Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Basic Support for Contractors in Interpreting

Yesterday we reached the conclusion that there is only one way in which the life of the telephone interpreter could be viable when they work as contractors: A Red Telephone.

Perhaps everyone knows the story of the special telephone line, usually represented by means of a picture of a red telephone set (Red Telephone), between Washington and The Kremlin.

USSR and USA used to be superpowers, as we know. Nowadays, a few years after the dismantlement of the USSR (No More USSR), things are a bit different.

Once, however, the term cold war was heard everywhere.

Basically, this telephone line should allow for immediate connection between The Kremlin and Washington, that is, one would just take the speaker out of the hook in America and someone in The Kremlin would answer.

That is the solution for us, professional interpreters.

We are obliged to have an average of six jobs to keep minima standards of living, and that means Centrelink income plus a bit (very small bit) extra.

The problem is that if we have only one telephone number and we give that number to all our employers, which would be the only way to make life possible, we will unavoidably let a few down at least sometimes.

Another issue is that we may experience technical problems that range from flat battery and occasional accident with kids and dogs (they bump into the chord, for instance) to theft, water damage, and unpaid bills, therefore suspension of services.

It cannot be fair that we do not have any guarantees at work, enjoy way less than any operator would in terms of comfort and support, and still have to let people down when we need these calls so much.

It also cannot be fair that because we miss a few calls from a certain employer we pass to the end of their cue in terms of receiving calls.

So how could we solve this problem?

The answer is extremely simple: Edge technology and law.

We could legally oblige each company that hires professional interpreters to provide a special telephone set to the interpreter.

This telephone set would be provided in exchange for a bond, so that there is personal liability over the tool, and it would have the logo of the company.

The interpreter would work for free until the earnings equated the value of the bond, so that they would not have to invest money before acquiring it. 

When the set had depreciated enough, as in Accounting, the company would give it to the interpreter, so that the bond could be returned without the set returning to the company. That is also a way of praising loyalty.

It would transmit via satellite, so that the sound would be cleanest and sharpest.

This telephone set would have at least two extra buttons: Unavailable, which would send a signal to the central desk to say we cannot answer the telephone at that moment, and available, which would send the opposite signal.

With this, we would be dropping the so common, but heinous, practice of logging on and off the system every day or logging off the system every time we need to use the toilet, speak to an acquaintance, visit a bank, eat, and others.

We could also legally oblige the company to provide noise-cancelling headsets to its interpreters, so that everyone could actually live whilst working in full detachment of the company in terms of physicality and running the risk of never getting a call on a particular day, say on holidays or crowded days (too many contractors available for a particular language).

This way, when we received a call from company A, their telephone would be in use and we would press the special button for unavailable on all other sets, and when we received a call from company B, their telephone would be in use and we would press the special button for unavailable on all other sets.

What would happen as a consequence? Everyone would be informed in due time, and in the most effective way as possible, about all.

The interpreter could find out how many calls they had missed exclusively for that particular company on a particular day with a few extra functions added to this special telephone set.

These telephone sets could also be equipped with log books, so that the interpreter could take information from them at any time in what regards a particular job. More than anything else, the job numbers could come directly from the computer of the company to the telephone sets, saving us all an extraordinary amount of time.

Even more special could be the function of printing the list of the log books when the companies demand that we invoice them for the jobs.

This is all administrative work that steals health and life from the interpreter.

One must remember that if we really want no mistake in our interpretive sessions, what has to be an impossible thing, since all that is involved in interpreting is of exclusively human nature, apart from the vehicles of voice and possibly the sources of information, we must include computers, real-time access to the Internet, notebooks, pens, and others to the list of basic concerns of these so sacrificed professionals. We must therefore perform every possible effort to save these professionals' resources.

We all know this is still very little, but it would be a fair attempt to improve the performance of all involved in the interpretive processes.

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