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Hi all,

I've been offered a month-long consecutive assignment. I've never worked with this agency before - they contacted me via LinkedIn. I've also never had a purely consecutive assignment before. My question is whether a consecutive interpreter can work alone - it's only one-way, but a month of 8-hour days, interpreting by myself, without a break, seems frankly implausible. Should I insist the agency hire two interpreters (and move on, if they refuse)? Thanks very much.

asked 19 Mar '15, 02:30

Louise's gravatar image


edited 19 Mar '15, 03:57

Delete's gravatar image

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Hi Louise :-)

Unless the conference does not require full-time interpreting (as would be the case, say, for most audits or traning sessions) for such a long assignment IMHO you should indeed try to have the client hire a 2nd colleague: "educating" a client is an artform :-), it serves no purpose - or, if any, the opposite of what you want to achieve ;-) - to explain to them why you cannnot accept it, you have to illustrate why they should not want you to - of course, going through a PCO makes it a lot more more difficult, particularly if they're not really a PCO but an "agency" :-( .

Present your arguments from their point of view: not that you cannot maintain the same level of quality past a certain point but that they will not have the same level etc, not that you will need breaks but that their meeting dynamics will not lend themselves to the inevitable stops a single interpreter will have to be allowed, etc.

For such a long assignment - obviously depending on subject-matter, languages and venue - I would recommend (I have actually done so, in similar circumstances) that a team of three be set up - only two engaged on any given day - so that some redundancy is built in to be able to deal with unforeseen circumstances w/o disrupting their meetings with an-hoc replacement, if a suitable one is available from one day to the next, that is; that third colleague would prepare the conference and be given a firm offer to work say, twice every week, once replacing you and the 2nd time your colleague, so that s/he would be fit to further replace any of you, in the best possible conditions, should the need arise unexpectedly - both prep. and stand-by would of course have to be compensated, albeit at a lower rate, and any interpreting work paid.

Should none of this work and should you nevertheless be willing to risk it, you should ask for a solo rate, be prepared to be courteously firm with hours... and hope for the best :-). Good luck!

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answered 19 Mar '15, 14:19

msr's gravatar image


edited 19 Mar '15, 14:22


Thanks very much, msr! Your answer really came in handy when negotiating with this agency but as they have refused to hire a second interpreter I've decided not to accept their offer.

I will definitely keep your very helpful and thorough comments in mind when dealing with agencies in future.

(21 Mar '15, 22:08) Louise

a "they" not "you" approach... very well said Manuel!

(23 Mar '15, 10:46) Andy

Hello Louise,

MSR's is an excellent answer, and you did right not to accept the whole month alone, assuming it was working the 8-hour days rather than being on call and working only sporadically.

To give an answer on fatigue when working on your own with consecutive (for anyone considering doing so), I am a very experienced consecutive interpreter, having worked much of my career while in the US on consecutive assignments. When I worked alone for a week, I had negotiated very good breaks: work 90 minutes, followed by a 30-minute break (no interacting with the interpreter!), another 90-minute shift and then a 90-minute lunch break, and then repeat the morning schedule. Monday went by swimmingly, with me needing few notes to render the interventions, and not being too tired by the end of the day. But by Friday, much of the interventions were noted because my memory was incapable of working for very long. I was exhausted. The client realized, and treated me well, so there was never any question of "us" vs "them". They wanted me to be able to work well too - they just hadn't thought of a second interpreter and didn't have a budget, and I had assumed that this schedule would help preserve my health. It only happened once - I learned my lesson!

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answered 26 Mar '15, 19:13

JuliaP's gravatar image


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question asked: 19 Mar '15, 02:30

question was seen: 10,267 times

last updated: 26 Mar '15, 19:13 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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