Hispanic Heritage Month Featured Interpreter: Mireya Perez

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With over 10 years of experience as a professional interpreter, Mireya is currently an English to Spanish K-12 school district trained interpreter and the founder of Brand the Interpreter podcast.

Q: Why do you think Hispanic Heritage Month is important? What would you like to see more of during this time?
A: It’s important that younger generations can see that representation exists. Particularly in the world of social unrest that we’re currently living in, it’s important to have a sense of belonging and representation at a young age. Hispanic Heritage Month helps to highlight the many different faces/jobs/cultures and so on, that make up a beautiful collective of who we are and what we represent. 

Q: Which Spanish-speaking country have you lived in? 
A: When I was around 3-4 years old, we stayed for a long period of time in Ixtapaluca, Mexico. I have vague yet fond memories of my time there. Later, through the years, as a family we would stay the summers between El Capulin, Guanajuato (father’s side) and Manzanillo, Colima (mother’s side). I loved our family trips to Mexico and I love and appreciate my parents for instilling this love of our culture within me.

Q: What are some of the most important things to remember while interpreting for Hispanic people?
A: I personally always strive for inclusivity. I want the families I work with to feel that they are a part of their child’s education process, that they have “communicative autonomy” during their communications with school staff and district administrators. My goal is to help empower parents to have their own authentic voice be heard, regardless of the fact that they are speaking through an interpreter. 

Q: What are your favorite books in Spanish literature?
A: Cien años de soledad by Gabriel Gacia Marques, Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel, La casa de los espiritus by Isabel Allende. (I took Spanish literature as part of my bachelors program and these were but the few books that I was introduced to.) Some I had read prior to the program. As you can see, I’m one of those hopeless romantics. I wish I could have been introduced to the beautiful world of Spanish literature at a younger age.

Q: How did you come up with Brand the Interpreter? What is the main goal?
A: Brand the interpreter was born out of my love for learning, interpreting and branding. As a single parent/single income, it was difficult for me to participate in all the different language-industry events. Frankly speaking, I simply couldn’t afford to attend all the wonderful conferences that help inspire our journeys as language professionals. Branding through storytelling is a communications process that many communication professionals adopt in order to create brand awareness. One day I simply decided I wanted to merge the three and offer other language professionals the opportunity to learn from other professionals and, simultaneously, brand our roles through sharing our stories. And so, Brand the Interpreter the Podcast was born. I’m in love with the process. I’m in love with how others have also appreciated the framework and the platform itself. It’s been a beautiful journey and it’s only just begun!  

Q: How did you start in interpreting field?
A: I started my professional interpreting trajectory over a decade ago after completing a community interpreting certificate program from Riverside Community College. I became a certified medical interpreter shortly thereafter and later transitioned to the K-12 public education system where I’ve dedicated the last 7 years to branding the role of the professional interpreter and creating systems that help ensure language access to LEP families.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?
A: My first interpreting job was at a local hospital as a dual role, per diem, employee. I worked the second shift (7pm to 7am) in the Labor and Delivery Department. It was brutal, but here is where I was encouraged to become certified. Later, I transitioned to a Children’s Hospital. It was heart-wrenching but fulfilling.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?
A: Definitely the “End-of-Life Conferences” and “Last-breath” conversations at the Children’s hospital. I think the titles of the assignments speak for themselves. 

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?
A: Part of the process that I’ve helped to create in our school district is ensuring that information is shared with interpreters prior to any assignment. I study the presentations/documents/materials/terminology ahead of time, to get a sense of how the communication and ideas will flow. If I have questions with regards to content, I touch base with the presenter to clarify any questions/concerns. It’s truly a team effort.

Q: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming interpreter?
A: Continue learning. All good things take time, seek out a mentor if need be. Flat out ask them, “would it be possible to have you mentor me during this process?”. Whatever it takes, just keep going.

Q: What can you recommend to our students aiming to get certified?
A: Try to find others that can help you through the process. It’s difficult sometimes to find like-minded individuals, so consider joining a professional network (even an online one). Build your professional network early on.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why?
A: I am a huge nerd. I tend to do it all when it comes to learning and developing skills. So yes, I join conferences, webinars, read books, articles, listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and so on. What’s important here is that there are all sorts of ways to develop our professional skills. “Success leaves clues”, meaning that there are countless professionals giving away content to help others in their journey. Our job is simply to find them.

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?
A: It would be a disservice to my fellow interpreters in education to not mention the need for courses specifically designed for the interpreter in the education field. Within the context of this year I’ve seen 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.
If I could choose a new topic for a webinar or course, it would definitely be on branding (what can I say?). Creating a brand for the work that we do can assist us whether we work as independent contractors or with an organization.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry? 
A: 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. 

Mireya is one of the presenters at IEO 2nd conference Language Access and the New Reality on December 3-4, 2020. She will be presenting “Navigating language access in education: interpreter’s perspective” at 4 PM EST on December 4.

You can find Mireya on LinkedIn and Instagram

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