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Hi, I will be working at some football (soccer) press conferences in less than three weeks, doing simultaneous interpreting. Although I have excellent spoken and written Spanish, and have experience with translation and transcription, I have none with any kind of interpreting. Is it realistic to get to a competent level, with practice, in less than three weeks? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

asked 05 Jul '15, 14:44

Jack%20Taylor's gravatar image

Jack Taylor

edited 06 Jul '15, 03:02

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Dear Jack

Thank you for asking this question, it means that, at least, you realize that simultaneous interpreting is a skill that requires practice. Unfortunately, 3 weeks is most definitely not enough to get a decent level. Given that you master the two languages (the one you interpret from and the one you interpret into), you would need at least 1 year of intense practice to learn and “master” this skill.

So my (quite radical) suggestion would be: don't do it. Let a professional do it, and if you're interested in interpreting, learn the skills properly first. It's like a dentist asking a surgeon for advice about performing an open heart surgery in three weeks: Even if the surgeon could give him some tips, it would be highly unethical of him to do so.

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answered 05 Jul '15, 18:54

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Camille Collard

Hi Jack,

Interpreting is not a regulated profession, so you have a perfect legal right to do the job. It is to your credit that you asked the question, and are asking for hints. One of the reasons trained professionals can appear wary of this sort of scenario is that, if you do a less than perfect job, the reaction on the part of your customers - not just the ones who hired you, but the ones listening to you - will be some variation on the theme "Interpretation is not worth the trouble and expense; there is no value added."

Your consecutive practice might have gone well in your assessment, and maybe in your friends' or relatives' assessments, and maybe will go just fine in your clients' assessment (after all, they can't admit that they made a mistake). But please keep in mind that it is simultaneous interpreting, which can be much more difficult, as it doesn't give you the leisure to choose your words, or to reformulate entire utterances.

Also, from what you say, it will be several press conferences, each of no more than 25 minutes. How many will there be? How long will you have to rest between them? Did you know that simultaneous intepreting is just as exhausting physically as playing a sport? Can you run very fast for 25 minutes, and then do it again, and again, without slowing down and getting too tired to run very fast at all by the end one one shift, if not 3 or 4? Even those who have graduated with an interpreting degree are exhausted duriing their first months of interpreting, just from the physical demands of concentrating so hard on what they have to do. And they work in teams of 2 or 3, so have regular breaks throughout. As Andy said, you will not even realize if you are making any sense at all after the first 10 or so minutes, especially if you haven't been trained to monitor your output while listening, processing, and speaking.

And who is to say that the players, coaches, journalists, etc. will stick to a football script? What if one of them starts speaking about something completely different, swearing at someone, etc.? Will you start swearing too? What will you do? And when something happens with the equipment, or with the setup, will you be able to see what is going wrong and fix it, all while keeping your cool and still interpreting? Of course, none of this may happen, but who is to say it won't for sure? And remember, the interpreters - i.e. you, and through you, us - are the ones that get blamed, not the technicians, not your clients, not the speakers.

I have been in this situation before, when I was hired as an interpreter with a degree and experience, to interpret for some marathoners who came to my city; the organizers also availed themselves of the services of professional linguists but not interpreters. After our first appearance, even in that friendly atmosphere (and in consecutive interpreting), and with a limited budget, the volunteer linguists were dropped in favor of the paid professional for the rest of the event.

If after all this you still choose to go ahead, then good luck, and remember that it's in all our interests that you do a good job!

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answered 08 Jul '15, 11:17

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Hi Jack,

As Camille suggests, it would be in the interest of all parties that you step down.

Tell the client to hire two qualified professionals, as you don't have the required know-how and explain that speaking two languages doesn't make your more of an interpreter than having two hands makes you a piano performer.

It's the best and only solution that will ensure that your client doesn't get a poor result the media will laugh at for weeks (e.g. Fabrice Olszewski) and that your own professional reputation in the language industry won't be damaged beyond repair.

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answered 06 Jul '15, 05:55

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Gaspar ♦♦

edited 06 Jul '15, 06:30

Thank you both for your replies. I had previously informed my employer that I have no experience, but I was told that as it's a pre season friendly (ie not a serious, competitive game) so there will be less pressure. In addition, the press conferences will be short (max 25 mins), if that helps. I have been watching football press conferences on YouTube and I find the level of language totally manageable. I have practiced dialogue with family from English into Spanish, doing consecutive interpretating, and I find that it has gone better than I expected as a novice (after less than a day of practice). Until the event I have a very flexible schedule meaning I am able do dedicate many hours of every day to practice. The main issue for me would be the nerves, I guess the same as anyone. I totally understand where both of you are coming from with your idea of me pulling out, im just not so sure myself right now.

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answered 06 Jul '15, 08:25

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Jack Taylor


I agree with both Camille and Gaspar. In the nicest possible way... don't do it! Go to school and train up.

The main issue will not be the nerves, as you say in your reply. Nerves will be one issue, certainly. But the main issue will be simultaneous interpreting - which is a completely different (and not very "friendly") ball game. Can you listen, process, translate and produce language at the same time? Consecutive dialogue interpreting is no preparation for simultaneous.

25 minutes is not a "short" time in simultaneous. It is nearly the maximum (30 mins) that trained professionals do in one go. Even if by some miracle you did quite well for 10 minutes, your brain will be fried after 12 minutes of simultaneous and from then on you'll be producing rubbish.

Another thing... you say your practice went well. But who's judging that? You the novice, or your family the non-interpreters? By professional standards it might not be so good at all. You simply aren't in a place to judge.

Your client may not care, but you probably should.

(06 Jul '15, 16:10) Andy I went ahead and did it...and it went brilliantly.

Nerves quickly went and the weeks of practice helped immeasurably - there were a few surprises as regards to the content, but 90% of it was vocabulary I was well rehearsed at using and understanding. Granted, there were one or two hiccups - but after the first conference I was full of confidence. A fellow interpreter listened to all of my performances and told me I had done very well for a beginner. None of the press conferences were half an hour - longest 18 mins, shortest six.

I appreciated all of your advice - and indeed, I am going to study a masters in interpreting from September onwards. I appreciate that you guys have worked hard at intepreting and in some ways it must be frustrating - even insulting - to see someone like me get a job like this - but sometimes you strike gold. It has shown me that it will be something I will enjoy greatly, and the experience was priceless.

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answered 26 Jul '15, 16:46

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Jack Taylor

Well done, Jack. I was wondering how it all went, and am glad that you went into it responsibly, preparing yourself and practicing so much, so that it went well - for all our sakes! Where will you be studying interpreting in September?

(26 Jul '15, 17:40) JuliaP

Hi Julia, I will be studying in Swansea, Wales. I am really excited to start the course now, as I now know how much I enjoy it, but I am aware that I still have much to learn

(26 Jul '15, 17:42) Jack Taylor

It's great that you know you'll like what you're doing. Thanks for letting us know how it all went.

(26 Jul '15, 17:54) JuliaP
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question asked: 05 Jul '15, 14:44

question was seen: 8,467 times

last updated: 27 Jul '15, 01:05

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