KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 1: Reference Materials

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Over the past few months, myself and many other face-to-face/in-person interpreters have had to adjust to a new normal: remote interpreting.  While many other interpreters have already had to made this adjustment, it’s especially difficult for many during this time as a result of the global pandemic we find ourselves in.  Many of us are not only adjusting to our new work life, but also having to simultaneously cope with social isolation, newfound financial instability, children being home from school with no childcare, and even sickness or death of our loved ones.

In my case, I rarely leave my home.  My husband was furloughed, only to return to his job at a restaurant one shift per week. My stepson has been with us almost every day for the past 4 months and we are almost entirely in charge of his schooling.  As the days and weeks go by, I feel like the virus is slowly but surely beginning to affect my social circle, COVID-19-related deaths and complications inching one degree closer.  On top of an incredibly difficult situation, I have struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life.

I certainly hope they’re not doing this on the other end of the line… [Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels]
Yet we’re still expected to do our jobs, remaining impartial and composed, even in spite of providers, patients, and clients sometimes taking their frustrations out on us on the other end of the line.  It’s no secret that it’s easier to dehumanize a nameless voice on the other end of a poor phone connection than it is someone standing right in front of you.  I honestly can’t blame these folks for reacting this way as they are often in high-stress, life-or-death situations on top of everything else that is currently going on.  While I don’t take this personally, it still stings, especially because I’m so accustomed to the warm welcome and thanks I often get from my in-person patients, many of whom I have interpreted for time and time again.

Self-Care Series

If you’re reading this and you know me on some level, you know I am a huge proponent of self-care.  I believe self-care is a largely ignored facet of interpretation and interpreter education, which is why I’ve decided to launch my Self-Care Series.  One of the biggest pieces of advice I took earlier on in the pandemic was to focus on the things you do have control of.  We can’t control the pandemic, we can’t control the availability of in-person assignments, we’re limited in the scope of what we can do to manage others’ conduct during remote encounters… the list goes on.  What we DO have control of is ourselves and what we do to set ourselves up for success.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I took earlier on in the pandemic was to focus on the things you do have control of.

I’ve lived with anxiety for nearly 2/3 of my life at this point, so I know a thing or two about anxiety management.  This is my first series of articles featured on my website!  Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be posting six areas in which you can lower your anxiety levels as it relates to remote interpreting.  Some of these suggestions will be generalized, but the majority will be specific to interpreting.  I’ve made a little video for my YouTube channel quickly laying out all 6 tips, but the articles I write will really dive deep into these suggestions.

Tip #1: Have Reference Materials Handy!

It may seem like a no-brainer, but no matter how good of an interpreter you are, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how much you take continuing education seriously, you don’t know everything.  There will always be an instance in which you don’t know a term, or even if you do know it, that word or phrase might be sticking on the tip of your tongue!

As someone with anxiety (and depression!) I know how quickly things can spiral out of control, even if it’s a minor issue that doesn’t really have a large impact in the grand scheme of things.  You can become frozen in that moment, and that feeling of helplessness can snowball into other areas.  We’ve all had those moments where we suddenly forget a word in our target or even native language.  There’s that opening for negative or panicked internal dialogue to start taking over.  That negative internal dialogue becomes some sort of self-sustaining perpetual motion machine, and next thing you know, you’ve set yourself up for a bad encounter that leaves you stewing on negative feelings about your poor performance afterwards.

See below for a fun and accurate visual representation of how my anxiety spirals out of control once it gets started:


Look at those marbles go! Each marble is an anxious thought that just gets brought back up to the top to roll down again and again and again. Needless to say, sometimes I do lose my marbles.

Recommended Reference Materials

Fortunately this is a fairly easy problem to fix, which is why I’m absolutely amazed that so many interpreters I know willingly admit that they don’t have reference materials open and ready when they’re interpreting!  I always have at least three tabs open in my browser when interpreting remotely:

  1. Agency-Specific Reference Materials
    Each agency I work for has a list of recommended reference guides to keep open in different tabs.  Some even have their own approved term libraries.  These agencies are trying to set you up for success!  Use these materials!
  2. Linguee
    I love Linguee for looking up idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms, and exploring common usage.  If I can’t find what I’m looking for elsewhere, I can usually find it here.
  3. WordReference
    I always flip back and forth between the WordReference tab and the Collins tab to compare.  Some phrases and ambiguous terms are even discussed in-depth on the WordReference forums (linked at the bottom of every search results page).

I’ve heard excellent things about Cosnautas glossaries and they have monthly subscription options for Spanish/English and Spanish/German medical glossaries for translators and interpreters.  I haven’t had the chance to try them out yet, but like I said, I’ve heard a lot of amazing things.

Most people wouldn’t think of Facebook as a viable reference for terms, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from being active on many interpreter Facebook groups, it’s that terminology gets discussed a lot.  Facebook gives you the ability to search a group for keywords, enabling you to look up past discussions on a term you’re just not clear about.  While certainly not all responses are correct, you can sort through comments and even see detailed discussions about why a certain way of translating a term is more correct than another.  This is actually a great way to see if a commonly-used translation is completely wrong!  As you use these groups, you’ll come to know some of the members and get a feel for who will give a well-informed response.

Another option if you’re really having a hard time finding a term, or most of the translations you’re finding seem to be anglicisms is ProZ’s KudoZ terms glossary.  I admittedly don’t use this as much because it’s not as user-friendly, but it’s definitely a good one to have in your back pocket.  Do you have other favorite reference websites or documents?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

If you do VRI (video remote interpretation) it’s highly advisable to get a second monitor to facilitate the usage of reference materials. You can mount it on the wall above/behind your main monitor using mounting hardware, or simply raise it up above your main monitor on a riser. Even if you only do OPI (over-the-phone interpretation) if your main monitor is tied up with an interpreting platform or VoIP desktop application, a second monitor can save you a lot of switching back and forth!

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for a second article later on this week about another tip on anxiety reduction!  Next time I’ll be going into detail about call flow charts, in an effort to help you manage expectations and stay in control.  What are call flow charts?  Find out next time!  Be sure to subscribe to my site’s articles or follow the KGH Interpretation Facebook page to stay informed of new updates!

Missed the other articles in the series? You can check them out here:

  1. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 1: Reference Materials
  2. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 2: Call Flow Charts
  3. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 3: Track Your Time
  4. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 4: Change Your Ringtone
  5. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 5: Set Your Space
  6. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 6: Relaxation Techniques
[Cover image by cottonbro from Pexels]
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About the author

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

Kelly is a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). She works as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter and also specializes in mental health interpretation.

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KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

I am a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). I work as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter. I also specialize in mental health interpretation. Click here to read more about me.

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