I spent most of last week interpreting in the beautiful city of Rouen. Actually, I hesitate to say that I was interpreting in the strictest sense of the word, since as well as interpreting during meetings and working dinners, I had to don a blue polo shirt to be part of the team on the sparkling Rethink Rubbish bus (an awareness-raising mission by East Sussex County Council.
As I’ve been translating their material for a couple of years now, and have interpreted in several of their exchange visits, my clients felt I knew enough about their work to help them take their message to the French.
We visited a number of local schools, where we taught children about recycling, reducing, reusing and composting both through games and chatting with them about the issues involved. Not strictly interpreting, then, as I had to show initiative and help the children make the most of the activities as well as conveying my clients’ explanations and instructions. On Saturday, the bus was in the centre of Rouen where we were encouraging the general public to get involved. We had the same resources but I was relying even less on my clients’ help, as lots of people showed an interest and came to talk to us. By this point I was able to answer most of their questions without going through the people who normally work on the bus.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I had never done anything like it before, but I had a great time; my clients are a friendly and lively bunch and there wasn’t a dull moment. Also, I had a fair amount of free time, which allowed me to discover Rouen, which is a gorgeous town steeped in history, particularly Anglo-French history: it is in Rouen that the English burnt Joan of Arc. Over 500 years later, they came back to try and steer the French away from incinerating all their rubbish. Oh, the irony.
Highlight of the week: convincing a French member of the team that my shirt was made of recycled bananas.
Low point of the week: (mis)translating "ris de veau" (after consulting a couple of French people at the table, as I wasn’t sure what it actually was) as "veal’s brains", to my English clients’ horror. They’re not veal brains; they’re a gland called thymus (sweetbreads). I’m not sure that’s much better.