Interpreter Spotlight: Meet Janine Eid

Mar 22, 2022

Janine Eid is an Arabic and French language interpreter in all types of settings. 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 Liberty interpreters.

How long have you been working as an interpreter, and in what languages?

I have been working as a professional Arabic and French interpreter since 2015.

Why did you choose this profession?

I always thought about having a career in the language industry and wanted to give back and help. I also needed the flexibility, since I was raising my two young kids. Becoming an interpreter was the perfect fit. 

Aside from the flexibility in schedule, you can make a difference in people’s lives by breaking the language barrier and connecting individuals through language and being involved in the process of understanding. The facial expressions of appreciation from the people you work with is the best reward you receive as an interpreter.

How did you get started as an interpreter?

A friend of mine working in health care told me about the need for medical interpreters. After passing the proficiency tests in English and my target languages, I completed the 40-hour training in interpreting in health and community settings. After receiving my certificate, I was hired by the same company that provided that training. 

Do you remember your first interpreting assignment?

I can’t forget it! It was at a social service organization. The social worker was helping an older women find housing. At some point during the assignment, the LEP individual started acting and speaking in an unusual way. It became very challenging due her speech disfluency, rambling and incoherent speech.

I wasn’t informed at the beginning of the assignment that she was suffering from a mental illness but fortunately my training kicked in and I was able to remain calm, accurate and transparent and successfully interpret.

Last year, I completed Liberty’s new Behavioral Health Interpreter Bridge training. It is a very important training for all interpreters because even if you don’t choose assignments in behavioral health, you will always encounter unpredictable situations where you will benefit from all the information in this training. 

How do you prepare for your assignments?

Preparation is half the work an interpreter does. Being a language expert doesn’t mean that one can talk about anything in the world using specialist terminology right off the bat. 

Therefore, I research and study before my assignments. I look up the provider to check their specialties, familiarize myself with the medical terminology and build my vocabulary, and try to be as knowledgeable as possible in the subject of my interpretation. 

Since arriving early for your assignment is crucial, especially when it is at a hospital, I make sure I know in advance where to park and where to go inside because some of them are confusing and have multiple parking lots and entrances. All this can result in additional time and prevent you from being punctual.

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

During the pandemic, I switched to Over-the-Phone interpretation, OPI. Although OPI presents inherent advantages, there are few disadvantages as well. OPI is very convenient and useful in regards to efficiency and time saving, but the drawbacks of it make it more challenging than in-person interpreting.

Since there is no prior scheduling, I did not have time to prepare. Once you answer the phone, you have to be mentally ready to switch languages – in my case to Arabic and French – and provide different types of services. The interpretation subject could be medical, social, school system, law, bank, domestic violence, 911…every scenario you can think of!

Another challenge was the lack of direct human contact. I could not read the body language and cues of the speakers. As you can imagine, body language is very important for effective communication, especially in cases where they are feeling shy or intimidated due to their lack of proficiency in the English language.

Despite the challenges, OPI gave me an unparalleled experience in working on short notice and in a variety of settings and subjects. 

Do you recommend any app or tool that is helpful for new interpreters? 

There are some good online resources for research reference purposes that interpreters can use. The Health Translations portal provides education resources in multiple languages for healthcare professionals and others to use. 

Another resource new interpreters can use is the Translators Without Borders glossary for Covid-19. It is also available in multiple languages. I also recommend downloading a dictionary app on one’s device for a quick vocabulary check. The one I currently have on my phone is Reverso Context.

How did you develop and maintain your professional skills?

By choosing this career, it means embracing lifelong learnings. The job of an interpreter is always evolving and never boring!

As mentioned, in addition to my Medical Interpreter certificate and Liberty’s Behavioral Heath Interpreter Bridge training, I often participate in webinars on several topics relating to interpreting and sight translation.

I plan on getting more professional certifications and I continue building my glossary and improving my skills in listening, note taking, communication and customer service. I educate myself on the origin and culture of the different LEP individuals. Even though more than 20 Arab countries share the same language, they don’t all share the same cultures or customs. I also embrace new challenges and experiences.

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

Being a successful interpreter requires a depth of knowledge and the ability to listen, understand and speak clearly. You have to be culturally aware. You have to show emotional strength and flexibility, and be able to cope with stress and have self-control when dealing with difficult speakers.

Most important is to be trained and willing to keep learning and evolving. There are times when you feel your knowledge may not be enough, but at the end of the day, your training, experiences and professionalism will help you complete the task successfully.

What would you like changed or improved in the interpreting industry?

A lot can be changed and improved in this industry. One is educating professionals (such as health care workers, lawyers and educators) who work with interpreters to provide interpreters with guidelines in order to make their encounter more productive and successful. For example, the importance of briefing the interpreter prior to the conversation to share essential information – and speaking clearly and allowing time for the information to be interpreted. 

Another example would be to speak directly to the non-English speaker, not to the interpreter. We are here to interpret and ensure understanding, but we are not part of the conversation.

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

Several interpreting experiences are memorable, including many that were very positive with happy outcomes. But the most memorable one I’ve had was during COVID-19 while I was doing over-the-phone interpreting. During the phone call, the doctor told the non-English speaking cancer patient that he was going to be moved to hospice care and only had a couple of months to live. He proceeded to ask him if he had any family members to call and the patient said no. To this day, I feel a lump in my throat when I remember this phone call. 

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