The Oral Exam

Saturday, 20 September, 2014

Dear Reader,

I just got off work – my “day job,” that is – and will enter into sleep soon. The Autumn is finally setting in. I can feel it’s winds, and this morning I see the fog settling atop of the buildings. The buildings look much more ominous in the fog. You do not know how far up they reach, or, rather, how far down you are, on these dirty streets of concrete and steel. There certainly are other nice places to live, and other places which have Autumn, and wind. But none seem quite the same as this place, this city of Seattle. My body is perfectly adapted to it. Moist wind, which smells like ocean, accompanied with the echoes of seagulls, those miniaturized birds of prey, the domesticated raptors, preying on food of the sea, whom once stocked through dense forest and moss, and now they fly amid a jungle of skyscrapers. Would I were them, I should learn to fly as well, above the dirt and stench of 21st century industry.

And what about ,my progress in interpreting? Last year I tested twice with the Department of Social and Health Services, Language Testing Center (DSHS LTC) in Olympia, WA, for medical interpreting. The testing process involves two stages – first, a written test, mostly vocabulary, grammar, and ethics, and second, an oral test, testing primarily consecutive interpreting ability. The two tests I did last year were for the written test. I did not pass the first time around, but I did the second. I shall discuss my actual scores at a later date, when the test results are in hand.

After passing the written test the interpreter-to-be has one year to pass the oral test, before the written test results expire. As I mentioned in my previous letter, other priorities dominated most of my time this year, primarily involving securing an income, vis finding work. Unfortunately, I did not sign up for the oral test until late in the year, and, furthermore, I did not prepare for it. As the date approached – last Thursday, the 11th of September – I knew I was not prepared, so I proceeded to arrange another test date, scheduled just days before my written test score would expire. Then, as before, I went to Olympia, this time by bus, to take my oral test.

The test site is near the Capitol building and the Temple of Justice, across Capitol Way. It is a concrete maze, and walking around it makes me wonder about civilization, and what these structures are built for; what they are really built for. I arrived early, and tested early, as, apparently, many people do not show up. Like me, they probably feel unprepared. I little failure is important though, to awaken the ambition to a task. I completed the entire test, and the language was not that hard. The hard part was strictly in the skill of interpreting: digesting one or more sentences in one language, and spiting them back out in the second language and in a timely manner.

Accuracy in interpreting, then, is a matter of language ability. The language ability, however, is merely the tool, not the skill of the work. The skill is, in fact, interpretation, and timely interpretation. That being said, I made several long pauses trying to find the right words, and in more than one instance of ran out of time. The language tool – that is, the ability to use both English and Mandarin – could have been more developed, certainly, but that was not the primary fault. The language and ethical aspects of interpreting are tested during the written exam, and thus, for the oral, accuracy and timeliness are key.

I await my results, but not my preparation. A new passion is building in me, and it cannot be stopped. I have a lot of work to do before the next test date. Keep me in you thoughts, my dear reader, and you shall be in mine. Much is happening, and I struggle to keep you informed, but informed you shall be.

Until next time,

Yours truly,

The Solitary Interpreter

About m_syme

A lost mind and a rogue scholar.
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