The Linguist

The Linguist 53,1

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 18 of 35

Vol/53 No/1 2014 FEBRUARY/MARCH The Linguist 19 FEATURES As clients do not always understand what interpreters require, mobile booths can be placed behind a pillar or in such a way that you are not able to see the presentations on screen properly. These are the downsides of going unnoticed. When this happens, you may spend most of your time looking around the sides of the pillar, which is strenuous on the neck muscles, or trying to decipher what is written on the screen, which can give you a headache. My colleague and I agree on where we want to sit in the booth. I often work with booth partners I know, but when I am working with someone new, I make sure I ask them how they work. Who will interpret first? How long should each interpreting turn last (usually 30 minutes)? Do they want me to write down numbers or names? This is important, as some colleagues need their own space and get distracted if their partner starts scribbling figures on a notepad. Communication is key at a conference – both inside and outside the booth – so we also agree on a sign to hand over the microphone. Although I have all the required documents and the agenda on my notebook, I also like to have a hard copy of the presentations, which I arrange in front of me on the (limited) table space, without invading my booth partner's space. In terms of customising your working environment, you can also bring your own headphones in case those provided are uncomfortable or unsatisfactory. Some colleagues prefer to work with a notebook, others with a tablet. The working space is very limited, usually just big enough to store a bag and a coat. Sometimes interpreting equipment is put inside the booth behind the interpreters, making matters worse. Prepare for the unexpected An interpreting job starts much earlier than the event itself, as interpreters need to research the subject they will work on. With time, you learn how to do your research as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes interpreters are lucky enough to be sent the agenda, preparatory documents, speakers' names, speeches and/or a delegates list. Sometimes, all we know is the conference title, end-client's name, place and time. Having a good look at the agenda, if you have it, can help you to identify the information you need to research, or give you an idea of the nationality (and accent) of the speakers. Even if you have been sent all the material in advance, the speaker can make lengthy digressions from their presentation, or even speak in a different language than they had initially planned. As an experienced interpreter, I still have some apprehension at the start of a conference: you never know what a speaker is going to throw at you. Prepare for the unpredictable! This is a job where you have to improvise and find solutions on the spot. Before I start, I try to relax my muscles and adopt a good posture. When I was studying for my MA in Interpreting, a voice coach gave me some useful advice: put both feet on the ground, breathe calmly and think of your posture. Slouching on your microphone is not good for your voice, as the neck and windpipe need to be relaxed, while stress can also make you contract your neck and back muscles. When interpreting, you need to make sure that the volume in your headphones is comfortable. Ears are possibly your most precious tool, so you want to keep them healthy as long as you can by making sure the volume is not too high. When my first turn ends, I hand over the mic and relax a little. However, I take advantage of the break to look up any terminology that I am unsure of. I continue listening to the speech in order to help my colleague with any names or figures that they may not understand, and so that I know where the discussion is headed. Time for a coffee break. I try to get some fresh air at this stage, but I sometimes use breaks to discuss terminology with my booth partner, research terminology and look at the next presentation or speech. Interpreters usually have lunch with colleagues, but on some occasions we get to have lunch with our clients. Sometimes lunch is provided, sometimes interpreters' meals are not catered for. At the end of the day, some interpreters like to meet with colleagues for dinner; some prefer to rest; and others may have translation work planned. It is also time to relax your voice: after a day in the booth, I often have a sore throat. The days can be very long, so you need a good rest, both physically and mentally. Usually, hotel rooms are more than suitable for a short stay, with a desk and good wi-fi access most of the time. To cope with mental and physical stress, at home or away, I find that exercising regularly and knowing a few relaxation techniques is very helpful. Interpreting is often described as one of the most stressful professions, but although it is challenging, I couldn't wish for a more intellectually stimulating and rewarding job. Every working week is different. You have to be curious and willing to learn throughout your career; you sometimes work in beautiful places or at high-profile events; you become resourceful, as you need to think on your feet and find solutions quickly; you work as a team; you are a bridge between cultures, people and languages; and for 30 minutes at a time, you are someone else's voice. First and foremost, the feeling of enabling communication between people who would otherwise not have been able to understand each other is priceless. Paracetamol, Strepsils and eye drops are essential, as I often get a sort throat, headache or itchy eyes AT THE 'OFFICE' Charlotte in the booth, with her notebook, hard copy of the presentation and a bottle of water The working space is very limited… Sometimes interpreting equipment is put inside the booth

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