This year’s Interpreting Event took place on a glorious summer’s day at Westminster University on 7th June 2006. Our speakers were Magdy Abbas and Susie Kershaw.
First to speak was Magdy Abbas, former Chairman of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters and the lead Arabic interpreter in the much-publicised Lockerbie trial. He used the case as a model to illustrate the work of the interpreter in terms of business relationship; the interpreters’ role as bilingual, bi-cultural participants; and the professional difficulties and constraints faced by interpreters. He also handed out a glossary.
Magdy gave us an excellent insight into the life of a highly trained and qualified, security-vetted interpreter and showed the enormous – and at times impossible – demands placed on interpreters. He spoke about his experiences during the final two years of the 12-year-long Lockerbie investigation, which resulted in the arrest of the two Libyans and their trial at Kamp van Zeist and their trial at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.
We were impressed by the extraordinary lengths these “SAS-style” interpreters had to go: they had to acquaint themselves with Scottish Law and learn specialist legal terminology and also carry out research into Libyan law and administrative procedures so as to ensure fully accurate interpretation when referring to Libyan institutions and government departments.
Magdy also recounted how nerve-wracking it was to be vetted by top Libyan international conference interpreters whose job it was to oversee the interpreting process. Magdy’s talk was utterly captivating – if he ever writes a book about his fascinating experiences I will certainly be the first to buy it!
On a personal note, I have formed the view that the West’s so-called “war on terror” would be dead in its tracks and completely impotent without the existence and input of such highly skilled and competent interpreters. Let it be known that analytical experts, intelligence gatherers, commanders, world leaders and every conceivable person involved in this war are wholly dependent and totally reliant on the work of interpreters.
Susie Kershaw’s talk on commercial interpreting drew our attention to the many possible settings business interpreters may find themselves working in – trade fairs, exhibitions, business meetings, accompanying business people on trips, factory tours and training sessions – as well as the various interpreting styles required. Her clients vary from commercial businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes to government agencies and lawyers.
Susie told us: “To achieve success in the Business Interpreting sector, interpreters must define the product they are selling by identifying their own preferences for subjects or situations, and develop suitable skills and terminology for the relevant sectors in commerce and industry. Business Interpreters must research markets, organise marketing, book-keeping and administration, set up and maintain efficient communications and constantly keep up-to-date with trends.”
Susie also encouraged us to hone “pro-active” skills by paying attention to events and actions in business across the world, urging us always to ask the following: “What business opportunity for me may lie in the event I am witnessing? How could I learn from how others are doing things and apply this approach to my business?”
It was truly fascinating to hear about the countless possibilities and opportunities that exist for interpreters in this sector. Personally speaking, I now perceive the Business Interpreting sector as the ultimate challenge for highly motivated and talented interpreters, for therein lies the greatest – and the most elusive – reward: access to highly lucrative markets with little or no competition.
Finally, the organiser thanked the speakers and presented two bouquets of flowers to the two speakers. He then gave his very own optimistic outlook on the future of the interpreting profession, to the rapturous applause of nearly 100 participants.
Turkish Interpreter & Translator