Following on  from last week’s interview with Kasia Pranke, this week we have the pleasure of welcoming Marianela Trigo. Marianela is a translator, interpreter and language tutor, based near Belfast. Marianela has a wealth of experience as a public service interpreter and shares a true passion for her career in interpreting. Take a look…

Name: Marianela Trigo

Place of origin: Argentina

Email: marianelatrigointerpreter@gmail.com

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a very artistic and cultural environment in a tiny seaside town called Villa Gesell, near Buenos Aires in Argentina. After completing my studies in Biology at University I left and moved to Spain, when I was 22 years old, motivated by an eagerness to travel. After a few years moving around, completing training and meeting extraordinary people I decided to fly to Ireland were I have been for the last 10 years.

How did your journey as a public service interpreter start?

Given my inner desire to explore our diverse world of societies, traditions, culture and language, I started to work for the Latinoamerica Unida Association in Belfast as a volunteer and then later on as an Information and Community Development Worker.

Through this I gained the experience, knowledge and awareness of the voluntary and community sector and built strong foundations as a bilingual worker. I also became very aware of the difficulties and challenges faced by people who did not speak English.

Increasingly I found that I was being asked by Spanish speaking friends and colleagues to go with them to meetings, or speak to their landlord, phone their internet service provider or translate a letter that they had received and I could see the benefit in their lives from my assistance. From there, it was a natural progression into becoming a full-time interpreter.

What area do you mainly work in? 

Currently the majority of my work is split fairly evenly between the health and the justice sectors although I also carry out interpreting work across the rest of the public sector, including education and social services, as well as private sector work. There are a vast range of jobs that need covered, from medical operations and doctor’s appointments to police interviews, court cases, school meetings and benefit assessments among others.

What attracted you to becoming a public service interpreter and how did you get in to working in the field?

I have always had a strong commitment to social justice and seeing the struggles of the minority communities and being able to help them in any way has always been very rewarding to me on a personal level.

I became aware that the invaluable role played by public service interpreters in peoples’ lives and the significance of face-to-face interactions between service providers and individuals (e.g. patients, witnesses, suspects, etc.) cannot be overestimated. Therefore, the role of an interpreter for non-English speaking individuals is crucial. The everyday needs of people who may be vulnerable and cannot communicate in the language of the country that they are in should not be underestimated. Being able to help people to accurately communicate the status of their health or their legal rights in emergency or life changing situations is a very rewarding challenge.

I am a strong believer in self-development and improvement and since arriving in Ireland I have sought out every opportunity to improve my English. I have taken numerous courses over the years, at different colleges and universities, including OCN Community Interpreting, Interpreting within the Criminal Justice System, Immigration movement and law, Diploma in Public Service Interpreting, etc.

While I really enjoyed the work that I did, I eventually ventured into starting my own business as a freelance Spanish/English Interpreter and Translator. I have not regretted any stage of my journey from Villa Gesell to public sector interpreting despite the high level of motivation, dedication, organisation and hard work required to get there.

Did you find any element particular difficult at first? And anything particularly easy? If so, please elaborate.

Interpreting using the first person was disconcerting at the start until I got used to the confused looks from some doctors, for example. Some seemed to get confused as to whether I was speaking for myself or interpreting for the client and at times I felt that they doubted my abilities. I am now a lot more confident and am happy to explain to them that this is actually the correct procedure as I am really acting as the mouth of the client.

Interpreting in court was also very demanding at first. There you are working in a tense and stressful environment with large distances between one speaker and the other making it hard to hear and difficult to follow what is being said at times. There are rarely any pauses and you usually have to carry out simultaneous interpreting. This is a situation where all your skills are being used to the highest standard as an incorrect interpretation could affect the outcome of the case.

Meeting and introducing myself to new people is something that I have always been comfortable with ,so arriving in new situations on a daily basis was not difficult for me at all. Being professional in the various settings and keeping the confidentiality of the clients was also something that I found particularly easy. In terms of the different jobs I would say that, in general, I found the Housing and Social Security assignments straightforward and uncomplicated.

What aspects do you enjoy most about the job?

Interpreting for the Public Sector means that you never know where your next assignment will take you and you get to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds.

I enjoy it immensely because I feel I am providing a very worthwhile service to the community, especially for those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged. I feel inspired by the linguistic challenges that I am presented with and the constant learning afforded by the different work situations.

Each job provides me with a wealth of knowledge and experience and the satisfaction of knowing that I have such an important role in establishing communication between the Spanish and English speaking worlds.

Do you feel training is important? Why? How do you keep up with CPD?

We live in a constantly changing and developing world and I believe that training is crucial for interpreters.

I have concerns that the privatisation of interpreting services by commercial intermediaries could lead to a rush to use under-trained interpreters which could devalue the profession as a whole. More importantly, though, it could also lead to the incorrect or incomplete transfer of information from client to service provider which could have life changing or life threatening implications for the non-English speaking person. At times I have found that the most basic knowledge of proper interpreting techniques can be lacking. Higher standards for new interpreters and continual professional development are therefore essential to protect and serve the most vulnerable of clients and also the reputation of the service we deliver.

Hence I continue to develop my professional knowledge and skills in order to offer the highest possible standard of service by maintaining and updating my language/technical skills and subject knowledge.

By keeping in contact with the Chartered Institute of Linguists, the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI), the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) etc., as well as various other translation and interpreting groups, I am always aware of upcoming training and development opportunities and I attend as many as I possibly can. Also as I am registered with various interpreting agencies they also provide development opportunities throughout the year.

Are you always prepared for your jobs or do you sometimes get surprised on the job? How do you prepare?  If you can give an example that would be super.

I am, more often than not, well prepared but it is not always possible. Before I accept a job I try and get as much information as possible as to the specific topic that I will be expected to interpret. I would then, for example if it is a medical appointment, carry out online research into the speciality or disease to gain an understanding of the specific technical terms and issues that I may come across. For short notice jobs this is not possible and I have to rely on the experience I have gained so far.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a public service interpreter? 

Do not stop with just a qualification in community interpreting offered by one of the organisations offering interpreting services in the local community, as this will only cover the really basic aspects of what you need.

Do continue to study, and I would highly recommend further studies such as a DPSI course or a Master’s in Interpreting, to improve your knowledge of proper interpreting techniques and allow you to gain practical experience in a controlled environment.

Do develop your knowledge of the cultural and religious background of the countries where the language is spoken.

Do always keep an eye open for courses, workshops and seminars for professional development.

Do not be afraid to turn down jobs for which you may not be suitable. You need to bear in mind that speaking fluently in at least one other language is not enough. Instances may arise where knowledge of special terminology may be required, or you may need to know informal speech, slang or regional dialects. You may be highly qualified and capable but unsuitable in a specific instance and accepting the job could do more harm than good for the client.

Do remember that you always need to interpret accurately as the client is relying on you completely.

Any other information you wish to share with us?

Interpreting usually involves a great deal of travelling, working without fixed hours and being ready to change plans at very short notice. After a few years working in this profession I have learnt to keep my badges, folder, timesheets and related information with me at all times.


Thank you, Marianela, for this in-depth insight into your journey and for sharing your passion for social justice with us. It is nice to be reminded of the crucial role that translators and interpreters perform in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them below. It would be great to hear from you!


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