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 travelling 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.