How business interpreting turns into simultaneous
Thread poster: Wenke Geddert

Wenke Geddert  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:51
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Aug 14, 2004

Last month I was approached by an agency as to whether I would be available for business interpreting at a local conference in Autumn this year. The project looked very exciting indeed, and further to the submission of my quote I was awaiting further details.

I am now in receipt of more details, involving "some" simultaneous interpreting. A totally different remit to the one expected! The good thing is that "booths are being provided" (just as well, as I don't tend to carry pop-up simultaneous interpreting booths in my handbag!!! )

I subsequently phoned the agency to discuss, but it was like "oh, didn't we tell you before?". Well, no, otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to it, as I never studied or practised it... (The agency in question is actually one of my regular customers, which I have always rated very highly.)

My questions to you are - have you come across similar "surprises" and how do I bow out gracefully?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Wenke


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Conference Interpreting Aug 14, 2004

Dear Wenke,
I do consecutive and simultaneous interpreting from English into Spanish.
My own rule is that when I am told it is going to be a 'conference' however they may call it for me it will be 'simultaneous interpreting', at least it is what I need to be prepared for. If they call it a 'business meeting' then it will probably be 'consecutive' or 'whispered'.
Simultaneous is definitely the most dificult thing you can come across in this field but you don't need to worry. The key point is to try and get the agency to send you the scripts from the speakers, that really heps because it gives you an indication as to what they are going to say. If you don't get this and it is a real 'conference' tough....
I take this opportunity to say that the only thing booths do not have, at least the ones I have worked in, is a little display telling you how many delegates are connected your language pair. If that existed and you could see there is no one listening to your language pair then you could stop interpreting and follow the thread just in case....but it's not like that.
In my country we say something like 'if you want to learn to swim you need to throw yourself into the water'....
Good luck.

[Edited at 2004-08-14 08:42]

[Edited at 2004-08-14 08:43]


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Kurt Porter  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:51
Russian to English
+ ...
Simo Interpreting Aug 14, 2004

Just as one shouldn't take on a translation that's beyond one's abilites, one shouldn't jump into any interpreting opportunity for which one isn't ready.

I simply would call the client and inform them there was a misunderstanding, that you are not an experienced, or trained booth interpreter.

Should you perform poorly (not saying you will, of course), then you may be in danger of damaging your reputation with a regular client. Not only that, but your booth partners will then have to pick up any slack.

Please take this in the spirit it's meant. From your note, it seems you already know that this is the way to go, but are unsure how to tell the client. Straight-forward is the best way.

Texts in advance are a great help. Many times we can get them, many times we can't. Even when you get a text, there's no promise that the speaker will stick to it.

Even if you got all of the information in advance, booth work is not just about the language, it's the process that are involved with listening, analyzing, and speaking at the same time. Those skills come through education/training, or a LOT of experience.

Should you take the job, there are some tape programs that can help you with some very quick, very rush practice.

Best,
Kurt


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:21
English to Tamil
+ ...
Clients can be so careless and unfeeling too in the bargain Aug 14, 2004

I vividly remember how I was once asked to come for interpreting but the client had only meant translation to be done in his premises. It was not a big problem, but the converse would have had me sweating. Another time the client called me to his office for work and expecting some translation job I went to his office but in the meantime he had collected his visitor and came to my house to pick me up. It led to a sort fo merry-go-around and he refused to accept his responsibility in not giving me proper instructions.

Again not a big deal as I never allow unreasonable demands of the client to depress me. I just politely told him that the misunderstanding was regrettable but it was his fault only.

In your case the course is clear. Be firm but polite in telling the client the facts of the case and bow out. He will respect you the more for it.

Regards,
N.Raghavan


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 10:51
English to French
+ ...
Clients can be full of surprises! Aug 14, 2004

Watch out Wenke!
Sounds like your agency did not really know what was going
on, and they want you to think they told you and you just forgot.
If I could have a dollar for every time that happened to me...
If I were you I would say NO, loud and clear. Even if they say
you'll do fine, it's really not that hard etc. That's on the script too. Then if you fall on your face, your nice client will
probably become very nasty and tell you you had no business
accepting a job you cannot do in the first place.
Basically, say no and stick to your guns. :-=
Luck,
Sarah


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good Advice Aug 14, 2004

Your colleagues have given you good advice. If you are not practiced in and thoroughly comfortable with simultaneous interpreting, then discuss this frankly with the client and turn down the assignment. It is certainly something you want to "ease" into and not "jump" into without being sure of what is involved. It could be a disaster.

It would also be a good idea to offer an "alternate"; that is one of your colleagues who would be available and is known to be excellent at simultaneous interpreting. If you do not know one off hand in your area, try some research so you can at least provide the client with some suggestions.

Clients always need education on our profession. There are good translators who never interpret, good interpreters who never translate, many who stick to certain fields of expertise or work only in a certain direction in their languages, and some who do it all, or nearly all.

There are also some like myself who have a tin ear, so in a conference interpreting situation I let them know ahead of time I either get perfect, direct remote sound or else I plant myself right in the middle of the group whether they like it or not. It's garbage in, garbage out folks; if I hear and understand what it being said then you get great results, and if I don't... then I'm not going to invent it!

Just let them know honestly what you can and cannot do.


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Pat Jenner
Local time: 18:51
German to English
+ ...
As you have a good relationship with the agency, pulling out shouldn't be a problem Aug 14, 2004

If you don't want to take this on under the changed circumstances, then clearly you should tell them so, and give them the names of colleagues who do work in the booth if you know of any. This particular problem hasn't come up for me, but I am contacted from time to time by agencies who don't know anything about how interpreting works (i.e. whether the job is simultaneous or consecutive, the fact that you have to have two interpreters per language in simultaneous and so on) because they've never had a request for it before. I look on this as an excellent opportunity for client education.

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EdithK  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 19:51
Member
Gaelic to German
+ ...
Pull out Aug 14, 2004

Pat Jenner wrote:

If you don't want to take this on under the changed circumstances, then clearly you should tell them so, and give them the names of colleagues who do work in the booth if you know of any. This particular problem hasn't come up for me, but I am contacted from time to time by agencies who don't know anything about how interpreting works (i.e. whether the job is simultaneous or consecutive, the fact that you have to have two interpreters per language in simultaneous and so on) because they've never had a request for it before. I look on this as an excellent opportunity for client education.


If you have never been in a booth, don't do it, even if you have the speeches in advance. Speakers have a tendency not to keep to the scripts or have not scripts at all. If you wish to continue your work with the agency, you have to tell them that you cannot do the job ... or the agency might lose the client or you the work from the agency.

As a professional conference interpreter, this is my advice.


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Ulrike Lieder  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
English to German
+ ...
Don't do it Aug 14, 2004

EdithK wrote:


If you have never been in a booth, don't do it, even if you have the speeches in advance. Speakers have a tendency not to keep to the scripts or have not scripts at all. If you wish to continue your work with the agency, you have to tell them that you cannot do the job ... or the agency might lose the client or you the work from the agency.

As a professional conference interpreter, this is my advice.


As a professional conference interpreter myself, that would be my advice, too. If you have never done any simultaneous interpreting, don't do it.

"Some" is a rather indefinite quantity. Will you be the only interpreter? Let's say you do accept the job and the "some" goes beyond 30 minutes (which is usually the interval at which we spell each other), will there be someone else to take over for you?

A few years ago, I interpreted at a large meeting (IBM, and the topic was one of IBM's systems - hardware and software). All the interpreters were professional conference interpreters, all booths were manned by 2 interpreters. The one notable exception was the Japanese booth, for which IBM had decided to use one of their own employees, a Japanese native, but a software engineer... Of course he knew the subject matter inside out, but he couldn't utter a single intelligible word. First coffee break of the first day of the conference, the hunt was on to find 2 Japanese interpreters who would be available at literally a moment's notice.

A reputation takes years to build, but only minutes to ruin. Your reputation is at stake, as is the reputation of your agency client. If I were in your position, I'd decline the job. The agency should thank you for your honesty.


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Alejandra Villarroel  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 15:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Walk away from it Aug 14, 2004

[quote]Jesus Marin wrote:
The key point is to try and get the agency to send you the scripts from the speakers, that really heps because it gives you an indication as to what they are going to say. If you don't get this and it is a real 'conference' tough....

BUT SHE CLEARLY STATED THAT "I never studied or practised it..."

I think you should definitely stay away from it, at least during the simultaneous part of it.
And specially because at least where I live you are all by yourself in consecutive or whispering interpreting, but always with a partner in simultaneous. The agency shoud hire an experienced simultaneous interpreter for that part of the agenda and you could help her/him with vocabulary for you will probably know the subject very well by then.
But don't accept it so easily. The customer will not accept your excuses. Why would they hire an agency in the first place unless they were expecting the kind of service they really need? And the agency will not remember your warning if can't survive the experience. In the after math your reputation will be permanently damaged. No excuses, trust me.
ALEJANDRA

[Edited at 2004-08-14 23:08]


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 10:51
English to French
+ ...
Won't help if she's not a conference interpreter Aug 15, 2004

Jesus Marin wrote:

The key point is to try and get the agency to send you the scripts from the speakers, that really heps because it gives you an indication as to what they are going to say.


Hi all,
I think this could lead to dangerous misinterpretations.
Getting the speeches ahead of time is not going to do any good
if you're not yourself a conference interpreter.
People don't always understand that it takes training and
experience to simul in a booth, probably because we're sooo
good it sounds easy...
The speeches can definitely help with your prep work, but they're
no substitute for training and experience.
Sarah


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Wenke Geddert  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:51
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your contributions Aug 17, 2004

After the initial shock (didn't help that it was Friday, 13th either!!!), I have come to the conclusion to politely decline the assignment based on the fact that the remit has totally changed since the original outline. ^

It would be both wrong and unethical (ITI's code of professional conduct) to take on the assignment. I shall definitely leave it to the trained professionals.

Once again, thank you very much for the interesting contributions made.

Kind regards

Wenke


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xxxntouzet  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:51
English to French
+ ...
I am in total agreement with Kurt Porter's suggestion. Sep 1, 2004

I am in total agreement with Kurt Porter's suggestion. It's a bad situation to find yourself in. In my long career, I've had to 'rescue' such poor souls, and it's uncomfortable for the whole team. Also, you don't want to damage your reputation, especially if this is a client who knows you well.

Kurt Porter wrote:

Just as one shouldn't take on a translation that's beyond one's abilites, one shouldn't jump into any interpreting opportunity for which one isn't ready.

I simply would call the client and inform them there was a misunderstanding, that you are not an experienced, or trained booth interpreter.

Should you perform poorly (not saying you will, of course), then you may be in danger of damaging your reputation with a regular client. Not only that, but your booth partners will then have to pick up any slack.

Please take this in the spirit it's meant. From your note, it seems you already know that this is the way to go, but are unsure how to tell the client. Straight-forward is the best way.

Texts in advance are a great help. Many times we can get them, many times we can't. Even when you get a text, there's no promise that the speaker will stick to it.

Even if you got all of the information in advance, booth work is not just about the language, it's the process that are involved with listening, analyzing, and speaking at the same time. Those skills come through education/training, or a LOT of experience.

Should you take the job, there are some tape programs that can help you with some very quick, very rush practice.

Best,
Kurt


Direct link Reply with quote
 


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