Interpreter Spotlight: Maria Teresa Fahy
Updated: Apr 6
This is the second in a series of posts highlighting highlighting the variety of careers available in the field of interpreting, and the variety of professional language specialists who work as interpreters.
Maria Teresa Fahy, CHI™, grew up in Bogotá, Colombia and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from la Universidad de Los Andes. She lived in Venezuela, France and Switzerland before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maria works as the Education and Recruiting Coordinator at Liberty Language Services' corporate office in Vienna, VA. She shares her interpreter career journey with us here:
How long have you been working as an interpreter?
I have been working as a professional interpreter for 9 years and interpreting for 20 plus years. I'm qualified and Certified, CHI™ - Spanish, since 2013.
Why did you choose this profession?
I chose medical interpretation because it provides me with the opportunity to utilize my degree in Microbiology, to help people get access to information and services, and to be part of the ever-changing medical field.
How did you get started as an interpreter?
I began interpreting after completing a 40-hour Medical Interpretation Course in Chicago. I started as an onsite medical interpreter, and a couple of months later I started working as an OPI (over the phone) interpreter as well. A year later, I was working as a VRI (video remote interpreter) full time for a company of Medical VRI interpreters.
Do you remember your first interpreting assignment?
I will never forget my first assignment. It was back in Chicago; I interpreted for a little girl and her family. It was a once in a lifetime experience because the girl had grown up with a congenital condition and after many surgeries and special braces, she was finally able to walk for the very first time in her life, and I was there to witness it. I felt so lucky to be a part of that story.
How do you prepare for your assignments? First, I review the appropriate terminology for the encounter, in case there are any unfamiliar terms. Then, I print any relevant documents ahead of time. I always arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand to make sure I’m at the right location on the day of the assignment.
Do you recommend any app or tool that is helpful for new interpreters?
I really like Linguee, which is an online translation search engine that I have used for years. Additionally, I think it is always a good idea to sign up for different newsletters from accredited organizations because they are a great source of all kinds of new information.
How did you develop and maintain your professional skills?
I was a full-time VRI medical interpreter and I learned a lot during that time. I think interpreting skills are the result of a combination of experience, constant learning, and training. It is so important to keep learning new things; continuing education is a must in this profession.
What do you think is the most important thing you should do to be a successful interpreter?
The most important thing is to always follow standards of practice and the code of ethics for medical interpreters. These protocols are set in place to ensure the quality of the interpreter’s work.
What would you like changed or improved in the interpreting industry?
I would like to see Medical Interpretation training become mandatory in all the possible settings so the services provided are consistently good wherever clients are.
What was the most memorable interpreting experience you've had?
I have interpreted many emotional and difficult encounters. In those situations I've always felt grateful to be able to make a difference for that patient or that family. As an interpreter I think you sometimes wish you could do more, but that is not our job.