Thoughts on Interpreting: Perception

It hit me recently how true it is that our perceptions and understanding of the world is limited to what we know and have experienced.

At a concert I attended with friends, a 17-year-old who is a senior in high school struck up a conversation with us. When she found out we’re in our mid-to-late twenties, two questions immediately came out of her mouth:
“You don’t look your age!”
“Do you have a real job?”

She could not fathom what it means to be our age, or what people our age do. It boggled her mind.  It was amusing to say the least, but isn’t it true that if I’m a teenager who has not been exposed to young professionals, I wouldn’t understand much what it is like?

Thinking about this brought me back to interpreting. We can’t interpret what we don’t know. We can’t explain cultural differences if we don’t see both sides of the coin. That’s why it is important to be open minded, to take in as much as we can so we are prepared at all times. This will make you a better interpreter. The more you know, the more value you can bring to Limited English Proficient (LEPs) and your clients. Your job as a linguist is not only to bridge communication gaps, but also cultural gaps when the situation arises. Your job is to open people’s eyes to another world with which people are not yet familiar.

Isn’t it wonderful how we can apply little things in our daily lives to our role as interpreters?

Happy interpreting!