I really admire interpreters.
I am no interpreter myself. I am simply unable to master this craft. When I have to switch from one language to the other, say some foreign language that I don’t speak well and my mother tongue, I  need an adaptation period. And when I try to do it instantaneously, my brain freezes. ‘Error: Does not compute’. It’s frustrating.
That is why whenever I am attending a convention or a conference where the services of an interpreter are needed, more often than not I cannot help but observe him/her, marveling at their capacity to memorize long strings of information, process them and say them out loud in a completely different language, with different words, different sentence structures and different pronunciations, all the while still listening to the speaker to keep on translating what he is saying in real time.
And that is why, even though most people look at me weirdly when I do, I usually go to the stage at the end of the speech to congratulate the interpreter, while the rest rush to congratulate the speaker. To me, they both merit great respect, but the former doesn’t always get the credit he/she deserves.
Interpreting is an art form in itself, and only a chosen few are apt for the task. It’s not just about speaking several languages; it’s about memory and improvisation. It’s about hearing something and trying to make sense of it in a whole other dimension, molding a cube to make it fit into a sphere, and all of that in mere seconds.
Some languages are harder to interpret than others, but generally speaking, every language has a personality of its own. Some are faster, some slower; some are more practical, some are more prosaic; some are more prone to metaphors, and some others are straight to the point. And what makes it even harder is when the interpreted speaker doesn’t understand this. As witty and charismatic as a person may be, when translating his/her words into another language, the jokes can turn into inappropriate comments, or a play on words can turn into a forced, unnecessary conversation twist. And of course, when a long speech is interpreted for an audience, that speech will turn into an even longer, less dynamic and with slower rhythm.
When you are thinking of using the services of an interpreter, it is important to keep in mind all of these details, and act accordingly:
  • Keep your sentences short and concise.
  • Delete parts of the speech that can be avoided, like long strings of adjectives, or repetitions.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, so that your interpreter can understand every word correctly.
  • Try to make pauses between sentences to give the interpreter some time to finish the translation.
  • Keep jokes very generic, making sure that your audience will understand them. In case of doubt, ask your interpreter.




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