Interpreter

By Magdalena Castillo

Being the only fluent one out of my siblings is all fun and games until they depend on you 24/7. I remember being a young teenager, no older than 14, when I had just locked the door to the bathroom at our rental late at night. Right as I was about to brush my teeth and get ready for bed after an exhausting day, my sister bangs on the door, begging me to help her communicate with my little cousin who was still over. I was annoyed, but nevertheless unlocked the door to help her our. He was asking her if she would jump back in the pool with him in Spanish. I told her what he had asked and she told me to tell him that she didn’t want to. That’s all she told me to say, not for any reason, just that she didn’t want to. I was too tired to realize that it’d be better to come up with a better explanation, considering we had just arrived in the Dominican Republic and my family was excited to see us–just not wanting to could be taken as rude. My little cousin politely said okay, but I could hear it in his voice that he didn’t understand and was slightly hurt. 

This was one of the times I played the role of interpreter in my life, interpreting both english to spanish and spanish to english. I never really thought about that moment until Wednesday night when (insert their names here) came in and did a lesson on interpretation. It made me think deeply about the role we play as not only interpreters, but as storytellers, and it made me value the idea of emotional intelligence a lot more. That night, I should’ve noticed the tone and excitement in my cousin’s voice and made up an excuse that made it sound like it wasn’t personal that my sister didn’t want to go back in the pool. Or would an excuse be countered with a solution and lead to my sister going back in the pool when she didn’t want to? I learned that interpreters are not only interpreting, but exchanging ideas and telling stories, and sometimes have to be peacekeepers themselves.