The Linguist

The Linguist 59,5 - October/November 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 11 of 35

hope they'll book an interpreter that'll support our Miss Vietnam candidate." It fell on Miss Vietnam herself to defend the interpreter and explain the challenges of the interpreter's role to her followers on social media. This may not have been solely good grace on H'Hen Niê's part, but also due to the unusually close relationship that forms between client and interpreter during these contests. The interpreter often acts as chaperone during the weeks of cultural trips, interviews, photoshoots and events leading up to the finale, meaning that friendships and loyalties develop, as well as a deeper understanding of each other's work. Friendships with clients Hinds-Mingo, who worked as a chaperone- interpreter at Miss World for three weeks in the UK (2011) and five weeks in China (2012), explains: "Chaperone is an umbrella term; it felt as if we were their mother, their babysitter, their logistics organiser. You're basically there to make sure the girls are prepared and to constantly be in communication with them – a shoulder to cry on, a cheerleader if they're feeling down." She worked 18-hour days along with about 15 other interpreters, each with a group of 6-8 contestants, and describes the experience as "pretty hardcore". About a third of her group needed support in her languages, whether to understand instructions, participate in events and interviews or communicate with fellow contestants. They all stayed in the same hotels, rooming in pairs (interpreter with interpreter, contestant with contestant). Forming friendships with clients would usually be considered unprofessional, but W hen Patch Magtanong failed to win Miss International 2019, fans in her native country were quick to blame the interpreter, who was accused of omitting parts of the Filipino contestant's final speech. Trained to be 'invisible' conduits for communication, interpreters suddenly find themselves in the spotlight when working at the 'Big Four' pageants (Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Earth and Miss International), as the final shows are broadcast to more than half a billion people around the world. In this high-pressure world, where every move a contestant makes is analysed and critiqued, it is not unusual for commentators to point the finger at the interpreter if their favourite doesn't win. "People from the girl's country say the interpreter ruined the answer by translating it inappropriately," explains pageant judge and consultant Richard John Isa. One blogger went so far as to claim: "There is no doubt that translators can make or break a candidate." But is it realistic to expect linguists to deliver beautifully constructed interpretations amid the challenging conditions of a live show? Renata Laureano isn't convinced. When she worked on the Miss World final for a Brazilian TV channel in 2012 and 2013 she wasn't even sure she would be able to hear the winner's name when it was announced. As well as potential sound issues, there are other unknowns. For Jessica Hinds-Mingo, one of the difficulties was that she was interpreting for Miss World candidates from several hispanic countries, each with their own vocabulary and slang. "There are some words that I'm just not aware of. Behind the scenes, I would ask the contestant 'what does FEATURES Miranda Moore enters a world of pageant interpreting, where linguists might be called on to console distraught competitors, or be blamed when they fail that mean?', but I couldn't have done that during the live broadcast," she says. Isa recalls an incident at a smaller competition when an interpreter got 'stuck', whether due to nerves or because there was a word she didn't understand. "That's when I realised the importance of prearranging how you're going to do the interpreting at these contests," he says. "Some girls talk very fast, so you can have this whole speech and the interpreter is standing there having to interpret it all. They've got to say beforehand, 'if you have a long answer, give me a chance to interpret; leave some pauses." Laureano didn't have that luxury, as she was interpreting from a TV studio in Brazil. Instead, she did as much preparation as possible, researching cultural sites in the host country and practising the names of all the contestants. However, there was still a fear that during the Q&A session before the panel of judges someone might name a place of interest in their home country, or a cultural event, which she couldn't quite get. It didn't help that she was working alone on live TV for two and half hours without a break. "There were moments when I did not get the exact sentence," she admits. "I knew what they were talking about but you have to be able to improvise a little. You're on live TV so you have to say something. You cannot say things that are wrong but you can generalise." Yet it is precisely this summary-style interpreting that has led to criticism of pageant interpreters in the past. The Vietnamese interpreter at Miss Universe 2018 was slammed by blogger Isabelle Du: "Quickly did a translation of what the world should've heard instead. Moving forward, I Interpreting beauty 12 The Linguist Vol/59 No/5 2020

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