Preparation is everything when interpreting. And I mean, everything. Your clients count on you to communicate in the most natural manner possible, and you can only do that efficiently if you are familiar enough with the subject matter and terminology employed. Otherwise, you have to pause a lot, sweating and panicking, as you struggle to think of the right words, which turns what should be a smooth exchange into a painful ordeal.
Tomorrow, I will be interpreting during a meeting between people working for the diocese of Chichester and their French counterparts. They will be discussing church renovation projects. When they approached me to ask whether I would be available for this job, I accepted, knowing that this would involve a lot of preparation time. This is not unusual; for one day of interpreting, I normally plan a day of research and reading to familiarise myself with the area that will be discussed. The project coordinator was kind enough to send me a lot of background documents, but I was worried about one specific area, which they didn’t cover: the actual terminology linked to church architecture. Then I realised that I actually know a retired Canon of Durham Cathedral also used to be the chairman of the diocesan advisory committee for the care of churches in Durham. Perfect! I asked him whether he would do me a quick drawing showing the names of the different parts of a church, and this is what I got in the post last week:
Fantastic, isn’t it? All I had to do was research the French equivalent terminology. Now they can throw whatever they like at me on this topic, I should be ready for them.