Learning languages is Sanaa’s passionSanaa, an Arabic interpreter based in Sydney, was born in Syria into a household where languages and learning were prized as the pathways to lead a successful and happy life. Her passion for language was cultivated by her late father, who loved intellectual pursuits and worked as a teacher, poet and writer. Sanaa said, ‘because of my father I achieved where I am today. He was encouraging of all his children and wrote beautiful poems for them and my mother about our journey through life.’
Sanaa graduated from the University of Damascus in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts, English Literature and started her career as an English teacher in Syria.
Moving to AustraliaSanaa’s husband took up a work opportunity in Sydney, which led to the start of her new career in Australia teaching Arabic as a second language. Sanaa said, ‘my career was put on hold as I began my other passion – starting my own family’. This didn’t stop Sanaa from learning and she studied child care and IT courses. But interpreting was her focus, and after taking some years out to raise her family, she was excited and motivated to start her interpreting career.
Sanaa’s first assignment —the Supreme Court!In 2009 Sanaa received her NAATI accreditation to be a level three professional Arabic interpreter. Her first experience as an interpreter was at the Supreme Court. Sanaa said:
‘It was so scary. I remember I couldn’t sleep that night, like I was about to undergo surgery, with butterflies in my stomach.’ Her daughters encouraged her —‘ you can do it mum, you’re amazing, you’re going to be fine!’ After everything went perfectly, it was a huge relief and boost for Sanaa’s confidence.
Being an excellent interpreterSanaa has a few important points of advice for new interpreters:
‘Memorise and always follow the code of ethics, and maintain a professional and courteous relationship with the client and the agency. If you are unsure what has been said whilst interpreting, always ask for clarification rather than risk giving incorrect information. And make the effort to constantly update your industry knowledge – especially vocabulary in different fields.’
Sanaa dedicates her time to perfecting her interpreting skills in the medical and legal fields, where she is specialised.
What’s in a typical day for Sanaa…Sanaa’s day could start at a doctors’ clinic, delivering good news to a patient and watching them smile. Her next interpreting job may be to deliver bad news to a patient and watch them struggle. During a day’s work, Sanaa will witness a range of emotions with her clients, which does affect her. Sanaa said:
‘I am a very passionate person, but I do keep a professional barrier between work and home to manage stress, and I make time for enjoyable activities. I love to cook, especially delicious sweets for my family.’
‘When you really love your job you will never work a day in your life.’
Rewards of interpretingSanaa believes that when you really love your job you will never work a day in your life. She says:
‘It’s a wonderful feeling when you have helped someone, by delivering the right message for your clients. You are helping a doctor do his job and helping them to treat someone. That is a very rewarding thing for me.’
‘Being an interpreter is a great thing to do in life’