Let me introduce myself – the interpreter’s introduction

Vector handshake

Vector handshake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When you arrive at a meeting where you will interpret, you will have to introduce yourself. Well, maybe not if you’re part of the staff at an international institution, then you’ll just slip into your booth and do your job. But in all other contexts you will have to tell somebody who you are and what you’re doing there. So how do you go about it?

 

When I arrive at a more conference-like meeting I will just see the person responsible for the interpreters and a short: “I’m Elisabet Tiselius, Swedish booth”, will do. The only thing they’re interested in is that we are there and ready to start working. If there’s a particular tricky terminology or concept you may go and see your delegate and ask for clarification or explanation, but otherwise you sit tight and wait for the meeting to start. Continue reading

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Day 14 – One thing you didn’t know about interpreting

Well, a couple of things actually…
What do interpreters talk about when they meet? You may think (at least if you suffer from a slight persecution mania) that we discuss our clients alot. We do talk about our clients of course, but probably not what you think and most likely not as much as you think.
If we discuss our clients it’s usually their performance as a speaker. We comment on speaking speed because speed is important to our own performance. We love good speakers and comment on that. But very few interpreters I know make personal comments about their clients, they are our clients and all interpreters I know are very consiencious about the professional secrecy.
When we debrief over a coffee or beer it is usually our own failings we discuss. When did I not live up to my own standards, what did I miss in that presentation, when did I have to stop my client/rely on my colleague to check a word? Why couldn’t I render exactly what s/he said?
We also talk a lot about terminology. Terminology is probably our pet subject. What do you use for this? I think it’s so hard to find an equivalent to that.
Sometimes we also talk about ethical problems – what would you have done in a similar situation?
And last, a personal confession, at smaller conferences or in a social setting I sometimes get the impression that my clients think that I am just as interested and engaged in their topic/area/problem as they are. I’m sorry to disappoint you here, but I’m rarely as engaged in my clients’ problem as they are. I usually find it interesting, sometimes fascinating as an interpreted situation, I may enjoy interpreting it and I will always be faithful. But I will not go home at night and continue to solve their problems.
This is of course my personal list. The things I experience with my colleagues. If you don’t agree or if you would like to add something. Please comment.

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

Interpreters’ responsibility

On May 12, 2008 Eric Camayd-Freixas interpreted at hearings of almost 400 illegal immigrants who were arrested in a raid at a meatplant in Potsville. After the hearings he decided to breach his professional secrecy and circulated a 14-page long account of the hearings in which he points out all the irregularities that were committed by the authorities. You can read more about this here. I have always admired so called whistle blowers. It is a very delicate and difficult task to stand up and point out irregularities if you are part of an organisation or system which the interpreter in this case definitely was. However, an interpreter’s professional secrecy is absolutely crucial to the profession. In an ideal world we would have debriefing sessions for interpreters. That would create a possibility for interpreters to share their experiences without breaking the professional secrecy and in extreme cases like the one of Mr. Camayd-Freixas he would not be left alone with the very important decision he had to take, i.e. denouncing authorities. Sometimes we end up in difficult situation due to agencies, I have for instance interpreted a paedophilia case eight-months-pregnant, sometimes missions that seemed totally straight forward end up in a very complicated situation, like when the defence lawyer decided to make the interpreter look like an ignorant in order to make the witness less credible (the defence lawyer actually apologized at the end of the day). We carry all sorts of similar experiences that we cannot share in order not to breach our professional secrecy.

In South Africa after apartheid a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established. The aim of the TRC was that everyone who had committed a crime during apartheid was free to witness in front of the TRC and ask for pardon. The witness was recorded and the person then granted pardon. People who were directly or indirectly victims were often present at the hearings and everything was interpreted simultaneously into the 13 official South African languages. This process was very fruitful for the restarting of South Africa, but the ones who suffered very much during this process were the interpreters. It became so difficult for them to bear all these dreadful stories that a special debriefing program had to be organised. “I am the filter that all pain is sifted through” said one of the interpreters in for the TRC. Their work has become a theatre performance that has been touring world wide. Should you come across it I strongly recommend that you see it. You can explore all this at The Truth in Translation Project.