Specialists in oral translation services

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Start with a smile!

By Edwina Mumbrú, AIB

Summer recess has come to an end, the cumulative stress we felt in June seems to have faded and I think we all look now at our profession with kinder eyes. We have more energy to study for the demanding assignments that will inevitably come along, and more strength to take the bull by the horns and give it our all — which is how I sometimes visualize our work, corrida-like — especially EP plenaries.

Apart from catching up with "old" friends, one of the things that I look forward to most are those delightful, humorous incidents that occur in or around the booth which lighten the heaviest days. Of course, rekindling amusing episodes is also a wonderful way to ensure we kick things off with a smile.

Knowing we can all be prone to taking ourselves a bit too seriously, I can really recommend Benoît Cliquet's wonderful Clic collection of sketches to bring out our lighter side. In addition to "guaranteed smile creation", the collection also has the benefit that all proceeds of the sale of the book go to the AIIC Solidarity Fund.
If moving images are more your style, there are also some short vintage videos that never fail to raise a smile and remind us there are many ways to get a message across albeit the wrong one. My favourites include these two:


And let's not forget the anecdotes, those unexpected moments that brighten our lives and our memories. They change over time, of course — we add a sentence or two and naturally overindulge in the telling — but it's these stories (the ones we can tell, as Cristina rightly points out in AIB's August post) that allow us to unwind after a tense interpreting day.

I am not referring to mistranslations that — apocryphal or not — non-interpreters appear to like so much, but more the sharing of comical situations that randomly occur.

If my memory doesn't fail me (a clear possibility as Guiomar points out in her post about interpreters' memory), I can share a few recent incidents, while inviting you all to relay your own additions in our comments section!

Inadvertent open microphones are clearly accidents-in-waiting. Recently, I was told of two interpreters who were commenting on the "fashion-ability or not" of the neckties on view, when suddenly, one delegate stood up and said: "Hey, before you get to mine, please switch off the mic!"

Sometimes, it"s not the external technical elements but the psychological ones that play tricks on us and bring in unwanted connections. A good example of this comes from a friend who was going through a difficult divorce process. To her dismay, she heard herself say during a financial conference: "el matrimonio está agotado" instead of "el patrimonio está agotado."

Similarly, travel, new environments and sheer exhaustion can surprise us. On a mission in Bolivia, knocked sideways by altitude sickness, I thought I had totally lost it when I couldn't understand a single word the local speaker was uttering. He went on and on and my notes were just bigger and bigger question marks to hide my panic attack… until I realized… he was speaking in Quechua!

The effect of environments can take different forms. Not so long ago, one of our members — who shall remain nameless — had to perform a tricky consecutive in the kitchen of a world-renowned restaurant whilst a camera crew filmed the illustrious chef alone in front of his culinary creation; the only solution was for our intrepid colleague to get down on her knees in order to take notes and hide behind the kitchen table. I would love to see the out-takes!

But it's not just the impersonal that can create havoc; it's the personal as well. At a conference on soybean crops, a well-meaning colleague wrote down "coffee? tea?" to simply ask her stressed boothmate if he'd care for a drink during what was a very strenuous simultaneous session. Without missing a beat, and with a big, thankful grin for the words he thought he had missed, he aired to the massive audience: "products such as coffee or tea".  Good thing she didn't write down "WC" to indicate a trip to the loo!

Humour, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but let us never underestimate the power of having fun.
Bonne rentrée!