Interpreter Spotlight: Meet Eddie Ho

Jul 21, 2021

Eddie Ho is a retired real estate professional who is now a certified freelance interpreter specializing in medical interpreting in the Cantonese language. This is the latest in our series of Liberty Language Services Blog posts highlighting the variety of careers available in the field of interpreting, and the variety of professional language specialists who work as interpreters.

How long have you been working as an interpreter?

I have been a freelance interpreter since 2006: in California from 2006 to 2019 and in MD/VA/DC from 2019 to present.

Why did you choose this profession?

I was a real estate agent for about 10 years for a real estate development group in the Bay Area. I worked as directorate staff of its leasing and marketing department. In 2006, I left the position to care for my wife who had become a paraplegic as a result of a failed surgery she received earlier. Later that year, I took on a language interpretation job because of the convenience and availability, and more importantly, because of the time constraints of caring for my wife 24/7. In fact, prior to this I had years of interpreting experience for the pastor of my church as he delivered his sermon to the congregation every Sunday. In my younger days, I worked for the Hong Kong government for awhile. It was then I came to acquire training and substantial knowledge in translation and interpretation in Cantonese. So, the job of a language-converter is something up my avenue.

How did you get started as a freelance interpreter?

A deacon at my church heard about my and my wife’s ordeal. With her suggestion and referral, I joined a language services provider in the Bay Area.

How do you prepare for your assignments?

My motto has always been:

  1. Always bear in mind the expectation of the employer and that of the client;
  2. Make sure that I prepare for and know the subject of the appointment and if it is one I am confident and comfortable in handling;
  3. The need for punctuality and appropriate attire;
  4. Review HIPAA and the Do’s and Dont’s of an interpreter as prescribed in the Employees Handbook.

How do you develop and maintain your professional skills?

In my opinion there are no hard and fast rules as to what an individual should follow, do or not do in a situation. No two appointments (even with the same patient and physician in the same location and settings) are alike. After the initial training, an interpreter needs to improve his/her skill, upgrading their knowledge in the relevant field by attending continuation courses from time to time. Remember, interpreters are NOT specialists. So they need to possess, to a certain extent, a wider range of general terms and expressions used by different medical practices. In other words, an interpreter could be regarded as a general practitioner!

How has Covid-19 affected your work as an interpreter?

It was a long interval with little or minimal activity. Like everyone else, I was somewhat apprehensive but NOT to the point of panicking. Compared with the rest of the world, I think we are a lot better off than many. I am truly proud to be an American and fortunate to live here and now.

What do you think is the most important thing you should do to be a successful interpreter?

I believe there are several qualities that contribute to the making of a ‘skilled/professional interpreter’ in the industry. For myself, each time I am given an assignment, I vow to myself that I will perform it with pride and enthusiasm. It is because this is a job I enjoy and a job I choose myself; nobody has pressured me to do it.

What was the most memorable interpreting experience you’ve had?

This may sound like a joke, but it is a true story. Several years ago in California, I had an appointment in the office of an ophthalmologist who was attending to a patient with a poor vision complaint. It was shortly after lunchtime. I could smell bourbon or maybe beer on the doctor’s breath when he started talking to the patient. Toward the end of the examination/consultation he seemed to momentarily lose his ability to speak. He turned to me and said, “What did I say his problem was?” “Glaucoma was what you told the patient about ten minutes ago,” I replied. He grinned and said, “You’re hired.” and I said, “I’ll see you at 9 am tomorrow.”

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