Fill in the world of migrant workers with literature


Vietnamese immigrant Lo Yi-Wen, with a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature from Tsinghua University, has unexpectedly become a judicial interpreter. Recently, she published a book titled "The Days I Worked as a Judicial Interpreter," documenting her experiences in this role using a literary approach. Lo Yi-Wen recently participated in an interview with Central Broadcasting Station (CBS), expressing her hope to use a more lyrical approach to shed light on the world of migrant workers, encouraging more people to listen and understand, ultimately contributing to a better society.

In Taiwan, when discussing the issue of migrant workers, the role of judicial interpreters is often overlooked by the general public. Lo Yi-Wen mentioned that her journey into becoming a professional judicial interpreter was a result of fortuitous circumstances. Born in Vietnam, she immigrated to Taiwan with her parents at the age of 13. After pursuing her education and obtaining a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature from Tsinghua University, she eventually became a part-time teacher at Tsinghua University.

Lo Yi-Wen disclosed that her involvement in judicial interpretation was influenced by her collaboration with director You Hui-Zhen on a project related to immigrant stories. During field investigations, she met Chen Yun-Ping, a commissioner at the Taitung Service Station of the National Immigration Agency and the founder of the Taiwan Association of Judicial Interpreters. Encouraged by Chen, Lo Yi-Wen began teaching at judicial interpreter training programs. Despite facing challenges, she earned her certification after attending 30 hours of classes each week, commuting between Taipei and Taichung.

Lo Yi-Wen has encountered various cases as a judicial interpreter, including those involving illegal migrant workers, human trafficking, or cases related to minors. In her book, "The Days I Worked as a Judicial Interpreter," she vividly describes the scenes from the judicial interpretation sessions. Despite the diverse cases she handles, she remains a compassionate listener and, through her gentle writing style, emphasizes the human aspects of both law enforcement officials and the individuals involved in the cases.

As a judicial interpreter, Lo Yi-Wen follows strict guidelines regarding when and what she can speak about. She emphasized the importance of maintaining neutrality during interpretation and highlighted the challenges she faced in remaining impartial. While initially, she may empathize with the emotional pleas of the involved migrant workers, she recognizes the need to rely on evidence presented by law enforcement to discern the truth.

Lo Yi-Wen acknowledged the psychological burden of being a judicial interpreter but emphasized the importance of not having one interpreter handle an entire case to avoid potential mistakes. She explained that cases are often last-minute assignments, and one individual may need to attend multiple hearings, making it impractical for a single interpreter to follow the entire process.

Reflecting on her experiences, Lo Yi-Wen expressed how being a judicial interpreter has broadened her perspective and shattered her previous, somewhat naive understanding of the world. She shared instances where she realized the complexities of situations that appeared straightforward initially.

Regarding potential inconveniences, Lo Yi-Wen mentioned that judicial interpreters are generally advised against being photographed to maintain a low profile, citing past incidents of harm to judicial interpreters.

Lo Yi-Wen acknowledged that very few individuals consider judicial interpretation as a full-time profession due to the unpredictable nature of cases and their geographical dispersion. She highlighted the necessity for interpreters to have other jobs, and in her case, teaching at Tsinghua University allows her the flexibility to accept last-minute assignments.

Her personal background as a Vietnamese immigrant has influenced Lo Yi-Wen's empathetic approach towards the cases she handles. Her family's history of war, displacement, illegal immigration, and living in the shadows has given her a unique perspective. Through her literary work, she aims to provide a more empathetic understanding of the situations faced by migrant workers before the law, hoping to resonate with a broader audience.

Lo Yi-Wen expressed her desire to use a literary approach to create a dialogue about migrant workers, acknowledging that her strengths lie more in personal and lyrical storytelling than in addressing larger social structures. She aims to bridge the gap between social movements, social workers, and the general public by offering a softer and more communicative perspective. She emphasized the importance of empathy and mutual understanding to contribute to the improvement of Taiwanese society.

Despite her Ph.D. and teaching position at a prestigious university, Lo Yi-Wen does not see her role as a judicial interpreter as being "overqualified." She believes in the value of helping vulnerable individuals and recognizes that qualifications alone do not determine effectiveness in this role. She stressed the importance of being the right person to offer assistance during the most vulnerable moments of someone's life.

Lo Yi-Wen concluded the interview by expressing her satisfaction with being able to understand the complexities of human nature through her role as a judicial interpreter. While unsure how long she will continue in this capacity, she remains committed to helping as long as there is a need. Looking ahead, she envisions using her experiences to write film scripts and novels, providing a more dimensional and authentic portrayal of the people she has encountered.

〔RTI / Reporter Jiang Zhaolun(江昭倫) interviewed and reported〕2024-01-15 23:46

〔photo from Reporter Jiang Zhaolun〕