Mobile menu

In a little bit over my head... first interpreting, need tips
Thread poster: Ana_Bells
Ana_Bells
English to Japanese
Nov 4, 2008

Hi! I've been at my bilingual job for 5 months now.
This is my first bilingual job, though I've studied Japanese for quite awhile.

The job was going well until recently.
I've been asked to interpret in high level meetings.

I feel a little overwhelmed as this is my first time interpreting... not to mention that I've only been at the company for 5 months. In that 5 months I've had to pick up not only English engineering terms, but Japanese as well... plus 4 divisions of product knowledge... It's quite a bit. My company is a manufacturer, and the meetings I have been interpreting for are extremely technical, or involving sales figures... every meeting has at least 15 high level management from here or our Japan office.

I'm not having the best of times to say the least and need some advice.

Here are my questions / concerns:

-----How do you break in to take time to interpret for someone if they just keep rambling on and on and don't give you time to do so? Any good phrases to use that aren't rude? (in English or Japanese?)

-----I find that the Japanese businessmen often go off onto tangents, or conversations that seem "private" that should not be translated. My boss (Japanese) who knows the backgrounds of these situations oftentimes chooses not to translate them, and act like they never happened. I however, do not know what should or should not be translated... and this puts me in a difficult position. I've also been told by several American managers that they don't like that the Japanese staff hide things in the translation... I feel conflicted as to how I should proceed in these situations.

-----How do you handle having multiple bilinguals in the room? So far, my experience has been "too many cooks in the kitchen", where one person (usually me) is asked to translate/interpret, but the other people butt in over my translation, or speak before I can say a word so they can translate/interpret. Is there any way to avoid this?

-----Does anyone have any good study suggestions for picking up more business / technology words? I've learned quite a bit in my 5 months here, but I'm finding that I still don't know enough... (I have no background in business or technology). How do you overcome not knowing a subject matter... or is it impossible to interpret in something you are not familiar with? My boss (Japanese) says that I should just "suck it up and try harder"......

Any advice would be much appreciated!!!!

Thank you!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

amurati
Local time: 17:05
English to Albanian
+ ...
First interpreting Nov 4, 2008

I had my first interpreting among Albanian and French language was when I was on third year of gymnasium. It was the third year that I started French language but I still lacked many words to interpret.
And later I have interpreted from English to Serbian and vice versa I managed it well but with some delays due to that both languages aren't my mother tongues.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 08:05
English to Russian
+ ...
It's a tough situation, but I'll try to give you some tips... Nov 4, 2008

I'll start from the end.

"...or is it impossible to interpret in something you are not familiar with? My boss (Japanese) says that I should just "suck it up and try harder"......"

Obviously, you are working for the boss who simply doesn't understand. Truth is, you CANNOT interpret things you don't understand, and trying harder will not help here. I've been interpreting professionally for 9 years, and I periodically turn down assignments where I know nothing about the subject matter. You boss is trying to avoid the expense hiring a professional, sharing an erroneous but widespread opinion that any bilingual can do it.

I understand you need your job and don't feel you are in a position to argue. Honestly, I would not want to be in your shoes.

But since you probably don't have a choice, you should negotiate in advance with your boss. Try to request a meeting with him where you would have a chance to sit down and express your concerns - the ones in this post.

First, ask him to provide you with preparation materials. It is considered professional for an interpreter to ask for preparation materials in advance. Then, tell him that you'll need to ask every participant of the meeting - in advance! - to make pauses when they speak, and then wait for you to interpret - and make it very clear that if they don't do it, it will be simply impossibly for you to interpret. It would not be possible for a professional either, so don't be shy about this point.

Finally, discuss the issue of private comments. If he wants you to interpret them, then tell everybody involved - again, in advance - that you'll interpret everything and that they should refrain from making comments they do not want to be interpreted.

Hope this helps!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Bea Geenen  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Anwers to your questions... and more tips Nov 5, 2008

Hi Ana,

I've worked as a Chinese-English interpreter, both in-house and freelance, and have interpreted during business and technical meetings. Here are my tips:

* To widen your terminology, make appointments with the different engineers in your company, and ask them to talk a bit about what they do. TAPE it! Then replay the tape and write down all the technical words you do not know and memorize them. You could do the same with the accounting department.

* To interrupt someone who is rambling, just say "May I interrupt to translate?". You HAVE to be assertive at that point. A good habit is to use your hand, like a police officer does. I know it sounds impolite, but it does work and everyone in the room will appreciate it.

* The same goes for bilinguals butting in - you have to stop them immediately, and there is no better way to do that then to raise your hand in a "stop" sign. Be assertive!

* As for the "private" conversations between the Japanese, I guess that Japanese are in that way much the same like Chinese - they don't want to speak out as an individual, they want first to confer with the others to come to a mutual statement. But those private conversations make the Americans nervous because they do not understand what's going on.
Remember that you work for your "boss" and what he wants you to do is to translate his/your company's message, and that would be the "mutual" one. So no need to bother with the private conversations. If you do feel the need to translate them, do it concise and in a whisper, so the Americans know that this is not an important part of the conversation.


Some more tips:

* As I said before, keep in mind who's paying you - that's the person who you should be representing. You say you have a Japanese boss, but the American managers also talk about "Japanese staff". Who's who here in this hierarchy? You need to know, and position yourself accordingly.
* Take notes to help you remember main points of what's been said.
* Having been a manager myself, I'd like to give you one more tip. The people in the meeting will all be professionals who know their job well. Therefore, they will understand what is being said even if you make a few mistakes in your translation. So don't worry too much about being perfect - nobody is.

Greetings from Beijing,

Bea


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Tetyana Dytyna  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:05
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Sometimes it's useful to listen to other bilinguals Nov 5, 2008

Especially if you, as you say "have no background in business or technology". Bea is right, you can't know everything. People present at the talks are usually interested in getting the most of their meeting, so they normally mean well trying to correct you or help you with a phrase or a term.

But if you're sure you're being corrected wrong, just be assertive enough - you are there to do the interpreting, not them.

[Edited at 2008-11-05 05:27]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Ana_Bells
English to Japanese
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you!!! Nov 5, 2008

Thank you so much for the great advice!

Alexandra: Yeah, in this economy I have to have this job and I'm not sure how easy it woudl be to move to a new one... so I'm kindof stuck doing what they ask of me.

My boss was originally working in one of our factories and got transferred over to our export department, then here to America. When he moved to export div. he was told to "just do it" and start writing emails/etc in English (even though his English proficiency was really bad). He's been telling me to "just do it" like he did.... however I pointed out that he has an engineering background, and a lot of words can be translated easily because many engineers know the English words for some technical items already. I don't think he gets that I am starting from ZERO.

Bea: You're def right. I need to be more assertive in the meetings and make sure to stop them. I still feel kindof new at this company (also emphasized by the fact that everyone here has worked here 10 years and there are very few new hires like myself). I somehow am going to have to find the courage to get up and be a little aggressive!!! (^_^) OH and technically the meetings I'm translating for are IN HOUSE... but with our Japanese main office. (we're a subsidiary) So again, the line is blurred as to where I stand because I get the definite impression that the J-staff that work here in America still feel like they are part of the main company in Japan... they're being paid by the subsidiary, but have loyalty to the main office... whereas I was hired here, and have no view either way.... it makes for an awkward situation

Tetyana: Thanks so much!! You're very right, I need to be more assertive! I do know that sometimes they correct me because they are trying to help, but sometimes it feels like a bit of overkill. Someone reminded me yesterday "They're not going to give you respect, you have to demand it".


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:05
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Poor you! Nov 6, 2008

You do sound scared. Definitely NOT an interpreter attitude. It's time for a little assertiveness training, at least, to momentarily get into character. (You're not YET an interpreter, but acting like one may do the trick for short-term stretches).

Interpreters are something of tyrants. They aim for control. Bea gave you some pointers to start with, and you might find some more advice in the articles knowledgebase: http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/categories/Art-of-Translation-and-Interpreting/Interpreting/

There was also another recent related topic in this forum: http://www.proz.com/forum/interpreting/118199-first_experience_of_interpreting_at_a_conference.html

Another method of taking control is arranging for as strict a speaking order as possible for the meeting. At any rate, it won't do any harm to mention at the outset that there is only one interpreter so people are requested not to speak out of turn. Also, insist on the most advantageous seating arrangements. Don't situate yourself where you will not be heard (if you have to whisper your interpretations, sit behind the people who need the service, bearing in mind your voice projects forward). Try to have a clear view of everybody. Above all, attention to the message. Don't be too painfully conscious of yourself; it's the message that matters.

For the rest:

Ana_Bells wrote:

-----How do you break in to take time to interpret for someone if they just keep rambling on and on and don't give you time to do so? Any good phrases to use that aren't rude? (in English or Japanese?)


If that happens to me and I'm supposed to be doing consecutive, I switch to simultaneous. This puts the speakers in mind that they've somehow relaxed their discipline too much -- but they may also prefer it. And business goes on.

-----I find that the Japanese businessmen often go off onto tangents, or conversations that seem "private" that should not be translated. My boss (Japanese) who knows the backgrounds of these situations oftentimes chooses not to translate them, and act like they never happened. I however, do not know what should or should not be translated... and this puts me in a difficult position. I've also been told by several American managers that they don't like that the Japanese staff hide things in the translation... I feel conflicted as to how I should proceed in these situations.


I'd interpret everything. It has the same effect as switching from consecutive to simultaneous: people sit up and control their verborrhea. (After all, everyone knows they have to be careful in the presence of parrots...)

-----How do you handle having multiple bilinguals in the room? So far, my experience has been "too many cooks in the kitchen", where one person (usually me) is asked to translate/interpret, but the other people butt in over my translation, or speak before I can say a word so they can translate/interpret. Is there any way to avoid this?


That's one drawback with consecutive interpretation, there's always someone who knows better. But if you've already switched to simultaneous, it becomes a harder act for them to follow and they'll shut up and mind their own business. Don't be defensive. You probably don't have to be if you explain from the start that you need maximum concentration and as few distractions as possible.

-----Does anyone have any good study suggestions for picking up more business / technology words? I've learned quite a bit in my 5 months here, but I'm finding that I still don't know enough... (I have no background in business or technology). How do you overcome not knowing a subject matter... or is it impossible to interpret in something you are not familiar with? My boss (Japanese) says that I should just "suck it up and try harder"......


It is NOT impossible to interpret in something you don't know as in-depth as the speaker. In fact, that's what most interpreters do. But they make up with preparation. Your function is the language aspect, not the engineering. Even if you don't have 15 years of experience in engineering, you can talk as though you were familiar with it - after all, it's your company and the literature must be somewhere close by.

Hope it helps, and good luck!

Oh, yes, always make sure you have a glass of water on hand, and use it sparingly.

[Edited at 2008-11-06 18:10]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
hfp
United States
Local time: 11:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
How are things going now? Nov 14, 2008

Hey, Ana_Bells. How is your interpreting going now that you have been given some advice from fellow interpreters?

[Edited at 2008-11-14 03:38 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Another idea Nov 15, 2008

You could also check out another thread. It's called "Interpreting with family members in the room."

True, you aren't dealing with family members taking over for you. You still might learn some useful ideas.

I hope your future assignments go well.

Ana_Bells wrote:

Hi! I've been at my bilingual job for 5 months now.
This is my first bilingual job, though I've studied Japanese for quite awhile.

The job was going well until recently.
I've been asked to interpret in high level meetings.

I feel a little overwhelmed as this is my first time interpreting... not to mention that I've only been at the company for 5 months. In that 5 months I've had to pick up not only English engineering terms, but Japanese as well... plus 4 divisions of product knowledge... It's quite a bit. My company is a manufacturer, and the meetings I have been interpreting for are extremely technical, or involving sales figures... every meeting has at least 15 high level management from here or our Japan office.

I'm not having the best of times to say the least and need some advice.

Here are my questions / concerns:

-----How do you break in to take time to interpret for someone if they just keep rambling on and on and don't give you time to do so? Any good phrases to use that aren't rude? (in English or Japanese?)

-----I find that the Japanese businessmen often go off onto tangents, or conversations that seem "private" that should not be translated. My boss (Japanese) who knows the backgrounds of these situations oftentimes chooses not to translate them, and act like they never happened. I however, do not know what should or should not be translated... and this puts me in a difficult position. I've also been told by several American managers that they don't like that the Japanese staff hide things in the translation... I feel conflicted as to how I should proceed in these situations.

-----How do you handle having multiple bilinguals in the room? So far, my experience has been "too many cooks in the kitchen", where one person (usually me) is asked to translate/interpret, but the other people butt in over my translation, or speak before I can say a word so they can translate/interpret. Is there any way to avoid this?

-----Does anyone have any good study suggestions for picking up more business / technology words? I've learned quite a bit in my 5 months here, but I'm finding that I still don't know enough... (I have no background in business or technology). How do you overcome not knowing a subject matter... or is it impossible to interpret in something you are not familiar with? My boss (Japanese) says that I should just "suck it up and try harder"......

Any advice would be much appreciated!!!!

Thank you!


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

In a little bit over my head... first interpreting, need tips

Advanced search


Translation news





Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
Across v6.3
Translation Toolkit and Sales Potential under One Roof

Apart from features that enable you to translate more efficiently, the new Across Translator Edition v6.3 comprises your crossMarket membership. The new online network for Across users assists you in exploring new sales potential and generating revenue.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs