While attending the small business matchmaker event in Dayton OH today, I got into a conversation with the representative of a large Ohio healthcare organization. After telling the woman what my company did and where we were from (Cincinnati), she said to me, “Are you from the company whose interpreters sleep on the job?” Of course I said “No, “ because I was not, but, after further questioning as to the details, it turns out that I had indeed heard the story she was referring to.
About six months ago, a Cincinnati language services company that I am too nice to name, sent an interpreter in a somewhat rare language to a labor and delivery. The interpreter was less an interpreter and more like someone they pulled off the street. Anyone who has been through a labor and delivery can tell you that it is sometimes a very long wait, hours of no activity. The interpreter, a female, had apparently been working her regular job all day and arrived for the appointment already tired. As the wee hours of the morning arrived, the interpreter asked the patient if she could take a nap, and then proceeded to turn the lights off and crawl into bed with the patient. When the nurses on rounds duty arrived, they were surprised to find the two women in bed together sound asleep!
I am sure the interpreter did not mean to do anything wrong and, from what I heard from other interpreters, she didn’t realize she was doing anything wrong. It was simply a serious situation of lack of training and misunderstanding of personal boundaries. The interpreter should not have been on that job for so many reasons; I don’t know where to start!
The interpreting/translation community in our fair city of Cincinnati is small and news travels fast. Although Global to Local is more of a translation & technology based company, the company I started out with in language services is primarily an interpreting company, and many of the interpreters are not only trusted colleagues of mine, but also close friends. However, this story took a life of its own and spread like wild fire. The fact that it was 6 months ago and brought up to me by a random stranger, is hilarious but also disturbing. Interpreters and translators have worked so hard to make their skills viewed as professional skills, and to distinguish themselves from simply bilingual speakers. A story of that nature is damaging to ALL of language services professionals, no matter what company we are from. What are people going to remember about interpreting companies? They aren’t going to remember the hundreds of filled appointments and emergency requests that were excellent, they are going to remember the awful story of an inexperienced and tired new hire.
I realized today when talking to government agencies, large companies, small companies, private organizations, etc., that our profession still has a frustrating way to go. Even some of the companies that should know better don’t use professional translators. I had one company tell me that they have a Chinese guy in their office and that he, “takes home any “stuff” that needs to be translated.” That poor guy! Just because he is bilingual he has to work all day and then go home and translate the company documents? It is like he is being penalized for being Chinese! I also had a company tell me that anyone that wanted to work with them should learn English first. So silly! As my father would say, “It’s like leaving money on the table.” That ego driven view of the world is one of my only pet peeves.
All in all, I love talking to people and I love getting to know people, especially small business owners. I like the buyers too, I love the whole mix at events such as these. The reason I am so positive about the translation market right now is because I see how far some companies have yet to go. Maybe it’s just Ohio, but I doubt it!! The globalization in our local market is nowhere near complete.
Please keep in mind that what you do affects the community at large, it really does. People will forget the good but they never forget the bad!