How Those Incredible #Interpreters Do It | #Psychology Today

How Those Incredible Interpreters Do It

Part 2: A freelance language interpreter tells us about his profession.

Posted Apr 30, 2019

Interview conducted by François Grosjean

I have always been fascinated by language interpreters. I wrote in the teaser of my first post on the topic that we often take the work of interpreters for granted, and yet they accomplish one of the most difficult linguistic tasks humans can undertake. They are special bilinguals par excellence. Several years have gone by since that post and what better way to come back to it than to find out about the profession by interviewing an interpreter. Iain Whyte, who heads an interpreting and translation agency in the Paris region, grew up speaking both English and French. He has been active all of his life as a language professional, be it in the written or the spoken modality, and has very kindly accepted to answer my questions.

In what way did growing up bilingual and bicultural help you become a professional interpreter?

I was born in India of a French mother and a British father, and lived there for about nine years. My parents used the one person-one language approach and when we left, I was fully bilingual, although slightly more dominant in English due to my English schooling there. I then spent the next ten years in boarding schools in England but lived in France four months of the year where my parents had settled.

I went to university in France, first Paris Nanterre University and then Sciences Po, the Paris based research university in the social sciences, and had no problem fitting in. The grounding I received there in politics and economics, and my fluency in my two languages, were a good starting point to provide translating and simultaneous interpreting services to business corporations, NGOs, local governments, and so on.

We have all seen photos of interpreters in booths or at the back of conference rooms doing simultaneous interpretation. What is involved and how difficult is it?

It involves interpreting what a person is saying in real time, that is, as the person is speaking. It requires a high degree of concentration, which explains why we work in teams of two or three, each team-member doing a 20- to 30-minute shift before handing over to a colleague. You have to get used to speaking and listening at the same time, a skill you gain through practice and experience. It calls for concision and clarity of expression, as well as synthesizing and analytical skills. Obviously, being specialized in the topic or area of expertise involved is a necessity.

What other aspects of simultaneous interpretation are special?

You have to be quick at finding equivalences for expressions and sayings. You have to keep up with the speaker no matter how fast he or she speaks, and identifying in part with the speaker is important. One of the most difficult challenges is interpreting jokes, whose power often lies in a play on words which is difficult or sometimes impossible to render in another language.

Can you explain what consecutive interpreting is and how it is done?

During consecutive interpreting, the speaker stops every 1–5 minutes, usually at the end of a “paragraph” or complete thought, and the interpreter then steps in to render what was said into the target language. A key skill involved is note-taking, since few people can memorize a full paragraph in one hearing without loss of detail. Many professional interpreters develop their own “ideogramic” symbols, which allows them to take down not the words but the thoughts of the speaker in a sort of language-independent form.

Consecutive interpreting is more laborious than simultaneous interpreting as it slows the proceeding down. All participants in a meeting have to wait for the interpreter to stop speaking before they can resume their exchange. In addition, for those who understand both languages, source and target, it means hearing the discourse twice.

What is whispered interpreting (chuchotage) and how is it different from the above?

Whispered interpreting is the same as simultaneous interpreting but it does away with any equipment such as a booth, microphone, and headset. The interpreter sits next to his/her client(s) and literally whispers the interpreted message.

Many interpreters have a source and a target language (e.g. English into French). Is that your case or do you interpret as easily in both directions?

Because of my family background and linguistic experience as a child, I’m able to interpret as easily in both directions. This sometimes gives me a competitive advantage over others, particularly when clients don’t know into which language (e.g. English or French) the interpretation will be required.

How do you prepare yourself before taking on an interpreting job?

First of all, I accept interpreting assignments only in my domains of expertise. In addition, my clients usually provide me with preparatory material such as presentations, PowerPoint slides, reading lists, speaker profiles, statistics, and so on. I also make a point of keeping abreast of the latest developments in my areas of expertise by reading the generalist and specialist press.

Some speakers are easier to interpret than others. Can you tell us what aspects of speech output facilitate your task?

The speaker’s rate of speech flow is important: it mustn’t be too slow or too fast! In fact, we interpreters have the same concerns as ordinary listeners regarding the clarity, pace and quality of the speaker’s discourse. The speaker’s ability to summarize his or her thoughts clearly and concisely from time-to-time is also much appreciated.

With the advent of modern communication technology (video and voice interaction over the web), how has your job changed?

We can now interpret meetings online without having to travel, and we can do so at any time of the day and night, e.g. interpret a speech by Donald Trump given at 2 a.m. French time (8 p.m. US time). And during conferences and events, our interpreting also benefits people who are not physically present in the same venue.

Tell us about the work you do for France 24, the international news and current affairs television network based in Paris?

It involves interpreting during live radio or TV broadcasts while the event is actually taking place (state ceremonies/visits, parliamentary debates, speeches, etc.). It also involves interpreting pre-recorded material, notably interviews with celebrities, politicians, and so on. It requires good background knowledge of international and domestic politics and of the personalities involved. Round-the-clock availability and quick responsiveness to ongoing events is also necessary.

You have also interpreted for politicians including former French President François Hollande and current President Emmanuel Macron. How stressful is it?

It is no more stressful than interpreting “ordinary” people, but we are clearly aware of the risk of causing a faux pasor even a diplomatic incident if we use the wrong terms and generate misunderstandings.

Finally, what is an interpreting nightmare you have?

My worst nightmare is a speaker who thinks he/she is speaking clearly but is, in fact, not clear at all. These are the kind of moments when you have to be creative and give a semblance of sense to something that is devoid of meaning. Fortunately, this happens rarely!


Verbatim Reporting #6thMoUConference

Click to see the Tweet

Verbatim Reporting is editing and translating the spoken word…Skills that go into creating a verbatim record are translation, Editing and fact-checking

Jese Browner, Chief of English Verbatim Reporting Section, #UNHQ

Tweets on the 6th Conference of UN Memorandum with universities


See also

Verbatim Reporting requires transcribing and paying attention to tone, purpose and intention so that it sounds naturally neutral.

Verbatim Reporting requires shift in focus: you focus on one topic in the morning and shift to another in the afternoon. (Daily work at UN)

ALao check #MontereyForum2019 tweets on interpretation.

The outcome of the conference:

Click to see the tweet

Click to see the tweet

EU #Interinstitutional #style #guide ~ available in all #European #languages

The PDF is of the 2011 edition. All changes since then are signalled on the news page of the style guide website:

​Why should #journalists from all around the world be in #Karbala now making full coverage of #Alarbaeen?

​Al Arbaeen, the 40th day, following the martyrdom of Imam Husain in Karbala in 61 Hegira has become a universal Day attended by millions of people from all around the world. On this Day, free journalists should free themselves from mainstream media mindset and be where citizens choose to be. They should bring cameras and all recording tools and make full coverage of the amazing peaceful and flow of humans to the Shrine of Imam Husain, greeting him: O Husain, Son of Ali and Fatima, peace be upon you. 
People who have into mediation, humanity, kindness and quantum touch should consider the one thousand wounds that cut off the Holy body of Husain by the sword of devil, envy, bad intentions, destruction acts, greedy and wrongness. They should stand in peace from wherever they are in the comfort zone or mediating space sending support thought and healing energy from distance to this most noble human~ Husain. 
Human rights activists affiliated to care organizations in the world should consider the rights of humanity Husain sacrificed his soul to revive. 
Citizenship media and platforms should unite with those citizens who choose to walk hundreds of miles to record their stance and move in history: hello, we are here, defending humanity and renewing the pledge to  implement the goals of Husain that should be the Universal goals of the millennium on top of which are: Islam of Prophet Muhammad is neither KSA, wahhabi thought, al Qaeda or ISIS; Islam is education, knowledge, wisdom, peace, care for parents, observing citizens rights and make a satisfactory living standards.
Universities, heads of universities and departments, students and graduates should join this mass march to Imam Husain, peace be upon him, interviewing people, investigating why they are there. 
Live broadcast coverage and correspondents there right now are asking one simple question whose answer is open-ended and flow of expression of their faith in this brave reformer whom they miss everyday with every merge of every crisis; he is their shelter, their resort, their beginnings and ends; he is their answer to all package of local and global sufferings humanity is facing today. 
People walking to Husain are those who defeated ISIS advance, reduced its killings and crimes; defeated ISIS and all the states, arms traders and manufacturers, and loosing consciousness and humanity sense drugs providers behind. 
These people are affirming and confirming that life flows with two pillers: justice and reform. 
That is Islam; that is Shiism; that’s Ahlul-Bayt school of thought and the art of following them to upgrade life standards and impact on every human on this planet. 
People walking to Husain are those who defeated ISIS advance, reduce its killings and crimes; defeated ISIS and all the states, arms traders and manufacturers, and loosing consciousness and humanity sense drugs providers. 
These people are affirming and confirming that life flows with two pillers: justice and reform. 
That is Islam; that is Shiism; that’s Ahlul-Bayt school of thought and the art of following them to upgrade life standards and impacts on every human on this planet. 

These people are heading to their perfection and purification. They are in discipline. They stop to pray on time and remind each other that is what Husain did before getting ready to defend himself against the savagery attacks of an army of three thousand soldiers – as in today’s term which we witnessed in the flamed and fueled conflicts- the mortazaqa. 
These people are mentally mediating while walking to Husain, Son of Ali and Supreme Lady Fatima. They put themselves under focus. They care for perfecting their acts, thoughts, intentions and plans for today and future. 
They are here because they know their march to Husain vibrate amazing energy and register amazing supplications and blessed words in the universe. 
They are flowing like gentle breeze touching leaves of trees by the sides on the right and the left. 
Each one seems like a drop coming from I don’t know where or how just pouring in a vast vast ocean pouring themselves to the source of their energy and wellbeing- heading to Husain for a touch that no words could explain how it leaves you that so strong man or woman for a year ahead. 
It is walking to Husain- the journey that is full of mysteries that no camera may catch.
Study carefully the soundbites of every rich and poor visitor; study the arrangement that seems simple but in harmony- there are no event makers there; no Public relations graduates; no millions of funding raised from here and there. You may be amazed by this quote one of the organiser of food for free provider in the name of love of Imam Husain: