- Posted March 22, 2013 by
Village of Lombard, Illinois
HOW I BECAME A COMMUNITY INTERPRETER?
In September 1977, when I was a freshman at Northeastern Illinois University, in Chicago, Illinois, I used to work as a student aide at the Financial Aid Office, for the Veterans Administration Scholarship department and the UNI Scholarship department, when I was not in class, and I also helped the front desk accepting student financial aid forms and advising students about registration procedures. Since Northeastern Illinois is an urban university, the majority of the students enrolled and attending were urban minorities who commuted to school and work to get a college education in Chicago. Many of the students were Spanish-speaking people who had just arrived from Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean or Spain and needed to enroll in college courses to learn English and get a college degree or validate their college transcripts from their former countries in the United States. Since these students spoke Spanish only at the beginning at UNI, whenever they went to the Financial Aid Office, they required an explanation in Spanish of all the financial aid requirements to apply for the Pell Basic Grant, the Illinois State Scholarship and/or student loans. When I was not completing Veterans’ Scholarship forms, totaling veterans’ points for scholarship after military service, typing award letters and post cards for the veterans, filing, and/or managing awards letters or denials for other scholarship funds, I would be asked to work at the front desk informing students and answering the telephone in English and Spanish. If a Spanish-speaking student was interviewed by a financial aid counselor who only spoke English, sometimes I would be called to interpret from English into Spanish. In so doing, I enjoyed the rapport and the language interaction with my fellow students and fulfilled my responsibility to the community by helping Spanish speakers become mainstreamed into the English-speaking community at Northeastern Illinois University and in Chicago, as I had been during my high school years where I only spoke English and French, in a Catholic parochial school, Madonna High School on the Northwest side of Chicago. After completing my core curriculum for my Bachelor’s Degree, I decided to focus on double majors in Education to teach languages like English, French, and Spanish, Writing, and minor in Linguistics and Athletics. Having had four years of English and French in high school, I was accelerated into more advanced courses in these two disciplines, so I completed my major requirements early enough that I could regain my usage of the Spanish language through specialized coursework for bilingual Spanish speakers. As I became more proficient in my colloquial use of the Spanish language for bilingual speakers in the Chicago area of the Midwest, I interacted between English and French easily, thus I became multilingual. I graduated from Northeastern Illinois University after five years of study with a B.A. in Secondary Education, Type (09) Illinois State Teaching Certificate, English, French, Spanish, and minors in Linguistics, Writing, and Athletics. It was through one of my friends, Maureen, that I started doing translation work and language instruction at Translingual International. I also taught at Berlitz Language Schools in Downtown Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Later on, I began to interpret at the Illinois Industrial Commission and through Accurate Translations for workers’ compensation arbitration hearings for Spanish-speaking employees who had been injured by work-related accidents. The last two years of college, I was referred and recommended by my French teacher and her physician friend, for a summer job working for an European travel insurance company, GESA Assistance, S.A., based in Barcelona, Spain, with branches in the U.S., Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Japan, Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean.