Maria is a Tasmania based Italian interpreter who was born in Calabria, Italy and arrived in Australia on her second birthday. Maria learnt to speak Italian from her parents, ‘Children absorb language and that’s what happened to me’, Maria explains. When she is not interpreting, Maria loves to spend time with her grandchildren and read a wide variety of books in Italian to maintain the language.
Living in ItalySoon after she married her Italian husband Maria moved to Italy. They lived in Bologna where she went to university to study Italian language, history and writers. In her spare time she taught private English lessons to ten of the children in her neighbourhood but turned many more away when word got around she was a native English speaker.
35 years of interpreting for TIS National‘I think I was destined to it’. When Maria and her husband returned to Australia, he started to learn English. His teacher recommended Maria apply to be an interpreter at TIS who were actively recruiting. She was evaluated and found successful to work as an interpreter with the Department of Immigration’s Telephone Interpreting Service (the initial name of TIS National).
ChallengesMaria says ‘It is a challenge keeping up-to-date with the language. Language changes so fast from day to day’. She has noticed that English words are being used more and more instead of Italian words. ‘The news broadcasters in Italy and young Italian visitors to Australia use more and more English everyday’ said Maria.
She finds it challenging to listen to the elderly as they use Italian, English and Australianised Italian words. Maria laughingly explains ‘They would not say "doccia" for shower it would be a "showera". She says, ‘you just need to put an "a" or an "o" on the end of an English word and it becomes Italianised!’
Maria overcomes her challenges by listening carefully and interpreting what she hears in both directions. She knows that people want to be heard.
A real sense of doing something worthwhileMaria feels rewarded when there is a breakthrough in communication. Her passion is medical interpreting, especially ambulance calls. There can be misunderstandings and the non-English speaker may be stressed and upset. When they hear Maria’s voice speaking their language, the stress fades away. ‘You get off a two to three minute call and feel relieved that the person is going to be alright’.
A respected professionAlthough Maria believes that not everyone in the community understand the profession, a change that Maria has noticed over time in the interpreting industry, is that the profession has gradually gained respect.
When Maria works with a client that has never used an interpreter before she asks ‘would you like to know how interpreting works to make it easier for you?’ She advises clients to speak in the first person and speak directly to the non-English speaker.
Maria’s advice for new interpreters is to be attentive, honest, professional, and keep information confidential.