The Five Traits I Admire Most In a Colleague

I have been working as an interpreter and the owner of an LSP for over thirty years so one would imagine that I have been around the block and back in terms of working with a large number of interpreters, both in court interpreting and conference interpreting scenarios.  Whereas that is correct, I have been fortunate to interact for the most part with very professional individuals.

The following is an ad-hoc compilation of several intertwined qualities in the interpreters I work with that I have come to look for and appreciate during all these years:

  • Respect.  An interpreter has to have consideration for the person she is interpreting for, the one she is interpreting with and the ancillary cast of characters.  This means being true to the message the speaker or witness is attempting to convey without paraphrasing, modifying, or editing speech.  In terms of the other interpreter, she must be mindful of fulfilling her part without taking advantage of the other, both in terms of actual interpreting time and support when teams switch off.  As to the rest, it is important to meet the needs of the court reporters, for example, by controlling the dynamics of the participants in a proceeding so that you are not doing simultaneous over the witness’s voice, confusing the reporter, when you should be doing consecutive.  Delivery must be smooth, audible and convey the tone of the witnesses as well as the attorneys.
  • Discretion.  “ Whatever happens in the booth stays in the booth…”  I truly value a professional who deals with issues in our working environment without informing the client or bystanders of difficulties when there are other avenues to solve the situation.  I am referring to anything ranging from audio problems on the part of a technician, to slips on the part of your fellow interpreter, to personality judgments.  There is a place and a time to criticize without endangering an account for the agency that hired you, or the reputation of a colleague.
  • Honesty.  Being true to the code of ethics of the profession without over-representing your credentials and capabilities. Pulling your fair share of whatever work is involved without overcharging. Having unsolicited respect for the clients of third parties, not trying to influence them to change their allegiances.
  • Responsibility. It will always be doubly appreciated when you take on more than your share if a situation warrants it and you can help your partner. Always make sure that you are prepared for the work you have been hired to do.  Leave no stone unturned in asking for and studying any available materials to do the job as seamlessly and proficiently as possible.  Another very important aspect of responsibility has to do with timeliness.  We must entertain the possibility that Murphy’s Law may strike and arrive at venues with a minimum half an hour lead time. That little extra time will give you, your partner, the agency that hired you and the end client valuable peace of mind. It is well worth the effort.
  • Sense of humor.  This quality goes hand-in-hand with the others.  While it does not replace them and you can get along with and work with colleagues that do not have it, it makes life so much easier and fun.  It takes the edge off stressful work and allows you to laugh at what might otherwise be embarrassing and scary, letting you form healthy bonds and a camaraderie with the people you work with.

Strive to nurture these and other positive traits throughout your career and you will note how they enhance both your personal and professional life. Be genuine in your effort and realistic, knowing that practice makes perfect and that although Rome was not built in a day, whatever you put off for another day will delay in coming to fruition.

About mariacristinadelavegamusings

Certified SpanishEnglish interpreter by the Administrative Offices of the U.S. Courts, the State of Florida and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), where I have served on the board of directors, am chair of the Public Relations Committee, and have a column entitled "Getting Down to Business" in Proteus, the association newsletter. I am a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and have a monthly column named "Interpreters Forum". In addition to the prior two associations, I also belong to AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters). I own ProTranslating, Inc., an LSP in Florida. I hold an MBA, which keeps one foot firmly grounded in everyday waking consciousness while the other aggressively seeks unity consciousness...

Posted on May 31, 2012, in Business, Interpreting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Consuelo Burranca

    Good morning Maria Cristina, Thank you for putting it all together, many times one can forget and leave one or more of these ingredients out of of our daily work menu and this can have a significant impact on the rest of the good work we dish out. Thank you too for including the fun part in this list, it is the bonding glue that allows us to experience the “job well done” feeling at the end of the day. Have a great day and a wonderful weekend… and now I am off to have a sensible breakfast to start the day as one should! Consuelo B.

    • Thank you for checking in Consuelo. These are qualities that I have observed in professionals I have had the pleasure to work with over the years and I think a conscious effort to incorporate them into our daily routines can only lead to good outcomes.

  2. This is a post for my students to read. Thank you Maria Cristina.

    • I am glad you found it useful. These are the “soft skills” that you acquire with experience and maturity and which are sometimes overlooked in academic settings, although they are coming more to the fore as the topic of ethics continues to gain momentum.

  3. Hello Maria Cristina,

    Thank you so much for sharing these very valuable tips and experiences.
    I am just trying to start conference interpreting after the DPSI and DIpTrans. ans I am gathering all important advices.
    Best wishes,


    • Congratulations for making the effort to obtain the training and credentials. That is the primary step. Best of luck in entering the conference market. If you apply yourself, as you seem to be doing, you will never regret it. It is challenging but fulfilling as well. You are forced to learn a lot in short periods of time to prepare. And if you like to travel, even better! What is your language combination?

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