How I used my Coronavirus imposed Home Stay
As a conference interpreter who lives in a small village in the West Midlands, I have to travel to be able to work. Due to the coronavirus, I got several engagements cancelled last March. It all started with two weeks of coronavirus imposed homestay. I started thinking: how can I use my time in a useful manner? I had some preparation work to do for upcoming meetings and events (little did I know then that everything would be cancelled!) but this did not fill all the free time I had all of a sudden. May be I was inspired by a mentoring program discussion I had with other ITI Board members but I thought: why don't I open a free online surgery? I am a qualified interpreter trainer and I could dedicate some time to colleagues who may have issues to discuss regarding their interpreting performance. So I dedicated ten days for this e-surgery.
Setting up and delivering
I registered for a Calendly account and specified 15-minute slots within a time frame that would suit colleagues in different time zones: from 11am to 8pm UK time. I fixed the number of bookings to five per day. I announced that on social media and was quite pleased that the bookings started coming in straight away. I sent a link to each colleague with the details of our online meeting and asked them to make sure they familiarise themselves with the platform we would use for the consultation.
For ten days, I had 2-3 consultations each day. Interpreters are usually punctual so almost all appointments started on time - only two people missed their appointments. Colleagues were also very respectful of the time limit set to each consultation so they were very much to the point: no chit chat but using the time productively. Many of them even wrote in advance what they wanted to talk about so I could prepare. That was very helpful.
So who booked an appointment? Some were colleagues I knew in person, but many were colleagues I was connected with only on social media. The majority of the consultations were with practising interpreters. But a couple of students of modern languages also booked appointments to discuss how they could become translators or interpreters. Participants logged in from Belgium, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Poland, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.
The topics varied. The ones discussed the most were: the United Nations interpreters exam, recommendation for interpreting programmes, note-taking for consecutive interpreting and moving to conference interpreting. It was very stimulating to discuss the different issues my colleagues chose. It made me put on my thinking hat and it gave me a good feeling that I was helping colleagues. I truly admire all the colleagues who booked appointments. It showed they were taking their continuous professional development seriously. It is also not easy to show others that one is struggling with something. I truly appreciate their trust.
A drop in a wider sea
So went the first fortnight of my homestay. After that, it became blatantly clear that I was not going to leave home any time soon. Conferences, speaking and training engagements were getting cancelled every day. Conference interpreters are among the groups that were hard hit by this crisis and many of us found ourselves without an income or alternative sources of work. I started to think of what I could do to help colleagues under lockdown. I was in the fortunate position of having tried a number of remote interpreting platforms both for interpreting and for offering training. I also attended training and read research papers on the subject. So I decided to offer pro bono webinars on what an interpreter needs to know before shifting to offering remote simultaneous interpreting.
My webinars were a drop in a sea of initiatives as the Arabic idiom goes. Many colleagues volunteered their time and offered free webinars on several topics. My social media feeds were teeming with announcements of free virtual events: Teaching interpreting online, marketing for linguists, contracts for freelancers, giving feedback online, boosting immunity, to name but a few. Colleagues generously shared their knowledge to help other colleagues in these hard times. Some colleagues started virtual coffee hours for interpreters to get together and discuss the current situation. I registered for many of these events myself.
The solidarity and support we showed each other, in whichever way we could, is something we should remember from this period. I wonder if I have ever had such an intensive learning period since I finished my last degree! Benefitting from all the learning opportunities that came with the Coronavirus imposed homestay is certainly a clear silver lining of this crisis. My ITI CPD record for this year is bursting at the seams!