Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Best DPSI Candidate and CIOL Award Winner 2024

By Rafał Byzdra

Why did you decide to take the DPSI?

I took the DPSI primarily to enhance my job prospects. I realise how important it is to be externally recognised as an expert in one’s field. You may be well aware of your worth but to be given official recognition is something that proves it to other people, making you more credible in their eyes. At the same time it was a test for me to see whether my inner sense of professionalism would reflect in passing the DPSI exam. It was not that certain or obvious.

How did you prepare for the exam?

The way I prepared for the exam is not really something I would recommend unless you already are fully professional. I decided it was still more important to devote myself to my family rather than take special courses, attend webinars etc. which would take additional time and money. I could not afford that, so I continued with my work as a freelance interpreter. Nevertheless, I still went through all CIOL guidelines, booklets and videos about the exam plus watched maybe 2 or 3 videos on YouTube with tips for interpreters.

How do you see it benefiting your career?

Now that I have passed my DPSI I have been moved to the advanced band at work, which means my rates have gone up a bit. I do not want to stop there, though, as working for an agency is not really financially rewarding. I hope I can try and pursue a new path of employment. Having been awarded the CIOL Best Candidate award is surely going to increase the chances of a better future in my field of expertise.

How do you feel about being the highest scoring candidate?

It certainly is an unbelievable success and surprise at the same time. Undoubtedly, it is an enormous boost to my self-confidence too. Straight after taking the exam my family would ask me the usual question one would ask: “How did it go?” I did not really know what to say because, to be honest, I was not even sure I had done well enough to pass.

The exam consisted of five parts, all of which were demanding. The most difficult were the first three parts, the oral exams, performed on the same day in one go. I do not think I have ever taken a more physically and mentally demanding exam before. I really had to keep my concentration at the highest level.

After the exam, I knew I had done my best, but, being a bit of a perfectionist myself, I was aware it was not 100% error-free, especially when I thought about the simultaneous interpreting.  What a relief it was to find out I had actually passed the whole exam. And to learn I passed all five parts with distinction was so incredible that I just could not wait to break the news to my loved ones, especially my wife and kids but also to my mum who was actually the sponsor of my exam fees. I do not think I would have decided to take the exam at all, had it not been for her support. That is why I felt overjoyed and relieved at the same time.

I got my certificates soon and I thought that was the end. Can you just imagine how shocked I was when I got an email from the CIOL Communications and Marketing Manager Deborah Butler saying I was the winner of the CIOL Best Candidate Award for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) having achieved Distinction in all units, and the best overall mark of all DPSI candidates in 2023?

I was left totally speechless. I was utterly thrilled to learn the news. It was wonderful to travel to London together with my wife and two sons aged 9 and 5. By the way, normally you are only allowed to invite one guest for the ceremony but with a little hesitation, I asked if my children would be allowed to join as well. To my great delight, permission was granted and I was able to share the joy with my closest loved ones which really was a dream come true. I wish to express my gratitude to Debbie who agreed to my children accompanying me.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would love to share just one piece of advice I have for my fellow interpreters. Apart from being professional in terms of language skills etc. I think what really is essential in this profession is to be human in the deepest sense of its meaning. What I have in mind is to always try to help your client the way you would like to be helped yourself. Although interpretation can never be influenced by your opinions or emotions, it cannot be mechanical either. Much of your personality and imagination will reflect in the way you talk. Your natural calmness, peace, compassion and sensitivity to human suffering will always show in your professional work.

In other words, if you want to serve people in the best way possible, you need to try and be the best version of yourself - to help them in the most effective way.