Interpreting out of the booth and into the field

No, I’m not interpreting FOR the cows, but during this assignment my booth mate and I interpreted about the dairy industry and you guessed it, we had to get REALLY up close and personal to our subject of interest for this particular seminar :).

Many of our colleagues routinely interpret in factories and plants, oil rigs, assembly lines and in close proximity to livestock and wild animals. While this gives us a much-needed break from the booth and satisfies our so-craved thirst for knowledge about the world we live in, interpreting on a field tour entails a few extra details that the interpreter should keep in mind.

For starters, yes, it can get really, really messy. In a recent assignment for the dairy industry, one of the attendees got her sleeve dirty with cow manure. Yuck :(! Add that to the danger of anybody (including the interpreters) being allergic to any of the elements in the field and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Factory floors can also be wet and slippery, or one can be called to interpret in a hard hat or another hazardous area.

Then, sound conditions may also not be perfectly audible or just plain loud. During this recent assignment, my booth mate and I also interpreted in a dairy plant: think huge pasteurizing machines working, boilers whistling and clanking and someone else trying to talk on top of that. Before I decided to sign up for a lip-reading class, I worked on setting myself up for success, talked to the speakers, positioned myself strategically very close to them, and then crossed my fingers and did my best :).

Next, weather conditions may also affect interpretation. It could be unbearably cold, as you step into a cooling chamber and people have hundreds of questions about the issue being discussed. Or it could be very hot as well. Either way, planning in advance is a good idea. Maybe the interpreter will need some water or maybe it’s a an extra pack of batteries that will save your portable equipment battery from draining. Either way, understanding how long the tour will take and finding out as much as you can about the talk on the tour can help you forecast and plan.

Needless to say, fashion may go out of the window in these occasions: boots are welcome and other comfortable shoes are a must. Pants are ideal for women needing to go up and down stairs and doing a lot of walking or transiting through tight spaces. Clothes that have pockets can help keep a pen and a small writing pad, in addition to a smart phone from which you can access terminology. Although most tours are on a continuos simultaneous mode, there may be down times, or it may be your partner’s turn, which would facilitate terminology research, if any, at that point.

Despite having the potential to be messy, tiring, cumbersome, complicated, interpreting out of the booth and in tours can be invigorating, fun and rewarding. And hey, just maybe, the walking around counts as exercise :). I’d love to hear where other colleagues have interpreted and how they dealt with the field challenges.

About Cris

My name is Cristina Silva, and I'm a Portuguese Translator, Conference Interpreter, Voice-Over Talent and Cultural Consultant who lives and works in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Thanks for stopping by, I'm happy you found my blog! Click onCristina-Silva-Portuguese-Conference-Interpreter-and-Translator to find out more about me.
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5 Responses to Interpreting out of the booth and into the field

  1. Thais says:

    Cris, having worked with you, I know how good you are. I hope that your students always read your blog. BTW, don’t be humble, did the cows like your work? :-)

  2. Gio Lester says:

    My unexpected location was inside a radiation booth for a medical exam. I was so shocked that no one even bothered to ask if I was pregnant or had any reservations about going into the chamber with my client (back surgery patient). Now I have one more question to ask when I get a medical assignment ;o)

    Thanks for the piece, Cris. Amei!

    • Cris Silva says:

      Gio,
      You bring something else to the discussion. In addition to working in sometimes exciting places, interpreters occasionally work in places that are detrimental to our health, such as radiation booths and other medically related scenarios. Kudos to our judiciary colleagues who also work in health hazardous places, such as jails, incarceration facilities, etc, and are exposed to TB, flu, etc.
      Thanks for reading, Gio!

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