Escort Interpreting - Need Advice
Thread poster: Sandra Alboum

Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 22, 2005

Hi.

I've been approached by a law firm that wants me to accompany 4 foreign politicians around DC for 4 days, accompanying them to meetings and whatnot.

I was wondering what everyone thought about doing this alone vs. having a 2nd interpreter on hand. I have equipment, so I can set up all the meetings for simultaneous interpretation, but I'm still a bit worried about 8+ hours a day with no assistance. The firm has indicated that they will provide another bilingual person to help accompany us and make sure we're on schedule, but this person would not be an interpreter.

Any thoughts on my question or this topic in general are welcome.

Thanks.


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Alejandra Villarroel  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 04:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
I thought you said Escort Interpreting Feb 22, 2005

But then you mentioned simultaneous interpreting...

First of all simultaneous interpreting is not the kind of job you can handle by yourself, let alone for 8 hours a day or longer.

But then I still think you might be using the wrong terms because meetings and the task you described (around DC) are better served by consecutive or escort -not simultaneous- interpreting, even if you have all the equipment.

Beyong the above my advice is to always have assistance. Remember that the outcome is all your client will ever care about in the end. But be careful because the client clearly explained to you that you are not going to be assited by another interpreter. After a few bad experiences I completely refuse to sharing a booth or working in a consecutive job with someone I don't trust professionally speaking... Imagine what could happen with a person you don't even know... So if you are willing to work all alone just go ahead but don't accept such "assistance".

Regards, ALEJANDRA


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I didn't explain right... Feb 22, 2005

Alejandra Villarroel wrote:

But then you mentioned simultaneous interpreting...

First of all simultaneous interpreting is not the kind of job you can handle by yourself, let alone for 8 hours a day or longer.

But then I still think you might be using the wrong terms because meetings and the task you described (around DC) are better served by consecutive or escort -not simultaneous- interpreting, even if you have all the equipment.

Beyong the above my advice is to always have assistance. Remember that the outcome is all your client will ever care about in the end. But be careful because the client clearly explained to you that you are not going to be assited by another interpreter. After a few bad experiences I completely refuse to sharing a booth or working in a consecutive job with someone I don't trust professionally speaking... Imagine what could happen with a person you don't even know... So if you are willing to work all alone just go ahead but don't accept such "assistance".

Regards, ALEJANDRA



Hi. No ... here's what I meant:

I would be with these 4 politicians as they go from meeting to meeting with ... well, not sure who, but people! ... all day long. I have been told that they have between 5 and 7 meetings lined up per day. So when they're in these meetings, I would hook them up for simultaneous.

Otherwise, it's an escort job.

Hope that explains things.
Sandra


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Atenea Acevedo  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree... Feb 22, 2005

Sandra,

If I were you, I'd definitely have another professional interpreter by my side throughout these 4 days. I speak from experience: my first "accompany these people around" job I decided to tackle on my own, and it turned out just great, but I would've felt much more relaxed and enjoyed it more had I brought someone along. And yes, it should be someone you're professionally comfortable with.

Cheers,
Atenea


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Victor Potapov
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:08
English to Russian
+ ...
It's your call - and their budget... Feb 22, 2005

Sandra,

This is a fairly frequent type of job - I do this say 2 times a month for commercial departments of US and UK Embassies in Moscow and other customers.

Yes, it is doable - you can do the whole thing alone. These meetings by definition (5 to 7 a day) are 30 minutes long maximum - you need time to get to your next meeting, after all!

Thus, it is not a problem simultaneous-wise. Escort-wise you may need another interpreter to help the group on your way. This second interepreter may (or may not) have a lot to do: various introductions/discussions/dish choices during lunch/etc. - believe me, this stuff more than justifies one more person. If the client's budget will bear this - bingo! and congratulations

If not - you can do it on your own. Be prepared for a tough day, though...

I am usually doing it on my own - single-handedly, but sometimes another escort interpreter is added to the team by me or by the client (job description is highly similar to yours: half-day to two-day visits, up to five meetings per day - Moscow has terrible traffic, battery-powered simultaneous equipment, one or two interpreters).

So here's another idea: you can creatively suggest (accent on "creatively") to the client to provide their staff for the team - a lawyer working with this client, a paralegal etc... or even a driver will be better than nothing! You see, it is not so much interpreting, it is logistics - with such tight schedule you'll need to be picked up at the entrance VERY fast.

Please don't tell us you'll be driving the group around by yourself - this is just not doable...

Also, if your group will be meeting at the law firm's offices and all the meetings will take place there - you will have 50-minute meetings with 10-minute breaks (at best) between them. In this case you'll definitely need another simultaneous interpreter to share the load. This setup looks much more like a regular conference to me.

One final note - for a day of such "field trips" I charge my full-day simultaneous interpreting rate or that plus a full-day escort interpreting rate if I'm working with an escort interpreter.

Hope this helps and good luck with that job,

Victor.


Sandra Alboum wrote:

Hi.

I've been approached by a law firm that wants me to accompany 4 foreign politicians around DC for 4 days, accompanying them to meetings and whatnot.

I was wondering what everyone thought about doing this alone vs. having a 2nd interpreter on hand. I have equipment, so I can set up all the meetings for simultaneous interpretation, but I'm still a bit worried about 8+ hours a day with no assistance. The firm has indicated that they will provide another bilingual person to help accompany us and make sure we're on schedule, but this person would not be an interpreter.

Any thoughts on my question or this topic in general are welcome.

Thanks.


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José Luis Villanueva-Senchuk  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 04:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
Get a colleague to go with you! Feb 22, 2005

Hola:

I would not take a job like the one you describe above without a colleague to serve as co-interpreter/junior interpreter.

My two cents.

JL


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Bruno Magne  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:08
English to French
+ ...
I could not agree more with José Luis Feb 22, 2005

After some 20 years of experience, I am still waiting for that escort job where I can spend 10 minutes without uttering a single word (going to the rest room does not help, since one is never left alone in that kind of assignemnt).

If your clients do no want to pay for a second professional, ask for a colleague to go along and split the job and the money. You'll make less money, but you sure are going to sleep well.

Cheers
Bruno Magne
Brazil


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good news! Feb 22, 2005

I met with the client this afternoon and looks like they're going to spring for two people. He even told me, "Hey, I was talking to a friend of mine who's an interpreter and she said to me, 'You're going to need two people for this job'". AND he also said, "I've done interpreting before and I know what a headache it is."

So when I said, "I'll need to work with someone," it didn't come at all as a surprise to him.

Yay! I'll be able to go to the bathroom by myself!


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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:08
Member (2005)
Russian to English
+ ...
Just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD do it. Feb 22, 2005

I have done a great deal of interpreting under precisely the conditions you describe, and it is very difficult to do well on your own, although not impossible.

If I understand correctly that you will be carrying and setting up the simul equipment -- and doing the simultaneous interpreting at the meetings (?) -- and schmoozing with people between meetings, helping people order their meals, communicating with the driver (assuming that's not you), and so forth, you can except to literally be engaged every second of every day, not to mention the evening activities that seem inevitable on these kinds of assignments.

IMHO, an interpreter in the US should attempt such a job solo only with great reservations and a guarantee of at least $600/day. And I would charge an additional $100/hour after 6 p.m. Given those terms, any client that knows anything about the interpreting business should happily agree to engage two interpreters at $350-400 each, thus ensuring consistent quality throughout the day and allowing both interpreters to retain their sanity in the event it is needed for the evening activities.

Surely, some colleagues will protest that they can and do perform such tasks on a regular basis. Indeed, there are (very) rare souls who can maintain consistent quality through 8 hours of interpreting/escorting (my hat's off to you, Viktor). But I've witnessed too many such cases where by 2 pm the interpreter's unnoticed (or ignored) fatigue has him or her translating Russian into Russian for an English-speaking audience, or making 19 million into 90 million. Alas, clients ultimately tend to notice such things!

So I would advise against going solo on this one, for many reasons beyond those stated above, not the least of which is that it creates unrealistic expectations on the part of the client.

My personal read on this issue. Your experience may be different.

Kevin Kelly


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sample Interpretation Contract? Feb 22, 2005

Does anyone happen to have a sample interpretation contract I could look at while I'm drafting up the one for this client?

My email is sandra@alboum.com.

Thanks!


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Victor Potapov
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:08
English to Russian
+ ...
Can relate to your comments 100% ! Feb 23, 2005

Kevin - very true!

I do not say this is easy or that everybody should do this (=going solo). I tried this once (out of need, actually) - found I can do it and still be alive tomorrow -

so I sometimes (2-3-4 times a month) pull these gigs all by myself (with a reliable backup interpreter ready to come to the job site IF something goes wrong with me - you see, working in a team of two has its advantages, as they say in the (US?) army, "two is one, one is none"...).

By the way, I charge more than $600 for this type of service - and indeed, there's a surcharge for every hour over 8 hours of total time (interpreting+escort).

On the other hand, I often (maybe 1-2-3 times a month) do these jobs together with an escort interpreter. In this case I get a) chance to have normal lunch/breakfast/other meals, b) no pressure to pack/unpack equipment, c) some time to read my mail/do some written translations on my notebook during travel time (this, of course, has to be a REALLY urgent translation!

To finalize: I would RECOMMEND to do this job together - and am happy for Sandra to clinch this from the client. I would SAY that technically this type of job (simultaneous in meetings, escort/shepherding to/from meetings, each meeting no more than 30-40 min long) is doable by one person.

As for fatigue - you're right again. Concentration is king (especially if there is any noise in the room - mobile equipment is much less interpreter-friendly than your average ISO-compatible booth...). That's why I combine translations and interpreting jobs - variety is the spice of life, right?

However, I would die right on spot if either this "Russian-to-Russian" or "19 going on 90" (Russian-speakers will recognize that probably the most difficult in our language pair is 17 vs. 18, "semnadsat" vs. "VO-semnadsat") blunder occurred to me and I did not correct it myself. The bonus of mobile, no-booth system is that you're in the same room with the speaker, so if there's a major ambiguity - like the one you've mentioned, 15 million or 50 million? - I may actually interrupt the speaker to get him to repeat the figure - ideally in the "one-five" or "five-zero" format.

To avoid bluners I always read the documents/handouts/presentations - everything that's available before the event or between the meetings. The agenda is also important - you'll have less problems remembering who's who and what's the title of that gentleman on your left. But discussions between the meetings are probably the best thing: clients usually understand the role of the intepreter and discuss with you the next meeting, its logic, participants and the main points the client would like to make or even the ideal outcome of the meeting.

Kevin - thank you again for your comments - and who knows, maybe we'll work together in the same booth at some future time!


Kevin Kelly wrote:

I have done a great deal of interpreting under precisely the conditions you describe, and it is very difficult to do well on your own, although not impossible.

If I understand correctly that you will be carrying and setting up the simul equipment -- and doing the simultaneous interpreting at the meetings (?) -- and schmoozing with people between meetings, helping people order their meals, communicating with the driver (assuming that's not you), and so forth, you can except to literally be engaged every second of every day, not to mention the evening activities that seem inevitable on these kinds of assignments.

IMHO, an interpreter in the US should attempt such a job solo only with great reservations and a guarantee of at least $600/day. And I would charge an additional $100/hour after 6 p.m. Given those terms, any client that knows anything about the interpreting business should happily agree to engage two interpreters at $350-400 each, thus ensuring consistent quality throughout the day and allowing both interpreters to retain their sanity in the event it is needed for the evening activities.

Surely, some colleagues will protest that they can and do perform such tasks on a regular basis. Indeed, there are (very) rare souls who can maintain consistent quality through 8 hours of interpreting/escorting (my hat's off to you, Viktor). But I've witnessed too many such cases where by 2 pm the interpreter's unnoticed (or ignored) fatigue has him or her translating Russian into Russian for an English-speaking audience, or making 19 million into 90 million. Alas, clients ultimately tend to notice such things!

So I would advise against going solo on this one, for many reasons beyond those stated above, not the least of which is that it creates unrealistic expectations on the part of the client.

My personal read on this issue. Your experience may be different.

Kevin Kelly


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