Alicia Yen

Alicia Yen

Describe your journey as an interpreter

My journey as an interpreter is enjoyable and rewarding. I have learnt a lot, not only as an interpreter, but also grown as a person.

Can you recall the moment when you decided to become an interpreter? What/who inspired you to make that choice?

My decision to become an interpreter mainly came from my passion for languages and for acting as a voice for others. I hold a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and Lectureship in English from the Guangdong University of Foreign languages, China, a Diploma in TESL (The Teaching of English as a Second Language to Adults) awarded by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate International Examinations (AUS). In addition, I have qualifications as a NAATI accredited translator in Mandarin and interpreter in Mandarin and Cantonese. I was a lecturer at the Guangdong University of Foreign Languages, teaching English as a second language in general and more specifically in interpreting.

In early 1989 (over 33 years ago) I came to Australia as an exchange scholar under the invitation of Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia (formerly called WACAE) to engage teaching a NAATI accredited course in the languages of Mandarin and English and to conduct linguistic research on two respective campuses for a number of years. My life in Australia has not just been involved in teaching. I have worked for TIS National as a Certified Practitioner in Mandarin and Certified Provisional Practitioner in Cantonese since 1992 whilst working for ANZ bank as a permanent part-time banker (23 years) and Asian Banking Manager (a position I held for 10 years). I am proud of all my past employment and the achievements that I have made.

What part of being an interpreter do you find most rewarding?

I love the variety of interpreting jobs and the interactions with different people. This means I am always learning. Learning and hearing positive feedback constantly from my clients is rewarding.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an interpreter?

Start from the basics, do your own research and follow your heart. Do not go down the path simply because someone told you so.

What is one skill you think everyone should have?

First and foremost, one should have high proficiency and cultural knowledge of both English and the target language.

What aspect of interpreting do you consider most challenging and how do you manage this?

I find it challenging when interpreting for medical appointments due to insufficient vocabulary or knowledge to deal with unexpected medical terms and situations. So I always do pre-work before heading for the job. Keep searching and keep learning.

How do you maintain focus and switch from one interpreting job to another? What helps you with your day-to-day interpreting tasks?

Try to relax and wind down a bit by having a refreshing or hot drink or walking around the house or outside for exercise and fresh air.

Is there a particular assignment that has remained with you as being particularly memorable or rewarding?

In the early 90s working as an interpreter in the refugee facility in Port Headland, WA provided me with great opportunities to learn immense amounts from Chinese speaking detainees about their difficult lives in Vietnam and the risks they had taken in coming to Australia by boat.

When are you at your happiest?

When everything goes in the right direction.

How would your friends describe you in a few words?

  • Friendly
  • Patient
  • Supportive

What are you most thankful for?


Nice family, good health and opportunities.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

‘Never forget your roots’ from my dad which I will never forget.