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The Sam's Club Translator
The Saturday afternoon is warm and Sam’s Club is packed with busy shoppers ready for a summer barbecue. “Do we have to go today?” I complain to my mother as she locks the car doors. I despise having to go to an eye doctor appointment especially at the start of the summer break. I could be at home catching up on my sleep that I’ve missed during the entire school year. Instead my mother and I go through the normal routine: get the examination and pick the glasses we want. While attempting to put in new contact lenses, my mother calls me from afar, “There’s a woman here who speaks Spanish, practice your Spanish.” I look behind her and see a blurry figure sitting down, waving to me. I lightly smile and wave back, “Mom, I’m busy right now,” I whisper. She returns talking to the woman while I struggle to pop the contact lenses in my eyes. My mom calls my attention again, “Jessica, I don’t think she speaks English. Talk to her.”
I don’t want to speak Spanish because I’m afraid that I’ll say the wrong words or I’ll get confused because my understanding is limited, but I stood up and introduced myself to her. Her name is Carmen …good start.
“Ma’am, May I help you?” the assistant asks.
Turning around, I say, “She doesn’t speak or understand English.”
The assistant nods and asks, “Does she have anyone to translate for her?”
Asking Carmen, I then respond, “No, but she said her niece is coming within 45 minutes to help her.”
The assistant grabs the phone and calls the manager to see if there are any Spanish workers available, “Well, the doctor is leaving soon and there’s no one here to translate for her. Do you think you can help her?”
Hesitantly accepting to be the translator, I start by going through Carmen’s medical history. Back and forth, questions and answers are being interpreted. My mind feels like scrambled eggs! My hands are shaking and voice is trembling as I struggle forming the correct verb conjugations and saying Spanish words correctly. I wish that I’d carried a Spanish dictionary with me or downloaded a translation app on my phone! Carmen was then called to the examination room where the doctor realized that she had a student translator to help interpret directions. After the hectic process of translating, Carmen and I had time for an interesting conversation about Hispanic singers we liked. Before Carmen and her niece left and thanked me, Carmen and I exchanged numbers so we could practice together another time.
“Thanks for helping us. You did well! How long have you been taking Spanish?” The assistant asks.
“Thanks! I’ve only taken 4 years,” I say.
After translating for Carmen, I have learned that speaking a new language has allowed me to help a patient, an assistant and a doctor. I have realized that I had broken the boundaries of communication. The one class in school I merely thought I had to ace was the one subject I was able to apply in a real life situation. Instead of taking 4 years of Spanish I have taken 6 years of Spanish, so I could have a deeper connection with people I may meet in the future. I am truly grateful for this exhilarating experience and the ability to learn a new language.