A connected community without language barriers

Practitioner Spotlight: Joanna Rhee

Life often presents unexpected twists and turns and I feel very blessed to be able to work as a NAATI certified translator at this stage of my life.

I trained as a speech pathologist in Queensland and still do some private work as a speech pathologist. As part of my role, I was given a grant to develop CALD resources for patients admitted to hospital requiring speech therapy. These resources aimed to provide some preliminary information about a patient’s speech and language skills before formal assessment could be conducted as well as provide a communication board to express basic needs in the patient’s language (e.g., hungry, in pain). As part of this project, I met many NAATI translators, and with their help, I was able to complete this resource. I think this was the first time I saw directly, the effects of breaking down language barriers and the role of translators/interpreters in our community. At this stage, I never imagined that one day I would also become a translator.

I was born in South Korea but travelled and lived in many different countries around the world due to the nature of my father’s work. This allowed me to learn to speak English from an early age and to be exposed to many European and Asian languages. I always enjoyed learning new languages and studied French and Japanese in my secondary years. When coming to decide my future career, my interest in languages and sciences led me to study speech pathology and work in this field.

As a hobby, I translated Korean books into English and felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride in seeing my name on the cover of a book as the translator. I translated three books in total, but at that stage, I still needed an editor to check over my work to make sure it read well. It was the beginning of my new career path! The more I delved into the field of translation, the more I felt that I was really interested in this line of work. My opportunity came with the birth of my first child and while I was on maternity leave, I decided to study for and take the examination to be qualified as a NAATI certified translator. I had many close friends that told me they often needed documents translated from Korean into English and so I decided to study that direction of translation.

So here I am, working as a speech pathologist and as a NAATI certified translator. My background as a speech pathologist helped a lot in understanding medical jargon and I really enjoy the diverse nature of documents that I have been asked to translate. Although most documents are standard forms, I have been asked to translate short stories, magazine articles, and even a love letter!

I really enjoy the work-life balance you can achieve while working as a NAATI certified translator, and that you can branch out and incorporate other occupations and skills into your identity as a translator. As I said, my life has always been quite unexpected and I look forward to the next adventure that awaits!

Joanna Rhee is a NAATI Certified Translator Korean-English and holds a Bachelor of Speech Pathology from the University of Queensland.

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