In September, I attended the International Medical Interpreters Association Boot Camp Series on Duke University’s medical campus in Durham, North Carolina. The weather was beautiful and the hosts at Duke University were welcoming and gracious. The first day of the series we focused on difficult situations and vicarious trauma. We discussed how to:
- Analyze what a difficult situation looks like;
- Address specific issues and how culture and language influence them;
- Maintain interpreter accuracy regardless of difficulty; and
- Mediate between cultural and linguistic differences.
On day two we focused on mental health interpreting and spent time discussing:
- Vocabulary inherent to mental health situations;
- Transference and counter transference; and
- Practiced interpreting difficult and complex mental health scenarios.
It was a new experience for me to attend a workshop with spoken language interpreters since I am an ASL (Sign Language) Interpreter. The largest percentage of interpreters present were Spanish speakers, but a few others, including myself, were not. It was really fun to be on the other side of the interpreter coin. As conversations deepened and interpreter scenarios were reenacted, the attendees would often fall back on their mother language to relay information. If it were not for my seatmate, Lilia, I would have had to rely on gestures, intonation, and body language to figure out the discussions. I became the “client” and Lilia interpreted for me as needed. I was impressed with how sensitive the Spanish interpreters were in making sure that they included me in all interactions.
The similarities and the differences between sign and spoken language interpreters impressed me as well. Spoken language interpreters often get the chance to do consecutive interpreting, whereas sign language interpreters do not. In the mental health setting, however, spoken language interpreters were often placed in the situation to do simultaneous interpreting so that interactions could flow more “naturally”. Also, spoken language interpreters seemed clearer in their advocacy role if they felt the patient faced discrimination or danger. There was also an intense discussion and disagreement about medical interpreters doing legal interpreting at the hospital, i.e. police being involved.
All in all, it was a great experience. If anyone wants to discuss the workshops in more detail, please contact me.