Day 15 – My goals as an interpreter

Goals are interesting. In the expertise approach in psychology (the one that says that skilled performers deal with their task in the same way regardless of their field of expertise, i.e. a tennis player has the same mental way of preparing him/herself as a chess player), goals are part of the success. The fact that you have clear and pronounced goals and also that you define each part objective on your way to the BIG goal.

But what goals can you define as an interpreter. Do you have a goal for your career? Or for each interpreting? Do you have goals to learn new languages? Pass accreditation tests? Get new clients? And are these goals part of improving your interpreting skills or your career?

Personally my goals were fairly worldly as I started out, the main problem was to get enough days of work as a young interpreter fresh out of interpreting school. So my goal back then was simply to get 5 days of work per month, every day over 5 was bonus. This also went hand in hand with being professional i.e. the goal of being up to date in my languages, well prepared when arriving to meetings and a good colleague (word travels quickly if you are unpleasant to work with).

In the beginning I had to struggle with less serious agencies too, so one of the goals was to not take work where working conditions were poor or where I was not qualified. More than once I have arrived at a meeting only to discover that the language combinations were completely wrong, colleagues unqualified or missing, or that there was no booth although we had agreed on that.

So there are goals on different levels: short term; long term; interpreting wise; language wise; customer related; and related to professionalism. A person that has described this very well is Gun-Viol Vik-Tuovinen in her PhD on interpreting on different levels of competence. Her PhD exists only in Swedish, but she has several articles in English.

And my personal goals then? Well, for every meeting it is as one of my colleagues so elegantly put it: “I want to understand and to be understood, that’s the only thing that matters”. And the strive to understand goes hand in hand with being well prepared, know your languages and so forth. “Were you a good interpreter today?”, my husband asks when I get home in the evening. And the days when I can answer “yes” are the days when I reached my goals. (Maybe I should add a saving clause here saying that the fact that I’m not satisfied with my interpreting is not necessarily the same thing as your clients or colleagues being dissatisfied, you are your own harshest judge.)

And the long-term goals? First of all I love my job, I love research too, and I would really like to combine the two. Most interpreting researchers do actually. Interpreting is too much fun to just let go. So, to stay on the market is an important long-term goal. My second long term goal is to continuously improve. I want to feel that I get better every time or every year. And thirdly, I want to learn a new interpreting language. I have been striving with Dutch for years, very extensively but still. And getting a language up to interpreting level is not something that is done in five minutes with Berlitz. You can read Interpreter Diaries’ very enlightening post on that here. Considering my PhD, my struggle with Dutch will continue to be extensive for a couple of years still but then…

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

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Day 04 Daily interpreting practice

What is exercise in interpreting? Can you get better if you practice? Are interpreters born or made? In cognitive psychology there is a concept called deliberate practice. Deliberate practice a common denominator for experts, it means that you not only practice dutifully, but that you actually have a specific goal with your practice. And the goal is not just: “I’m going to be a darn good interpreter”, but: “Today, I will practice to end my sentences”, or: “This time I’m going to make sure I don’t use any ‘euh'” and so forth.
As I have studied and interviewed very experienced interpreters I have realized that interpreting practice is not just something that has to do with the interpreting exercise. It is also things as, reading newspapers in different languages, listening to the news in different languages, getting to know your speakers, for instance.
Interpreters spend much time preparing, and I would argue that the preparation is also part of the deliberate practice (if you do it properly of course). All those different activities develop and increase the interpreter’s knowledge base and this in turn improves the interpreting performance. Any interpreting teacher will tell you that interpreting is not just translating verbatim from one language to another. And once you have mastered the interpreting skill the way to improve your interpreting is to broaden your knowledge base.
So, my exercise today was; reading the newspaper, listening to the news, using my foreign languages, and blog a little bit. Today I did not interpret, but I tried to increase my knowledge base in preparation of next interpreting mission

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