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Meet Hoa Nguyen, Vietnamese interpreter

As part of their work, our friends at TIS National have allowed us to share some personal stories from their interpreters. This is Hoa's story. 

"I started interpreting to help my Vietnamese community when I was about 20 years’ old. I am still doing it for the love of it, not for the money". 

Hoa started interpreting as an unofficial volunteer assistant when she was about 20 years old in a refugee camp in the Philippines. While she loved interpreting Hoa wasn’t accredited when she came to Australia. She felt inexperienced when sitting for NAATI exams and every time she felt so nervous she didn’t know what to say.

Her personal drive fuelled her to persevere. ‘It is important to get accredited as it opens up more opportunities. Overcoming my nervousness and anxiety became my top priority. I joined The Willing and Able Mentoring (WAM) Program, a Victorian government initiative enhancing employment programme. I met and befriended many people including my mentor who inspired, motivated and encouraged me not to give up my goal of becoming an accredited interpreter.’

"I am extremely happy with my achievement passing the NAATI exam becoming a Paraprofessional Vietnamese interpreter. Looking back at my journey my mentor played an important role otherwise I’d have given it up long time ago," Hoa said proudly.

Follow the code of conduct and ethics

Being a registered nurse and an accredited interpreter Hoa wears different hats for different settings. She believes that maintaining professionalism and following the code of conduct and ethics is important.

"I have worked in hospital and community settings for more than 20 years. Sometimes I am called out to help interpret for Vietnamese speaking clients. When I work as a paid interpreter I don’t voice my opinions, I just interpret faithfully the meaning of what has been said," Hoa said thoughtfully.

Changes in the interpreting industry

Hoa believes interpreting services have changed a lot with the advent of new technologies as well as emerging demands in the community. Telephone interpreting has become an important tool to enable culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people in the rural areas to have access to a variety of services. Hoa says "less people rely on their family members, relatives and friends for assistance".

She continues, "However, sometimes machine-interpreting or translating is not very accurate. You can’t pick up the tone of voice or facial expressions in comparison with a face-to-face interpreting session, which are important means of transferring meaning. Video interpreting is another potential area. It saves time and reduces traffic congestion. It enables people to have equal access to services from anywhere in Australia".

The future of interpreting - training will open up opportunities

Hoa feels strongly about training for interpreters. She believes that the interpreting industry has evolved along with social and economic progress in our society, especially with new migrants coming to Australia every year. She also feels that a professionally trained interpreter workforce will help government and private organisations provide services effectively to non-English speaking residents in different communities.

"I think the future of interpreting is good, with many areas where services could be expanded, such as domestic violence, organ and tissue donation and palliative care. As a nurse, I like to interpret more in the health field where I can use my professional knowledge and cultural understanding to reduce any confusion or doubts helping non-English speaking Vietnamese clients regarding complex health related issues."

"It would be great if interpreters from different CALD communities are trained in these health programmes. They will be better prepared and may be advocates in the community about these programmes," Hoa said enthusiastically. Hoa also believes people should help themselves, "actually everyone should also be encouraged to learn English to support themselves help others and be independent".

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an interpreter?

Hoa believes that as an accredited interpreter one of the challenges is to keep up to date with language skills because everything is changing and it is important to have good knowledge of vocabulary. She offers these great tips for those who want to become an interpreter and keep their language alive.

Hoa suggests "There are many ways to do that, such as reading material in your language, listening to community radio programmes or just catching up with other native speakers. Your group could become not only a social club, but a professional group to learn from each other. Peer support is important as most interpreters work independently".