“Interpreter! INTERPRET!!!” he shouted
With this interview we are starting a new rubric Featured Interpreter. The goal of it is to advocate the importance of our profession, share useful tips and experiences and highlight some of the best professionals in the field.
Caroline Croskery has been speaking Persian for many years. She was born in the United States and moved to Iran at the age of twenty-one. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Iranian Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she graduated Cum Laude. For many years, she has been active in four fields of specialization: language teaching, translation, interpretation and voice-over acting.
During her thirteen years living in Iran, she taught English, translated, and dubbed Iranian feature films into English. After returning to live in the United States, she began a career as a court interpreter in 1998 and is currently a Missouri State Registered Farsi court and medical interpreter.
Q: Caroline, how long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?
A: I began as a court interpreter for LA County Superior Courts in 1998 after becoming a State of California Registered Farsi Interpreter through the Judicial Council of California. In 2016 I became a Missouri State Registered Farsi Interpreter. I am a court interpreter, a medical interpreter, as well as a literary translator. I translate bestselling novels from Persian (Farsi) into English and have thirteen books on Amazon.
Q: What was your first interpreting job?
A: My first day on the job is a day I remember well. I had taken a language exam and gone through an orientation that dealt with ethics and overall dos and don’ts of interpreting in the courtroom. But I arrived on the job with no actual experience. I remember not being sure about what to do.
The court proceedings began and I was standing there next to the defendant waiting for something to happen. I guess I thought that things would stop and I would have the opportunity to consecutively interpret what had been said.
Then the judge shouted something that jolted me into action like a race-horse out of the gate.
“Interpreter! INTERPRET!!!” he shouted. And I was off! My career in simultaneous court interpreting began with a jolt!
Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?
A: I was called to interpret for senior citizen who was a serial jay-walker. This time, she was certain that she was going to be put away for life. She was so frightened of the judge that it was all I could do to assuage her fears and assure her that the judge would deal with her fairly. I informed her that talking to the judge was her only good option. She finally gulped down her reticence and together, we walked into the courtroom.
The judge knew this lady. He had seen her there many times before. This time, his tactic was to perform a little drama and hopefully scare her out of repeat offending!
Putting on very serious airs, the judge announced in a deep, scary voice, “You’re back! I see that you have violated the law again.”
“Yes, sir,” she answered, shaking with suspense.
Drawing out the weighty words, the judge interrogated her, “And what did you do?”
Bypassing the interpreter, she blurted out her confession, “Johnny Walker! Johnny Walker!”
Everybody in the courtroom smiled. The judge talked with her in length about the danger she was creating, not only primarily for herself, but for the oncoming cars and traffic as well. She was fined, and hopefully learned her lesson.
Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?
A: Most certainly the saddest experience I have ever had on the job was a case involving both murder and grave mental illness. The saddest part for me, is knowing that this might have been avoided if the perpetrator had been under psychiatric care to begin with.
Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?
A: Two things come to mind. New interpreters need mentoring, as I did. Perhaps a requirement for new interpreters to spend 20 hours in an actual courtroom before their first day on the job. They could be given an on the job orientation packet to accomplish, to acquaint them with various courtroom roles and procedures. Necessary forms could be translated for court use, which would also acquaint them with the specific vocabulary used in that courtroom.
Secondly, I believe that ALL interpreters should have state qualification in order to enter the job force. We have too many people entering the field of interpreting who are not qualified and cannot pass the state exams.
Q: How do you prepare for assignments?
A: Simultaneous interpreting involves levels of skills. Knowing two languages at native level is not sufficient to be a good interpreter. The other skill is a more mechanical skill: the ability to listen while speaking. A simultaneous interpreter must listen at the same time he or she is speaking.
To warm up before an assignment, while driving in the car, I switch on an English talk radio station. English is my mother tongue. I practice simply repeating aloud, the exact words I hear on the radio. I do this for about fifteen minutes. Then I switch to a Farsi talk radio station. I do the same thing. Then I begin interpreting what I hear in Farsi, into English. Finally, I switch back to the English talk radio station, and interpret what I hear in English, into Farsi.
The mechanical aspect of listening to language while speaking gets more and more automatic the more you practice. But there is still a third element, and that is the supervisory role the brain must have over this whole mechanical procedure, so that you are listening not only for the words and sentences, but that you are also hearing what is being said – you are comprehending what is being said. An alarm can go off in your mind when something goes awry, something doesn’t make sense, etc.
Q: Are you certified? If yes, how did you prepare for the exam? What was the most difficult? Can you share resources that helped you?
A: There is currently no “certification” for the Farsi language, although I was tested in both English and Farsi in order to become what they call State “Registered” Farsi Interpreter. The written exam was in English. But I had oral examinations in both English and Farsi.
One preparation resource that I enjoy greatly is called The Interpreter’s Gym by Steven Sanford of Boston, MA. This is a free tool that you can find on Sound Cloud.
Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?
A: It is most important to be conscientious, diligent and have a good attitude for success as an interpreter. An interpreter must have boundless energy, a sharp mind and a caring heart. An interpreter has no ego; the interpreter isn’t a character in this movie at all. The interpreter is a facilitator of communication for parties that would otherwise not be able to communicate. An interpreter can never pass judgement into the work. Whatever fly might fall into the ointment, an interpreter’s job is to bring the issue to the attention of the judge for the judge to decide. An interpreter must love language to the point of never allowing a day to go by without learning something new.
You can contact Caroline via email