-The Blog Team
There were six of us in the Zoom breakout room: all of us interpreters, all members of the ATA’s Interpreter Division, and all logged in to spend some time with colleagues in the division’s Interpreter Connections. One interpreter in that breakout room had recently moved to the U.S. She had questions about practices and protocols in her new home state but didn’t know anyone local. As it turned out, three other attendees lived in her area – one even shared a language pair. By the end of the session, contact information had been exchanged and plans were being made.
For a group of professionals who devote their time and expertise to facilitating communication, we interpreters can end up rather disconnected ourselves. It’s not surprising, really. We occupy a chair in a booth, space beside a witness stand, a seat in a medical office, and all of our focus is on other people’s words and messages. And then, we leave. If we’re lucky, a colleague might be working nearby and have time to meet for coffee. And it used to be that the only real chance we had to connect with our own professional community was at association meetings, an annual conference or two, or the occasional workshop.
When the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in 2020 and led to quarantines and isolation, socializing with our colleagues was certainly not our first concern. But as the months went by, the effects on emotional and mental health became palpable.
Human beings were not meant to be disconnected. Social connections—even virtual ones—contribute to longevity and boost the immune system, while the lack thereof has been shown to negatively impact our physical and psychological health[i].
In addition, according to Vivien Williams of The Mayo Clinic Minute, “Socializing … helps sharpen memory and cognitive skills…”[ii], two things upon which every interpreter relies.
Seeing the effects of isolation, the ATA Interpreters Division decided to take Interpreter Connections virtual in December of 2020. Sessions are hosted on Zoom and the format is simple. A topic is introduced, then attendees gather in small breakout rooms for a more intimate discussion before returning to the main room to share with the rest. If the conversation moves off topic, that’s fine.
“Moderating the Interpreter Connections has been a real joy,” shares Yasmin Alkashef, one of the hosts. “I usually come out of the meeting with notes and tips I learned from my colleagues. I think our most successful event was when we discussed long-term career and retirement planning. It seemed to be a topic everyone related to so strongly, but no one had discussed it enough and very few had acted yet on their long-term/retirement plans. I remember that for a couple of days after this session I kept thinking about what everyone said. This shed light on another aspect of being a solo entrepreneur.”
While Helen Eby, Flávia Lima, Maggie Hong, Elena Langdon, and Pamela Pizzurro have helped at different times, Yasmin Alkashef and Daniela Obregón are the longest-serving hosts.
When asked about her experience, Daniela said, “Since our profession as freelancers can sometimes be lonely, I’m always looking for opportunities to meet with colleagues (either in person or virtually). Spending time with interpreters who have a passion for our profession and are willing to share ideas on how to improve our work creates a space with so much information that it makes me feel eager to put what I’ve heard into practice. Personally, Interpreter Connections is a way for me to continue that cycle of sharing knowledge with like-minded colleagues and with those who might have a different opinion. Connecting and networking with other interpreters makes me want to keep moderating Interpreter Connections to continue learning from others.”
The rise of social media and virtual platforms and events over the last three years has changed the landscape in many ways. For brief interactions, we have T&I Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, a few fun TikTok accounts, and a range of Facebook groups. We meet in online conferences, webinars and workshops. Geography is no longer an impediment to finding our “tribe.”
But in the midst of this plenty, we still need to find times to sit with our colleagues and let the conversation flow where it may. Our work allows others to connect; we mustn’t ignore our own need to do likewise.
The next Interpreter Connections event will be announced shortly and we hope to see you there! Until then, here’s to being connected!
To all my colleagues met on Zoom:
I’m glad we shared a virtual room!
With COVID creeping ’round,
I’m glad that we have found,
A way to make connections bloom.
Our conferences are months apart;
and once the sessions get their start
we hurry through the halls,
making a few quick calls,
with no time for a heart-to-heart.
But virtual meetings give us moments,
And sometimes moments are enough.
Those virtual, fuzzy-slipper meetings
and warm, long-distance greetings
can be a calm
to ease the soul when things are rough.
Virtual Connections ©Carol Shaw 071922
The Comments section is open to anyone who wants to add a verse or two. Special points if you find a good rhyme for the names of other virtual platforms!
The ATA Interpreters Division blog team includes Andreea Boscor, Julie Burns, Helen Eby, Maggie Hong, Paula Irisity, Gaby Penrod, and Carol Shaw (Editor).
[i] Seppälä, Emma, “Social Connection Boosts Health, Even When You’re Isolated”, Psychology Today, March 23, 2020
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