The letter and the spirit

The subtleties of interpreting: it’s not just the words you say that carry the message, you also have to be careful about the tone of your voice. Illustration:
I was interpreting in a very long meeting. It was around midday, we had been going since 9 (with breaks but still), my brain felt like it had been replaced by mushy peas, I was hungry and I could see from the corner of my eye that they were preparing the room next door for our lunch. The chairman said: “And on to the last item on the agenda”, which I duly and correctly translated as: “Nous allons maintenant passer à la dernière question de l’ordre du jour”. Why then, did the 12 people around the table burst out laughing? Because while the chairman said it in a very matter of fact voice, I said it while exhaling a sigh of relief so big that I might as well have said “THANK GOD we’re finally on the last item of that endless agenda and I’m going to be able to eat and have a good old chat”. However, in this short moment, French and English people briefly united in the understanding of a feeling expressed with so much emphasis. By laughing at me.

By |2016-10-18T15:52:24+00:00November 24th, 2003|Interpreting|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Jemima November 24, 2003 at 10:20 pm


  2. nik December 2, 2003 at 2:57 pm

    your obsessed with food !!

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