The typical training platforms available for community and medical interpreters have proven inadequate for identifying and preparing indigenous language speakers to enter the interpreting profession. Interpreting already requires a complex skill set of its practitioners. The ability to accurately transfer meaning between languages such as English, Spanish and Mandarin is difficult. Doing so for indigenous languages that are often poorly documented, have few speakers and vary widely from village to village and region to region may prove to be even more difficult.
By comparison, the core of the Indigenous Interpreting+ mission of providing high-quality indigenous language interpreting services is our unique training program. Indigenous Interpreting+ recognizes that our richest resource is our pool of expert and qualified indigenous language interpreters, so we invest in them deeply by providing innovative training, including the following:
- Access to and Support for Formal Education: Some indigenous language speakers have college degrees and others have limited formal education in their native language. Some languages have no written component, or, if they do, it is often incomplete and inconsistent across regions. Some Indigenous Interpreting+ interpreters have received – through philanthropy – tuition-free English immersion classes.
- Adapting to U.S. Workplace Culture: The U.S. and many Western nations have a clearly-defined workplace culture with predictable and specific expectations of what professional conduct looks like. Indigenous interpreters must not only master the complex skill set required for any interpreter, they must also learn to navigate the U.S. workplace culture. Indigenous Interpreting+ interpreters receive ongoing professional mentoring and specialized training on Professional Workplace Skills.
- Using Technology: Indigenous Interpreting+ interpreters learn to work across multiple communication platforms, including face-to-face, telephonic and video remote. They must be trained to use a variety of devices, including smart phones, video consoles, tablets and personal computers. Since many come from extremely remote parts of the world, they may need basic training and experience many of us take for granted. Indigenous Interpreting+ interpreters use email, Internet and mobile tablets and smart phones.
- Conducting Outreach: Indigenous interpreters do not just show up on our doorstep, trained and ready. They often come from communities working in agriculture and informal services. Indigenous Interpreting+ has a program in place to reach out to and identify talented bilingual and trilingual indigenous language speakers interested in becoming interpreters. Indigenous Interpreting+ works with local community leaders and organizations to recruit potential candidates to our training program on a continuous basis.
- Interpreter Trainee Program: Once Indigenous Interpreting+ has identified and provided basic interpreter training, we must retain our talent. The only way to do so is to make interpreting as viable a work choice as other minimum-wage jobs. Indigenous Interpreting+ provides interpreter trainee programs at Natividad Medical Center, and now, through Indigenous Interpreting+ itself, it provides reliable and paid work that allows our interpreters to dedicate themselves to interpreting part- and full-time.