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Famous simultaneous interpreting story
Thread poster: Alan Boydell

Alan Boydell  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:25
French to English
+ ...
Nov 30, 2004

Back in the days when I was training as a conference interpreter in Edinburgh, I remember seeing the video of a famous event at which a speaker (at the UN?) started his speech with a very fast flow of extremely official sounding gibberish. After about 50 seconds of absolute panic in the booths he concluded with “… and I’d love to hear what the interpreters will make of that!”

Does anyone know of this incident and have some idea as to when this occurred, who the speaker was, what he said, etc. ?

I would love to be able to get a copy of this speech.


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Local time: 08:25
English to French
+ ...
Famous or common? ;-) Nov 30, 2004

Hi Alan
I have heard a lot of official sounding BS, that's probably when the famous GIGO rule was created.
I can give you a personal example, a French guy who thought he spoke English, and yours truly was to interpret his opening address. So here goes:
"The European element in this meeting is a special concern in the sights of the organizing committee".
In case you were wondering, they are all alive and well.
Sometimes you have to be creative in this business!

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Rosalind Lobo  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:25
French to English
video about interpreting at the UN Nov 30, 2004

The scene you describe sounds like the intro to a film I saw at the ATA conference this year (in Toronto), entitled The Interpreters: A Historical Perspective.
In the scene I'm referring to, Danny Kaye (who served as UNICEF ambassador since the 1950s) was the personality in question. I remember vicariously feeling the alarm and frustration the interpreters must have been dealing with (perhaps with a little incredulity thrown in for good measure?) - until he finished off with his joke.
Vintage Kaye, of course, who is well known for his on-screen comedic talents.
Hope this is the one you meant!

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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Something similar Dec 1, 2004

Alan, I'd love to see that video you are referring to. This reminded me of something that happened to a colleague, while interpreting during a trial with a judge who was famous for his long convoluted sentences. At the end of one of his elaborate speeches, he turned to the interpreter, and asked "and how did madam interpreter intertpret that?" My friend, without skipping a beat, replied "to the best of her ability, your honor".
To this day, that little phrase is something that I keep in mind, because we get asked such things once in a while!!!! Ah, the indignities we face...

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