Intro: When we launched this blog in August, we invited fellow ATISDA members to help make it a group effort by joining us as guest bloggers. This week we applaud interpreter Juliana Velati for becoming the first member to rise to the challenge. In her guest post, Juliana shares her early misconceptions about the interpreting field and the challenges and rewards she has encountered along the way.
It’s Never Too EarlyBy Juliana Velati .
I used to think I could interpret just because I was fluent in Spanish, without fathoming how mistaken I was. Before college, I considered Interpreting as a career—but for the wrong reason: “It’s easy and I wouldn’t have to study because I already speak both languages,” I thought ignorantly. At 18 I switched my career path to psychology because interpretation was “a lazy choice.” So I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and I was convinced that a Ph.D. in clinical psychology was next on my list for becoming a psychologist. I realized, however, that although I found mental illnesses fascinating, I did not want to be the one responsible for someone else’s mental health. Upon graduating I felt completely adrift and considered various careers; but none offered the balance that I wanted: a generous paycheck, oscillating work environments, hours that wouldn’t perpetuate into the nights and weekends, the ability to use my knowledge as an indispensable asset, and most importantly something that I would be passionate about.
Although I was unaware of the preparation and skills that professional interpreting requires, the vocation still intrigued me years later, so I enrolled in the UCSD Extension Translation and Interpretation Program. My misconception quickly vanished when I realized that being bilingual was only one of the many skills needed to pursue this career. The variety of focuses that this program offers helped me realize that I enjoy interpreting more than translating, and legal interpretation more than medical. It gave me the guidance to discover my true passion: court interpreting; so when I learned that Southern California School of Interpretation had a Court Interpreters Program, I watched the free introductory lesson and immediately enrolled for the first course. I started the first day of 2013 and from that day on I made it my number one priority. I earned two certificates: the State and the Federal Court Interpreters Programs. Meanwhile, I took the written California Court Interpreters exam and passed. I then took the oral exam… irksomely close to passing, and then I took it again… and again this past September along with the written Federal Court Interpreters exam. Now I’m impatiently waiting to find out if the “third time truly is the charm.”
I’ve gained work experience by interpreting workers’ compensation cases for a private investigator, translating business PowerPoint presentations and advertising material for a non-profit business development organization, and interpreting in depositions and attorney-client meetings. And through an agency, I’ve interpreted for psychiatrists and psychologists at Kaiser Permanente, Rady Children’s hospital, North County Life Line, and many school districts. Although the majority of the assignments are medical, I still enjoy the field and have the opportunity to experience real-life scenarios of what I learned during my undergraduate studies, without the emotional involvement that dissuaded me from being the psychologist myself.
So far, my experience with working with attorneys has been great. I love the professionalism, formality, structure and increased compensation. A big obstacle right now is the certification as it is harder to find work in the legal field without being certified. I never truly sought working in the medical field but even without much medical background, I still got hired. I find it bizarre that there is so much discrepancy between qualification requirements and the remuneration between court and medical interpreting. I have a long way to go in my career as an interpreter, and sometimes I get discouraged because I would love to be farther along my path, but I haven’t given up and keep striving for success.