Test 3: Medical Interpreter Skills
Bilingual Fluency & Conversion Skills: Transitional
Interpreting Skills: Competent
Knowledge of Interpreting: Competent
Ethics of Interpreting : Outstanding
Outstanding 100% – 95%
Competent 94% – 80%
Transitional 79% – 70%
Beginner 69% or Lower
The candidate demonstrated a low competent level of bilingual fluency and conversion skills in English and Spanish. She made a few changes in meaning, multiple omissions, and one addition throughout the role-play scenario. For
-Changes in meaning: She interpreted “chest pain” as “problem” and “artery walls” as “conducts of the arteries”.
-Omissions: She omitted terms and phrases such as “cardiovascular”, “and avoid”, “follow-up”, “patients” and “blood”.
-Additions: She added the term “already”.
The candidate expressed herself without errors of grammar, syntax or pronunciation in English, but made occasional pronunciation errors in Spanish, such as “aneorismos” (aneurismas), “tobaco” (tabaco) and “indefinativamente”
(indefinidamente). She was able to correctly convey the meaning of all of the English idiomatic expressions found in the role-play scenario into Spanish, with the exception of one: “silent killer”.
The candidate consistently maintained transparency with the speakers when intervening for clarification. However, on several occasions she did not maintain the register of the speakers.
We recommend that the candidate review Spanish pronunciation, and that she review English idiomatic expressions with their equivalents in Spanish. Lastly, we recommend that she practice interpreting in the consecutive mode while applying interpreter skills such as maintaining register for continued progress.
Well, that’s my medical interpreting assessment, word for word. I tried to upload the actual document but couldn’t figure it out. Here are the relevant parts of the email from the coordinator at the hospital (my phone wasn’t working for a few days, so she had to tell me via email):
Attached is your assessment test! You did great! congratulations! . . .
We have decided to offer the full time position to another candidate who has a very extensive experience in interpreting at a hospital of the same caliber as [ours]. We all loved you too, but in the end we had to make a decision and it was the difference in the experience what weighted the most. I am so sorry about that. However, the good news is, you can still work with us in a PRN basis! . . . Financially is actually much better for you than the full time position! They pay $30/hour and we send you your assignments every day for the next day or two days in advance when we can. The main difference is that you would be a “contractor” and not an employee, so you don’t have benefits. But you certainly make more money! We would absolutely love to have you!
So, no interpreting job for me . . . not yet, anyway. I had another job lined up, though, fortunately, and I will be starting it next week. I’ll be using my Spanish there, too, but in a very different way. More details to come!
I feel very, very good about the outcome of this interview process. A few days after the medical interpreting exam (which had been preceded by an extensive phone interview), I had another interview with a higher-up and then a long interview in English and Spanish with four of the hospital’s current full-time interpreters. Whew! I actually had a lot of fun talking with them, and it would have been a real joy to work alongside them.
As I wrote last week, I didn’t have hardly any problems with the language component of the interpreting exam. What really did a number on me, though, was the skill of memory. It’s not like you can just give the gist of the sentences you’ve just heard–you’re expected to state them just as you’ve heard them without adding, omitting, or changing anything. No amount of study could have prepared me for that– that skill only comes with extensive practice and experience. Plus, add in nerves, and I definitely struggled to keep it all straight. That’s where the accidental changes and omissions came from.
Other things to take away from their comments are the need to focus on pronunciation and register. Regarding pronunciation, I thought that was a surprising but astute observation. I tend to think of pronunciation and accent as the same thing in regards to my Spanish, but I now see how they are distinct. My accent is exceptionally good–this is far and away the number one comment that native Spanish speakers make to me about my Spanish. I’m not saying that I don’t have an accent, because I do, of course, but my accent is very good. (And very Colombian!) That is, I sound good. My Spanish is also extremely fluid, and I speak very quickly and smoothly without any need to pause and think. It all just kind of runs out, but . . . this can make my pronunciation a little sloppy at times. Very true to form to colloquial Colombian Spanish, I “eat” my s’s and slur all my words together and generally speak without thinking. Which is the idea, naturally, but with certain words that I’ve never really thought about, like “tobacco,” for example, it makes sense to me that I would say something silly like “tobaco” instead of “tabaco.” Or “indefinitivamente” (I definitely would not have said “indefinativamente”!) instead of “indefinidamente.” Oops. Like I said last week, “aneurismo” wasn’t a mispronunciation– I merely guessed. I really don’t remember if I translated silent killer into Spanish (but botched it) or if I entirely forgot to translate it. Asesino silencioso.
Also, register. Point taken.
I’m grateful for the detailed feedback! It’s good to be evaluated. Remember, the entire exam was 25 minutes, and the role-play was about 20 minutes long. For having such scant experience in medical interpreting, I feel like I more than held my own. I definitely need much more experience in order to strengthen my memory, though. I’m going to take the other job and try to work some weekend hours at the hospital in order to gain both valuable experience and the skills that I’m lacking. I also would like to attend some professional workshops and conferences. It was very encouraging to me that she urged me to work for them on an on-call basis even though they didn’t choose me for the position. Of course, they are not going to ask someone to do so if they do not consider them competent interpreters with the necessary language level. In any case, none of us are perfect. She herself is not a native English speaker, and although she speaks it at an extremely high level, there were several small errors even in the email I shared. We all have so many areas for improvement!
All in all, I feel very good. I completely understand why they chose the other candidate with more experience, and I only feel affirmed, not rejected. It was a very positive experience for me. I’m sharing it with you to hold myself accountable and to let you look over my shoulder to see how I’m using (and trying to use) Spanish in my life. Maybe it will be useful to you or maybe merely interesting. I will be significantly more prepared and fluent the next time!
How about you? Have you pushed yourself to do anything scary in Spanish lately? Have you ever had it formally evaluated? Do you enjoy receiving feedback? Do you expect to reach the level where you could work as a professional interpreter? Of course, readers who are learning English are also welcomed to comment, as always.