Interpreter 4-1-1: Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom for Interpreters

Interpreter 4-1-1: Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom for Interpreters

By Brenda Cartwright
Thursday, March 29, 2012

This article is written by Brenda Cartwright (BC). Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher and a well known author. BC also contributes numerous blog articles for Signing Savvy. Look for them on the “Articles” tab on our website.

Interpreting can be both rewarding and challenging. Here is my list of top ten pearls of wisdom for interpreters:

  1. Yuo msut haev gud Englesh and spellnig skells. (Enuff sed)
  2. Not everything can be learned in an Interpreter Training Program.
    There is so much that comes from the experiences you will receive out in the field. Reflect and respect what you learned in your Interpreter Training Program (ITP) but remember that (as in life) the lessons you will continue to learn will be very valuable in your career as an interpreter.
  3. If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re late.
    Running in at the last minute bonking your clients in the head with your purse as you pass by frantically, then having to excuse yourself to use the bathroom is not professional or reassuring that you are prepared. Nothing is worse than a late interpreter! Be aware of the situation and setting for which you are interpreting, and then show up early according to those details. It will pay off in spades in the end.
  4. Remember you pave the way for the next interpreter.
    We are all a team here. Let’s not ruin it or muddy the waters by talking ill of others who have proceeded or may follow.
  5. Doubt means don’t.
    Follow your gut, it’s not just processing the coffee you drank this morning.
  6. Remember why you started, because there are always 1000 reasons to quit.
    This career can be the most rewarding, yet the most frustrating thing you have ever done... and sometimes all in the same interpreting job!
  7. Don’t be a "smell money interpreter".
    This is to remind people hopefully why they got in this profession. You chose this profession for the money? Really? To be fluent in any language you have to practice, and in this field you can only do that by hanging out with native users. But you can't just say, "be my friend so I can learn this language" and then just dump them. Once you're in the community you're in for life.
  8. Nobody likes a know it all.
    This relates back to # 2, about taking in the new experiences, as well as LISTENING and REFLECTING before you speak. If you truly feel you have something pertinent to share, you can do so, but do it in a way that looks like you are trying to be helpful, not like you have every answer and you have been dropped down directly from God to save this situation.
  9. Know how to flatter. When to flatter.
    Remember, no one likes a brown noser. Flattery might seem nice but it soon turns into kissing up. Avoid it, especially if it is fake because it is quickly recognized.
  10. Black goes with everything. (And is very thinning!)
    For those of you that don’t know, interpreters are supposed to wear solid colors. The general rule for interpreting is that you are supposed to wear solid colors that contrast with one's skin tone. I still own a lot of black clothes but as long as it contrasts with my skin tone I can also pick from fun colors called: cinnamon, pumpkin, blueberry, concord grape, plum, amethyst, moss, shale. Happy shopping!

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For 35 years Brenda was the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

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