Alumna Johanna Parker: As an Interpreter, “I Get to Learn Something New Every Day”

Johanna Parker

Johanna Parker (MATI ’05)

January 10, 2014 - 12:00am

Monterey Institute alumna Johanna Parker (MATI ’05) gets to combine her love of language with a natural intellectual curiosity in her career as a professional interpreter. As a student in the Translation and Interpretation program in Monterey, she secured an internship at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and fell in love with the fast-growing profession of medical interpreting. “You really get the feeling that you are making a difference in people’s lives,” she says of the experience.

When she graduated she immediately started working at Stanford Hospital, where she has continued to grow her expertise, and currently holds the position of Lead Interpreter for Education and Training. She is also a guest lecturer at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “I find medicine very interesting and learn something new every day.” Johanna works with several Institute alumni at Stanford Hospital, and every year her employer welcomes nine MIIS students as interns.

Medical interpreting is in many ways more personal than traditional conference interpreting where the interpreter is removed from the speaker in a booth. For medical interpreters, “the ultimate goal of the encounter is understanding,” Johanna explains, and the interpreter can ask questions and has the freedom to use clarifying language. The personal interactions can also be difficult, as when interpreters have to break bad news or interpret last rites. The field of medical interpreting in the United States is “really coming into its own,” says Johanna, adding that the demand for specialized medical interpretation expertise is growing fast.

Although a respected expert in the field of medical interpreting, Johanna also finds time to expand her horizons further working as a seminar interpreter for the U.S. State Department, where she gets to delve deep into other subjects such as fisheries and foreign affairs. “MIIS really teaches students how to study and how to prepare for anything, which is a big part of the profession.”

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