Celebrating International Translation Day

Each year, on September 30, translators, interpreters, and language professionals around the world celebrate International Translation Day. The day was chosen to fall on the feast of St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators. Originally established by the International Federation of Translators in 1953, it was not until 2017 that the United Nations General Assembly officially declared the day an international holiday. The day was meant to recognize language professionals’ role in fostering peace, understanding, and development around the world.

AMN Healthcare and our Stratus Video division celebrate International Translation Day as a special day to recognize our interpreters, their diligence in the field, and the positive impact they make each and every day on patient care.

Medical interpreters facilitate communication between healthcare providers and patients with limited English proficiency, who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH), ensuring meaningful access to healthcare information. They are extensively knowledgeable in medical terminology in both English and the patient’s language in addition to how healthcare programs vary in the United States versus the patient’s country of origin. Continued education is a requirement as part of the interpreter’s commitment to accuracy, including thorough study of the dialects and cultures that exist within the interpreter’s language pair. Learn more about the importance of cultural competency and its role in medical interpretation here

Studies have found that when medical interpreters are used to facilitate communication with Deaf, HoH and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients, that patients experience a shorter length of stay and are less likely to be readmitted. Patients have also been found to adhere better to healthcare plans when provided with the services of a medical interpreter.  

While medical interpreting is no easy task, our interpreters are inspired by their interactions with patients and the incredibly positive impact that interpretation has on the LEP patient experience. In light of the special day, we asked a few team members what International Translation Day means to them. Here are their stories:

Adriana Chanto Solis
Spanish
I became an interpreter in 2014, and I simply fell in love with the service we provide. I feel good interpreting all the fields (financial, legal, insurance), but when I became a medical interpreter, it was a blessing. I feel useful helping other people in their good and bad times and I am thankful because I have had the chance to learn and help. We change the world a little bit in every session. Let's use our gifts to continue making the difference!

James Chou
Mandarin/Cantonese
I started working with InDemand Interpreting in Tukwila, WA, which later became Stratus Video, when I needed a career change -my way to help close the gap between LEP patients and the US Healthcare System.

Maysa Hammoud
Arabic
Interpreting has always been part of my life.  I was born in Egypt and came to the US when I was 4 years old.  My English was always better than my parents even at a young age. Therefore, I was always needed to interpret for them. When I got older, I felt a sense of joy helping others in general and not only interpreting. Later in life when the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011 and droves of Syrians became refugees in countries like Turkey and Greece, I was one of the first volunteers to travel to those places and help the doctors treat the Syrian patients through interpreting.  All this was done through volunteering both overseas and at home in NC at a clinic that served the underserved and refugees that were lucky enough to make it here safely. When an opportunity came for me to actually have an income doing this when I had no job, I seized it.  It made sense to have a career in something I absolutely loved. I actually started interpreting for the LEP parents of students attending public school.  This job was also very fulfilling, but if I were to choose, it would be medical interpreting hands down.  When you see an LEP that is already in a terrible state because their health has been compromised and on top of it are unnerved because they don't know what the medical staff are saying about them. When I can give some peace of mind to the patient, it is the best feeling!

Yukki Bonita Hsieh
Cantonese
I was a general interpreter and was given a course in medical interpreting, and I really enjoyed learning all the terminology as well as the related materials. After the course, I gained more work experience as a remote interpreter for all settings for a couple more years, then I started to focus on medical interpreting and working towards a medical interpreting certification. Medical interpreting is challenging because we do not have one specialty but need to know the basics of all medically related conditions. Lastly, when helping someone in a medical setting, knowing that it’s lifesaving is an extremely rewarding feeling. I feel that to be a good medical interpreter, it is not only knowing the terminology and the codes of professional conduct, but more importantly, it is patience, patience and patience that can have the best outcome in a session. Best of luck to everyone!

Motoko Nakajima
Japanese
A good friend of mine started working as a medical interpreter, and strongly recommended this job for me. During the process of being certified, I learned not only medical terms, but also the importance of ethics. It has been 6 years since I started working as a medical interpreter. I remember how lonely I felt when I got sick in another country and how reassuring it is if you have someone who knows both languages/cultures to become your voice!  I would like to become the bridge between the provider and the LEP, so that the LEP can receive the best possible care he/she deserves!  -  What motivates me?  Just a simple "thank you" from the provider/the LEP!! Congratulations to all of us!!  Let's continue serving the LEPs community as a team!!

Dana Hable
Arabic
I was volunteering at a non-profit organization and the director there asked me if i could speak French. I said, yes, fluently. She said the local refugee resettlement organization needed a French Interpreter, so I applied. I was contacted to do a  medical French/ English written test. I asked if I could do the Arabic test once I was done with the French test. They agreed even though they said they had NO need for the Arabic language, and that it was not necessary. When I passed both, I became one of their contractors. They needed me for French only the first couple of years then the demand for Arabic increased and soon became the dominant request! I was lucky to take advantage of a grant that the organization received to train its new interpreters, and we were trained in Bridging the Gap. I loved this line of work because I could use 2 skills I quite enjoyed: language skills and people skills. It became a passion. We soon learned about a new organization called the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, which was looking for professionals willing to take part in their pilot test. I was happy to participate in 2009 and became a Core Certified Interpreter. Once their oral test became available in 2012, I sat for the test and became one of the nationally certified Arabic CHIs. Nothing is more satisfying than interpreting for a large community in its different dialects and be an effective means of communication for them and their providers. Happy Interpreters' Day!

Dalya Abou Elwafa
Arabic
When I came to the U.S. 20 years ago, I found that many LEPs are unable to communicate with doctors and unable to understand crucial information regarding their health. Since that time, I decided I want to help. I pursued my career in interpreting by studying the medical interpreting course and started to work as an onsite interpreter and then as an audio and video interpreter. I want to thank all my colleagues for doing such a great job that requires a lot of patience and control of emotions while being motivated by helping others on International Interpreter/Translator Day.

Lizbeth Salvatierra
Spanish
As an immigrant, I had to start a new career and decided to use my language skills in order to help others, which is my greatest passion.

Jan Morcillo
Tagalog
A former colleague, who was also a very good friend of mine, made me aware of interpreting opportunities on the platform she was helping set-up (she was their web developer at the time, I was a project manager for a marketing company)  and secretly recommended me. I was contacted, tested and hired shortly thereafter. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have helped someone, in your own little way. Being a medical interpreter with Stratus, gifts me with that opportunity, every single day. To my fellow interpreters, you do more for your LEPs than you know. Your work is never limited to mere words or descriptions. With each session, you are helping to change, uplift, or save a life.

Howard Chou
Cantonese/Mandarin
I became a medical interpreter in the state of Washington in 2018 after I successfully completed training and got certified with the Department of Social and Health Services. My motivation to be a CMI is to close the language and cultural gaps between the LEPs and health providers and to contribute my talent and knowledge to society. I want to say to my colleagues on this special day that I know how hard and challenging our job can be from time to time, but it is so satisfying  knowing the job is to help save lives and keep people healthy. Thank you so much for making the world a better place to live.

Néstor Montes
Spanish
I started interpreting years ago. I remember back when I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents would ask me to go with them to El Paso, TX, to help them with interpretation. At that time, they called me “the Translator”. And now to be able to help people health wise, this job is totally awesome! Honestly, being able to convey a message from one end to another is priceless. From being there pushing along with the mother to have a baby to announcing bad news when a dear and beloved family member has passed... I appreciate every bit of experience that this job gives me.

Tamayo Yasukawa
Japanese
My interpreting career goes back to the 90's when I started out as a young interpreter. They used to call me ‘Miss Translator’ then; now I’m Madam Interpreter for a good reason. Nowadays, medical interpreting is my life. I see myself and my loved ones on the video screen, representing my past, present, and future. End of life for an old man: He’s my father. I wish I could hold his hand. A lady with a leaking colostomy bag: Mom, I still miss you every day. A transplant patient in his hospital bed: Something extraordinary has to happen. He’s my husband waiting for a new heart in a room with no clock. A young woman in psychiatry: Me from thirty years ago? Or my daughter in the year of the pandemic? A long-awaited baby boy: New life. Is it really ‘remote’ interpreting? I feel everything so close --- the passion of medical providers and the vulnerability of LEP patients when they speak and don’t speak. It’s not just about ‘them’; it’s about me and my life. Happy Interpreting to all AMN-Stratus interpreters! Let’s keep calm and keep going!

Maged (aka, Eddy)
Arabic (all dialects except pure Moroccan)
There are many stories and reasons that made me decide to become a medical interpreter, but I will mention just a couple. A while back, I had a medical emergency that sent me to the Emergency Room, and I was not able to communicate with providers (NOT because of any LEP issues but rather because of my situation at that time). I felt bad for anyone who, unlike my situation, could not communicate because of language / speech barriers. I decided then, I needed to help others bridge that language gap that hinders care and communication between patients and providers. I left my other job and joined a local hospital to interpret. To my fellow interpreters, interpretation is not just a job, it's a career that pays endless fulfillment. Thank you for all that you do. Keep up the good work & Happy Interpreter/Translator Day!

Sophanith "Nita" Courtney
Khmer/Cambodian
When I first arrived to America, I was without skills that were relevant to my new home. I could not be a tour guide in a land completely foreign to me. One day, when I went to visit a doctor's office, I heard a conversation between a Cambodian interpreter and a provider. The patient was saying many things that were omitted by the interpreter. I felt that the Cambodian person was left out of the conversation as the interpreter and the provider carried on a conversation amongst themselves. I wanted very badly to help the Cambodian speaker feel that their voice was heard and their need met. After working as a general interpreter in several fields, I observed that most Cambodian people encounter language barriers when using medical terms. I made up my mind to focus more on the medical field, and I am grateful that my current position allows me to accomplish this. This job is not easy, and I almost quit after my first week. What motivated me to keep going is compassion and knowing that we have the ability to help others in need. We should be proud of ourselves and what we are doing every day.

Sonia G. Garza
Spanish
My motivation to work as an interpreter in the medical field is the gratification of bringing dignity to an LEP's consultation with a healthcare provider by facilitating clear communication and overcoming cultural barriers. Personally, it is very rewarding to serve others. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to live out my purpose to serve others, without having to compromise my children's needs and emotional wellbeing. To my fellow interpreters, no matter how challenging a call is, the best way to surpass it is by taking a deep breath, releasing the stress of vicarious trauma when we exhale, taking the next call and giving our undivided attention and mental focus to that patient. Putting ourselves at the very top of our individual to-do list each and every day is not selfish or self-centered, it is the only way we can ensure the uncompromising ability to serve others with a spirit of excellence, and it is also a necessity for our own health, vitality and longevity.

Melissa Chinchilla
Spanish
I have been in the field for 6 years now.  I have always liked the fact that whenever we are interpreting, we are helping people on different levels. I have always admired people that have to leave their homes and countries to seek a better future for them and their loved ones. When they do not even speak the language of the country where they live, it is even more admirable. What motivates me is being able to know that I make a difference in someone’s life, specifically when it comes to interpreting in the medical field. Interpreting allows me to continually learn, mostly on a daily basis and to see things with a different perspective. To my fellow interpreters, thank you for being part of the solution.  Thank you, because if it weren’t for interpreters, the gap between different cultures would be even greater. 

Kayoua Vang
Hmong
In my earliest memory as a young child, I remember the first book I read was a Hmong-English pocket book glossary. I was around 5 years old when I read that book. I was the oldest child of the family and became a child interpreter for my parents shortly after migrating to America from Thailand. My parents, who were both not employed pushed me to become a nurse because they wanted me to be their home nurse aid. They enrolled me in the medical program in high school. After high school, they put me in a medical assistant college. During my internship, I found out it wasn't my passion. For me, hands on procedures seemed risky. I also hated being at a desk waiting just to check in patients. My strongest point was vocabulary. After being unable to land a desirable job in the medical field, I became employed at a non-profit community organization where I was able to use my interpreter and translation skills to help the Hmong community. I accompanied many Hmong people to their doctor's appointments, court hearings, and immigration hearings. It helped build my interpreting and translation profile. Later, Stratus found me via LinkedIn, and I was super happy to join. What really motivates me to be an interpreter in the medical field is my experience when I was a young child and first interpreted for my father's hospital stay. He was asked if he had diabetes. I answered yes. The nurse then came to poke his fingers again and again. He had no clue why. Actually, he is not diabetic at all. I want to say to my interpreting colleagues that we interpreters are specially gifted to help providers give the proper diagnosis and the patients to receive the best care. If you are not up to interpreting today, just remember you can make a difference in someone's life today.

Tia Underbakke
Hmong
I grew up interpreting for my mom and others who needed help. I love to talk, so this was very natural for me. I got into Human Resources and did that for over 20 years. Throughout my life, I've interpreted at church functions and conferences because I wanted everyone to understand the wonderful word of God. In 2012, when my son started kindergarten, I wanted to be more involved so I took an on-call interpreter role with St. Paul Public Schools and have been interpreting professionally since.  I have interpreted in all kinds of situations (medical, legal, schools, colleges and group meetings). I've been very blessed to be able to assist communications between two parties. I love helping people and to see what a difference I can make just by doing what I love; talking feels like I am doing what I was meant to do. To my fellow interpreters, remember that you make a difference, so smile! A smile can change the whole mood of interaction.

Laura Reinisch
Spanish
I became a medical interpreter when I moved to Washington state and researched state certification opportunities. The state offered a medical interpreter certification as well as a document translation certification. I decided to prepare for both exams and passed them. Then I began to receive interpreter assignments immediately. I appreciate the gift that I have for language and the opportunity to share this gift in the field of medical interpreting, where I can facilitate communication for the wellbeing of others. To my fellow interpreters, celebrate your gift and thank you for sharing it with others for their benefit!

Silvana Kirby
Spanish
In college, I had an internship as a project manager for a translation company and loved the flexibility and diversity of subjects in the industry.  I moved to a very remote area where there was only one interpreter at that time; I asked the hospital if they were in need of interpreters, got trained, began working at the hospital and then teaching medical interpreter courses in my state and online.  Since it is a remote area, interpreter jobs were limited.  I love seeing the patient's face when they have someone that speaks their language.  Missed that interaction and for that reason I decided to join Stratus.  I enjoy the changes in medicine and always learning something new. A medical provider once said to me "I think the interpreters know more than us providers. You go to so many different departments all day, you get to learn and see it all in this field," WE DO!  Embrace what we do, learn from it, understand the challenges in it and continue to educate yourself. Stay healthy and hang on to the good news we hear in order to handle the tough situations in this field. Happy International Interpreter/Translator Day!

Nghia Le
Vietnamese
On a fine February afternoon, I was attending a Lunar New Year festival in Phoenix, and a language recruiter at a booth called me over and asked if I would like to become an interpreter.  It seemed like an odd line of work to me at the time, but they offered great benefits so I jumped at the chance and the rest, as they say, is history. How many translators/interpreters does it take to change a lightbulb? None, a good translator/interpreter, adds nothing, omits nothing and changes nothing. To my fellow interpreters on International Translation Day, cheers mate, and wish you all the best.

Brenda Elizabeth Baeza
Spanish
I knew that I wanted to be a medical interpreter since I was 10 years old! Because I'm disabled, I grew up in hospitals and doctors’ offices, so I was always familiar with the terminology and everything always came naturally to me. My parents are LEPs, so I grew up interpreting everything for them, and I would get frustrated when I wasn't allowed to interpret as a kid. I knew that it was the perfect career for me because of my lifelong experience and my physical limitations meant that I would be able to fulfill the job. At the age of 20, I took a medical terminology course in community college, then trained to take the certification exam and passed! To my fellow colleagues, never be afraid of growth! Take a leap, become certified, and continue learning!

Lizette Odfalk
Spanish
Becoming a medical interpreter was a ninety degree turn for me. I spoke four languages and had two professional degrees in hospitality and marketing but my experience as a mom in a foreign country for 11 years and a patient in another than my own, gave me the compassion and understanding for what our limited English proficient patients felt and needed. I was fortunate to have been hired as one of the first staff interpreting teams in the Texas Medical Center and be certified by the NBCMI in 2012. This level-1 trauma hospital here in the Texas Medical Center, Houston was the best medical interpreter experience I could ever get. Having worked in all specialties, with all members of the medical teams. The ER was also fascinating as well having interpreted various births, including a still birth and a meaningful opportunity in the OR during a craniotomy with the neurosurgeon and the speech pathologist speaking with the LEP patient. As a craniotomy survivor this was indeed an opportunity to learn from all aspects. Working now from home for the best VRI company is an honor. I enjoy interacting with my team and share when possible my experience as well as learn from my experienced colleagues. What motivates me to continue is the satisfaction of helping others like our healthcare customers and their LEP patients; it gives me a great feeling at the end of my day. To all the awesome colleagues I have across the board and the professional associations I belong to, thank you. We are all raising the bar. Let's continue to do so and have fun! Proud to be a member of this profession. Happy Interpreters and Translators day! Feliz día del intérprete y el traductor!



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