Using her language skills to help
Bojana had just turned 17 when she volunteered to help fellow Serbian people when they first arrived in Australia.
‘As I was the only person in the group who could speak some English I became their unofficial interpreter. They were vulnerable and found it difficult in new environments when they first arrived. They felt terrible because they could not get their messages through to enable people to understand them. I guess the need and ability to speak English helped me start interpreting and I am still doing it and loving it now.‘ Bojana said.
Becoming an accredited interpreter
When Bojana helped a new arrival from Serbia the Australian official thanked her and said she would be a great interpreter. Bojana felt greatly motivated by the encouragement. After completing her Bachelor of Science (Neurobiology) at the University of Queensland she applied to sit a National Accreditation Authority for Interpreters and Translators (NAATI) test and passed as a Professional Interpreter (level 3). Bojana started interpreting and this helped her financially to complete a postgraduate degree, a Master in Occupational Therapy. ‘Although I am now a professional occupational therapist I continue working as an interpreter as I love the job. You can work anywhere anytime in Australia’ Bojana said proudly.
From an interpreter to a client using TIS National’s services
After becoming a professional occupational therapist working in mental health Bojana became a user of TIS National’s interpreting services. She has clients from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. She uses TIS National’s interpreters to communicate with her clients when they find it difficult to express themselves clearly in English. She says this is especially important when clients are trying to communicate their mental health issues and when mental health clinicians are trying to accurately assess those psychiatric issues in a non-English speaking client. ’My clients are extremely relieved and satisfied when they realise they can communicate with me in their own language.’ Bojana said.
To share her experience and knowledge of using interpreting services with other mental health clinicians and colleagues such as administration staff, nurses, psychologists and other mental health occupational therapists, Bojana prepared a training pack about working with interpreters in a mental health setting. She drew on her own experiences as a mental health clinician and a professional interpreter that has interpreted in mental health settings. Her training pack explains the different meanings of mental illness in different cultures and offers tips such as speak slowly, be aware of an interpreter, use simple words and less jargon, and make sure an interpreter understands the context of the medical and mental health situation. These tips have greatly helped her colleagues when working with interpreters.
The future of interpreting - from interpreting to providing bilingual professional services
Bojana is very positive about the opportunities for the future of interpreting services in Australia. ‘In my view interpreting will have great potential and the opportunities will not just be in Australia. We can provide interpreting services to clients anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a telephone connection thanks to the advanced system TIS National uses.’
She has seen some changes in demand but believes the future will be more telephone based interpreting. Phone interpreting is useful for people who live in rural and remote areas where they don’t have enough resources, and in the big cities where traffic is extremely busy means interpreters don’t have to travel on-site to do the interpreting saving time and petrol.
Bojana also believes ‘video interpreting will become widely available with the development of technologies and affordability. You can pick up many non-verbal emotional messages and see their facial expressions.’
How important it is for interpreters to become accredited?
Bojana believes that NAATI accreditation is not just about the language skills but also an accreditation of your professional knowledge and understanding of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct. ‘It is extremely important for interpreters to get accredited with NAATI. You not only improve your interpreting skills and techniques but also increase your knowledge of being a professional interpreter and how to work within the code of conduct.’
Bojana said, ‘When you interpret people place trust in you to convey everything they say. We are helping vulnerable people in an environment where they can’t communicate fully and express themselves in English. For example, when you interpret in court or a police interview if you misinterpret or use the wrong or inappropriate word you may cause potential legal implications for your client. Accreditation is a certification that demonstrates you are up to that level both professionally as well as ethically.’
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an interpreter?
Bojana’s view is that interpreting as a profession is not for everyone. Interpreters need to have a high level of interpersonal skills and wide experiences in life to be able to work effectively in different settings and situations. Interpreters also need to be self-disciplined and able to manage their time and competing priorities. As a professional an interpreter needs to participate in continuous professional development to stay up to date with the latest requirements and technologies in the industry. Interpreters must also have a passion for languages and love communicating and helping people in need.
Bojana’s final words of wisdom. ‘The interpreter plays an important role in bridging the gap with your client and therefore my advice to any agency that uses an interpreting service is to respect and work with your interpreter. A great difference can be made if you greet your interpreter upon arrival brief them on the situation and anything you know about the client. This brings your interpreter up to date and on a same page as you so that they can be better prepared before the session begins.’