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Spotlight: Gladys de Contreras | Medical & Legal Interpreter

This Boostlingo Interpreter Spotlight features Gladys de Contreras, a medical and legal interpreter in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Read more here.


Gladys de Contreras, Medical and Legal Interpreter | San Cristobal, Venezuela

foticoGladys de Contreras is a woman with a story. She graduated at 21 from school as a lawyer and then taught for 25 years as a college law professor. Her husband was once kidnapped by guerillas, and thankfully returned. As we held our interview, she sat in biggest room in her house with as her son, watching over him as he recovered from brain surgery.

One career behind her, Gladys decided to put the bilingualism she acquired as a young girl living the United States to work for her. In Venezuela, she taught for 25 years and retired, but felt too young to be done with her career. She looked for work from home options and found translation first. She then transitioned with Boostlingo Partner, ProZ into the interpretation space.

As a beloved interpreter and friend, she was recommended to us as a spotlight participant by another member of our interpreter network. We’re happy to bring you some of our favorite wisdom from this impressive medical, legal, social, and business interpreter in our Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network (the BPIN).

What do you love about being an interpreter?

I love the surprise. You never know who you’re going to be talking to. One minute you are in a delivery room and then you are with a TV company.

The delivery room stories—those are the greatest. The happiness of getting to see life come into the world is incredible. Both of my sons are adopted, so I never got to experience that on my own. The closeness I’ve gotten to deliveries that really makes me happy. It’s the kind of happiness that gives you butterflies.

Once, the couple was Indigenous and she did not speak Spanish. Her husband was in the delivery room, I was on video. I interpreted for him, and he interpreted for his wife. I know at the time I was stressed. I would say “Breathe out!” in Spanish, and then he said that to her – so every breath was like three seconds delayed.

Why do you love working with Boostlingo?

For me, I prefer Boostlingo calls because they pay the best, at least for Spanish rates. When I log off from my computer, I know how much money I’ve made that day.

Another thing is that being from a country like mine with so many not just political issues but economic issues, to be able to earn a good living is not only good for me, but for all your family members. I can help my aunt, I can help my cousins, because they earn very little. To be able to earn a good income and help others, that’s something you can only do through platforms like this.

I’m very grateful to be here supporting my family economically but also, I’m here for [my son] to give him his medicine and check in on how he’s doing. I’m so grateful for this job, and I hope to God that I get to do it for many more years.

What are some of the harder parts of the job?

For medical, I had to take many many courses because medical terminology is very different from legal terminology. Legal terminology comes very naturally to me [after 25 years as a law professor]. Medical is a little harder, but I like it. For many reasons but mostly because you know that life depends on it. With legal, freedom may depend on it. But I feel that medical is very very important. So I’ve taken lots of courses to learn all of the terms that I need.

I also enjoy education interpreting because it comes pretty easy to me, too. Even though I was a professor at a university and not teaching in a school, you know teaching is teaching and the terms are pretty much the same.

Court room interpreting can be tough, because you have to be on at all times. Mental health can be really hard because it’s difficult to convey what the person in distress is trying to say.

What is your advice for being aspiring interpreters?

Be equally secure speaking both languages that you’re going to interpret for. That’s a must.

You have to be emotionally involved, because otherwise you’ll be very cold. But you can’t let that drain you. Nineteen years ago, my husband was kidnapped by the guerrilla. One of my sisters, she has crocheted all her life. When my husband was kidnapped, besides praying, the only thing that kept me calm was crocheting.

When I started interpreting, I got to crochet again [she holds up a blanket she’s making for her baby grandson]. I also love to draw. Those are things keep you calm. Even when I’m interpreting something that is very hard, to have my hook in my hand keeps me much calmer.

I’m also an avid reader. In between waiting for calls, I read a good book. All those things help out. You cannot only focus on interpretation. It’s like a psychologist or psychiatrist. People leave all their trauma with you, so it’s very hard to juggle. If you have something else to do to cope, that’s what helps.

Prepare yourself before becoming an interpreter. Study a lot. Learn new terms. Be kind to people and practice your tone of voice. If you’re not ready, it’s not fair to the other people on the other side of the line.

Determine how many hours you want to work on this. I have a friend from Egypt. He works part-time as a horseback rider showing the pyramids in Egypt and then he works part-time as an interpreter. He sets a goal of X dollars a day, and once he gets that he gets up and goes to his other job. You have to figure out what works for you.

How has interpretation changed the way you look at the world?

It helps me to know that we are just like a drop of water in the sea. Because you get to see so many different realities. So many different people with different issues. You think your problems are the huge ones, but after a day’s work you see that you have a pretty good life.

What really matters is what’s inside us, not where you were born.

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