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I read some interpreters are nervous before assignments

How do you get past stage fright? Or is it part of the job?

asked 16 Oct '11, 20:16

silvia-c's gravatar image


edited 02 Nov '11, 13:31

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Stage fright is good. Stage fright keeps you on your toes. Use it, don't lose it. You don't want to be a nervous wreck before an assignment and will need coping strategies if that is the case, but blasé interpreters easily lose their edge.

Apparently, a young actress once boasted to Mistinguett that she never got stage fright. "Don't worry," said Mistinguett, "you'll get it once you have talent."

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answered 25 Oct '11, 00:39

LingoJango's gravatar image


Your quotation is so humorous. I love it. :)

(12 Jan '13, 06:24) Paris Si de ...

There are other factors that come into play, too. If it is a big meeting with, say, an audience close to 1000 people and it's very formal, full of pomp and circumstance, you might feel more scared than if it is a small meeting. The status of the participants may come into play, too - if it's your first time in the booth with well-known public figures in the audience, you might feel a bit nervous.

What I find helpful is to focus on is my role as an interpreter. I say to myself, I'm not here as me but as an interpreter, to help these people understand each other. If I let my nerves get the better of me, the audience will not get what they deserve.

What you may also find useful is to concentrate on your breathing for a while if you get nervous. Breathing is amazing as it influences your mind too and by concentrating on your breathing you can calm yourself down considerably. So if your turn is coming up and you notice that your heart is racing or your hands are shaking, close your eyes and take a couple of slow deep breaths, and don't forget the pause between inhaling and exhaling. Even if your voice betrays you in the beginning, just keep at it - it'll pay off ultimately.

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answered 26 Oct '11, 09:52

Sirpa's gravatar image


I would distinguish between two moments:

  1. when you still have time to prepare for the assignment, and
  2. when you are on mic.

You must find ways of boosting your confidence when you're interpreting. Failing to do so will result in hesitant speech, which anyone listening to you will consciously or unconsciously equate with the interpreter being untrustworthy. You don't want that, also because it reflects poorly on the team and interpreting as a professional service.

In order to achieve that, I would say that it helps if you are unsure of yourself ahead of the assignment. Being very much afraid of not being able to deliver, provided that it does not result in action paralysis, will make you work very hard to prepare as much as you can. You'll gradually get better at preparing in a more targeted way. And you'll soon start to accumulate a wealth of background information that will come in handy at some point.

I personally find many junior interpreters too self-confident ahead of an assignment. They take it for granted or are downright clueless when they should be preparing much, much, more; reading related literature on the Web, making glossaries, etc. The immediate consequence of this is that they falter on the microphone.

Being prepared will ultimately improve your self-confidence.

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answered 02 Nov '11, 08:09

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Hi, Vincent: Great link! The article Being prepared is so detailed and impressive, more importantly instructive. It explains the fluency of onsite performance, backed by full preparation. Thanks. :)

(12 Jan '13, 07:08) Paris Si de ...

Hi, Vincent: I have a question. Although I know the preparation can never be enough before the conference takes place, is it really that interpreter seniors will prepare by reading through and memorizing boxes of documents? Is it real and workable? Thanks.

(12 Jan '13, 21:02) Paris Si de ...

Your degree of stage fright will vary depending on the job. If it is a "routine" job for a regular client, and you know the subject matter, delegates, and colleagues very well, you are less likely to suffer nerves on the day. If it is a job for a new client, or in a field that is new to you, then you will probably be a bit more nervous, no matter much you have prepared in advance.

That said, I tend to be a bit on edge for the first part of any meeting, and then calm down once I get a feeling for how things are going. However, you can't be constantly on edge at all times, it can't be good for you.

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answered 25 Oct '11, 17:06

Michelle's gravatar image


I fully agree with Michelle's comments, or should I rather say: I feel them?

As LingoJango says: it gives you some edge. You'll notice that your training and experience will kick in the moment you start to speak into the microphone: you'll speak camly and you will be focused. Wonders of adrenaline, maybe?:-)

(02 Nov '11, 06:45) Conrado
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question asked: 16 Oct '11, 20:16

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