From coordinating interpreting services for refugees to CCHI creation

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Natalya Mytareva is a well-known name in the language industry. The Executive Director of CCHI is a highly acclaimed educator, language access advocate and speaker, and a long-time partner of Linguist Education Online (LEO). LEO, formerly known as Interpreter Education Online (IEO) was a part of a pilot program instrumental in developing CEAP for CCHI. It is about time our readers got to know Natalya better.

Creation of CCHI and tips on how to get certified

Q: How did you start in the language industry? How did you become the Director of CCHI?

A: I started my language career in Volgograd, Russia, where I taught English and English/Russian interpretation and translation courses as a senior instructor at Volgograd State University. And as many of my colleagues there, I supplemented my teaching income with conference interpreting and translation.

When I moved to the U.S., my first job from 2000 until October 2013 was coordinating interpreting and translation services at a refugee-resettlement agency in Ohio (the International Institute of Akron, Inc).  I consider those years to be formative for me as a U.S. language professional. During that time I became a licensed trainer, developed and taught several courses for interpreters in healthcare and legal settings, interacted with purchases of interpreting services, and refugee communities. I realized that if I want to truly ensure quality of interpreting services for patients who need them, I need to engage not only at the local level, but also at the national. And in 2007, I was selected to participate in a national effort to explore possibility of certification for medical interpreters – the National Coalition for Certification of Healthcare Interpreters. Out of that effort, CCHI was born in 2009. I am proud to be one of CCHI’s founding Commissioners, and when the organization grew in complexity and scope and a first full-time staff was needed, I was excited and honored to be selected. Since October 2013, I’ve been doing my best to maintain and develop our national certification program.

Q: What do you like the most about your role with the organization?

A: It’s truly hard to say, since I love so many aspects of my job. The very variety of tasks that need to be done is appealing: from engaging with interpreters at different stages of their certification process to monitoring the test delivery aspects to continuously developing new exam content to working with the Commissioners to… – the list is endless. Most importantly, though, I like the opportunity to “do things right” (to the best of my abilities). I tremendously value our internal organizational culture of establishing and implementing equitable and fair processes, transparency, and humble attitude to serve.

Q: Which do you think is easier, healthcare or court interpreting?

A: Both are difficult, although in different ways. Both settings can be linguistically challenging. For example, in court, an attorney’s closing statement or expert witness testimony can be pretty complex, while in health care, interpreting daily rounds at a teaching hospital can get extremely challenging. And, of course, both court cases and medical appointments can be emotionally intense and traumatizing. One may say that the bandwidth of language variety is broader in court settings where you can hear street slang and classical metaphors during the same trial. However, you can experience the same variety if you are interpreting in behavioral and mental health settings. I think the question is more of a personal preference rather than the ease/difficulty of a specific setting.

Q: What is the best way to get ready for the certification exam? Any special tips?

A: I have three main tips:

  • Study all information that we provide on our website, and I seriously mean it – click on every link, read every document.
  • For the written CoreCHI™ exam, really know the healthcare interpreter code of ethics and standards of practice. Internalize them, be able to explain them to anyone in English and in your other language of service. When you attempt discussing some ethical principle in your language of service, you may discover that you haven’t quite understood that principle in English yet.
  • For the oral exam, for about a month, spend at least 30 minutes a day recording yourself interpreting anything and then transcribing your recording and comparing the original to your transcription. This way, you will force yourself to monitor your output and avoid omissions that are the number one type of error for failing candidates.

What is happiness, favorite books and overused words

Q: When are you the happiest? 

A: I am most content when I am reading or hiking in the mountains. I am happy when I make someone’s life a bit easier for a moment. I am unhappy when I see a person suffering and cannot do anything about it. For me happiness is dependent on another person, but being content is totally within my control.

Q: What are your favorite books or movies?

A: In movies, I love satire and wit. I am a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. As for books, I practice three types of reading – therapeutic, informational, and soulful. I need the first one to de-stress and ‘reboot’, and that is all about romance novels 😊. I like them for the variety of settings and language; I learn a lot of new colloquial expressions from them. I read a couple a week. My current informational preferences are about history of World War 2, specifically, about the forceful repatriation of the Soviet prisoners of war by the allies to the Soviet Union in 1945-46. My grandfather was one of those POWs who saw his family in 1963, after being shipped to Odessa by the British in March of 1945. And for the third type of reading, what Russian doesn’t like Dostoyevsky?! Well, maybe a Tolstoy fan. (In case anyone is curious, my favorite Dostoyevsky’s novel is The Idiot.)

Q: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

A: “Well,” “and,” “so” … Well, and, possibly, “That’s what I don’t like” (almost exclusively used when talking to my husband).

Agile, configurable, and user-friendly

Q: You will be talking about the future of the profession on June 25th at the LEO’s 3rd International Virtual Conference. What do you expect the future to bring to the industry?

A: Speaking in software terms, I hope our industry and profession will become more agile, configurable, and user-friendly. I think 2020 has taught us all a lot about resilience and adaptation to new reality/ies. I think we managed to come out of 2020 more visible to the decision-makers. I hope we will be able to leverage our position not only within the social justice sphere but also as an indispensable element of the infrastructure for any field dealing with humans.

Q: CCHI has been the LEO’s Conference sponsor since our inaugural event last summer. What do you like the most about our conferences and what can be improved? 

A: I like that the conference brings together interpreters of different settings and modalities, as well as translators. We can always learn from each other. It is virtual and affordable and has a balance of issue-based presentations as well as continuing-education topics. I would like to see some language-specific sessions in some form, and not necessarily terminology ones. I think it’s important to nurture our cultural and linguistic diversity. As a Russian interpreter and translator, I learn a lot by listening to Arabic, Chinese, Karen, Nepali, Spanish interpreters talk about their cultural and linguistic challenges.

About CCHI

About CCHI

CCHI is a Gold sponsor of LEO's 3rd International Conference Language Access: Visibility of the Profession. CCHI offers an independent, national, comprehensive certification program to medical interpreters of all languages since 2009. CCHI is dedicated to supporting professional healthcare interpreters who value the power of education and certification.

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