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Dear community,

Tomorrow, I will be on an assignment with a German delegation visiting a town in France.

The delegation will have lunch and a cocktail party with the town's mayor and international students. During both venues, my colleague and I will be expected to interpret.

I was wondering wether you had any tips for this kind of situation, particularly concerning the choice of dish for the lunch and the best interpreting technique during the cocktail party. Allow me to briefly explain:

I had originally planned on not ordering anything to eat, since our trainers always advise against eating while on the assignment. However, the agency told me the client usually insists on inviting the interpreters and I am not sure even politely declining will be acceptable.

Throughout the day, we will interpret using a spider so I truly feel eating and interpreting at the same time is going to be fairly complicated. If we must, however, I'd like to know, laughable as it may seem, if you'd recommand or advise against any dish in particular. (I imagine myself trying to tackle both the very funny remarks of the mayor and trying to place some salad on my fork...)

As for the cocktail party, I am quite sure we will not be using the spider. But I don't know whether chuchotage or consecutive or a mixture of both will be the most appropriate technique.

I know the request is a bit of a last-minute emergency call but perhaps this question is of interest to other young professionals as well.

I'd be happy to read your thoughts and ideas on this in English, French, German or Swedish.

Thank you for reading!

asked 14 May '13, 14:34

KaPe's gravatar image


edited 14 May '13, 14:56

  • are you supposed to work non-stop from dawn till dusk, including lunch and evening cocktail-party? Are the resulting hours feasible... with only two interpreters - hopefully both working both ways?
  • I take it by "spider" you mean a portable equipment, ie you'll be working simultaneous w/o booths, including during lunch... and not just speeches but general conversation??
  • If that is indeed the case, I would strongly recommend you put your foot down and at the very least ( getting a third colleague is probably unfeasible this late in the game) interpret speeches only at lunchtime (and have the organisers schedule them for either the beginning or the end of the lunch, so that you can rest afterwards/beforehand) and very ostensibly do NOT have the portable equipment on or even near you so that you can get some rest... and try not to be at the main tables or else you won't rest at all!
  • for the cocktail, it'll all depend on how many users you'll have for each language and of course the stated wishes of the organisers, the best set-up would normally be to do a consecutive into one language and whisper into the other, numbers permitting... or consecutive into both.

Good luck! :-)

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answered 14 May '13, 15:55

msr's gravatar image


Thank you very much for that insight!

Please don't make me divulge the working conditions ;) I know I could have done a better job in insisting on more interpreters but there simply was no way (or I would have had to turn down the offer...)

It's not from dusk till dawn and the agency did insist with the client on granting us some rest but yes, we will interpret throughout the day. I should have asked more specific questions concerning lunch and the cocktail party but I guess there won't be any speeches, "just" general conversation. (Yes I know, darn rookie interpreters accepting more or less unprofessional assignments...)

As for the cocktail party, I think chuchotage will be our best option- which also means garlic and onions for lunch are out. Oh well.

Again, thank you, I'll be sure to keep your advices in mind tomorrow.

(14 May '13, 16:06) KaPe

Dear Karolin,

Since there are two of you, you should take it in turns during the meals so that each of you can eat at least a bit. I always make sure not to order anything with a dark gravy or salad dressing (or tomato sauce) if I am wearing something light-coloured and not to have anything with a white dressing if I am wearing dark colours.

I also try to have a scarf or something in my handbag just in case I have an "accident" whilst eating and need to cover the stain. There are now also little towelettes available soaked in some kind of detergent with which you can wipe off stains.

When eating it is advisable to only put very little on your fork/spoon so you may not get stuck chewing the last bite when suddenly being required to interpret (e.g. your colleague has a cough and you must step in).

In order to feel more "in control" I make sure to have next to no alcohol until I have finished my job for the day - I might let the waiter fill my wine glass but actually drink water unless there is an official toast.

All the best for tomorrow and enjoy your assignment!

Added on May 22nd:

Louise's comment concerning the menu reminded me of how helpful it can be to get the menu a day before so you may be able to look up the poetic terminology often used by chefs describing their creations.

If that's not possible you may want to look at the menu as soon as you get an opportunity - or seek a chance to speak to the chef.

There are small dictionaries / terminology lists like the "Dictionary of Gastronomy in 5 languages" (English, German, French, Italian & Spanish) that are small enough to fit into a handbag in case you need to look something up (and don't happen to have internet access with your smartphone...)

It is also good to know the most popular food allergies which you might have to tell the chef about on behalf of your client.

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answered 14 May '13, 16:34

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 21 May '13, 19:44

Vielen Dank, Almute!

I'm a bit paranoid when it comes to "accidents" so I'll have a second shirt in my handbag anyway.

Like you, I actually prefer not to drink on an assignment but since I'm being told it's good for the Sprechfertigkeit ... ;)

(14 May '13, 16:40) KaPe

Taking along an extra shirt a good idea - and for the cocktail party you might want to change into something slightly more dashing anyway (not outshining the hostess or any other women!!!) You might want to first test the effects of chanpagne on "Sprechfertigkeit" in a private setting ;-)

(14 May '13, 16:46) AlmuteL

Hi Karoline! If it is not too late, I'll add one more tip: bring mints:) Also, if the client doesn't insist on inviting you to eat, bring some cereal bars in order not to starve!! All the best!

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answered 15 May '13, 04:16

Federica's gravatar image



Seconded a million times, you probably won't be able to eat more than a few bites and will be so glad you brought along an energy-packed snack you can nibble on beforehand/afterwards.

Bear in mind you might have to translate the menu, as well, so read up on your jus, filets de rouget sur lit d'epinards, delice d'ananas, and co :)

Best of luck to you!

(15 May '13, 09:59) Louise

Avoid shellfish. Definitely. You may have to reach for your notepad before they bring finger bowls. But help yourself to a glass of champagne. Or two. If the client objects, smile back and counter that it's good both for the vocal chords and Sprechfertigkeit. That should settle it.

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answered 14 May '13, 15:47

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

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question asked: 14 May '13, 14:34

question was seen: 3,976 times

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