A Friendly Voice: Being a Translator and Interpreter with AUSIT

By February 19, 2016♥ My Community Blog


Firstly, a huge thank you to the organisations who submitted such positive stories about the work they do supporting our community. Your role is invaluable.

It is our great pleasure to announce the Australian Institution of Interpreters and Translators as the winner of the ♥ My Community Blog Competition! Read their heart warming and very human story and keep your ears open for news of their upcoming appearance on 2XX 98.3 FM!




“Empathy, resilience and a sense of humour…” – Eirlys talks about her work with the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators in Canberra.

Members of AUSIT provide translating and interpreting services in a range of contexts. Picture courtesy of Istanbul'daki Yunanistan, bit.ly/1Qp8SGc

As an interpreter and translator, loving and understanding your community is a major prerequisite.

So is empathy, resilience and a sense of humour, as the stories you hear will often be highly sensitive or confidential. Not all are tragic or stressful however. Our presence, however brief, often relieves the tension and helps clarify minor issues!

The role of the interpreter and translator is often misunderstood, and sometimes even misrepresented, so here are a couple of examples from my experience, which I hope will give you an insight. Consider I work mainly with elderly members of the Italian community, who have been here 50 years or more.

One day, I was called to the Emergency Department to interpret for an elderly Italian Australian, adamant she needed an interpreter. The nurse could not understand why, as the patient spoke excellent English!

I introduced myself and she immediately said : “I have lived here 45 years ! I speak English! But I can’t understand HIM!”.  (pointing at the doctor).

The  doctor repeated the question that was the issue : “..’re y’in pin? ” He was speaking with a heavy Gaelic accent. Reminded of a scene from “Chicken Run”, I smiled politely and interpreted: “Are you in pain?/ Ha dolore?” “YES!”, she said. That’s all it took, the rest of the ED assessment went smoothly. I really thanked my Scottish-Irish-Italian ancestry that day.

On another occasion, the pre-admission nurse called me to assist a patient who some months before, had been consented with his daughter summarising the doctor’s explanation (the daughter had power of attorney). I overheard him talking to himself in the corridor, and realised that he had not understood the nature of the operation. For months, he had been convinced his ear would be removed, instead there was only going to be a small graft to close the hole in his eardrum.

I immediately told the nurse, and we described the entire procedure again, showing him pictures of the procedure (which his daughter had avoided doing at the time, so as not to “worry” him, fearing he would not consent). He emerged happy, grateful and hopeful that his hearing would finally be restored, while his daughter finally realised why he had been extremely depressed for months in the lead up to the operation.

Sometimes, it is the small details that count.

To learn more about the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators, click here.