Most people aren’t aware that translating is the art of rendering written words into another language. Interpreting, however, is an extreme talent where spoken words are listened to, processed, and then shared out loud in a different language. It is through interpreting (and some translating) that Siloam is able to operate the way it does. Through the dedication of volunteers, bilingual providers and staff, and with help of a language line, refugees and immigrants can receive excellent health care.
Through my own observation and interaction with interpreters I’ve realized that interpreting takes a lot of patience and amazing listening skills, but also has the beautiful ability to express true living emotion. This way of communicating, using an interpreter, is slowly starting to become a part of my daily life. I am learning how to appreciate the extra time during interpreting to see things in a brand new light. I have time to let my mind wander and take notice of the patient’s body language, the clothes they are wearing, and any other social cues that I otherwise would have missed.
I went on a house call in which the language line was used to interpret our conversation with “Arun,” a Burmese man struggling with severe depression. He has been suffering from very bad headaches and numbness since leaving Burma via Malaysia, and eventually arriving in the United States. He is disappointed in himself for not being able to keep a job and feels he is missing out on the opportunities he thought America would be able to offer. This is extremely hard for him to deal with, as he is not able to support his wife who is still in Burma. We began to wrap up the house call by praying for him and we also invited the interpreter to pray with us, as well. Although our interpreter did not pray, her voice became more somber and worked harder to mimic our inflection throughout the prayer. We do not know our interpreter’s story, her religion or even her name but I do know that by communicating with Arun, we also impacted the interpreter’s life.
The bible is translated into many, many different languages and even more versions. In its simplest sense it is God’s living word translated for us all to read. It is these very words, God’s words, that bring us hope when we have none, share his never ending love and grace when we don’t deserve it, and gives us strength when we are at our weakest. I feel that as Christians we should be God’s interpreters and just be still and listen to what God has to share with us and relay that message through our actions.
Madison is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.