sod_cutterHowever thoroughly you prepare for an interpreting assignment, there will always be surprises. I’m not talking about having to hop on a tractor so the client can see it in action, although my client was very grateful that I didn’t mind working in unusual conditions (mind? I loved it!). I’m talking about terminology.
I had researched everything to do with sod-cutting, including soil composition, so when the English client explained that the sod-cutter worked well on loam-based soil, I congratulated myself and used the French word “loam”, which was part of the little glossary I had compiled.
The French looked puzzled. They had never heard of “loam”. In this type of situation, panic or cursing online dictionaries is a tempting option, but it must be resisted. The best thing to do is to acknowledge the problem to the clients and find a way to go around it. In this case, I asked for a description of loam and was told that it was “between sand and clay”. When I relayed this information to the French, they exclaimed “Ah, du limon!”
It would be nice to know everything about a subject when interpreting, but it’s impossible. When faced with a problem, the main thing is to accept one’s limitations, not feel too bad about it and concentrate on quickly finding a way to overcome it (without falling off the tractor).