Zaffar Iqbal Rasul tells us why he loves his job as an interpreter for Enable2. He has been an Urdu interpreter professionally for the past 18 years, but being bilingual has allowed him to help people communicate in English from a very young age. He was born in Bradford in 1966 and his family came over from Pakistan in 1962. Initially his father worked in the textile industry and later on the buses.

His experience of the world of work

Zaffar’s first experience was a Saturday job in a toy factory, before he trained as a nurse and then completely changed direction to go into retail management and worked for an insurance company, studying for financial exams.

His first interpreting work was in the field of health – at Bradford and Airedale Hospitals including outreach work in the community, and for the local primary care trust helping patients with dentist and doctor appointments.

“I always wanted to work with people and I’m naturally a positive person with a caring nature,” he said. “I’ve always been very talkative and have lived by the saying ‘you should treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’.”

What is most satisfying about interpreting?

“I get great satisfaction from being able to help patients or customers whatever situation they find themselves in. You get an instant reward from the look on their faces when they understand things. I really enjoy my job and am always happy to give it 100 percent – doing it to the best of my ability.”

It is a significant change going from being employed to self-employed explained Zaffar but for him it was an option as he had reached a phase in his life when his children were grown up and had gone to university. He said: “I like working for Enable2 as they offer a fair rate of pay, and are ethical in the way they operate.”

Zaffar has been an interpreter for some very emotional cases that have made front page news. He said: “You think you have seen everything after 18 years in the job but it’s not just cases involving children’s services and child protection that can upset you. It could be that you are interpreting for someone who resembles one of your relatives – and then the professionalism kicks in and you focus on being there simply to do a good job. You need to always show respect, follow the interpreters’ code of conduct and confidentiality is vital.”

His work involves breaking both good and bad news. He has had the harrowing experience of having to look into someone’s eyes, with a room full of relatives watching, and explain to them they have a terminal illness. And he has also told a couple who have been through IVF that it has been a success and the wife is pregnant.

What skills do you need to be an interpreter?

Other skills Zaffar feels are imperative for an interpreter to have are:-

  • be completely fluent in the languages you interpret for a patient – for example, there are lots of different  dialects of Punjabi
  • good time-keeping is essential – if you think you are going to be late, then warn your customer
  • good geographical knowledge of the area you work in
  • knowledge of the client’s culture and religion  so that you can provide a full, good interpretation specific to them
  • a desire to give something back to people within your local community.

Zaffar is married with three children – one daughter and two sons- and lives in Bradford.