A connected community without language barriers

Practitioner Spotlight: Yahya Kilic

I arrived in Australia in 1968 as a 3 year old with my family who had left Turkey in pursuit of a better life. While my parents worked in factories as non-skilled laborers with zero English, my siblings and I did our best to bring home impressive report cards to please them.

From about the age of 10, I would occasionally interpret for my parents and neighbouring Turks needing their letters read. I felt special performing these duties, even though the only remuneration was a pat on the back or a treat. I recall difficult words such as deny, remote and correspondence, sending me into a state of confusion and embarrassment. The words ‘tool’ & ‘breast pump’ have special significance for me as my father and I were unable to retrieve or enquire about his stolen tools as neither of us knew the English word for them. My mother having recently given birth had sent me to the chemist with ‘Breast Pump’ inscribed on a note. Aged around 12 and innocently trying to impress my Mum and to prevent me returning to the Chemist to ask how this product was to be used I asked the female shop assistant for help. I should’ve known something was up when she called over two other female colleagues and demonstrated its use on herself. They all laughed as I looked for a hole in the ground to sink into.

Through such experiences I truly appreciated the value of the English language and how it could open or shut doors depending on your level of proficiency.

After 6 years of High School I completed an Accounting qualification through TAFE and started working in the field in various capacities.

Family ties had me returning to Turkey for a period of 5 years where my English was invaluable in attaining senior Accounting roles in 5 Star Hotels overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. My Turkish language skills improved immensely mainly thanks to my marriage to a Non-English speaking native Turkish lady.

In 1991 we returned to Australia which was still in recession but thanks to my willingness to apply for almost any job, I managed to initially work in and later operate a few small businesses – service stations and a Food Diner. I simultaneously also took on other work such as Teaching Small Business Operation, Auditing, Tutoring English Conversation and Job Search Skills.

Circa 2010, after operating our Food Diner for 13 years I accidently fell into interpreting while acting as a support person for a friend going through a messy divorce. Viewing Turkish Interpreters in court and in conferences I gained the courage and confidence that “I can do this too”. A visit to the NAATI office in Sydney and a successful examination result earned me my accreditation and off I went.

Persistent applications and phone calls to Government and Private organisations saw me sign up with numerous agencies. I had come full circle. I was back to the first job I ever had – Interpreter, but now paid. I can honestly say it is the most enjoyable job I have ever had. I am in my eighth year now and still enjoy what I do. Working in various locations with a host of professionals from various fields is challenging and very rewarding. I am often requested to attend assignments by both professionals and individuals from NESB. I find this to be my new report card.

As a person you tend to grow from the experiences you encounter. As long as one is open to honest feedback one can only grow. I have had a few difficult assignments in Prisons, Hospitals and Courtroom settings and have always walked away having learned something new which in turn has made it more comfortable the next time I attended. Conduit, Conduit, Conduit are the words I always utter to remind me that this is all we are – a conduit between two parties, we are neither the professional or the non-English Speaker and nor a support person.

I’d like to congratulate my colleagues on the work they do as only we know what we go through. We are acknowledged, respected and valued. Keep up the good work. I’m 55 years old now and can’t see myself ever stopping.

Yahya Kilic is a Certified Provisional Interpreter in the English/Turkish languages and has been an English Speaking Role-player for the last 18 months.

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