MATI Spotlight: Meet Elizabeth Colón
Elizabeth Colón is an inspirational speaker, author & the CEO of Metaphrasis Language & Cultural Solutions, LLC, a Chicago based firm that provides translation and interpreting services. Elizabeth launched Metaphrasis with nothing but an idea and a skill set (speaking Spanish and English). Since then, it has blossomed into a fast growing, forward thinking, globally relevant business.
Where do you live and work? I live in Frankfort with my husband and son, and my company, Metaphrasis, has been located in West Town, Chicago since 2010.
How did you acquire your B language? I grew up with parents who didn’t speak any English so our primary means of communication was in Spanish. Later in life, our family relocated to Puerto Rico where I was given the opportunity to speak Spanish all the time. It was a great way of immersing myself in a language I love, and this experience seeded an overall passion for language.
How long have you worked in the field? 25 years combined in healthcare and interpreting.
How did you get started in the field of translation and interpreting? Like many of my colleagues, many of us started interpreting informally while accompanying our parents or someone we knew to medical appointments. When I graduated from high school, I immediately went into the field of healthcare and saw firsthand the disparities among patients that were coming into the hospitals. One encounter stood out in my mind in which I was pulled into a medical interpreting situation simply because I was bilingual. I was not professionally trained, and I did not fully understand all of the medical terminology. Experiencing this became the catalyst to my becoming trained as a medical interpreter. As my career has grown, it has been a rewarding experience to see the applications in other industries as well. There is virtually no industry that is untouched by the needs for language services and cultural sensitivity.
What is your favorite thing about working in this field? My favorite thing is meeting interpreters who come from all around the country. I get to learn things I never knew, eat foods I’ve never tasted and appreciate all the hard work they do. Together we are a powerhouse of cultural diversity!
Do you have any tips for those starting out in the field? For anyone starting out in the field, I would recommend that you do your homework on language companies. Research and interview companies you want to work with to see if your values align with theirs. Network as much as possible, because you never know where a referral will come from. Joining groups and associations (of course like MATI) will also provide a great deal of resources for you. Finally, I recommend seeking out a mentor. This is a role I personally take very seriously and love. A mentor can help guide you, pave the way for your career to grow and is generally a fantastic resource for anyone to have.
What do you do in your free time? I have committed myself in 2016 to my love of lifelong learning. As I continue to explore my own professional and personal growth, I have begun reading and learning more and recreating many facets of my life. I also have a passion for mentoring and community service activities. I currently serve as a Board member of the Norwegian American Hospital Foundation. I also belong to the Future Founders organization and frequently speak to students in underserved public schools on a variety of topics that foster development for future career and life opportunities. I am an active member of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and an ambassador for the Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Business initiative. You could say, I like to keep busy!