This was a lively and inspirational day, with excellent speakers, representing all areas of interpreting, voice-over, subtitling and transcription - and who so obviously love what they do!
The two-tier Old Cinema lecture theatre was packed with 250 students, teachers, seasoned language professionals and service users, as organiser Yılmaz Düzen introduced the platform speakers and Geoffrey Buckingham, the event's charming and instructive chairman.
Susie Kershaw - interpreters walk beside their clients
Working mainly in the commercial field, Susie advocated investing time on CV maintenance, personal organisation and training, in order to best respond to customer needs. As well as learning the different booth systems, interpreters should routinely research, in preparation for assignments and as ongoing CPD, and should devise a travel strategy.
Keeping fit and flexible is important and this includes exercise, care of voice and diaphragmatic breathing. And don't forget the financial side with professional and timely invoices!
Nathalie Pham - is there an interpreter's gene?
As an interpreter at the UN & European Commission, Nathalie was convinced that interpreters are born, not made. They are inherently analytical (so often anticipate what a speaker will say next), but preparation is vital and public speaking skills should be honed. Travel is the most stressful part of the job - always plan to be at the booth 15 minutes before the scheduled start.
Describing the invention of simultaneous interpreting during the Nuremberg Trials by Andronikof, Jacob and Kaminker (the founders of AIIC - the International Association of Conference Interpreters), Nathalie confirmed the AIIC language classification:
- A = native or equivalent language (the main active language)
- B = language other than A into which the interpreter works (near native language)
- C = passive language(s) from which the interpreter works.
Relay interpreting is used when a language is not covered by the core 2-4 interpreters in a team (e.g. Greek is interpreted into English, then from English into other languages).
Despite complete mastery of their A language, interpreters can find accents challenging, especially when speakers insist on not using their native language. More information on any of this is available on the AIIC website www.aiic.net.
Alex Krouglov - diplomacy is a linguistic puzzle
Referring to the publication by Dr. Stanko Nick, ‘Use of language in Diplomacy’, Alex provided a fascinating insight into working at the Foreign Office. Mastering new topics such as money laundering, terrorism and the environment, together with relaying speech without notes, while observing total impartiality and confidentiality, are all part of the job. He also recommended keeping up with dignitaries' hobbies, such as horse racing.
Armed with an MA and a clear 2-page CV, potential junior interpreters require excellent short-term memory (e.g. number recall), since note-taking is often prohibited or impossible. After training (focussing on role play) they often start by accompanying officials during dinners etc.
Dr. Kevin Lin - what is our added value?
Kevin's account of his life as a diplomatic interpreter was amusing and thought-provoking and has been the subject of two books to date. As lead Chinese/English interpreter for the British government, his consecutive interpreting has assisted countless political dignitaries. The schedule can be punishing - on one visit to China he showered four times a day to stay awake!The interpreter doesn't just hear the speaker's words, but hears them loaded with all the relevant national culture - essential to obtain the full meaning. One of the greatest challenges was conveying English humour when this is not readily translatable, or expected, by Chinese audiences. Doing so successfully adds value.
Magdy Abbas - glossaries, glossaries, glossaries!
Magdy was the lead Arabic interpreter in the Lockerbie and PC Yvonne Fletcher cases. His PSI work with the police is governed by the National Agreement on Arrangements for the Attendance of Interpreters in Investigations and Proceedings within the Criminal Justice System (2002).
Keeping up to date with codes of practice and maintaining meticulous glossaries are as important as knowing the intricacies of the Libyan calendar.
The PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) police caution is complicated, so people who have basic English often struggle when they hear this rapid-fire legalese - resulting in the "sudden" need for an interpreter.
Public Service Interpreters should ideally have translation qualifications as well and will need to sight-translate statements etc - a feature of the DPSI exam.
Professor Guillermo Makin - deciphering two cultures
Guillermo focused on court and tribunal work. As well as conveying cultural differences, interpreters need to understand and explain the legal frame-works in which they work, e.g. the Napoleonic Code in Spain and Latin America compared with English law.
In court, the defendant presents himself to the world via the interpreter, so is reliant on the interpreter to represent him effectively, to identify and clarify potential misunderstandings and offer cultural insight.
While waiting for a session to start, interpreters may feel threatened, so courts should allocate them a safe waiting room.
Karin Band - interpreters do it faster
A medical and pharmaceutical interpreter and translator, Karin distinguished between "the Agreement Sector" (international organisations with which AIIC has concluded an agreement) and "the non-Agreement Sector".
Referring to the historic rivalry between interpreting and translation, she affirmed that interpreters and translators are equally skilled at manipulating language- it's just that interpreters do it faster!
Agreeing that PSI can expose interpreters to harrowing situations and images in hospitals and coroners' courts, she referred to the Metropolitan Police's counselling service, which provides useful support to officers, and hoped this would be extended to interpreters via their professional bodies.
Daniel Pageon - how to be a professional voice
This speaker gave a fascinating insight into the world of voice-overs, subtitling and dubbing. An actor and voice-over artist with many years of experience, Daniel gave a lively presentation with plenty of practical advice, culminating in the demonstration of an exercise to achieve clarity of speech - by talking with a pencil between your teeth!
Dr. Ellen Moerman - passionate about language
Ellen provided an eloquent and highly entertaining conclusion to the day, sharing her wealth of experience as well as some amusing anecdotes from 35 years as a "jobbing" interpreter.
Once, for example, she had to interpret for a court trial on a remote island with only one shop - where the interpreter would happily bump into the defendant, the judge and the prosecution as they were buying their groceries.
She also gave some useful tips on how to organise yourself as a travelling interpreter, who might be called upon at short notice any time of the day or night, often without knowing how long an assignment was likely to take. Her advice was, always have your bag with essentials packed and ready, make sure your mobile phone is charged, and take a snack or sandwich with you.
Lynn Everson / Betti Moser