Mona has worked as an interpreter with TIS National since 1993. Mona speaks three languages fluently: Arabic, English and French. Over the years, she has observed a steady growth in demand for Arabic interpreting.
Before migrating to Australia in 1984, Mona and her family lived in a prosperous area near Beirut, Lebanon. It was a difficult time. The country was at war and they lost everything in their town which was completely destroyed.
‘We felt we had been forced to leave our homeland. Migration is a big turning point in life with many changes to adjust to. But we also maintained a positive attitude to life. With time and hard work we were able to establish a new life from scratch.’
Home in Australia
The Gold Coast was Mona's first Australian home before her family moved to Melbourne in search of job opportunities. Mona had learnt French in Lebanon and had done a beginners English course. Initially, Mona attended English language school on the Gold Coast and after several years in Melbourne she continued her studies, completing a Diploma of Social Sciences and a Post Graduate Diploma in Translating and Interpreting.
After 26 years, Mona feels Australia is very much her home. The opportunity to meet people from a range of backgrounds and nationalities is enriching. She also enjoys learning about different traditions and cuisines without having to travel. Mona thinks that ‘cultural diversity combined with Australia's natural resources make it unique.’
Interpreting as a career
Mona enjoys her role working as an interpreter because the work is valuable. She is empowering people whose first language is not English. ‘I help Arabic speakers deal with authorities, fulfil their duties and access their rights. I also assist English speakers to communicate with their clients.’
Mona likes meeting interpreters from different backgrounds. She says, ‘the profession is also rewarding despite it being very demanding. It has broadened my knowledge and made me thirsty for professional development.’ She strives to keep up to date with technical changes which assist with her role. She is also stimulated by the variety of interpreting assignments. Mona has learnt a lot about medicine, the law and other professions working as an interpreter.
Recognition as an interpreter
Mona is passionate and committed to ensuring translation and interpreting is well regulated and recognised as a profession. Mona is a member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) and takes the opportunity to attend AUSIT networking sessions, professional development activities and industry workshops.
Last year, Mona was honoured to be named the AUSIT interpreter of the year. She said it was thrilling to be recognised by her peers.
Advice for professionals and colleagues
When asked to advise professionals with little experience working with an interpreter, Mona always tells them to conduct the interview as normally as possible: ‘speak to the Arabic speaking client directly and use the first person. Speak normally and maintain eye contact with the client and not with me. Use short but complete sentences to allow me to interpret fully and accurately. Just imagine that your client speaks perfect English.’ Mona also tells professionals that her role is to interpret everything that is said and that she is neutral and impartial.
For colleagues who aim to achieve the highest level of professional excellence, Mona also has some tips. ‘Be committed to the profession and adhere to the AUSIT code of ethics at all times. Language is a living thing so it is vital to keep your linguistic skills up-to-date and read in both languages. Be accurate, be honest and care about the profession. It is important to put yourself in the other person's shoes. I always imagine that I am the person who has the appointment and needs interpreter assistance. Even if I am tired or having a bad day, I never compromise on the quality of the interpreting because I believe people deserve service excellence.’