The Polyglot Profiles – Carmelina Lazzarino

By: Jack Xu

THE POLYGLOT PROFILES – Introducing Carmelina Lazzarino

Carmelina is a community and medical interpreter, working primarily in Italian and Southern Italian dialects. She became a professional interpreter after training with MCIS, and has worked freelance for the organization since 2014, in addition to providing medical interpretation for Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN). At MCIS’ 2018 AGM, Carmelina was awarded the ‘Interpreter of the Year’ Award for her hard work and dedication. Thank you, Carmelina, for your contributions to MCIS and language services, and for agreeing to participate in thePolyglot Profiles.

How did you become involved in the language industry?

I was born in Germany, to Italian immigrant parents, and we moved to Canada shortly after my eighth birthday. So, I grew up with a few languages sloshing around in my head at any given time. Despite this background, I didn’t dive into the Modern Languages and Literature program at the University of Toronto straight away. A multilingual environment was just an incidental part of my reality; I actually wanted to pursue equine studies at the University of Guelph. That didn’t happen either.

Did you always think you’d work with languages?

My knowledge of multiple languages often gave me an edge over competitors when vying for job positions, but I never dreamed of becoming an interpreter. During my second year of university, my language professor, knowing that I was language-capable, asked me to take one of his interpretation assignments. At the time, there was no interpreter certification available. He coached me for all of half an hour before throwing me into the lion’s den. I later completed 10-years of service for the Toronto Police, and then seven years later, I finally stopped bucking destiny.

What’s the best part about being an interpreter?

I’m self-employed, and the maker of my own schedule, which means I alone am responsible for setting my own pace and building my own, unique brand. Ultimately, I answer to myself, and to the adherence of the Interpreters’ Code of Conduct and Ethics. I truly enjoy this autonomy.

There really is no greater reward for me than to give back to the very communities that helped shape the person I am today. A love of people and of words is why I can get up every morning and embrace the day’s assignments with a genuine smile on my face. When service providers and my non-English or limited-English-speaking clients speak directly to each other and stop glancing at me as I interpret, then we have achieved what I like to call, ‘the zone.’ The zone always puts me in my happy place.

Where do you see the future of the language industry and the role of interpreters going?

The need for language professionals is ongoing as populations shift and current immigration trends continue. Our current federal government proposed to raise immigrant admission intake to 350,000 by 2021. A significant number of those newcomers will require some language-related assistance among other things, at the least for the first year of their resettlement. Our job as language professionals is to stay ready, stay relevant, and to work seamlessly with AI language technology, to be the very best conduits of communication that we can be.

What’s the biggest tip you may give someone interested in pursuing a career as a language professional?

Freelancing as a language professional is not without its downsides. There are concerns of traffic, weather, the feast and famine cycles, and lest we forget parking woes in Toronto. But it’s the love I have for my job as an interpreter that makes it easier to tolerate these things.