glossaries. Even in my free time, when I had to choose a TV series to watch, it would be something related to the medical setting like: Getting On or Frankie.
Did you find any element particular difficult at first? And anything particularly easy? If so, please elaborate.
Oh yes! As a translator at heart, initially I could not imagine myself not having a ‘safety net’ and not being able to refer to a dictionary or other resources. This initial fear gave me the extra push to research and prepare glossaries. What is more, I had very little experience as a driver and thanks to interpreting jobs, I learned to drive on the left side like a pro;)
What aspects do you enjoy most about the job?
It’s really great to meet a variety of people every day – it’s never boring. I enjoy constant learning and love working with professionals who have so much commitment to what they do. At some point I started to wonder why I would never thought of pursuing a medical career, but I guess I am still more of a linguist at heart. Being a health and social care interpreter also helps me a lot in my translation work. As I am in the medical environment every day, when I receive a translation project, I can easily understand the context and imagine who the sender/receiver of the message is.
Do you feel training is important? Why? How do you keep up with CPD?
I believe it is a profession in which you need to develop knowledge in a systematic way, for example, by creating glossaries. Moreover, I’m always keen to attend CPD for medical interpreters and look for some medical events in the area.
Are you always prepared for your jobs or do you sometimes get surprised on the job? How do you prepare?
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – this saying applies perfectly to our profession. I always make sure I research the subject before the session.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a public service interpreter?
-Contact public services to check if there is a need for your language pair.
-Take any opportunity to expand your knowledge in the chosen field. Try to make use of all resources around you. Evidently you should check the internet, but don’t forget about a local library.
-Try to contact a more experienced colleague or a specialist, such as a pharmacist or a medical doctor.
-Build up glossaries – it may be time-consuming at first, but will pay off after a while.
-Gather resources in both languages.
-Always follow the code of conduct and adhere to your role at all times.
-And how about volunteering for a local migrant organisation? They may take advantage of your language skills and you will have a chance to gain some real life experience.
Do not assume interpreting is only about knowing two languages; it is also about improving other skills, for example, time management, resilience, etc.
Thank you for your time and sharing your experience with us, Kasia! Are you a public service interpreter? How did you get started in this profession? As usual, I would love to hear your views, so please add a comment below.
Don’t forget to join us next week for the second part of the interview with Marianela Trigo, a Spanish<>English interpreter, who’ll give us a glimpse into her life working in community and public service interpreting.