Yesterday I travelled to a major city to interpret for an international meeting. I was thinking as I sat in the train of what I might tell you about my job. Many of you have asked, and so...
Primarily, I am a written translator bringing French into a living and, I hope, vivid English. I also edit, revise and correct other people's work. But I love translating the most - and I'm rather passionate about it if you must know. ;)
On occasion I will interpret...and yesterday was one of those stressful, sweat-it-out kind of days. Carmi, I honestly could have used some of your wordsmithe flair as I fumbled and bumbled through a meeting that would have knocked you off your feet!
In the room... an Italian who speaks a brand of English-Italiano-French that is a world unto itself. May I just say that the key to translating is understanding what in tarnation your speaker is trying to say in the first place! Ahem. There were participants from France, Russia, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland...and the list goes on. Target languages? French and English.
In this world, you sit in a booth with earphones on your head and speak into a microphone. When someone speaks English, you press the FRE button and deliver French; when they speak French, you press the ENG button and spew forth English. And I do mean spew forth because there are times when your mouth is moving and you don't know what is going to come out; and you are surprised to find that words do, indeed, come out on a kind of autopilot setting, though your mind is two or three sentences ahead, listening.
Every now and then there is a pause in the discussion (these are desperately few and far between) when you press the MUTE button and flash a wild look at your colleague, mouthing the words "What in the world was he trying to say?"
There is the unexpected moment when your colleague translates into the microphone with a very pristine French accent for all to hear ... "The speaker just said shit." ;)
And then the words... "rather than an automated process, we are targeting natural persons".
Natural persons? MUTE button to the rescue and a bout of suppressed laughter.
You've got to be sure you master the button-pressing and language-switching simultaneously; yes, that's tricky. And then there are the times when the Italian switches mid-sentence from English into French and you don't even notice. You just keep translating, French into French, until it strikes you like a lightening bolt and you wonder, as you continue to speak, when the switch actually occurred!
The most rewarding of all (and perhaps the most surprising) is when, at the coffee break, they thank you for a job so well done. Inside you are wondering how they understood any of it, outside you are maintaining a collected calm. (Thought I may as well give you the inside scoop for once!)
As the train barrels homeward, so late that practically no one else is riding, your brain rests inside your skull like a poached egg and you are glad for the long ride home to sit in ... ah.... silence.
Glad to be back!