Versatile Blogger Award

versatile-blogger

Life Overseas, Voice Link and Boots in the Booth passed the Versatile Blogger Award to me. Thank you so much! Sorry I was slow to take up the baton. But here we go.

In case you have missed the Versatile Blogger Award the rules go like this:

1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post – Well that’s done already.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

Seven things about myself that are not generally known to my blog readers I guess.

• The first is my favourite, people are usually so surprised that they don’t really hear what I say when I say this: My first professional training was horse logging. I also worked both with heavy horses and warm blood for a few years before changing careers.

• Two. I have said this before, but I would like to tell you anyway. I was born and raised monolingual. I have learned my languages in school. Languages and interpreting are of course closely linked, but it is well worth repeating that bilinguals are not born interpreters and interpreters are not necessarily born bilingual.

• Three. I’m a dog AND cat person (and horse), so the poor critters have to share the same roof at my place (well, horses usually get their own accommodation).

• Four. Don’t invite me for potluck, I really don’t like it, I’m useless at finding out something to make and be compared to other’s cooking talents. My cooking talents are nil, I don’t like to cook and I’m not particularly interested in home styling either. That said – Please invite me! I love to be invited home to people who set wonderful tables and excel in cooking. And I’m just as happy if you just invite me over for pizza take-out or a bag of crisps. I also really like having people over, but often opt for the easiest possible cooking, think stew or cheese and wine.

• Five. I like to be nicely dressed, but find shopping for clothes rather boring. I do not see the charm of walking from shop to shop just browsing. I hate to spend time looking at myself in a fitting room mirror. I bored after five minutes at a website with clothes. Put me in a book shop though (bot virtual and IRL) – chances are I will spend hours there and exit financially broke, but rich in stories. Last time at Waterstone’s my husband had to pull me out after two hours.

• Six. I have a near perfect sense of direction. I probably have a pathfinder somewhere among my ancestors. I cannot point out North intuitively, but put me anywhere and I will be able to navigate safely, works on sea too (at least inside skerries).

• Seven. I’ve always wished I was as well organized as this interpreter. Truth is – I’m the total opposite. Before you think I’m completely unreliable I have to say that I’m always early to meetings, and I’m always prepared. My colleagues often compliment me for being so organized. But that’s not the whole story. I have countless stories of forgotten shoes, clothes, computer chargers, books I was reading – basically everything that is not crucial for the mission. To flatter myself I explain it with – “it’s only the mission that counts”. But I’m afraid there’s more to it…

3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
Wow, 15! I’m afraid it’s not going to be only those I discovered recently, and considering I’m fairly late here, some of you risk already having received the award, but here we go:
1) 2Interpreters – Promising blog of two young interpreters graduating from interpreting school in Heidelberg
2) Daniel Greene – American Sign Language interpreter, lots of interesting posts.
3) Le Tolk – Jonathan, who also blogs in Dutch (does that count as two?)
4) Francois Grosjean’s blog – Two professors in my list. This is the first one. Interesting posts about bilingualism.
5) Language and Intercultural studies at Herriot Watts University – I think more schools should have blogs. There is Don de Lenguas too of course. I cannot think of anyone else but please challenge me!
6) Maria Cristina de la Vega‘s musings – Great woman and with lot’s of interesting interviews with other interpreters.
7) Mox! – Funniest in the interpreting/translation blogosphere (some competition from Boots in the Booth though :-). Now with book!
8) The Booth inhabitant – Young, ambitions interpreting student, mostly in Spanish :-S.
9) Tolmacka who blogs in Slovenian, but also luckily sometimes in English
10) Swedish Tess – We need some Nordic representation here too.
11) Tony Rosado – new interpreter in the blogosphere, nice! And not only interpreter.
12) I really enjoy reading professor Harris reflections.
13) I don’t read German, but I just love Caroline’s doodles.
14) I read Tiina’s blog too seldom (another Nordic, by the way), very well-expressed thoughts in French.
15) And Lionel, the Liaison Interpreter, who started the #IntJC, not a new acquaintance but very suitable for the award. Also blogs in French look at his pictures!

OK. Now on to my fourth and last task:

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.
I’m sure it will take a while. Writing this post as innocent as it may look took ages! But it was very nice to go through my blogroll again, and yes, I will update the blogroll on this page as well.

Thanks!

I hope I am a conscious competent

Did you read this great post by the Interpreter Diaries? It sent me right down memory lane. I will share some secrets with you from my early days as a budding interpreter, and follow the four stages of learning that Interpreter Diaries uses so wisely.

1. Unconscious Incompetence
I hope you understand that I’m really sharing a confidence here, so don’t tell anyone. The first time I actually saw simultaneous interpreting live was when a friend’s husband was kind enough to show me his job. I had been curious of course, that’s how he ended up telling me that I could visit him one day at his work. There was a dummy booth (i.e. a silent booth, one that the delegates cannot tune into) in the meeting and the head of the team agreed that I could sit there and try for myself. And did I try! I was so good at this, actually I didn’t find it very hard to interpret from English into Swedish or into French or from French into English or anything really! Piece of cake! I am embarrassed to this day that I even told my friend’s husband that it wasn’t difficult at all, not even into foreign languages. He’d probably heard about the four stages of learning, because he never held that against me, instead he encouraged me to go into interpreting school, which I did.

2. Conscious Incompetence
And I surely hit the wall – with a supersonic bang! It’s like one of my students recently told me: “Now I know exactly what interpreting is and why I cannot do it”. It taught me a lot of humility too. In the beginning I struggled to understand what it was I was expected to do. I was a very eager learner, but I had some difficulty understanding exactly what I was expected to learn though. I mean, of course I understood learning symbols for note taking or doing consecutive exercises. But what was all this about “gist” and “sense” and how did you actually know that you had transferred that “meaning”, and why were my teachers never satisfied. Today, I see the same confusion in my students’ eyes, and I begin to understand exactly how difficult it is to teach it too, not just to learn it. (By the way I LOVE the fact that English has one word for teach and one word for learn.) . For me it was somewhere between the end of interpreting school and the first years of experience that I went from the feeling of constant incompetence to some competence.

3. Conscious Competence
It is so hard when you think you master “it” and your teachers keep telling you: “It takes at least five years to become a professional interpreter”. I mean you graduate from interpreting school, you even pass a freelance test for some important institution, and your older colleagues will still go round telling you that in a few years’ time you may be mature. On top of that there are days when you stumble out of your interpreting job, be it a booth, in court or a medical appointment and feel – incompetent. But it is also somewhere at this point when you realize what you need to do and how to do it. When I graduated from interpreting school, I continued to do consecutive exercises with a friend regularly for over a year. My bag when going to meetings weighed tons, because when I started lap-tops and electronic dictionaries were unheard of (well – at least, way too expensive). “I see you’re still using crutches” one of my older colleagues kindly commented when I unpacked dictionary after dictionary.

4. Unconscious Competence
I’m not sure any professional interpreter would tell you they master their skill to perfection. Or if they do, you should be suspicious. On lucky days it’s tangible, you’ve got flow, interpreting is really like that second nature. Anything uttered can be clad into another language’s shape. But then again, we work with new topics, new languages, new contexts, new speakers, and then you’re back again to the third stage. This is also part of the expert nature (you know the expertise approach I have been talking about here for instance). The deliberate practice part of the expert personality challenges you to go back and evaluate and refine your performance, constantly. Another important part of this (maybe only for me in my researcher hat), is the implicit, or tacit, knowledge. This is comparable to an excellent rider who just “has it” in his or hers hands, seat and legs. You just “know”, without necessarily knowing what exactly it is you know or how to verbalize it.

So, I do agree with Interpreter Diaries on the four steps, and hopefully today, I think I have developed into at least step 3 and on some days maybe even step 4.

What about Interpreters and Stress? Is stress in interpreting a myth?

I have colleagues who have night mares about looking for the booth, running around in maze-like corridors without ever finding your way to the booth. I cannot remember night mares like that. On the other hand I remember real life situations when I was completely stressed out sitting on a bus, in a taxi, on a train that does not simply arrive on time. So much for stress around the job, but what about stress on task.

I think the worst stress situations for me in the interpreting event is when you sit in the same room as you clients and you realize that they for one reason or another do not believe what you say. And you have to take back your clients trust.

So much for my personal reflections. Interpreters and stress was the topic of the second Interpreting Journal Club #IntJC. You can read the chat here #IntJC Session 2, September 24th. I have been meaning to write up my impressions and what I’ve learned from the second Tweetchat for quite a while now but time flies as usual. Maria Cristina de la Vega wrote a very nice report here. My participation record of #IntJC has not been splendid. I was particularily annoyed to miss out on the one about ethical issues. I will try to write up blog posts on the different issues dealt with based on my own experience and the protocols from the chats.

People’s general perception of interpreting is also that this must be very stressful, people hear you are an interpreter, and often respond – “but it must be very stressful”. So what did the interpreters present at the discussion think about it.

First of all, to a certain extent stress is positive, but the interpreter easily crosses the line to negative stress. Stress – or maybe excitement – is positive if you can cope with it. It keeps you on your toes and several participants felt that it helps you deal with the situation at hand, but when stress takes over it makes you “freeze”. @DosParules defined positive stress as the fuel that makes your engine react and negative stress as the one with you cannot cope and makes you freeze. @avic1 beautifully said when excitement turns into anxiety that’s when the stress gets negative. Stress also affects your performance. If you’re stressed your performance decline, you have to cope and stay serene.
It turned out though that these interpreters stress less about the actual interpreting and more about the stress around work, technology, working conditions, documentation, location of the meeting and so forth. Stress also comes from many things that are not necessarily work related (personal situation, environmental factors etc). Interestingly enough, stress form speakers and colleagues can be contagious. @MariaCdelaVega2 rightly pointed out that you should not waste your time on the imponderables. So true, but so difficult not to, if you ask me.

Different ways to deal with the stress in the situation were voiced, those were breathing, sticking to the topic, imposing a calm attitude, stay neutral. Different participants also had different ways of how they behaved under stress, it could be cognitive, subjective or behavioural, i.e. people’s performance goes down, they get moody and they start to move around.

It can be very stressful to see that you are not understood, or to not understand what you have to interpret. In some situations the interpreter can be used as scape goat, a situation which is stressful for the interpreter. Another issue is clients’ unrealistic demands, since you’re the interpreter of X-language you can probably interpret Y-language too. When you are not in the booth, but next to your client, your clients perceive your stress and that becomes stressful too. Only @lioneltokyo had the experience of working in a crisis/conflict situation, but all interpreters agreed that those situations are likely to be extremely stressful but in another way than the “usual” work stress.

Preparation can be stressful too, for instance when you have difficulties preparing yourself or when you are not enough prepared. Preparation is more stressful for beginners than for experienced interpreters. Jobs that come up last minute are very stressful and some even say no to them because of stress.
Is interpreting more stressful than other jobs? The participants said that it is more stressful than many jobs, but it does not deal with life and death or other extreme jobs.

On the issue of how interpreters deal with stress on a more general level, we all agreed that having a life outside interpreting was important. Participants also stressed an active life, running yoga and so forth.

So what have I been up to

I realize I’ve been very silent the past couple of weeks. I don’t lack ideas, just time. Here’s a short overview of what I’ve been up to. I will try to get back on track on the blog as well.

First of all, I’ve finished my Interpreting Theory course at the University of Bergen. My studetnts have completed their compulsory work and are now doing their exam paper. I had some really interesting term papers and I’m looking forward to reading the exam papers. Way to go! You’re doing a great job guys, I’m so proud of you!

I gave my second and last class on terminology for the conference interpreting students at TöI in Stockholm. There too I was happy to see that students are serious about what they do.

Second, I was part of the organizing committee for the Text-Process-Text conference in Stockholm. The conference topic was process research in interpreting and translation studies and it was a huge success. At the conference we also officially handed over this volume to Birgitta Englund Dimitrova for her birthday.

Directly after that conference I co-organised AIIC Nordic countries’ regional meeting. We were very happy that Miriam Shlesinger agreed to stay for our regional meeting, she gave a talk that was very appreciated by the interpreters present. Personally, I think I have to make a mental note that it can be very burdensome to organize two conferences one after the other even if you are only a co-organizer.

I have also had the opportunity to interpret a few days and also meet The Interpreter Diaries IRL.

So now you know a little about what I’ve been up to during my silence. What have you been up to during November? For interpreters and teachers, one of the busiest months!

Self assessment

Although I often like to picture my students as readers when I blog, this post is in particular for you, dear students. The idea came after a very pleasant lunch with an aspiring interpreter. We shared ideas and experiences, personally I was probably very close to a perfect personification of the benevolent granny: “I remember when I was…” Anyhow, I realized that my future colleague could use a few hints on self asssessment and out of classroom practice. I have touched upon practice and learning consecutive earlier. But this post is particularly aimed at giving tips on practice and self assessment.

If you are going to improve and grow as an interpreter practice and self-evaluation is essential. You have to listen to yourself critically, identify areas that can be improved and work on them. Here’s my own step-by-step guide to how to do it. This guide assumes you have gotten basic notions of interpreting and what interpreting teachers are looking for. I will give you ideas on how to correct yourself, but you can probably not follow this guide as a DIY interpreting school. I should also say that there are a million ways to practice and assess yourself, these hints are just a few of my personal ideas that have worked well for me and for my students (or so they tell me). They are a mix of tips I got myself and things that I found out worked for me.

One – Equipment
Get yourself a good mp3 memory, small in size but big in memory. It should be small, with a good mike and good recording quality. Always carry your memory (charged or with extra batteries) with you.

Two – When and how much?
Take every opportunity to practice. If you’re lucky enough to get into a dummy booth, just take out your memory and interpret away. But don’t forget to put on your mp3 memory. If you find yourself in a situation where you can take consecutive notes, then do. Maybe you will have the opportunity to interpret just a little later from your notes. And by all means have your friends, girl/boyfriends, and family give you speeches. And practice often! Every day in short units. But don’t overdo it either, your brain needs som rest as well.

Three – Get the original
Ideally you would want to get the original speech to compare to your own interpreting. There are several ways to do this: a) ask a friend to read speeches to you that you take off the Internet. The Internet is such a wealth of speeches, for instance, most governments and organizations post speeches from their front figures on the web for the press to use. But remember that if your friend reads it, s/he has to adapt the speed. Read speeches can literally be impossible. b) Use the internet and listen to uploaded speeches, news, interviews that you can interpret either simultaneously or consecutively – think You Tube. c) News flashes on the radio. 3 minutes every hour or half-hour and unless something big happens they tend to be the same several times in a row. You can interpret one and then listen to the next one and compare your notes and interpreting(again, remember it’s fast).

Four – Assess
The most painful part of this exercise is to listen to yourself. The first thing here is to get used to listen to your own voice, most people are not used to listen to themselves and find it difficult. You just have to get over it, just like ballet dancers have to get over looking at themselves in the mirror. Then you have to get used to listen critically, and now we are getting to the really crucial point about self assessment.
1) Listen to the overall presentation. One of my friends once complimented another colleague by saying, you sound like a skilled story teller reading from a book. This is what you want it to sound like. No “ahms” or “uhms”, no excessive use of “ands and buts”, no extra sounds. If you’re not producing real words you close your mouth – full stop. And speaking of full stops – finish your sentences! You don’t want to leave your listeners wondering what’s coming next. You can break up the speaker’s sentence in several shorter ones, but make sure to finish them. Also listen to how you come across when it comes to intonation, do you sound sure of what you say or unsure? Do you give a trustworthy impression or not? Do you take your listeners by the hand and guide them through the presentation?
2) Now you have to listen to what you actually convey. Do you interpret what the speaker say or something else? You listen for terminology of course, but also for nuances. Do you interpret what the speaker says or are you perhaps changing the message slightly. This is NOT about using all the words and the same words. I guess we already agree that a word for word interpreting is not the ideal here. You want to say exactly what the speaker says, but in your language and your own words.

Five – Keep a log
Keep a log book of your evaluation. Doesn’t have to be very detailed, but you want to keep a record of what type of speeches (e.g. general politics, easy, 10 min, French>English), your goal (e.g. interpret without interruption for 10 minutes/use a political register/avoid using “and” in the beginning of the sentences) and how you succeeded.

Six – Ask for feed back
Ask your fellow students to help you, ask your family to listen to you, and, if you have the possibility, ask a professional interpreter.

Seven – Set goals for your improvement
Based on your assessment you set goals for the next exercise. Tangible goals such as: “I’m going to interpret without interruption for five minutes” or “I’m not going to use any extra-sounds this time” or “I will use the new vocabulary (word X,Y and Z) or the new set phrases I’ve learned”.

And a final word, you start with easy texts and as you feel more confident you add difficulty. If you are aiming for a conference interpreter test you will want to be able to interpret effortlessly in consecutive for more than six minutes and in simultaneous mode for 20 minutes.

And remember the old story about the tourist in New York who was lost and unknowingly asked Arthur Rubinstein “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”. Rubinstein answered: “Practice, practice, practice.”

Good luck and Go for it!

#IntJC – first session. What did I learn?

Last Saturday was extremely busy. I was at a blog meet with other Swedish bloggers in Brussels courtesy Brysselkakan. And in the middle of that lunch our first Interpreting Journal Club started. For those still not initiated to the #IntJC read this decicated website or this blog. But despite eating cakes and going home on the bus I managed to participate fairly well. Thanks to Lionel there is also an archive of the discussions and I would like to dedicate this post to what I learned from the discussions.

The first meeting dealt with interpreter’s personality. We had all read the Nicholson-Schweda article and many of us had also done the Myers-Briggs personality test. First thing that struck me was that of all those who participated (15 people from all over the planet, so different culture, different languages and so forth) and had taken the test there was no clear trend of personalities, we were spread over all the different personalities. This further supports my claim that the Schweda-Nicholson study may say something about interpreting students personality (with that specific cultural background), but not about interpreters. The test may tell us alot about our personality, but not necessarily anything about us as interpreters. There are probably as many interpreting personalities as there are interpreters. The research paper also seems to be focussing on conference interpreting and the professional personality you use as a conference interpreter is not necessarily the same as the one you develop as a community interpreter.

As teachers we are longing for better screening or aptitude tests. It’s so sad that we have entrance tests where we really try to single out the student’s that will be successful and we still have a 50 % fail rate. There’s something we’re doing wrong there. HOWEVER, personality does not seem like the thing to screeen. Also, student develop at different rates. So does the entrance exams spot students with a potential to become interpreter or students who already possess the skill?

The problem with the study is that the MBTI test is grossly western oriented. But it’s interesting to find that there are many different personalities among student’s too. And of course the problem mentionnned above that only students are tested. The author of the study also uses many sweeping descriptions when she outlines her personalities. The interpreters present at #IntJC all found these terribly sweeping. Considering we are all of different nationalities living in different cultures, many of us living in another culture than the one you grew up in we are probably extra sensitive to these generalizations.

Many of the participants also said the went into the role of the speaker. Similarily to what an actor does. This also supports the fact that you would maybe not seem to be the personality you “truly” are. On top of that one of the participants said that he’d done the test twice and gotten different results.

We went on for an hour and twenty minutes and at the end of the meeting we got into stress. Lionel therefore suggested we’d discuss stress on the next #IntJC on September 24th. All the preparation is here.

So, once again – Thank you Lionel for organising this. It’s a great learning/networking/discussion experience. So well needed in our community.

Being a travelling interpreter, mom, spouse and friend

The interpreter diaries commented in my post about what we talk about in the booth. She said that as a mother she often discussed issues around managing your life as mother and interpreter with colleagues who had a similar situation. I said then that it is an issue that deserves a post of its own, so here we go.

I started off as an interpreter 18 months before my first child was born. So clearly being a mother and an interpreter has been very intertwined for me. I interpreted (locally) two days before I went into labour and I started again when my daughter was three months old. When she was five months we went on our first assignment abroad.

Interpreting and free-lancing is a great job when you have children. I have been able to be at home with them for all their holidays. I spend eight weeks of summer holiday, two for Christmas, one in November, one in February and two over Easter – every year. On the other hand it’s horrible. I have lost count of the number of birthdays, school performances, medical appointments and sick days I have missed. For my son’s birthday this year I participated over skype. You feel utterly horrible when your child has a fever and you have to rely on relatives, au-pair girls or at best that your husband does not have an important meeting or is travelling as well. I felt horrible this morning when I had to take my daughter to the emergency room as she had hurt herself and she quite naturally comments: It’s a good thing it didn’t happen on Wednesday when you were away.

The same thing goes for spouse and friend. You need to have a patient partner who is secure in his own role and you need to have good friends who don’t mind waiting. You are the best spouse and friend when you’re not on mission. Long nice lunches with the girls, dinner’s ready for hubby and children are already done with homework and other tasks. Lot’s of time to fix things and hold everything together. On the other hand, when you’re away, you’re simply not there. Hubby becomes the sole provider of dinner, homework support, sick days, parent-teacher meetings and your friends can wait for weeks without a phone call. Now, I’m naturally very bad at remembering birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates, but travelling does not help things.

So, how do you make it happen? Well, first of all rigorous planning and equal amount of flexibility. You have to plan everything minutely and be totally open for all the plans to fail when a child is ill or a flight is cancelled. Secondly, good support around you. My parents passed away early so I have not been able to count on them for support (and maybe that’s not too bad, I hear my colleagues say that they put a burden on their parents they don’t feel comfortable with), but since my second child was six months and the first 18 months I’ve had very nice au-pair girls. Although, having an au-pair girl (or boy) is like having a distant relative living with you. You develop a very close relationship, but it’s still someone working for you. Tricky – but of the ten au-pair girls who has stayed with us over the years I have only had two who resigned early, another two decided to stay for an extra six months. Nowadays, the children are bigger and they prefer taking care of themselves when we’re not around, so far it works out well with homework and so forth. But I also have friends and neighbours who are absolutely great and who come running to our support when things just don’t work out. Like when I was in Spain for 10 days and my husband had a minor catastrophe at work and had to work 12 hour days and week-end. Dear, wonderful Mitt Belgien came every morning at seven to give the children breakfast and see them off to school and came back in the evening to help with homework and put them to bed.

Interestingly enough, the children dislike my travelling more as they get older. When they were very young travelling was sort of something natural and part of what mummy did, but as they grow older I guess they start seeing how other families function and maybe they also get better at putting words on feelings. Maybe they need you in another way when they are older. I have a colleague who once took a term off to support her 13-year-old. Unfortunately for me, they also go to a school where many of the mothers are stay at home mums, so I guess I struggle in headwind there. But as my supervisor once said encouragingly: “You are really being a role model for your girls”. And in case you wonder – Yes, it’s worth every minute of it and all the planning, and all the bad consience. The job is extremely rewarding and I very much like the fact that I can be there for the children so much more than I would have been able to as an employee, although I would probably have a higher “being there on birthdays”-score.

The Interpreting Journal Club

Doesn’t it sound a little like the Pickwick Papers or Phileas Fogg’s Reform Club? Well it may be a little less romantic but it’s certainly a completely new initiative for the interpreting world. Lionel Dersot of the Liaison Interpreter has modelled a TweetChat event after the Twitter Journal club for Medical Studies. The idea as simple as ingenious. Interested parties prepare by reading an article and decide a time to meet on Twitter or in TweetChat to discuss it. The hashtag is #IntJC.
The first article to read is about interpreting personality. The article is written by Nancy Schweda Nicolson and can be downloaded here. If you would like to take the test too it’s here. I’m an ENFP, in case you wondered.
The time and date is set for September 10th at 10 pm Tokyo time which means September 10th 3 pm Brussels time.
You can read all the details at the site Lionel created for this event here.
As you can see from Lionel’s presentation the idea is that it’s going to be an open forum for people in the industry as well as for students and other interested parties. Interpreters of all kinds.
So do sign in and join the discussion next Saturday!

Welcome to my new students

Thursday and Friday this week marked the start of this years introduction to interpreting course at the University of Bergen. So I would like to say welcome to my students. Welcome to an interesting course. I hope this will be a term filled with refections on communication, interpreting, ethics and language.

In this blog you can find posts relating to issues we’ve discussed during class. All those posts are marked with tag “TOLKHF“. Please feel free to discuss or ask questions.

You may also find my list “30 days on interpreting” interesting. I’m half way through now. You can view the list here.

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.