Interpreter Spotlight: Meet Mireya Pérez
Updated: Mar 10
This is the sixth in a 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’ve been working as a professional interpreter for over 10 years. I started as a medical interpreter after receiving my medical certification through NBCMI, and later made the change to K-12 public education as a school district interpreter.
Why did you choose this profession?
Interestingly, I thought that my one true gift was my ability to speak fluently in both languages. I found myself at a crossroads not knowing in which professional direction to go. An early memory of my childhood where I recalled seeing a recruitment flyer for court interpreters led me down the path of pursuing formal training in the profession.
How did you get started as an interpreter?
Shortly before completing the certificate program, I started working as an interpreter at a local general hospital. Later, I took the certification exam to become a certified medical interpreter and once having passed and received my certification, I was hired at a children’s hospital. The general hospital required training as part of their job training requirements; the children’s hospital required certification.
Do you remember your first interpreting assignment?
My first professional assignment was difficult. I worked at a general hospital whose staff did not know how to work with trained medical interpreters, so there was a lot of redirection on behalf of the interpreter. I kept having to redirect the nurse to ask the patient directly, to stay behind with the Spanish-speaking patients to “help them fill out health questionnaires,” and things of that nature. It was a 12-hour night shift so, needless to say, it was a long night. One of the reasons I switched to being a school district interpreter was the daytime hours, in addition to being able to serve where there is such great need.
How do you prepare for your assignments?
As we’re all aware, preparation is key for the interpreter. One has to feel not just familiar with the terminology, but also with the context of the presentation. When we work for an organization for a long period of time, one tends to become familiar with the speaking styles of many of the presenters, but the context always differs. Many of our meetings are public meetings, which means there are always members of the public that are given the opportunity to speak for a maximum of 3 minutes. As you can imagine, there are individuals that try to jam-pack as much as possible within that 3-minute timeframe, so preparation with context and terminology always proves to be crucial during these types of meetings.
Our system is set up in a way that requesters in need of an interpreter for a large-audience event send us agendas, presentations, and any other information that’s pertinent to the meeting/event. I also like to search for context in both languages since typically other school districts experience the same types of issues.
Do you recommend any app or tool that is helpful for new interpreters?
I’m big on using our combined professional experiences to help raise the bar of the professional interpreter. Therefore, I’ll always recommend continued growth on anything that is of interest, even if it seems unrelated to the profession. Somehow, the love and interest of those things that inspire us as well as the things we devote the majority of our time to, will cross paths.
I say this because that is exactly what happened to me in February of this year (2020). I launched a podcast show titled Brand the Interpreter. My love for strategic communication, my interest in personal branding, and my professional career all collided making way for something that I never would have conjured up all on my own.
There’s both formal and informal training available for new interpreters to help improve one’s skillset, and that’s always going to be high on my recommendation list, but being creative and combining all of your interests and experiences is something I wished I would have had early on in my career. Of course, tuning in to a podcast for motivation and support wouldn’t hurt either!
How did you develop and maintain your professional skills?
Learning never stops. There are always and will always be opportunities for growth in one way or another. I try to read as much as I am able and listen to others in the fields when they offer their suggestions or recommendations. I take what works for me and leave anything that doesn’t out.
I believe that success leaves clues, meaning if other language professionals have tried something and they are sharing their experiences, chances are I can learn many new things thanks to their generosity. I strive for continued professional development. I consider myself a nerd and so mainly my social media follows tend to be things that I can learn. I listen to podcasts, read, and try to stay abreast of things related to my field and specialization.
What do you think is the most important thing you should do to be a successful interpreter?
Consider yourself a life-long student. Opportunities for learning abound, particularly during those moments where we falter. We should strive to learn from our mistakes and move on. I think also stepping outside of our comfort zones helps us become more successful interpreters.
What would you like changed or improved in the interpreting industry?
I’d love to see more collaboration between the different areas of specialization. I believe we’re stronger together and we all have much to learn from one another. Personally, I know our school district directly benefitted from the information I was able to obtain from other interpreters and organizations, as one after another stepped forward to share information related to remote interpreting. I hope this continues past COVID.
I’d also love to see more university/college courses specifically designed for the interpreter in the area of education. Lately, I’ve seen more and more universities across the nation begin to offer courses specifically for this area. My dream is that all universities that offer T&I programs include a course/courses for interpreting in education as a part of their curriculum.
What was the most memorable interpreting experience you've had?
Would it be too predictable to say it’s been during this COVID era? I happen to think that these uncertain times have also brought out the creativity out of individuals. We’re interpreting for school board meetings that go on until nearly midnight at times. In my time with the school district, there had never been anyone at the meetings past 8 pm. Now, due to the availability of live streaming, not only are more people tuning in, they’re staying longer. This has been memorable because it has allowed me the opportunity to learn and grow as a professional, and I cherish any experience that provides the chance to become a better interpreter.