Vicarious Trauma Affecting Interpreters and Translators

Vicarious trauma can be a phrase heard often inside the victim service and medical professions. Crisis responders testify to the trauma that their clients and patients experience and are routinely provided opportunities to release some of the emotional burden their work encompasses. - interpreters and translators

Professional translators and interpreters act as language tools and so are expected to perform like machines. Yet the very real nature with the interpreter's assignments has an emotional and physical impact that, if unaddressed, can significantly impair someone's ability to perform their job. Language professionals might find that they are completing their assignments on time, but that they are unable to leave behind the images of the client's experience. Whether transcribing a police interview, interpreting throughout a medical crisis, or translating a sufferer statement, language professionals are rarely given the opportunity to debrief following a stressful event.

Research has shown that when our brains are triggered by way of a dangerous event or trauma (either emotional or physical), the limbic system "hijacks" your brain temporarily. The left side with the brain shuts down and also the right side from the brain takes over. Unfortunately for an interpreter, language is controlled from the left brain. If the interpreter has experienced a similar event or feels empathy for that client, he or she may have trouble with finding the appropriate words to interpret the client's experience. The interpreter may walk out of the appointment saying, "What just happened- I'm normally so good at what I do?"

The outward symptoms of vicarious trauma, including anxiety, anger and self doubt, were relayed by interpreters and translators who were working on projects for that TI Center. Our translators reported feeling agitated and sad, reading their completed translations again and again, doubting themselves as well as their competency.

As a result, the TI Center staff, in addition to staff at the Denver Center for Crime Victims, began researching that they could help language professionals comprehend the impact of interpreting others' stress and trauma and recapture their energy for working with the public.

In response, the TI Center has launched a 6-hour workshop, entitled Health Enabling for Language Professionals (HELP). Participants will become familiar with how to cope with the physical and emotional challenges that you face being a language professional. Become familiar with how the brain and the entire body react to trauma after which practice some proven stress management techniques. By the end of the workshop you will end up a stronger more positive person, both professionally and personally. - interpreters and translators