I grew up north-west of Alice Springs in the Tanami Desert area. The main language I spoke growing up was Anmatyerr, but there was Warlpiri as well. I learned English at school so I’ve been interpreting since I was a kid for family and stuff. When non-Indigenous people would come out to communities, I’d have to interpret what was being said. I’d also have to translate letters for people when they would arrive. I joined the education system as a teacher when I was 16 or 17. I did that for a long time but when I realised how much help my people needed in the court system, health sector and general interpreting, I stopped teaching and decided to join the Aboriginal Interpreting Service. That was probably about 10-15 years ago now.
With interpreting, every day is different – I could be interpreting for the courts, health system, or government organisations. I still also interpret at a personal level when family needs help.
I like the challenge that interpreting gives me, it’s never a dull day. It’s about helping my people getting the message across, to and from, so that people understand what people are saying to each other, fully understanding. It’s great doing more mentoring, seeing new interpreters develop their skills. People sometimes think interpreting is easy but it’s very challenging, because your mind is running two languages at the same time, and trying to get the meaning across, sometimes you can lose it and not interpret accurately – that’s the challenge. Having new interpreters coming up and developing their skills is really good to see. It also gives people more range of interpreters to work with instead of one or two sometimes.
Dean Briscoe is a Certified Provisional Interpreter in Anmatyerr and English. He is based in the Northern Territory.