Day 19 Something I regret

English: Hemulen in Muumimaailma, Naantali.

English: Hemulen (the reseracher in the Moomin world) in Muumimaailma, Naantali. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I don’t regret much actually. I have a positive mind and I don’t like to dwell too much on “if only”. My basic philosophy is that everything that happens adds experience (good or bad) to your backpack, and that experience makes up the person you are. I don’t consider myself fatalistic, but believe things that happen shape who you are which in turn shapes your future.

But if I try hard I can probably come up with a few things I regret. Not staying in Finland where I was an Au Pair girl a thousand years ago. I left after only three months because of a boy, and my knowledge of Finnish is still non-existent. How great it would have been to have Finnish in my combination. Not too late you may argue, true, it’s never too late, but I don’t think I’ll take up Finnish now.

A few assignments when I did not prepare enough. Rule number one, you can never prepare too much! But yes, I too went into the trap and thought that I knew enough, which ended up in some rather embarrassing situations. There’s actually a difference between not knowing because you didn’t prepare, and not knowing because something completely unknown came up that you could not have prepared for.

That time when I, for some incredible reason, did not ask for my colleague’s name. Needless, to say there was a reason that I did not get it. I ended up working with somebody who was not an interpreter. Never again! It was such an utterly unpleasant situation. The person was so sweet, but completely incompetent and it was just awkward.

No, I don’t have too many regrets, luckily. How about you?

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. The whole list is here.

Day 18 My favourite type of interpreting

Interpreter Patricia Stöcklin note taking duri...

Interpreter Patricia Stöcklin note taking during consecutive interpreting, Garry Kasparov and Klaus Bednarz on the lit.Cologne 2007. Français : L’interpréteur Patricia Stöcklin prend note durant des traductions en série, Garry Kasparov et Klaus Bednarz au lit.Cologne 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers of the blog, interpreting amateurs and colleagues will know that there are different types or modes of interpreting – simultaneous, consecutive and dialogue. But which type to we prefer? Well, I don’t know about you, but for me it depends a little.

I really like simultaneous, you get such a kick out of doing it. I’m sure endorphin levels are sky-high when you’ve finished a simultaneous spell. But one of the disadvantages with simultaneous interpretation is that you are often secluded from your client or listener. You’re put out of the communicative context.

This is the reason I really like consecutive. In consecutive you are part of the context to a higher degree. The interpreter becomes part of the team in a very tangible way. In many ways it’s nerve wrecking, imagine you’re doing a consecutive interpreting in front of TV cameras, and you know that it is not unlikely your interpreting will end up on YouTube, because you’re interpreting for a star, like Patricia Stöcklin above.

Then it’s much calmer, but also much more challenging when you’re dialogue interpreting for a patient and a doctor. It is a wonderful reward when, thanks to you, the patient gets the right treatment and the participants finally understand each other. You’re in direct contact with your users and it’s immediately obvious whether you make a difference or not.

So, I guess my conclusion is that I really like interpreting – all sorts of them.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.

Day 12 In my suitcase

Conference interpreters travel a lot. Public service interpreters also have their fair share of traveling. I have worked outside the country I live for most of my professional career. The past 15 years I have commuted to work more often with airplane than with commuters trains. Yes I know, my carbon footprint is horrible. Anyhow, I consider myself a professional packer. I pack very quickly, I know what to bring and I always manage to squeeze in the necessary stuff.
So, what are the most important things in my suitcase? Well, I always bring my bed of nails, very popular Swedish mattress with plastic nails on it, you use it to relax, perfect after an intensive day. It also works very well on my bad back.
I have already mentioned how important my computer and my little black book are.
Then, a part from my clothes of course, my suitcase is filled with books. Books to read, books on interpreting, books on int

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can view the whole list here.

Day 11 My colleagues

In a comment to my post on my best colleague, Translatology wrote: “In my experience, not enough emphasis is placed on teamwork in interpreter training”. I very much agree with him on this. I would once again like to put forward my colleagues. I am blessed with working in a very open and welcoming environment.

When I studied to take the court interpreting certification for the second time (which I embarrassingly enough have failed twice and still not passed), one of my colleagues suggested that we study together, and for several months we met regularly to discuss terminology and the topic.

Your colleagues are also the ones you can debrief to. They are under the same secrecy as you are, they have most likely been in more or less similar situations. They may even know the agency or the client in particular.

Usually, when I come to the booth my colleagues share word lists and knowledge with me. And they write notes when I’m not sure of the terminology. For me as a freelance often working with staff interpreters it’s worth a fortune. I do prepare, but I will never (at least not with my current level of working-days) get up to their terminological ease. I cannot compare to them who work every day in the same environment and regularly at the same meetings. I do not aim to be compared with them either of course, but I am truly grateful that they share their knowledge so generously.

Another golden rule among freelancers is the referral. I refer jobs to you and you refer jobs to me. It’s very discouraging to refer lots of missions to a colleague and you never get anything back. On a more professional level I find it more correct to answer a potential client that “I’m unfortunately already booked on the date in question, but please contact my colleague so and so”, rather than just a plain no.

So, as a colleague: Share your knowledge, be supportive, take some time to listen, remember to distribute jobs, make sure the work runs smoothly on the team, and remember: What goes around comes around.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can view the whole list here.

Day 09 I really believe that

All interpreters are entitled to good training and that all interpreting clients are entitled to trained interpreters. I also believe that interpreting should be properly paid. Interpreting is a profession and should be treated as such.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can view the whole list here.

Day 08 A moment in the booth

There are many memorable moments in the booth. Some moments you would prefer to forget, but sadly they seem engraved in you memory. Other moments you cherish, either because of a brilliant and interesting speaker or, because you felt that you really made a difference.
I remember interpreting a woman who told her story about being trafficked, sold and abused. She cried as she told her story, I almost cried too. I have interpreted for union representatives who would not have been able to express their opinion to the management had it not been for the interpreters.
I have also interpreted great speakers, when everything is just flow, and you feel like an excellent interpreter just because your speaker is so good.
If I have to pick one moment… It’s probably the moment just before you enter the room, or just before ju put on the microphone, when your body is full of adrenaline and anything can happen.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.

Day 07 My best colleague

First of all you have to define best. The one who is the best interpreter or the one who is the best supporter?
There are some really awesome conference interpreters out there. Interpreters who interpret so that you have the impression to listen directly to the speaker. And on top of that every single nuance or word is there. But if you are a splendid interpreter and does not help your colleagues your excellence is reduced to half. When you work in a booth, you are a team, and the team is not stronger than its weakest links as the defense guys like to put it. The listeners get the impression from one booth, not from individual interpreters. Therefore you need to act as part of the team, help your colleagues with terminology, be attentive to figures, help to find the right power point page and so on.

In community interpreting, you are not surrounded by colleagues. But your best colleagues are those who keep in touch, who are there to debrief, who supports you against interpreting agencies and so forth. As I have said earlier, interestingly enough the public service interpreting client seems to be more interested in an interpreter who is personal rather than neutral. Although that may not be desirable for other reasons (the interpreters social health among other things).

I have not met Erik Camayd-Freixas, but from what I have read about him it is a colleague I admire very much.

So, my best colleague is not a definition of how well somebody interprets (every professional interpreter have to live up to a certain standard of course), but rather how the interpreter acts as a colleague and a fellow human being. I have a colleague who is an excellent interpreter, a very warm person, extremely professional as a team member, and on top of that has energy left to be a committed teacher and mentor. I think that is my best colleague.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.

Day 06 A Day at Work

A day at work differs a lot if you are on a community mission or conference mission. Your community interpreting day will typically start with you gathering all your dictionaries and word lists (not too much though you will carry it around for the whole day), you will absolutely need a pen and your note pad (actually it may be better to have all that packed up the day before), you also need to know where you are going, names and possible contact numbers (sometimes places can be difficult to get in to). Once you’re ready off to, for instance, the court house.

If you’re lucky it’s a day long hearing and you don’t have to move around that much, otherwise you’re out of the court house after an hour usually (that’s fairly average for shorter law suits or cases, a witness hearing may be even shorter at least where I work), after that you’re off to a midwife for a pregnancy check-up. After the pregnancy check-up you hopefully have time for some lunch and then you’re off to the migration board for an information meeting for newly arrived refugees.

Usually there is little time to prepare, you are lucky if you get a file from the court. For medical appointments you usually just know the name of the person who booked you. Regular meetings at for instance the migration board are good, because usually you do them more than once and will know in general how they are done. You have very little contact with your colleagues, simply because as a community interpreter you rarely work in teams. This also means that you are pretty much on your own for terminology and so forth.

For a conference interpreting mission the day at work starts already a couple of days before your job. Longer before if you are not familiar with the topic, maybe just the afternoon or evening before if this is a routine job. When you start preparing you surf the internet, your read up on the topic, you make word lists and so forth.

The evening before you check all the practical details; where are you going, how long does it take you to get there (if you’re working out of town or out of the country you may be traveling the evening before), do you have your contract, dictionaries, power point etc. If the meeting is very specialized the speakers are usually kind enough to send you their power points.

You get to the meeting at least 30 minutes before you start. An interpreter is NEVER late. In my 15 years of interpreting I have never been late for a private market meeting. I have been late to meetings at different institutions a couple of times, mainly due to flight problems (snow, strike and so forth), it is of course just as inadmissible to be late to an institution, but usually they have a back up team of interpreters so it’s a little less damaging. On the private market you can ruin the whole meeting.

As you get to your meeting you take out all your aids, i.e. dictionaries, word lists, computer, note pad and pen. Pen is also a no, no to forget. You say hello to you colleagues, check last minute changes, have a coffee and… you’re on air.

In the booth you take turns with your colleagues, 15-30 minutes at a time. When you’re not on air, you have to maintain a certain level of concentration as you may need to help your colleague with different things such as; technical mishaps (the sound disappearing is a nightmare), terminology, difficulties to catch names, get the right page in a power point or document and so forth.

At lunch you just want a calm moment and a chat with your colleagues, sometimes it’s good to check terminology with your delegate. No interpreter loves to continue interpreting during lunch conversations and speeches, if interpreting is needed during lunch it is wise to provide extra time for interpreters to recover. You cannot be a top performer all day without proper resting time.

The afternoon you’re back in the booth with basically the same tasks as in the morning. Don’t forget to bring a cup of coffee to the booth for the grave yard slot, you know the first speaker after lunch when everyone is tired.

After a day of interpreting be it community of conference you are worn out. Of course you develop stamina after years in the business, but the fact is that it is a very demanding task where you have to stay alert and concentrate intensely for long periods of time. So what you are longing for after a day of interpreting is a bit of rest and… silence.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.

Day 05 What is good interpreting

Well that is a million dollar question. There are as many definitions of good interpreting as there are interpreters, researchers, institutions and clients.
First of all as one of my students wrote (quoting Patrick Kermit I think), the interpreter is the common language of the staff and the client. And that common language has to be understandable of course.
There are some statements you can make about good interpreting:
1. Interpreting is good when it works for the participants.
2. Interpreting is good when it conveys the meaning of an utterance from speaker to listener (you will have to define “meaning” though :-)).
3. Interpreting is good when it serves its purpose.
But these three statements does not allow my client to put on his or her headphones and immediately say: “That was good interpreting”. It does not enable the patient to judge whether I am interpreting the whole meaning – “everything” or not.
When interpreters take exams there are different ways to try to ensure objectivity in the light of good interpreting. The first thing is to hire a jury, several people judging the same thing gives objectivity, or at least inter-subjectivity. Another idea may be do decide that the interpreters MUST render e.g. 80% of all meaning-bearing units, and then you count…
None of these methods is of course water tight, and does it really ensure good interpreting? In Grenada in Spain there is a group of researchers, ECIS, who has found out that interpreting clients claim that one particular thing is important for quality (let’s say choice of correct word), but when the speeches are tweaked and one issue does not work in the interpreting (e.g.) intonation, then the client scores the interpreting lower and may even argue that the word choice was bad.
You may also have every meaning-bearing unit correct in your interpreting without producing any intelligible utterance.
Another group of researchers concluded that exactness in the interpreting and neutrality were less important features than trust for community interpreters. The clients were most pleased with interpreters they felt they could trust, interpreters who took an active role. Very little was mentioned on exactness of the interpreting.
So, to sum up; the definition of good interpreting is not something that all parties necessary agree on, but good, or the lack thereof, interpreting is something that affects all parties.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.

Day 03 Interpreting teachers I remember

The interesting thing in interpreting training is that all your teachers are professional interpreters. This means that if you make it through interpreting school, your former teachers will be your colleagues. It’s like being trained into a medieval guild. And somehow after a couple of years in the business your former teachers grow into being just colleagues. Basically you stop being afraid of them.

There are horror stories going around about teachers whose only goal seemed to be to make at least one student crying every lesson. I’ve understood as I started teaching interpreting that the difficult thing about it is that (often unintentionally) you criticize personal things like voice, word choice and so forth. Therefore your students may perceive you as harsher than you actually are or want to be.

So much for general comments on interpreting teachers and then to the teachers I remember. Most teachers I had were great. Without my Danish consecutive teacher I would not have passed my exam. She gave me extra classes at her place, just like that. Taking of her own free time for nothing, just to help me pass. I did not have enormous problems with Danish, but consecutive technique took some time to master.

At my interpreting school, staff interpreters came on Friday mornings every week and Saturday mornings once a month to give interpreting classes. On top of that we had interpreting classes with other teachers as well. I don’t remember that my interpreting was ever “cut to pieces” by teachers, but I remember occasions when we laughed real hard at what I produced. The worst comment I have ever got was actually a little later when I had been practicing working into English from my mother tongue. Then a teacher told me he never wanted to hear me utter another word in English ever again. I told you it’s tough from time to time.

But in general, thank you to all my teachers. You were devoted, inspiring, tough and most of all determined teach us interpreting. And you made me an interpreter!

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.