Achieving Professional Standards in Interpreting
by: Sandra A Mahoney, CSC, MBA, BSBA - NIR Interpreter Coordinator
What does it mean to be a PROFESSIONAL Interpreter?
Professionalism is not defined by what job you do, but by how you do it. Different workplaces and roles have different expectations about dress, the use of social media, confidentiality, behavior on the job, your role on the assignment, your adherence to agreed upon professional standards and your skills and conduct when performing your main tasks. In analyzing what it means to be a professional interpreter, we need to analyze the various expectations which exist for a professional and how the lack of professionalism can devalue your image as a qualified interpreter. What does the agency you work for expect of you? What does the Hearing or Deaf client expect?
In our profession, there are some formal expectations about how you conduct yourself: arriving early for assignments, doing a communication assessment, preparing for the topic that you will be interpreting for, getting to know and understand the client’s preferences, your education, certification, and language skills are just a few examples.
As a professional interpreter, you must also pay attention to the unwritten rules in the various environments where you interpret. Fitting into the environment you will be interpreting in requires the following:
- Competence – to interpret expressively and to voice all topics presented in ASL and English during the assignment. Your abilities must match the requirements of the environment and your professionalism must enable you to manage the expectations of the various consumers-the Deaf and Hearing clients and your agency in each environment you work in. This also means having the ability to manage language requirements and to ask for support when needed.
- Knowledge – Being a professional means developing detailed up to date knowledge which may be highly specialized for the various environments you work in and a willingness to strive to master your skills and put your knowledge to work. It means staying up to date within the areas you tend to interpret for and working to increase your knowledge of new areas that arise.
- Integrity – means you keep your promises to the best of your ability, and you do not violate the basic tenants of our profession-confidentiality, possession of the requisite skills and knowledge required for the specific situations you work in, conduct appropriate to the specific interpreting environments you interpret in, respect for consumers, colleagues and clients, ethical business practices and professional development. It means you honor your commitments to the best of your ability.
- Respect – for the needs of all your clients-Deaf and Hearing. Being polite and kind to everyone you work with and promoting mutual respect for your clients, the agency you work for and for peers. Maintaining the ability to stay professional even under pressure with strategies to keep your feelings in check especially when you do not agree with the topics, decisions, and conclusions of the various environments you work in.
- Appropriateness -as an Interpreter you are expected to monitor your own appearance, your ability to speak and how you behave in all the environments in which you work.
- Confidence – to take on new challenges and continue to grow professionally.
In short, being a professional Interpreter requires you to adapt your behavior, language, appearance and conduct to suit the needs of the clients in the environments in which you work.