Our April interpreter of the month is Rakan!
Our Interpreter of the Month project continues to celebrate the hard work and achievements of our amazing interpreters. This month’s winner is Rakan! The Clear Voice team are very grateful for all that you do and the fantastic feedback your work receives.
It was great to speak to Rakan about why he became an interpreter, how valuable education is, and the differences between remote & face-to-face interpreting…
I came to the UK in 2002 when I was just 11. I came with my aunt, as she had a scholarship to complete her PhD at Oxford University. She brought me over and I just decided to stay. She worked as an interpreter and growing up I saw that interpreting was a good job. I was interested in seeing how she was interpreting, how she was talking, even though I was only a child, and it made me think that one day I would like to do that myself.
Education is so important
Before I moved to England I grew up in Jordan, where I still have family. I don’t think arriving in the UK was as hard for me because it happened at a young age. I did miss my family, but I made friends quickly. My English was already good because I started learning when I was 5 years old. Education is so valuable. My family were very supportive with that which was a good thing. I now live in Sheffield with my wife and two children, and that is where I belong! We are trying to bring them up to speak languages – I really think learning is so important.
After finishing school, I first graduated as a flight engineer with the Royal Jordanian Airlines and then completed a Level 6 Diploma in Health and Social Care with Sheffield City Council. I worked as an integration officer with the Refugee Council, which developed my ability to work as an interpreter, particularly as I would accompany refugees to appointments. I bring this experience to the calls that I take for Clear Voice, as many clients also work with refugees.
When I decided to pursue interpreting as my full-time career, I completed the DPSI Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting. It is hard – harder than people might think. I have lived in the UK for 20 years and have a very good understanding of English and Arabic, but interpreting requires much more than that. It was a rewarding course to complete, and I feel it was worthwhile for my career.
Remote and face-to-face interpreting
I definitely enjoy working for Clear Voice and the flexibility of remote interpreting is really valuable. I can log in whenever I want and there is always work. During the pandemic I was particularly grateful for this, as I could carry on working even when I was stuck at home.
In some ways face-to-face interpreting is easier than remote interpreting because when you are in person you can pick up on things like eye contact. You can see the service user’s reactions, and it makes it easier to avoid speaking over each other. But video interpreting is great, and I really enjoy taking those calls. You build an understanding of when it is my time to talk, when it is the user’s time to talk, which helps.
Interpreting in difficult times
Before working for Clear Voice, I also worked as a support worker for end-of-life services, so I have a lot of experience handling difficult and emotional situations. Sometimes interpreting can present difficult moments. I interpreted for a blind man, 18 years old, who was going to be deported by the Home Office. He had no family and in my mind I had no idea how he was going to manage. It is hard to hear these stories, but at the end of the day my role is to be professional. I am there to help people communicate. We are all humans, we can empathise and show sympathy, but ultimately our role is to interpret.