Here’s what inspired this grad to switch her career path

Photo by Dan Toulgoet

If you’d asked legal interpreter Vicky Chio to choose a career five years ago, she would have said teaching. At the time, she was enrolled in the English literature program at SFU, and that was what most of her classmates planned to do. 

Little did she know that a conversation with a friend would lead her to the Legal Interpretation and Translation program at SFU and a completely different career path. 

Vicky recalls she and her friend were the only two people of Asian descent in her undergraduate classes. When her friend mentioned she was thinking of pursuing a career as an interpreter, it opened Vicky’s eyes to the possibility of another profession. 

“I’ve always been interested in language studies, which is why I majored in English literature,” she explains. “I thought that I could find a career using my skills in being bilingual.” 

After completing her bachelor’s, she enrolled in SFU’s Interpretation and Translation Diploma program. She decided to specialize in legal interpretation and translation, then further honed her skills with additional training in simultaneous interpretation at SFU. 

Since graduating with the Legal Interpretation and Translation Certificate, Vicky is now a freelance interpreter and translator with British Columbia Professional Legal Interpreters Inc.  

Vicky loved the hands-on, interactive learning and the chance to see interpretation in action by observing her instructors during field training. She credits the program with giving her the ability to prepare in advance, as well as to think on her feet. 

“Part of the job is about thinking on the spot, but that’s based on what you understand about legal systems and processes,” she says. “It gave me another perspective on law, because normally people feel intimidated by law and courts. But when you learn more about it, you gain an appreciation of all the work that goes into legal systems.”

The program gave Vicky the opportunity to work with the non-profit Access Pro Bono, which provides legal services to people with limited means. The experience led to her first interpreting job. Vicky now gives back by continuing to volunteer with Access Pro Bono, and by lending her services to global non-profit TED Translators, offering translation for TED Talks online. She is currently working on her certification with the Society of Translators and Interpreters British Columbia (STIBC).

She’s also gaining international experience. Having grown up in Hong Kong before moving to Canada for university, Vicky had the chance to go back and work in interpretation and translation there too. In addition to Mandarin Chinese, she is fluent in Cantonese and was able to interpret for clients in her mother tongue.

As rewarding as Vicky finds her work, she recognizes it’s not for everyone. She offers this advice for anyone considering a career in interpretation and translation:

“You have to know yourself. You need to be able to work independently and handle stress well. If you are independent, detail-oriented and adventurous, this is the job for you!” 

By Bernice Puzon