Officially a high-flyer

I’ve interpreted in difficult conditions, while feeling tense, nervous, tired and even ill, but I never thought my biggest challenge would be to interpret while feeling like a four year old on Christmas morning. In a helicopter.
Yesterday, I was interpreting in West Sussex, during a business meeting between a UK company and their French distributors. Around midday, the UK director said: "I suggest we work for another hour, have lunch at 1pm and then come back here to finalise the details. We can fly to Shoreham to a nice restaurant I know."
Fly? My mind raced through the possibilities. What else could he mean but that they had to hurry? I translated the last sentence as: "Nous irons sans perdre de temps manger dans un bon restaurant de Shoreham." (Without wasting time, we’ll go to a nice restaurant in Shoreham).
Then he said: "The restaurant has a nice back garden and the owner lets me land the helicopter there."
It took a superhuman feat of self-control on my part to not jump up and down screeching "Yippee yippee yay can we go now please. Please can we go?". Instead, I calmly and professionally relayed the information to his business partners.
Followed an hour-long struggle to remain concentrated on the job instead of bursting into excited and uncontrollable giggles and running around the room at the thought of flying over Sussex. It was tricky, but I found that scribbling much more detailed notes than I usually do helped me stay focused.
In the end, the flight was great and the job very interesting. It really is wonderful to combine translating and interpreting and be able to leave my desk once in while, especially when clients have such lovely surprises in store.

By |2016-10-18T15:52:00+00:00May 13th, 2004|Interpreting|11 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. steve May 13, 2004 at 2:04 pm

    hahah – that’s great…that’s what I really call “leaving your desk once in a while…”

  2. Neij May 13, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    Enjoyed your story. As a matter of interest, when you interpret in a situation like this, are you the only interpreter there (i.e. you do English > French and French > English) or is there also a French > English interpreter there?

  3. céline May 13, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    It’s just me, I swing both ways… 🙂

  4. Jez May 13, 2004 at 4:18 pm

    Oooooh! I’m jealous!

  5. Lis May 13, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    You are simply all talk.

  6. Caroline May 14, 2004 at 2:20 am

    Do you scribble notes primarily in French or English?? In your dreams, do you and whoever/whatever you’re dreaming about speak primarily in French or English?? Just curious.

  7. céline May 14, 2004 at 8:52 am

    Lis: ahem.
    Caroline: I had no idea before you asked. I checked my notes from Wednesday and it looks like I write (just a few words here and there to remind myself of the main points) in the language of whoever is speaking. I wonder how other interpreters work.
    As for dreams, I have an awful lot of them and remember them in great detail, but I don’t know if I speak French or English in them. Language tends to be a secondary preoccupation when you’re being chased by a giant squirrel who’s mistaken you for a juicy nut or when you’re *finally* lifting the football (soccer for you) world cup in front of your adoring fans.

  8. Paula May 14, 2004 at 11:13 am

    Thats bl*dy brilliant. How amazing. Moments like that must be ones to treasure.

  9. sarah May 14, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    What a fabulous job! But come on – which is your favourite language? Do you speak any others?

  10. céline May 14, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    sarah: More about my other languages in the entry I’m about to post. My favourite language is English. Why? Now for the sob story:
    I was brought up in an environment where I wasn’t allowed to express myself, partly because I was a girl (feminism hasn’t reached rural France yet), partly because I had very different opinions and aspirations from my family’s (I was the first person in my family to take the Bac – A-levels). When I arrived in England, I found an incredible level of freedom, met wonderful people and started using my voice! So these days, although my French is (technically) miles better than my English, I find it easier to express myself in English. Hence it’s my favourite language.

  11. sarah May 18, 2004 at 6:57 pm

    That (and the post above) is so interesting; growing up in an English state school that specialised in Science, I didn’t get any good language training, and there’s no cultural incentive to learn any. I studied French for only the compulsory years (11 to 14) and Russian as a pre-GCSE option and GCSE exam(13 to 16)
    Tons of family trips to France, French friends and exchange students at university, as well as talking in (extremely poor) French when me and my friends got bored occasionally led to a lovely moment when watching 8 Women in Edinburgh that I realised at some point I’d stopped reading the subtitles and was following pretty well what was going on – a slight shock, to have somehow picked up a language with very little effort on my part.
    Of course, now all my friends are fluent in Spanish or Russian, so I generally only talk to myself in French. Bad French.

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