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This seems to happen to me more and more frequently: In the run up to a conference I receive an agenda with a keynote speaker who is planned to speak for an hour or more, the organizers tell me there will be no preparation material as the speaker does not use slides or a script. so I check youtube for videos of the speaker and find that he speaks about the same topic all the time and the speech he gives is more or less learnt by heart. He speaks extremely fast, the content is extremely dense, contains about 20 quotations and 35 jokes or anecdotes. So, in order to provide a perfect rendering in the other language I, too, would have to learn the speech by heart. And, being sure that he will give the exact same speech as the 3 or 4 identical examples on youtube, I in fact have the possibility to do so. However, it is likely to take me and my boothmate half a day or more for a 1-hour speech. Do colleagues think that there is a limit to preparation? Aren't we somehow obliged to deliver the most perfect interpretation within our reach?

asked 27 Jun '12, 15:40

Julia's gravatar image


edited 27 Jun '12, 15:44

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

There is no limit to preparation as there is no standard preparation. An interpreter who does 20 medical conferences per year may certainly continue reading medical journals and preparing the material he is given, but will not undertake the kind of extensive preparation some of us feel obliged to do when offered a medical job, for example. There is however a limit to preparation: cost-effectiveness. Many interpreters have stopped all together accepting medical conferences, in particular short ones, as it is simply not worth their while checking all the bones, nerves, muscles, operations, drugs and instruments in 2 or 3 languages for a one day conference on state-of-the-art heart surgery. If it is not cost-effective for you, simply refuse it (unless you take it as an investment towards future jobs of the same kind). However, if you accept it, you then have what the French call “une obligation de moyens”- namely, you are morally and ethically obliged to prepare thoroughly in order to meet your client’s expectations.

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answered 28 Jun '12, 01:36

Danielle's gravatar image


edited 28 Jun '12, 01:37

We are indeed supposed (as opposed to "obliged") to deliver it... although like in every other aspect of our lives, professional and personal, we do as best we can, alas not always as best we should; check out this previous question.

I don't however think IT will be a version learned by heart, or a written translation of the transcribed original, for that matter: research the quotations by all means and give yourself the time to come up with the jokes/anedoctes that will be as effective as the original ones (if at all possible within the same "family", anyway the right frame of mind will be needed, ie probably not all when you sit down to prepare, some may well take their own sweet time to coalesce into your conscious mind) but don't, I'd advise, try to fix a full text in advance, interpretation as we all know is situational :-).

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answered 27 Jun '12, 20:38

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edited 29 Jun '12, 05:09

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question asked: 27 Jun '12, 15:40

question was seen: 3,638 times

last updated: 29 Jun '12, 05:09 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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