the linguist’s story

Every month, we get to know a bit more about one of our linguists. This month, meet Shafiqa Shairshah, an interpreter working in Dari and Farsi.

Tell us about the work you do for TLS.

I have been working at TLS since 2016 as a community interpreter in education and health care, particularly on mental health and child/adult services. I mainly do telephone interpreting appointments and occasionally face to face. The majority of clients I interpret for struggle with mental health and housing issues as they are new to the country, fleeing from conflict in Afghanistan/Iran. 

What has been your favourite project at TLS?

My favourite project has been dealing with mental health appointments and being available on demand when need be. It brings me a lot of joy knowing that I have helped refugees feel seen and heard during their appointments and therapy sessions.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was interpreting for trauma therapy as the patients go in detail about explicit and troubling times during the Afghan war – it’s unimaginable what some people go through, including in my own home country of Afghanistan, and then they are trying to make a living in a completely foreign country. But it is a necessity to survive. 

Can you tell us about a time your work has made a difference to someone’s life?

There have been countless times when our patients have felt very appreciative of the interpreting and getting their thoughts and feelings across clearly. One of the patients I was interpreting for in their talking therapy has said that my interpreting has made a big difference to how they felt more seen and heard. Another patient I was interpreting for was in desperate need of housing aid, as they were going to be evicted and homeless in less than two weeks, but by the end of the appointment we managed to find some help for this issue and the client was beyond grateful. They mentioned that if they were to have ended up homeless that they would have gone into severe depression and thankfully we were able to get them out of that position. 

Tell us something interesting about you.

I am interested in gardening and looking after different types of flowers. My husband and I are immensely fond of taking care of our indoor and outdoor plants and flowers in our back garden and I do take a lot of pride in how beautiful we make it. My favourite flower would be lilies and roses, although it is quite hard for me to choose out of the wide variety! 

What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?

In the next 12 months I would like to travel to Turkey with my family and keep doing what I’m doing as an interpreter for TLS. I would also like to focus more on my healthy living and lifestyle as I find this very important, whatever age you’re at!