Stealth SLI: a blog for trainee terps ME, MYSELF AND I

Stealth SLI…

So you’ve completed your levels 1, 2, and 3. Level 6 language units…been and gone. Interpreter training is underway or finally finished – who in your posse of terps will get their yellow badge first?

You have shadowed RSLIs, filmed yourself in action, co-worked as your experiences grew – and now you’re doing it,interpreting, on your own. What to do? Fight or flight? It’s a scary world out there, and although you’re now a lone worker, you’re far from alone.

As each of us goes through the training process, be it NVQ, University or IIDP, we never really get an insight into the thrills and spills of being the only LSP in any given situation. It’s a bit like passing your driving test and taking the motorway for the first time, all on your lonesome. The spotlight really is on us as we report to reception on our first assignment as a soloist terp.

Who can we lean on? No one there to ask “Did she say itchy bum, or titchy tum”? Those situations where you can’t interject or ask the speaker for clarification…truly dangerous situations for those with a slightly nervy tummy…

The truth is- you can do it. Have faith, you lonely lonesome lady (or solitary sir, of course).

Some musings from my experience:

Fake it!

Fake it to make it, baby. If you can exude the confidence of a sassy, solitude SLI your audience will believe it – and so will you. (However see point 6 if things really aren’t going your way).

Circle of trust(y terps)

Robert de Niro was onto something in ‘Meet the Fockers’. I kept in touch with many of my IIDP pals, and we made a pact to share with each other the highs and lows of our terpy journey (keeping the Code in mind of course, re: confidentiality). It can really help to debrief with a trusted colleague if things haven’t got to plan, or conversely, if you have had a splendiferous day and want to brag about it- brag away, you’re doing really well.


By any means we should all be doing this prior to an assignment anyway, but sometimes a job is very last minute or your baby/kids/husband/cat have kept you awake all night, so you aren’t in a position to retain any of the info you have found on today’s job. But if you are able to arm yourself with at least a smidgeon of info to use as ammunition, that’s one less item to worry about.

Bridget Jones anyone?

Keep a diary or notepad with you at all times- during breaks you can note down any super useful info (numbers/dates/important names are good to note down) that occurred during the last chunk-may help you to retain it if it crops up again.

Enlist a mentor

Some RSLIs will be on hand to give you advice for nowt, others will change a very reasonable sum to give you a helping hand when you need it. Have a look on ASLI for mentors, they can really help you see the light and give invaluable guidance if you are having a hard time.

If you can’t stand the heat

If the job isn’t working/ you don’t understand the source language/ last night’s dinner is repeating on you, and you really need to go home- don’t muddle through making a hash of the assignment. Accept defeat, make your apologies and go. Contact a colleague to cover if you can or if it is appropriate, contact the agency, just don’t beat yourself up ad feel you have to hang about. We’re all human and need to look after ourselves too!


There are many other sources of support out there. Just have a search on Facebook for BSL and interpreter support groups- there will always be someone out there in the cyber world to lend a shoulder or ear when you need it. Just remember you aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last interpreter to find working alone tough. It’s a harsh world out there; take all the support that you can get your hands on, believe in yourself, and be there for your colleagues when they need backing too.

Good luck, and have fun!

Until next time

Stealth SLI