Language Services Mean Access and Justice

We spoke with Karina Rodríguez about working as a language services provider in veterinary medicine, renters’ rights, and childhood learning in California.

The language services industry contains a multitude of entry points, many of which lead down their own surprising and frequently intersecting paths. Language may provide an anchor in this journey, but each new project can demand niche concerns that the language services provider (LSP) must account for.

With innovative technologies, LSPs have access to a variety of tools to expedite their services. However, these tools can only streamline so much, especially in fields like law, medicine, and childhood development, which often require technical knowledge to ensure accurate communications across languages. Ultimately, the work falls to the individual translator or interpreter.

We interviewed Karina Rodríguez, who has worked for several years as a freelance translator and interpreter for organizations in Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, California. With translation and interpretation experience in fields like veterinary medicine, renters’ rights, and childhood learning, Karina has relished the opportunity to provide language access and justice to ESL and non-English speaking communities across the state.

Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

I am 29 years old, and I am currently a coding bootcamp student doing a full-stack web development program. I have worked in veterinary medicine for the last four years, and I have done translation work in between vet medicine jobs.

Which languages do you translate and interpret?

I translate and interpret from English to Spanish and vice versa.

Your first position as a freelance translator was with Oakland Community Land Trust. What drew you to translation work? What was your first year like?

I worked at a veterinary clinic for about two years and was very disappointed by the work environment and the actual work in veterinary medicine. The doctors were pretty burned out most of the time and so were the support staff (including myself). The one thing I really enjoyed and loved about working there was being thrown into interpreting during medical exams/procedures and more. I learned a lot by just being thrown into that role.

After I quit that job, I decided I wanted to explore doing translation and interpreting a bit more. I had a very hard time landing that first translation gig! I started trying to break into translation work through, where I was able to land some translation gigs. Most of the work I did that year was part-time, but eventually I did land a gig through a college friend whom I met through political organizing at UC Berkeley. He connected me with an organization that was doing awesome work in making renters owners of their homes in Oakland, the Oakland Community Land Trust. That gig allowed me to do both interpreting (to current tenants) and translation of materials for conferences and other documents.

During that time I was also taking online computer science courses and exploring that career path. I eventually decided to go back to working at a veterinary clinic in a shelter setting because I didn’t want to give up so easily on working in vet med, based off one bad experience. Through that job, I also practiced/used my interpreting skills in a medical setting.

Has your experience in computer science and software engineering led you into any projects related to localizing content?

I have not had the opportunity to work on anything related to localizing content, but I am very interested! I hope I can merge those two skills and form part of a project that does that type of work.

Most recently, you have done freelance translation and subtitling educational videos for the San Diego-based company Sports for Learning. Can you speak more to any projects currently in progress?

I was able to land that job through my network because I have always advertised that I am looking for translation work. In this role, I subtitle videos using, which actually does some preliminary translation. I correct the grammar and wording of the subtitles. The work there is very consistent, and I translate/edit three videos a week. I subtitle educational videos that help children learn about mental health, physical health and emotional maturity.

Has your work consisted of in-person work? Remote?

The work is remote. We communicate through Slack and occasionally have video conferences.

Do you have a notable moment? Proud accomplishment?

I am mostly proud of being an important part of their project. I like that they value my work and that they are able to help Spanish-speaking children better learn the material through subtitles in Spanish.

You said in your first work with interpreting and translation, you were thrown into medical exams and procedures at the veterinary clinic. What was that like?

It was challenging at first, because it was my first professional experience doing interpreting in a medical setting. Doing medical interpreting is a challenge because it requires a decent amount of knowledge of medical terminology in English and Spanish. It was also my first professional experience doing interpreting in general, so I had to learn on the spot how to best interpret for clients accurately and in a professional manner. I was asked to interpret during medical exams and to clients in reception.

What communities does Sports for Learning serve? Along with the Spanish translations, do you know of any other non-English services included in the subtitling project?

Sports for Learning serves San Diego area schools, but I believe the videos have become popular enough that it includes schools beyond San Diego. I know that the students are predominantly Spanish-speaking. At this time, they don’t subtitle into any other languages.

Can you say more about your experience with video subtitling? You mention there is a focus on content about mental health, physical health and emotional maturity for children. Have you had tricky translation struggles with any of this subject matter? What are some of the difficult concepts to translate?

Subtitling videos for Sports for Learning has been okay so far. I would say that the biggest challenge has been figuring out what are the appropriate words to use given the audience. Our manager has done a good job of creating a list of words with the preferred translation to Spanish. We make sure to cater to the Latino Spanish dialect in order to better help the communities we are serving.

MultiLingual Staff
MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.


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