Now residing in the beautiful Rio Grande Valley area of Texas, dedicated primarily to OPI (Over the Phone Interpreting), and Face to Face Interpreting as requested.

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Interpreter Divas – A True Pain In The Ass

Spanish David




“You have wasted all of your time here if, in the end, you haven’t learned that you are responsible for those that are not as well educated.” I still remember this from a lecture during my Chicano Studies class. Instead of learning about the Chicano culture, on this particular day the professor gave us a much more important lesson –the value of an education, and responsibilities.

Often, I think about this class. I remember learning how to be afforded an educational opportunity wasn’t just about the class subject content, but rather how to use the knowledge to help others who did not have the same educational opportunities.

In the world of interpreting, there are some great minds and helpful individuals who go out of their way to help others succeed. Ask a question in a forum, and they are ‘Johnny on the spot’ with a helpful answer. To them, there is no dumb question. They understand that not everyone has the same educational level, background experience or knowledge.

Opposite are the divas of the interpreting world. These are the ones that pounce on any perceived mistake, insist that others must hear the ‘harsh’ realities, and use every opportunity to show how great they are. They, at least in their mind, are superior.

In a recent Facebook forum post a person asked a question. The wording was off, the grammar non-existent. The ‘divas’ pounced on this giving the poster the ‘harsh reality’ of daring to ask a question in such a way. It was, as one of the divas stated, offensive. As I was reading the comments, I thought about the Chicano Studies lecture, and it came back to me… ‘…in the end, you haven’t learned.’

One of the re-occurring topics in some of the Interpreter forums is dress, or rather the lack of professional attire. You wouldn’t think that a ‘professional interpreter’ would bother themselves with such petty stuff. They do. There are comments such as ‘it is insulting to the profession’ and ‘they shouldn’t be an interpreter if they don’t want to take it seriously.’

I was in the corporate world for years (not fun, by the way) and learned about the professional dress code. The term ‘monkey suit’ was common back in the day of the suite and tie, and I still use it today when I have to dress for business. You see, I was lucky. I had not only received a formal university education, but I had also been mentored by ‘professionals’ that wanted to see me succeed. My business attire and others business attire were not the same. I was taught. I learned.

The first time I wore jeans and tennis shoes to an interpreting assignment (some interpreters are gasping at this point), I remember how odd it felt. I admit, it also felt nice like I was a rebel. This happened at a children’s medical clinic. Although no other interpreter (there were three of us there for different assignments) said anything to me, the looks I got told it all. I was not to ‘their’ standards. What they didn’t know is that the doctor had explicitly asked me to wear jeans and tennis shoes for this assignment as we were going to take some kids to the park. As we were all leaving through the waiting room to board the bus, I wanted to stick out my tongue to the other interpreters and make raspberry sounds. I didn’t.

Over the years I have learned that the best way to deal with these divas of the profession is to ignore them. They belittle others as a way to make themselves feel better. They are, in reality, lacking self-confidence, which is why they must show their superiority at every opportunity. By merely not responding to them, their bloated egos eventually become deflated. There is one gentleman, for example, that rarely participates in the interpreter forums until that is, I post one of my blogs. He then ridicules it and states his words of wisdom. At first, I would debate back and forth with him, and then I realized (someone turned on the light switch), that he didn’t want to discuss. He merely wanted to feel superior, and the only way to do this was to attempt to belittle me. Now I thank him for his comment and move on. As the saying goes, life is too short.

In my opinion, and yes I know opinions are like assholes and everyone has one and they all stink. Still, I am going to give it –stinky or not. Ignore the divas. Don’t respond to them. Don’t engage with them, and don’t debate them. The best thing to do for the profession is to shun them. These type of individuals, although they give the pretense that they want to help others and improve the profession, are the ones that are destroying it.

When someone asks a question or makes a statement, ask yourself ‘do I need to respond?’ And, possibly more important, is your response to help or to hurt? The ‘harsh reality’ argument is a way of justifying being cruel, not of being helpful. Yes, honesty is essential, and we should not have to sugar coat the realities. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t use our education, our knowledge, and our experience to guide others who have not had the same opportunities.

As a profession, we need to stop the attacks on each other and start educating each other. We are all at different places in our professional journeys, some taking their first steps and others looking back at the memories. We all made blunders (I probably made more than most), asked the wrong questions, misinterpreted a term, and just made a mess of things. We learned. We had mentors. We continued on our journey.

I like what a colleague posted in response to one of my previous blog posts, and I think it sums it up nicely. “We were all at one time beginners, learners and not certified. Unfortunately many still see this profession as a means for just some extra cash and not as a career and of course we still carry the stigma that anyone can do it since we are “on” bilingual speakers. I believe that a very good start is that of putting a stop to the put-downs, anger, offenses, ridiculous and instead, mature, respect and unite. We are being our worst cancer.”

As my Chicano professor taught us, “You have wasted all of your time here if, in the end, you haven’t learned that you are responsible for those that are not as well educated.”

David Martin Tucker, Certified Spanish Medical Interpreter, CHI™, or “Spanish David” as he is known, is a certified medical interpreter whose passion for Latin American culture and language is second only to his desire to become a voice for his Spanish speaking clients. Conveying more than words, David’s continuous thirst for knowledge thrusts him into the culture of his clients.

David is an honor’s graduate from the Southern California School of Interpreting’s Medical Interpreter Program and holds bachelor degrees in both Modern Languages (Spanish) and Business from Metropolitan State College of Denver and the University of Southern Indiana respectively.

A founding member of the El Puente Bilingual Toastmasters in Denver, David is also a contributor to the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), and is a member of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Health Care Patient Advisory Board.

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3 thoughts on “Interpreter Divas – A True Pain In The Ass

  • . I’d say that the success, respect and professionalism you have achieved is the best “tongue out raspberry sound” ever. But it still would have been fun if you stuck your tongue out at the other interpeters LOL

  • David, what a pleasure it gives me to read this post. You’ve captured both what makes one a “diva” as well as “why”. I particularly like the confession that we ALL have been one at some point, albeit unwittingly.

    Thank you so much for the insight and compassion.

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Certified Spanish Healthcare Interpreter
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