A Day in the Life of an Interpreter Services Coordinator

By: Jack Xu

On a cold foggy evening, Zewdi Gselassie, our Interpreter Services Coordinator was about to leave when phones started ringing off the hook; not unusual for MCIS where our coordinators attend calls after-hours too.

“Hello, I am calling from Toronto Police Services. We need an interpreter for an emergency situation now,” a desperate voice on the other end said. “I realized that they needed an interpreter for an elderly gentleman Abai (name changed) who did not speak English. Apparently, he was found lost on a street looking for directions,” Zewdi said.

Acting promptly, Zewdi immediately called up an interpreter in the area and scheduled an assignment. Now, although the call seemed to be routine, there was more to the story. “Abai was new to Canada and was visiting his son. Now, for some reason he ventured out of his house, only to find that he was lost. A police officer bumped into him and realized he did not speak English.

“Eritrea, Eritrea,” a confused Abai told the police officer when asked which country he was from.  Realizing he was struggling to speak English, he took him to the nearest police station, following which he called MCIS for a Tigrinya interpreter.

An interpreter immediately reached the spot and interpreted for Abai. The police managed to get his son’s telephone number and call him up. Soon, Abai was safely escorted home by his son.

For Zewdi, and the rest of our coordinators, this story is one among many others reported almost daily. On an average, we get as many as 1,000 requests for interpretation (face to face, telephone and video) every week. Any given year, MCIS provides over 75,000 hours of interpretation for customers from a variety of sectors.

A full-fledged team comprising of 7 coordinators works round-the-clock to attend as many calls as it can. Very often, our coordinators work with interpreters who experience symptoms of vicarious trauma or burn out, due to the work they do.

Sometimes at the end of a long day they also take back the stress of the experience which has an impact on their personal lives. However all of this does not stop our front line workers to show up at work every day. In fact, they continue to do what they do best, create a positive social impact.

– Vivek Vijayapalan and Zewdi Gselassie, Toronto, April 5, 2017