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.


Why don’t interpreters blog?

There are so many good blogs on translation. I list a few in my bloglist. But very few interpreters seem to blog. I list all the ones I have found and that are active in the languages I can read, and it’s not more than a handful. Is there a particular reason for the absence of interpreters in the blogosphere? Interpreters are language professionals, just as translators. Interpreters are eloquent. Many are teachers too. Some have written books (such as Andrew Gillies, Ebru Diriker or Roderick Jones), but very few blog.
Secrecy could be an issue of course. Interpreters hold their professional secrecy very high. But having a blog does not necessary need to breach the professional secrecy. Maybe fear of the written word, since interpreters work with the spoken word. But then interpreters would not write books either.
I cannot find a good reason to the lack of interpreters in the blogosphere.

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 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.