“The people I talk to are often surprised, and then delighted, that I speak their language, even though I’m a foreigner. I’m glad I can be a bridge connecting people.”

Junqi He, interpreter based in Sri Lanka


Still in his early days at the ICRC, Junqi has been working as an interpreter, his first assignment, since June 2020. In addition to Sinhala, he speaks English and Mandarin. We caught up with him to hear what he thinks about working for the ICRC so far.


How did you come to be an interpreter? What is it like working for the ICRC?

I love studying languages. I majored in Sinhala at university and I’ve had a growing interest in Sri Lanka and its people since then. I was living in Colombo, working in retail, when a friend told me about this amazing opportunity to work for the ICRC. He recommended I apply, and I jumped at the chance!

I’ve loved the experience so far – I know I’m still new, and we’ve had lots of challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s been an enriching journey. When we make our official visits, the people I talk to are often surprised, and then delighted, that I speak their language, even though I’m a foreigner. I’ve started learning Tamil too. I’m glad I can be a bridge connecting people.


Do you get emotional in your job?

Sometimes, sad stories come up. When emotions come to the surface, we just recognize them, show empathy and listen – rather than delve further as that could trigger painful feelings for the person we’re talking to. This kind of work definitely has a psychological impact, but we keep at it and keep going because helping people is what we’re here for. It’s incredibly rewarding. It feels so good when people appreciate our skills and our negotiations on their behalf. Communication is a key part of this work.


How do you balance work and family life?

Being away from home is tough. When the number of COVID-19 cases were at their peak, my family would watch the news and worry about me. But I have a video call with them a couple of times a week – it’s always great to see them and reassure them that I’m ok.


What is the best thing about being an interpreter at the ICRC? What tips would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

The best thing about being an interpreter is that you use your language skills to connect the people who need help with the staff members in the Sri Lanka delegation who can help them.

I advise anyone who would like to become an ICRC interpreter to make sure their translations are faithful and accurate. It’s crucial that no important details are left out, especially when dealing with the authorities. I would also encourage them to be as expressive as possible. Being empathetic and a good listener are essential skills.

Are you interested in having a career like Junqi’s? Check out our interpreter positions today!