Ai Ai Lau –  Mandarin, Cantonese, and Bahasa Medical Interpreter


Ai Ai Lau is a Chinese interpreter. She was born and raised in a Chinese Malaysian family in Malaysia. Her grandparents emigrated from China to Malaysia before World War II. Ai Ai started learning English when she was in school. She moved with her family to the United States eleven years ago and began interpreting.

How and why did you become an interpreter?

My mother tongue is Cantonese, but Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, and English is the second Language. To make things more complicated, my parents sent me to public Chinese school where I learned Mandarin. So, I have been learning three languages since my first day of school.

How/why/when did you learn English?

My family and I moved to the United States eleven years ago when my husband was offered a job at Purdue University. Prior to this, I was a junior high Science and Math teacher. I graduated from University with a Science degree and a diploma in Education. I resigned and ended my teaching career eleven years ago and started a brand-new calling: homemaker. I stayed at home with my two girls and took care of my family. Besides house chores, I enjoyed volunteering at my children’s classroom, teaching Sunday school, and being a VITA tax volunteer.

What is your education level and field of study? Why did you study this field?

I remember vividly receiving a phone call four years ago from a friend asking if I was interested in being her substitute interpreter. Since my children were in high school and I had more time on my hands, I gave it a try. My first assignment was a prenatal OBGYN case on Christmas Eve. It was a very humbling experience. I am very grateful for this job opportunity that provided an opportunity to reconnect. The most important thing for me is to be committed to improving my medical terminology and my skills every day.

What’s your favorite thing about interpreting?

There are many things I like about my interpreting job.
– The schedule is very flexible.
– I get to meet many different people, clients, doctors, nurses, check-in staff, etc. Many of them have become my good friends.
– I feel like I’m helping my community. Each assignment is very fulfilling.
– Witnessing a newborn in the labor room is very holy, sacred, and breathtaking.
– I especially like working with LUNA’s scheduling staff. They are very polite and appreciative when they call and offer me an assignment. Their politeness and appreciation are contagious and inspiring. Sometimes, I feel bad to tell them I am not available to cover an assignment.

Tell us something you wish more people knew about your culture?

Culturally, black is a funeral color and red is for celebration and something positive. I usually try not to wear black when interpreting for a surgery assignment. On the other hand, I will wear something red, like a red scarf, during a C-section.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever received is “Do your best and let the Lord do the rest!” So, my standard and my expectation for myself is to do my best. Likewise, my expectation for my children is for them to do their best.

What’s something interesting about you?

During my free time, I like to exercise, watch movies, and garden when the weather permits.

“AI Ai has been a valuable interpreter for LUNA in the Lafayette area. She is always very professional and has always done a wonderful job communicating with us regarding the client’s future needs. She is also very flexible and willing to make changes to her schedule when we need her. We have received great feedback about her interpreting and she is often requested as a preferred interpreter.”