Behind Each Interpreting Request

Behind Each Interpreting Request

It’s 9:41am on a cool Tuesday morning. You can smell the rich scent of freshly-brewed dark coffee wafting from a LUNA mug. A few Language Coordinators wrap themselves in colorful scarves brought to our office the previous day by a kind Mandarin Interpreter who had just returned from her trip to China. The constant ringing of phones makes a sort of melody that harmonizes with the low business chatter of appointment details being discussed; the occasional dings and buzzing of text messages to interpreters are the percussion to our symphony.

This “music” comes in waves; it feels like high tide right now, and the office is humming along.

Coordinators call out appointment information to each other like a server notifying the cook that an extra order has been placed. Sandy from a hematology clinic in Greenwood wants to reschedule a Punjabi appointment in September, Shanice from an eye clinic in Anderson needs to know how much it would cost to have a Spanish Interpreter for six hours, and Dolores from a breast care clinic asks if we can provide services for a language she struggles to pronounce. “Is it Ki-ya-wanda?” (Kinyarwanda is spoken by Bantu people who live in the Great Lakes region of East and Central Africa; it is the national language of Rwanda but can also be found in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.) *

The chatter dies down; the wave of calls dissipates and brings us into a rare lull. Low tide is here. A short-lived silence soon subsides. A coordinator hums a pop song while typing away.

An intern jokingly asks if there is still any leftover Syrian Baklava from the huge tray our Arabic Interpreter had brought to us the day before. There isn’t.

Interpreters bring gifts to the office quite regularly, often in accordance with their culture’s way of signaling appreciation for the work we do here.

I pick up a call from a Spanish Interpreter who is running a few minutes late to her appointment in Valparaiso, Indiana. My heart sinks and my head briefly spins with anxiety when I notice the appointment is scheduled for 9 o’clock. At 9:54, she’s more than just a few minutes late!

We then share a hearty laugh over the phone after I realize there is a time-zone difference between us, even though we’re in the same state. She ends up making it on time.

As visitors enter our office, bright happy faces smile at them from dozens of pictures hanging on the wall to their immediate right. These images show staff members and clients in settings from their vacations all throughout the world. A team member stands in front of what looks like a lush rain forest in Burma. A coordinator is swimming in the crystal-clear waters of a beach in the Philippines. A Court Interpreter poses with his wife in front of the Eiffel Tower. Every picture has one thing in common–the people in them all have t-shirts representing our company around the globe with big multi-color letters that say: LUNA.

“We believe language access is a right…” is written in big bold white letters against a black backdrop in another wall near the entrance of the office. The wall has a smaller subtext that goes on to explain that regardless of background or communicative ability, all people should be able to acquire the resources they need to live a full life. “That’s why we deliver the most effective communication solutions from real people with real-world, nuanced expertise,” the wall continues. “It’s why we provide opportunities for communities and organizations to become culturally rich…”

Just then, on the other side of the city, an elderly man needs critical surgery and is rushed to the emergency room. The hospital staff cannot communicate with their patient because he does not speak English, but they are reluctant to perform any significant procedure before getting that patient’s explicit consent. An urgent request is made to LUNA, and within less than forty-five minutes this gentleman is receiving the life-saving treatment he needs because a trained Medical Interpreter was able to facilitate communication between him and his caregivers.

Language access means a Deaf student can take classes at the local university, so she can one day develop her career as a civil engineer. Language access means that a troubled mental health patient can open up to his therapist about the dark thoughts that haunt him, making breakthroughs toward stability and peace of mind. Language access is the declaration of a witness in court giving their testimony so that justice can be served.

Language access is the reassuring voice an expecting mother hears in her own language as she goes into labor.

LUNA receives many hundreds of email and phone-call requests each day. Behind every request is a real person with a real need, often one that can significantly alter the course of their life. Behind each need is a team of professionals gathering all available resources to meet a demand.

Behind each demand is a network of available language professionals, often willing to work long hours to provide language access to our clients.

We are passionate about our work because many of us come from the very communities we serve. The black wall with white letters near the entrance of our office concludes its uplifting message with this powerful yet simple sentence: “We believe diversity inspires progress.” We are adamant in this belief because we see it at work every day.

* Disclaimer: Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals and organizations. 


David Gonzalez’s role has continued to grow at LUNA from Night-time Coordinator to Daytime Spoken Languages Coordinator with responsibilities in Client Services. As a Staff Spanish Interpreter, David is known to fill a last-minute request nearby. He has been working at LUNA for over a year. We wanted to share his behind the scenes blog!