Interpreting and Flying: The Connection

At the tiny airport in Ixtapa, Mexico. Photo by Judy.
Today's quick post is about two of our favorite things: interpreting and flying. Yes, we love to fly, and we fly a lot. Neither of us knows how to fly a plane, even though Judy's recent Google searches include "private pilot classes in Las Vegas." We've often thought about the similarities between interpreting and flying, and if you think that's a stretch, hear us out.

Once the plane--no matter how big or small, a Cessna, a C-130, a Boeing 737 or anything in between--is in the air, there's only one way to bring it down safely: by landing the thing. The same is true for interpreting: once the microphone has been switched on, or you have simply started interpreting without equipment, the plane has left the runway and you have to keep on going. There's no turning back in interpreting, and only one way to land the proverbial plane: by finishing the job that you have started. Again, we've never flown a plane, but we've been inside thousands of them, and in a way, we bet the adrenaline one must feel getting behind those controls is not that different from a high-profile (or not) interpreting assignment. Something we've learned along the way, while interpreting at international events, for presidents, CEOs, judges, lawyers, doctors, defendants, diplomats and everyone in between, is that starting an interpreting job means needing to finish it, no matter how scary or difficult the assignment is. The same is true for flying: the landing might not always be pretty or smooth, but you have to do it to complete the job and keep everyone safe. 

If you are a new interpreter and are trying to get used to landing the plane, we'd like to suggest that you train your brain to keep on going by forcing yourself to interpret every video and audio file you have clicked on. Keep on going, even if it doesn't feel great and it's not a great "flight." It's important to get used to the fact that you have to keep on going, no matter what. If you are lucky enough to work in formal conference interpreting situations, you will have a co-pilot, err, booth partner, to come rescue you, but in all other interpreting scenarios (legal, medical, community), you usually don't. Happy interpreting and flying! 

Mentoring Conference Interpreters in Austria

Dagy recently had the pleasure of being a mentor to young interpreters at the 3rd International Conference on Family-Centered Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Bad Ischl/Austria. Following an initiative by the president of the Austrian Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association UNIVERSITAS Austria, Alexandra Jantscher-Karlhuber, the conference organizers agreed to give recent interpreting graduates who are part of the UNIVERSITAS Austria mentoring program a chance to show their skills, assisted by a total of four mentors who would take over when things called for an experienced interpreter, which happened considerably less often than you would think. Here's Dagy's report from this event.

The conference was a fascinating experience for those of us who like myself had never had any contact with the deaf community. What struck me was the excellent organization, the fact that dozens of speakers provided their PowerPoint presentations weeks (!) in advance and the general great ambience among conference attendants.
The organization was quite a challenge from the technical side, catered to everybody’s communication needs, and included a large array of language professionals showing their skills, ranging from sign language interpreters for as many as five different national sign languages to spoken language interpreters from English to German and vice versa as well as colleagues doing the captioning for speeches delivered in spoken language (provided for those who are hard of hearing and don’t understand sign language).
Our delegation included a total of 17 people who handled all kinds of different interpreting needs, including keynote speeches delivered in American sign language and interpreted into spoken English and from there into German. For the presentations delivered in spoken English, our booth was a relais meaning that the Austrian sign language interpreters used the German interpretation to provide theirs. This called for very exact interpreting, and the mentees did a great job at that.
As a mentor to these recent interpreting graduates, I was deeply impressed by their skills and dedication, both prior to the conference and during these three days. They ploughed through countless presentations to create glossaries on subjects ranging from a documentary about deaf role models in Kenya, traditional family structures and their impact on the health system in New Zealand, and the psychological aspects of decision-making processes by parents with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, to name just a few. The conference also included the typical frustrating experiences (which seemed to annoy me more than the mentees) such as presentation delivered at breakneck speed by a South African researcher, highly intangible subject matters and hard-to-understand accents. My fellow interpreters soldiered through it all. One of them, after a particularly challenging speech that left even the mentor exhausted, still said: “Interpreting is the best job in the universe.” Hearing her say that affirmed my belief that she has indeed chosen the right career path. Mentees with such passion and excellent skills assure me that the future of interpreting is in great hands. 

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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