Day 17 My best interpreting memory

This is one of the hardest questions to answer. What is my best interpreting memory? And by that I don’t mean that I need to have a good memory in order to interpret. But was there one really special occasion when I interpreted? Something that I will always remember.

The problem is that there are so many fantastic times. First of all purely physically, the adrenaline rush, the flow, the feeling of complete control. But then all the fantastic people that you get to interpret for, and the great colleagues you work with. Sorry if I sound a bit pathetic, and I know not all days are like that, but those are the moments you live for.

When I started working for the European Institutions, I spent quite a lot of time in Luxemburg. It’s sort of their plant school. Interpreting for the meetings in Luxemburg is usually very technical and can be extremely difficult, but I remember how much fun I had with my colleagues there, and what a team we were.

Some speakers I have interpreted for have been magic. Maybe not because they were very famous, or very important, but because they were such wonderful speakers. You get dragged into their way of speaking, and if it clicks with your way of interpreting, nothing is more rewarding.

Then there are also the situations where you feel that you really made a difference for somebody. The fact that you were there at the doctor’s appointment, or in court that day actually made a difference for the person you interpreted for. I don’t mean to say that interpreters don’t usually make a difference, but I’m sure you understand too that there are days where you are more important than other days.

So I’m not sure I can pick out my best memory. Or, yes, of course I can – it’s the day when I passed my final exams at interpreting school. Otherwise, I would not be here.

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

The comfort zone dilemma in interpreter training – my view

The 16th conference DG Interpretation – Universités was held on March 15 and 16. Unfortunately, I could not follow the proceedings, but there has been a lot going on via Twitter, thanks to @GlendonTranslate both days have been archived here and here. And Matt Haldimann wrote two blog posts on it over at 2interpreters. In one of the posts he discussed Brian Fox’s presentation where one of the issues was that stress is an important factor behind candidates not passing the EU accreditation test.

I’d like to follow up on Matt’s post and my own experience of the comfort zone in interpreting training. But, first of all, the European institution’s problem that students graduating from interpreting school do not pass the accreditation tests is not a new one. I’m not sure that you actually CAN pass an EU accreditation test immediately after interpreting school. I’m not saying that to discourage anyone, but just compare any graduate from any training. You don’t graduate from a Political Science program and start as a senior ministry official, ministries usually have internships, training programs and so forth. You don’t graduate from law school and become a lawyer immediately. Medical doctors are required to be interns before they practice. The institutions have started running training programs for prospective interpreters which is great, but of course schools should prepare interpreting students as well.

Traditionally, interpreting training is very tough. I don’t remember much of comfort zone from my own interpreting training, and ask any interpreter and they will tell you horrible stories about austere teachers literally decomposing students. Students sometimes feel that they are thrown into the water and those who swim survive. Much of these feelings stem from the fact that you are trying to learn a very complex skill that is also closely linked to both your personality, your voice and your language so clearly it is hard.

As a teacher I would not describe the way I practice as throwing students into the water and see who comes up. In fact, I work very hard to be a coaching, positive teacher. Yet, I know that my students also seem to be struggling like I did.

Matt suggests to build on trust, and to work with other skills such as public speaking, he mentions his own experiences of improvisational theater, and last but not least – mock conferences. I think these are great ideas and it also points to something that we may need to refine even more – modular learning. I know that several schools work with modules. The most obvious module being of course that first you work with memory exercises, then with note taking, then with consecutive and so forth. But modules can also be broken down into for instance: interpreting figures, conveying sadness, interpreting names, conveying anger and so forth. And it can of course also be used to train: interpreting under stress, interpreting with text, interpreting at an exam and so forth. And everything does not have to be dealt with in interpreting class; managing stress, voice coaching, public speaking can, together with contemporary social and environmental studies, terminology, study technique and so forth, be done in separate lectures. The social side of interpreting is also often a sadly forgotten business – we should teach students how to deal with clients, how to behave in the booth, how to establish yourself on the market and so forth.

But – and here comes the big but – many interpreting schools have classes specializing on interpreting two or four hours per week. And classes can be huge. If you are the only interpreting teacher for 30 students 4 hours per week, it is very likely 90 % of your students will never make it to interpreters. Maybe 80 % of them just took the course because they heard it was not much reading required. So you teach them how to teach themselves how to master the skill and those who wants to and take it seriously hopefully benefits from that and use the time appropriately. So in order to be able to give our students all this support we need: more teaching hours, smaller groups (if groups are big), access to other teachers who can work with us for the interpreting students, and maybe even access to specialists who could work with the students on an individual basis (voice coaching, stress).

I have two good bets; teacher training and more money. How does that sound?

Interpreter mediated illusory communication

This is a post that I have translated from Anne-Birgitta’s tolkeblogg and publish with her permission. My apologies in advance to Anne-Birgitta and other Norwegian speakers if I have misunderstood or mistranslated something (in that case please let me know, I need this caveat since neither English nor Norwegian are my mother tongue). I wanted to share it on my blog because I think it’s a very good illustration of what can and do happen in interpreter mediated events. This is an illustration of why we need to train interpreters and work on interpreting ethics and standards.

The term, ‘interpreter mediated illusory communication'(tolkemediert skinnkommunikasjon) is defined here as two parallel dialogues with different contents, and where the interpreter is the only one who understands what is actually being said, as in the example below from an interview with an angry Palestinian who considers himself a victim of racism:

1. Police: So the police is lying about this?
2. Interpreter: Are you saying that the police is lying?
3. Suspect: He is a liar, yes, his mother is a liar, his father is a liar (raises voice)
4. Interpreter: Yes
5. Suspect: Tell him his father is a liar, his mother is a liar, the racist pig
6. Interpreter: (laughing out loud)
7. Suspect: His mother and his father are liars
8. Police: What’s he saying now?
9. Interpreter: Yes, the police is lying and mother and father also lying (laughs so much that the phrase is almost inaudible)
10. Suspect: Tell him that racism is like AIDS, the disease AIDS, racism is in his blood
11. Police: What does he say about AIDS?
12. Interpreter: (laughs)
13. Suspect: Tell him that he has the racist disease, like AIDS
14. Interpreter: They all have it, the police is sick (laughs)

In the example we see that the interpreter does not render what the suspect says, and that the discussion sounds quite different in Arabic and Norwegian. This example is taken from a tape recording of a police interrogation and is described in: Andenæs, Kristian et. al. Of 2000. Kommunikasjon og rettssikkerhet. Utlendingers og språklige minoriteters møte med politi og domstoler. Oslo: Unipub publishers.

Distance teaching from a (not too) distant teacher

Last #IntJC was dedicated to distance teaching. Now it may sound as if I’m only blogging about #IntJC topics, but hey, if the topic is good…

When I took up my PhD post it involved teaching an introductory course in interpreting. I’m commuting to Bergen so I wanted to plan my course in blocks. The idea was to have for instance four blocks of teaching, each one over a couple of days displayed evenly over semester. But there was another problem too, students taking French in this BA program had their Erasmus exchange the same semester as I gave my compulsory course. And those students were supposed to follow my course, although they were in France for seven weeks.

The solution was to teach on a distance platform. I cut down the on site teaching to two times two days, and the rest has been given on internet for the past three years. As said, #IntJC was discussing distance teaching last time and I’ll take this opportunity here to dwell on my experiences from these past three years.

The course has first and foremost been a theoretical course. It’s an introduction to interpreting. We have had a few hours of practice, but it has been done on site. The course schedule included two days in the beginning of the term with lectures and introduction to interpreting and note-taking, then a lecture series over seven weeks on internet, and a last meeting of two days at the end of the term. Parallel to the lecture series students also had practice in dialogue interpreting.

The fact that we do it on distance has many advantages. Obviously, students (and teacher) can participate regardless of location, but since we also record it and put it on our intranet, every lecture, with power points and discussions is available for students afterwards. When they prepare their exam paper or other compulsory tasks, they can access all the lectures they need. This is very powerful compared to only relying on your own notes or hand outs from the teacher.

I have planned my courses fairly traditionally, a text to prepare before the course, sometimes with questions, sometimes without. Then, during the lecture, I started with introduction to the text and after that hopefully a discussion. I say hopefully, because the discussion part has been the most challenging every year. In my experience I usually get a few questions via chat during my presentation, but when we come to the discussion part both chat feed and demands for microphone are troublingly silent.

Obviously, I have thought about what may be the reason behind this. Presumably, the learning experience will be better if we have (preferably animate) discussions about the topic. I have a few ideas, but so far I have not managed to overcome the lack of discussions.

First, the tech problems; although most students of today are labeled digital natives (I’d say average age of the group I teach is 20-25, I must admit that the tech side is challenging. I dedicate one hour at the start up, on site, seminar to introduce the platform. We have used the Adobe Connect platform which I find a fairly easy to use and straight forward platform. We don’t use the video-mode in order to minimize tech problems. And in order for everyone to have easy access to the lectures we keep one of the computer rooms on site open so that all students should have easy access to a computer. Still, we spend at least half an hour of the first class overcoming different tech problems, the most common being problems with sound.

Second, the medium; maybe the fact that we are on the Internet and that the simplest questions will be recorded is intimidating. We record all the sessions, and they are saved in its entirety – chat, audio, power point, notes, and so forth. This is put on an intranet server only accessible to our students, but still… Maybe it’s hard to have the impression that you ask stupid questions, come with “wrong answers” or just speculate when it’s on tape and can, and probably will, be viewed by teacher and fellow students.

Third, the power balance; when we chat over #IntJC we are all equal. Some are seasoned professionals, some are students, but we gather there to discuss a text that one of us chose and everyone is curious to hear everyone’s opinion, no grades are given, there is no right or wrong answers. Whereas, at my online course, I’m the teacher, I grade their papers, and although I don’t want to see it that way, they seem think that I have a final judgement on what is right or wrong and they probably feel they need to produce the “right answer”.

I’m not sure what the course will look like next term, but I have a few things I would like to test from #IntJC;
a) I will systematically produce a couple of discussion questions for every text.
b) I will dedicate part of the class to chat discussion only.
c) I will try to couple my texts with other material (other texts, you tube videos, news articles of films).

When I started teaching this course three years ago, I was desperately seeking the Internet for examples, background, things to deepen my students understanding. I think it’s safe to say that there was not much around. I found some good stuff, but it was by no means evident. Since then I’m happy to say that interpreting discussions on Internet has exploded. Every year I have more stuff to choose from and since #IntJC and #EPT started, together, of course, with a lot of great blogs (by all means go through my blog roll), I can safely say that I will have great material for my background readings and contrastive texts.

So, I’m excited for next version of the course. I’ll keep you posted.

Day 13 An interpreting week

A week of interpreting is usually very varied, since I did not interpret this week (I try to finish a presentation for a conference, and don’t succeed very well), this is probably an average week for a free-lance interpreter:

Monday: No interpreting assingment – preparing for a conference Thursday and Friday.
Tuesday: Continued preparation in the morning. Last minute court interpreting assignment, 2 hours in the afternoon.
Wedenesday: Community interpreting at a local health care center. The afternoon continued preparation for the conference on Thursday and Friday.
Thursday and Friday: Two day conference for a European Works Council. To get a glimpse of a conference interpreting day have a look at aiic:s article on that. I think it has a self-righteous tone but it also gives a certain idea of what it’s like.

Any free-lance interpreter will tell you that no week is the same, certain weeks are desperately calm and if you have a rare language you will probably have to work with other things as well. Ohter weeks you could have gotten three assignments for each day. There is simply no way to forecast.

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

Me and my hats (there’s more to it than interpreting)

Next topic on #IntJC will be on professional identities. How do you juggle your professional hats? And can you be credible in your different identities when you have several different ones?

Since I will not be able to participate I’ll give you my own experiences here, in case you need some background reading 🙂

When I finished high school in Sweden it was important not to give future employers the impression that you were a job-hopper. Your CV needed to be consistent. If not the same student job since age 15, at least within the same sector, preferably giving you relevant work-life experience for your future training and career. Need I tell you that already here I was already heading in the wrong direction?

Some ten years later life seemed to be on the right track from a consistency perspective. I was near the end of teacher training and had had the same student job for the past four years – I could see my future the coming five years… ten years… fifteen years… and I felt… claustrophobic.

Luckily, I came across the most interesting, fascinating job where it didn’t matter that my professional background looked more like a patchwork than a tightly knit plaid. Even better, the patchwork was an advantage! So perhaps not surprisingly I’m juggling many hats with pride. However, sometimes I get the feeling that for, let’s call them, more consistent people out there my different hats sometimes raise professional suspicion. Am I really serious? Well, I hope to prove here that I am probably more serious than most – otherwise you cannot juggle.

First question to be addressed on Saturday: Tell us about your professional hats: how many do you have? What are they?

I’m a researcher in interpreting (which in a way makes me an eternal student). I’m an interpreter and my interpreting hat is split into conference interpreter and public service interpreter. I’m also a teacher, I have taught horseback riding, horse carriage driving, languages and interpreting. I also see myself as a blogger and twitterer, although, admittedly I blog and tweet about interpreting and it’s not really professional.

Second #IntJC question: Of all the hats you wear, which are the most/least loved by you? The easiest/hardest to accomplish?

I love all my hats! Maybe my love for interpreting is a little bit stronger since it has allowed me to carry on with the rest of my hats. It is a very large and flexible hat.

Third question: How do the majority of the clients see you (which hat/role)? How do you want to be seen?

Well, I cannot say that I have clients who see me as a researcher, not yet anyway. My university hat interacts with other university employees and fellow researchers – today it takes 70 to 80 percent of my time and I hope that most of them see me as researcher. My interpreting clients see me as an interpreter of course. I struggle with my students, who are in a way clients too, for my interpreting students I want them to see me as an interpreter, but I think the teacher hat imposes itself so much on them that they have difficulty seeing me in a booth.

Question four and here we come down to nitty-gritty: What are the factors behind the uneasiness some feel about defining themselves as a professional with many hats?

It is this consistency again – for me as a researcher I am sometimes viewed as less serious because I exercise the profession I am researching. This means for some that I am biased in my study of the profession, that I will let my background beliefs influence my results. It is also so very easy within humanities research, especially in a small research community, to undermine results simply by hinting that they may be biased by the researcher’s own world view.

Needless to say the sword is two edged. As an interpreter I sometimes get negative reactions from colleagues because I have “crossed the line”. I have started to research an area impossible to research. Interpreting skill is innate and there is nothing more to it. Nurture your skill instead of digging into impossible studies. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that interpreting is both researchable and even that interpreting benefit from research.

For my interpreting clients it sometimes feel as the most difficult part is to prove that I am a professional at all, that I’m not a language student, that this is what I do for a living, that I have actually gone to university to master a skill. Or, like one doctor said after I had interpreted a medical appointment: So, you are really a professional interpreter? (Me: Yes) Well, I have to admit it’s much easier when you are around.

Question five: The million dollar question. What would you suggest as tactics to stand up for your professional selves and feel confident?

This is where the seriousness comes in. I try to do the juggling with my hats with as much seriousness as possible. I cannot “ad lib”, I cannot hope for the best, I cannot “see how things go”.
As a teacher I have to be extremely good at respecting deadlines, planning classes, giving feed back – because if I’m not I will loose my confidence and the credibility from my students and colleagues eyes.
As an interpreter I strive to be a good, well prepared, pleasant co-worker and languages service provider (and always arrive well before time), because if I’m not I will loose my confidence and the credibility from my clients.
And as a researcher I try to present minutely planned and methodologically sound studies where I take great pain in testing and reporting my methods, because if I don’t I will loose confidence and my fellow researcher will so easily be able to say: “Oh, you know it’s because she’s an interpreter – she may actually have let her own opinion influence her results.”

Slightly off topic: What was my life and interpreting jobs like five years ago?

Yesterday the patent translator published a post based on a letter his son sent him five years ago, but that was planned not to reach him until yesterday. The letter inspired him to look back five years. His post inspired me to do the same.

Five years ago we lived in Paris, and I was seriously starting to consider doing a PhD in interpreting. Interpreting jobs had picked up after the blow in 2004 when the Swedish conference interpreting market went absolutely dead. In 2004, The Swedish government decided they should spearhead their English only plan for the European Union. They only used the absolute minimum requirements for interpretation and as a result the market collapsed. Many of my colleagues decided to change careers. In 2007, the marked had picked up, and the fact that I lived in Paris also improved one of my unique selling points (proximity) as they liked to call it.

I did not have any teenagers at home, my oldest was 10! We still had an au pair girl living with us, which sometimes is challenging, but mostly really nice both for children, parents and career. I had the great benefit to ride once a week in central Paris, sometimes very tough (old French pedagogy) and sometimes mesmerizing. Other than taking interpreting jobs I also taught French (yes! me! a foreigner! in France!, but I have an FLE teacher degree mind you) and had I blogged in Swedish about Paris and bilingualism mainly. This blog started a little over a year later.

I thoroughly liked Paris and could have stayed for much longer, but we were homeward bound in the summer and I had to decide whether I should apply for a PhD or not. I knew that a PhD would require a lot of work and not necessarily give any more job afterwards. But I also freshly remembered those years after 2004 when I was happy if I got two days interpreting jobs per month. For me – 10 days is a good average – 10 days of assignment means another 10 days of preparation, and considering you also usually travel to and from your assignment and need a few days for admin and stuff, it means that you will fill up you month both financially and work-wise. Two days, however, all but bankruptcy, and the few days I would get in court or for other assignments (I wrote earlier about the depressing situation forinterpreting jobs in Sweden. Thanks to the best husband in the world and also thanks to the wonderful parental benefits in Sweden (I had days saved up in my benefit scheme), I could stay in business.

I celebrated my birthday that year (an even one) on the night train towards the Pyrenees on our first skiing holiday in France (and a few months later with a grand party at the Swedish club). And in the autumn I enrolled in a PhD program on bilingualism with a focus on simultaneous interprting. When I look back 2007 was a good year, but what can a year in Paris be other than… perfect.

Interpreters: How about getting together and really talk?

Lionel at the Japan interpreter has written at least two a very good posts on the curse of not actually meeting people, but just “liking” or “adding” or “RT:ing” or whatever it is we are doing. One of the inconveniences about being an international community like translators or interpreters is of course that many of us are not located in the same country or even the same continent. But communication is also about having honest discussions about important matters and since we are all freelancing this may be threatened by our professional situation. For good and for bad, we are not just colleagues, but competitors too. Lionel took a great initiative to bridge both geographical and professional gorges and started the #IntJC over at Twitter.com where it has been a raving success.

Meanwhile one of the participants in #IntJC, Al Navas started exploring the Google+ hangouts. He  teamed up with Gerda Prato-Espejo @Gerdabilingual and Esther Navarro-Hall @MmeInterpreter and they created the #1nt and #xl8t Endless Possibilities talks at Google+.

They kick off this week-end, Saturday at 12 noon Los Angeles-time. 5 a.m Tokyo time (poor Lionel) and 9 p.m. Central European Time. And what will happen then?
Well, Esther Navarro-Hall will tell us her journey to become an interpreter. She will also answer questions both from the other participants in the hangout (@Gerdabilingual@InterpDiaries, @Blogbootheando and me, @tulkur), and from people who will watch the live stream and interact through chat. We are all crossing our fingers that this new technology will work; it is still young technology, and may not be available during the weekend hours..

I am very excited and happy and proud to be part of this talk and this project. Thank you Al, Esther and Gerda for taking the initiative. So come and watch it live this Saturday, February 11th. #1nt and #xl8 Endless Possibilities is the place to be.

Update in 2019: This now sounds like eons ago. Esther passed away in the late autumn of 2018, both Al and Lionel has left the interpreter blogging sphere. But if you would like to watch that first hangout it’s still on YouTube here. Lionel does not blog about interpreting anymore, but if you would like organize a trip to Japan you should contact him here.

Off topic: ABCs of travelling

Both Musings from an overworked Translator and Thoughts on Translation have had this list. I thought it would be fun to go through as well. It was really a trip down memory lane. Here we go:

Age you went on your first international trip: If you don’t count when I was six and took the 24-hour-cruise to Helsinki (doesn’t really count as an international trip in Stockholm, it’s like Belgians going to Luxemburg), it was when I was 11 and went with my mother and godmother on a road-trip to Norway (strangely enough THAT was considered abroad). First time outside Scandinavia was at 12 when I went to Paris. English-speaking country was not until I was in my twenties, same thing for first time outside Europe.

Best foreign beer you’ve had and where: Belgian of course, in Belgium. Almost any Belgian beer monastery beer is the best. I don’t like Kriek (the Cherry one) and I don’t like when they mix it with syrup (yes they do!). But Duvel is great, as is Leffe, and Grimbergen, and Chimay and… The sad thing about discovering Belgian beer is that it’s totally impossible afterwards to just “have a beer”.

Cuisine (favorite): Oh, difficult – probably French and Belgian (No, they’re not the same), but I really like Italian too, and nothing compares to the Swedish fermented herring (surströmming).

Destinations-favorite, least favorite and why: Favorite destination I don’t think I can choose between London, Paris and Chicago. Granada in Spain was absolutely fantastic too. And Bergen in Norway is wonderful. I have recently discovered Tunisia which is also a definite favorite. Least favorite – although there are other parts of Egypt that I really like, Kairo was a bit too much for me, the mass of people, the poverty, the chaos – very hard to find the charm there.

Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: The carnival in Stavelot, Belgium, where I was recruited onto one of the teams was so much fun. And flying a helicopter over the Grand Canyon was extraordinary. The Perigord is sometimes so beautiful it hurts. But I had an almost religious experience looking at a black stone beneath the Forum Romanum.

Favorite mode of transportation: Train! It’s so sad that trains in so many countries are being less and less cared for by politicians and infra-structure actions. And it’s so great in areas where the train really works well like France. One of my best experiences of a train ride was with Southern Rose and her family on the night train from Paris to Venice.

Greatest feeling while traveling: I like arriving more than traveling.

Hottest place you’ve ever been: Everything that is above 25 Celsius is hot for me, so to me I have been to too many hot places. But I guess it must be Singapore or Bangkok. Probably Singapore in July and I don’t think that’s their hottest period. But Nevada was pretty hot too as I remember.

Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Bali. The friendliness and service level was amazing without being ridiculous. My most recent best service experience though was the hotel Klosterhagen in Bergen where I ended up unannounced at 1 a.m. due to a misunderstanding with my usual place. Otherwise my experience of service is usually that it is something that hotels, airlines and others brag about to justify their exorbitant prices, but which seldom are delivered because the people they hire are probably paid too little to really care.

Journey that took the longest: Stockholm to Rome when I was 14, it was over 36 hours on the train. The journey that was mentally the longest was probably returning from a skiing holiday when the cables were stolen from part of the railway tracks (yes I know, it sounds like the wild west) and the train was 6 hours delayed. When we arrived in Lille at three in the morning the car park where we had our car was locked. At 5.30 am we were finally driving home (another hour and a half). Considering we started at lunchtime the day before it was a very long trip from the French Alps to Belgium.

Keepsake from your travels: Only photos. Of course I bring stuff back from time to time, but nothing particular, or nothing that I collect. But I try to bring back food stuff that I cannot get at home.

Let-down sight-why and where: I was in Leningrad (St Petersburg during the Soviet-era) when I was 15. Although it was amazing in many ways, I cannot say that that trip stuck as a particularly beautiful or pleasant. The Hermitage was sadly worn down and everything and everyone looked dirty and tired.

Moment when you fell in love with travel: I think it came gradually. I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself as a traveler, but as I fill out this list I realize that I have travelled a lot. There are many places I haven’t been to, though.

Obsession-what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: There are many horses in photos from my travels 🙂

Passport stamps- how many and from where?: When I was a kid you got stamps for Europe as well, now you don’t any more so for every new passport I get fewer and fewer as most of my traveling goes on inside Europe. In my current one it’s the US, Canada, Thailand, Egypt and Tunisia

Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: It’s not really an attraction but Madonna Inn in California was definitely different.

Recommended sight, event or experience: The stars in the desert. I cannot think of many things that beats that.

Splurge-something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Books. Photo books if I cannot read the language of the country in question. But I always come back with books.

Touristy thing you’ve done: Oh, everything, like going on the tourist buses, throwing coins in Fontana di Trevi, caressed all sorts of statues with the hope to come back to that place. I mean if you are a tourist…

Unforgettable travel memory: Many. But having a cup of tea in a store as big as a shoe box in the bazar in Luxor is probably one of them, or looking out over the Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul from a horse back, and diving in Bali on our honeymoon.

Visas-how many and for where?: US, Canada and Egypt. No residence permits only tourist visas. It’s my third time around with a Belgien ID-card though.

Wine-best glass of wine while traveling and where?: I would lie if I said I’m a wine connoisseur. I can tell a really bad wine from a drinkable one, but that’s about it. Just as for beer, you get spoilt after living in France, and it’s harder after that to just “have a glass of wine”. But the best glass wine is probably the one you have with your friends.

eXcellent view and from where?: Here I would have loved to say from Kebnekaise, highest mountain in Sweden, but when I made it to the top it was wrapped in a heavy fog. So I literally (and luckily) only saw the back of my friend in front of me. Otherwise I like towers: Sears tower, Tour Montparnasse, Eiffel Tower , London Eye. And the view of Mt Blanc from Geneva is also worth mentioning. It looks just as on the Toblerone chocolate.

Years spent traveling: I have no idea. Shorter holiday trip every year since I was 12. I have only lived abroad in France (18 months) and Belgium (total of five years in different periods). I have been to longer trips/courses to England and the States. But since I started traveling for work as well, I have lost track completely. Although I can say that I have never backpacked neither on inter-rail in Europe or on a trip to Asia. My backpacking experience limits itself to hikes in the Swedish mountains.

Zealous sports fans and where: Surely baseball in the States. Just imagine that you don’t know when the game will end. Or, in theory you know, but how long it will take to get those innings… The only time I went (years ago in Washington DC), “luckily” it started raining and the game had to be postponed. As you can imagine sports is not my favorite pastime. Well, except for riding then.

I’ll add the three letters of the Swedish alphabet.

Återvänder gärna till (I’d like to return to): Fort White, Florida; Charlottesville, Virginia; Stavelot, Belgium; and France of course.

Än så länge har jag inte besökt (I haven’t been to these places yet): Australia (I should be ashamed of myself since I have one of my best friends have lived there for 20 years), South Africa, Botswana… (so many places south of Sahara I’d like to go to), and South America, another continent I haven’t been to (!), Israel, Greece, Turkey and lots of other places of course.

Öar jag tycker om (Islands I like): Gotland (one of the most charming islands I know), Azores (well worth visiting), anywhere in the Swedish archipelago, and Bali of course.

Day 16 Don’t you ever make mistakes?

Do you remember the list of 30 days? I’m only through half of it, and it’s well over a month, but since I designed it to cover topics that I wanted to share with my readers – here we go. I will continue down the list as soon as I have an opportunity to do so.
And to answer the question in the headline: Of course I do! It has almost become my mantra “interpreters make mistakes”, and I also treat it in a blog post here.
The question is not whether you make mistakes or not, it’s about how you deal with mistakes. Take a court or medical interpreter for instance – if you are unsure, or spot a mistake you may have made it is your duty to report it to the parties immediately. It is your absolute responsibility that you get everything right. Your domain knowledge as a court or medical is extremely important since you have less opportunity to prepare (i.e. you can get called in with just an hour or less of warning).
I don’t mean to say that your responsibility is less when you work in a booth, or at a conference. But usually you have more time to prepare AND you have colleagues that are usually willing to help you. This means that mistakes usually are spotted and corrected fairly quickly. If terminology went wrong, the correct term will probably follow in the next sentence (a colleague wrote a note), or if a line of reasoning was misunderstood it will most surely be sorted out. How does the interpreter indicate whether it’s the speaker or the interpreter who corrects him or herself in simultaneous? Well, if it’s the speaker you’ll hear “the speaker corrects him/herself” and if it’s the interpreter “the interpreter means X or Y”.
The situation I personally like the least is in court where my language knowledge has been challenged several times just as a trick (often) from the “other” party’s lawyer, in order to discredit the counter party through the interpreter. I have had to correct myself in court too, but luckily it has not happened on the same occasions where I have been challenged. I cannot imagine the courage you would have to show in order to first defend your word choice and then stop the proceedings in order to correct yourself.
I have written earlier about my embarrassing mistake when interpreting the word piracy, in this case it was easily corrected by saying “the interpreter excuses herself in this case it should be XXX.” It is also fair to say that even if I hadn’t spotted and corrected the mistake it would hardly had been the end of the world. But I cannot stress enough how these incidents can really be dangerous. It can be absolutely crucial for an individual, but also for states as I wrote about in this post.
So, as said above, the question is not whether you make mistakes or not. The question is how you deal with it. The worst thing you can do is to not be attentive, or not care about your mistakes. A good interpreter knows about damage control. A careless, or maybe inexperienced interpreter, does not care about correcting mistakes or worse, does not admit to or realise a mistake was made.

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