Interpreting at Aquatic Therapy

A number of years ago, I was assigned for the first time to interpret for a patient receiving aquatic therapy. I was in a large, indoor, aquatic center. The atmosphere was quite warm in order to keep the swimmers comfortable. I stood uncomfortable, sweating profusely on the side of the pool shouting instructions to the patient. I had to ask the therapist to repeat herself often as it was difficult to hear. Everyone else in the pool was distracted by us. Needless to say, I did not like the situation, as it seemed so unprofessional and impersonal. After that day, from time to time, I had the opportunity to observe other interpreters doing the same thing, and it looked terrible.

The next time I was assigned to a patient with aquatic therapy, I asked the therapist if I could join them in the pool in order to hear her instructions, and see better when she demonstrated exercises, and not yell. She was thrilled with the idea!  Donning bathing suit and entering the pool with the patient made a huge difference in the quality and experience of our service.
I have discovered something. Every time I send an interpreter for the first time to aquatic therapy, the interpreter is very resistant to changing in a bathing suit and going in the pool. It takes a lot of convincing. Afterward, she loves it and usually wants to return.

J W Alfonso Interpreting in aquatic therapy

Although we have found that interpreting in the pool is the best way, there are a few suggestions. First, allot yourself enough time to change clothes. Second, wear a modest bathing suit; this is business. Third, don’t play; you are there to perform your service better. Finally, please don’t forget to take your expensive smartphone out of your pocket.  I knew an interpreter to whom this happened.  It makes for a bad day to say the least.

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