The Linguist

The Linguist 54,6

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 16 of 35 DECEMBER 2015/JANUARY 2016 The Linguist 17 STARTING OUT GAINING EXPERIENCE Once qualified, I spent six years working as an in-house translator in Paris, first at a French investment bank and then at a financial translation agency. But my dream of being an interpreter was still at the back of mind, impatiently tapping its (itchy) foot. I put out feelers with friends and classmates, and spruced up my CV to bring my interpreting experience to the fore. Then came a call from a network of freelance interpreters specialising in nuclear safety, and soon I was on a train to Lyon for my first consecutive interpreting assignment at a nuclear power plant. It was just as exciting as it sounds! To prepare, I reached out to a family friend who is a specialist in the field. Over Skype, he shared his knowledge of nuclear power and we brainstormed on the kind of issues that could arise. Even so, on day one, I found myself wondering what I had got myself into and how I would possibly last an entire week. Yet at the end of day three, I received positive feedback from both the inspector and his counterpart. I had a steep learning curve ahead before becoming fluent in the technical jargon, but overall it was a thumbs-up. For my next assignment I was able to shadow a senior colleague. It is a great learning experience to see a more experienced interpreter at work, watch their body language and hear their voice, but this is only possible if the client agrees and, more practically, if there is space for you. Getting feedback from colleagues and doing your own self-assessment is an effective means of identifying weaknesses, so you can focus on what you can do to improve. Four years and a lot of interpreting later, I still find it helpful to work on my note-taking skills. For this, Virgina Valencia's Note-Taking Manual and accompanying audio exercises are particularly useful ( note-taking). DREAMING BIGGER In 2015, I made my first forays into the world of conference interpreting by completing a six-week introductory course given by a top conference interpreter and trainer, which I had found out about on the website of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC; It was immensely challenging – at times overwhelming – but I came away not only with a grin and a heady sense of achievement, but also with an invitation to practise my newly acquired skills in a dummy booth at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg during the Parliamentary Assembly. Interpreters use the dummy booths (cabines muettes in French) to apply their strategies and techniques in real conditions, only with the console switched off so that no one outside the booth can hear them. My booth buddies were a recently qualified conference interpreter and a fellow conference interpreter in training. Over three days, we worked as a team, and I was dazzled every time I tuned into the interpreters working in the online booths. Unforgettably, on the first day, I went on just as Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, took the floor. The speech repository of the European Commission ( eu/sr) is an excellent resource for refreshing your consecutive and conference interpreting skills. It has speeches for all levels and in all the official languages of the European Union. SFT, France's largest professional translator's union ( evenement/accueil/index) also offers CPD for interpreters. The most recent course focused on the non-cognitive aspects of interpreting – the body (the interpreter's instrument), posture, voice, breathing – and covered relaxation, face and voice exercises, and other useful techniques. Making it as an interpreter requires a lot of hard work, time and focus. And it is absolutely vital to keep learning and developing your skills. But for the excitement, intellectual challenges, adventure and human interaction, the extra hours are worth it. HIGH-PROFILE CLIENTS UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (below), whose words Bianca interpreted at the Council of Europe (above left); and an interpreter arrives at the European Parliament in Strasbourg (below right) IMAGES: © SHUTTERSTOCK ADRIAN GRYCUK VIA FLICKR (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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