There is no other work quite like the work of the interpreter.
Professional Interpreters are entrusted to be the bridge for people who have business to do in this world. We are on the front line of helping people make their business happen. Professional Interpreters need to be fully attentive and engaged in order to focus on the communication needs of others. Interpreting is cool work.
And, here's the rub: Interpreters also need to devise ways to set ourselves, our opinions, emotional and empathetic responses to the side. Interpreters, especially those of us who have emotions, learn quickly that to survive interpreting the words of others, we have to turn down the volume on our inner world. We develop short term mental and emotional strategies in order to turn down the nausea of repugnance, or ignore the nagging hurt. We seek ways to stay professional and emotionally intact in sometimes grueling circumstances. Interpreters find ways to stay true to the message of . . . well, you name your personal nightmare.At times to be true to the message, we even need to control the swelling of affection or love.
Now consider that over time, unless we're intentional about it, those short therm strategies can have personal and professional consequences. Neuroscience experts tell us that our brains are wired for efficiency. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to specialize in what we do with it. The neuropathways that we use most frequently, are first in line to fire next time. Our brains are not fools.
An enduring question for me is 'what is the impact over time of using ourselves and our brains in this way?' This question became even more compelling when I started coaching groups of interpreting students in their early 20's. One young client's words, "I don't even know who I am yet and I'm trying to set myself to the side." still ring in my ears. This was a young woman who was self-aware enough to say that and to be attracted to join a group of the type I was doing. What happens to young interpreters as they learn to set themselves to the side? When they learn to tune out the feedback they get from our inner world? What happens when they learn to express the words of others before they know what it is they are setting to the side?
All work of value has an impact on the professional.
I believe that interpreters benefit from a heightened awareness and intention to stay whole and fully expressed. When we know who we are, feel like we have choices in our lives, and know how to meet our own needs, then we can' set ourselves to the side' and it's like a little vacation. Vacation is good, but it's also good to get home.