Distance Learning is here to stay. It just makes too much sense. While the concept may be a given, being an effective teacher in a virtual classroom is anything but. Even those of us who consider ourselves digital natives (or the near equivalent) quickly realize that training interpreters across space and time requires a pilot specialized in these such atmospheric layers—even more so when it comes to a discipline such as Conference Interpreting that has traditionally had a marked hands-on, four-walls-and-a-console-based approach.
The interpreting realm is a-buzz for me as of late. I want to lay it all out here, so if you’re not a part of the interpreting world or you aren’t my grandmother Mimi you may find this a bit boring. I’ll try to be as spicy as some of you know that I’m capable of being, but this may only be digestible by coffee or interpreting first-class geeks. (Which geeks, by the way, has apparently reached the Portuguese specialty coffee lexicon! Who knew?!)
This past June I attended the InterpretAmerica Summit organized by co-presidents Katherine Allen and Barry Slaughter Olsen just outside of Washington DC. That was loads of fun as I had the opportunity to learn about and actually meet the creators of many new remote interpreting platforms such as Babelverse and Capiche.pro; interviewed with the new “netflix-style” training initiative by Michelle Scott (who is super sweet by the way) of Voices for Health; and finally had the opportunity to meet the hard-working Andrew Clifford, director of Glendon College’s Master of Conference Interpreting (MCI)—program in which I am currently, happily involved upon which I will expound for sure throughout the semester. Meanwhile, you can find out more through Andrew’s blog about the program. At the conference, Andrew introduced me to students and professors in the Portuguese-English track of the MCI, and I met conference organizer Katherine Allen and her sweet, chill daughter. Fast forward several months later, and I find out that the mismita Katherine Allen is my Healthcare Interpreting professor! Very fun.
It was really neat having the presence of the signed language interpreting community. I’m actually now following a great blog, Street Leverage by Brandon Arthur which is focused on signed language interpreting but is equally interesting and valuable for the jabbering interpreter type as well. As the conference opened, the first presentation was signed for us all which was truly exciting to see. Booths were also available in the back for spoken language interpreters to hop in and play around with. I, of course, saddled up to the figurative horse, had a bumpy little joyride, and dismounted reaffirmed in my conviction that there is always lots more to learn.
The next conference I attended worth reporting on from an interpreting standpoint was actually a specialty coffee conference. I always meet the best folks at coffee events which I end up attending more frequently than one might expect because my partner Byron works in the industry as a coffee genius—title he doesn’t know he has until he sees this post. The Feira Internacional de Café (International Coffee Fair) in Belo Horizonte had the appearance of a typical conference and I got to see my lively friend Marty Curtis who taught a CQI cupping course that I interpreted this past April in Perú. This, along with meeting many heavy-hitters in the Brazilian coffee scene that I had heard about but had yet to meet, made me very happy indeed.
I have to say, however, that a highlight of this event for me had to do with a small booth in the back of a large conference room populated by two super-friendly and, as I was to find out, very talented and well-prepared conference interpreters and master’s of their own interpreting business Tradus B&B. Canary Islands born María Barrera and Brazilian Larissa Benevides delivered into English excellent renditions of the presentations, nailing industry-specific terminology that can be quarrelsome. I was so glad I had the opportunity to appreciate their linguistic maneuvers.
This leads me to a question I brought up to my Conference Interpreting Professor Michelle Hof, trainer at La Laguna and widely read author of the Interpreter Diaries (thank you Andrew for putting together such an amazing faculty) about how to best capitalize on opportunities to witness conference interpretation live. I was at first trying to listen to the source language (i.e. the speeches given on stage) and the interpretation into English at the same time to try to see what the master’s of the booth were doing with it all. I was able to catch some of each enough to appreciate the quality of the interpretation, however, it became a bit noisy up in the ole noggin as you can imagine. So then I focused on just listening to the Interpretation which gave me little insight into the interpretation process but knowing a good bit about the industry and terms that typically trip people up, I was able to again get a sense of the high quality of my new friends in the booth. Additionally, it was nice to walk in an end user’s shoes or, perhaps sit in their seats for a bit. I then moved on to shadowing the speeches to try to click into the rhythm of the speakers in my B and hopefully eventually C languages, Spanish and Portuguese respectively. It has been at least four months since I’ve actively interpreted in the workplace, on top of which I’ve been in a bit of a Spanish-language desert here in Brazil, thus it was a delight to hear a well-delivered live speech in Spanish.
I subsequently described this experience to Michelle, and she suggested that at this point, it might be best to really focus in on the speech itself: How is it structured? Where is the speaker trying to go with it? What is the speaker’s personality? This suggestion really drives home the point that a large part of the work is getting inside the speaker’s head. So the next time I attend another rockin’ coffee conference you will find me in my caffeine-powered, x-ray capable, cerebral spaceship ready for exploration.
If you are an interpreter, in love with a terp, or are interested in becoming a terp as soon as you finish your cereal, I highly recommend subscribing to Lourdes de Rioja’s wonderful video blog A Word in Your Ear. This beautiful lady prods, asks and celebrates the interpreting profession and those who act it out day after day. Here’s her latest homage to lo cotidiano of an interpreter’s life.