Interpreting tip

So I was out of the office interpreting last week and really enjoyed the experience. It was hard work, with very long days, technical presentations, rowdy participants, karaoke and long bus journeys. But I was on the local news (well, my voice was) and it was fun. I was reminded of one golden rule: when interpreting, do not anticipate what the person is going to say and start conveying the message to the audience before they’ve finished their sentence. Puzzled? It went something like this:
Speaker: Merci pour cette intéressante présentation, euh, nous allons prendre 5 minutes, euh, disons, 10 minutes, allez, euh… (Thanks for this interesting presentation, we’re going to take five minutes, er, or maybe 10 minutes, why not, to, er…)
Me: Thanks for this interesting presentation, we’re going to take a 10 minute break.
Speaker: … pour une rapide séance de questions-réponses. (… for a few questions and answers).
Me, horrified and hurried: SORRY, THAT WAS 10 MINUTES FOR A FEW QUESTIONS, very sorry, wishful thinking on my part.
The English speakers burst out laughing. Phew.

By |2016-10-18T15:50:00+00:00April 5th, 2007|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 April 6, 2007 at 1:10 am


  2. Enigmatic Mermaid April 9, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    In my opinion, it’s very refreshing when the interpreter leaps out of his/her anonimity to admit to his/her shortcomings or preferences. The audience surely appreciates these moments of sincerity, especially when everybody is falling off their chairs with boredom.
    Some days ago my speaker was showing some slides with sample test questions for a certification exam the course participants were going to take. I wanted to translate the questions while the instructor was fumbling with some papers, oblivious to the fact he should read them aloud so that I could translate them for the audience. Problem was the font was ridiculously small. So I asked the audience if they could read the font and when they collectively answered “No”, I replied “Neither can I”, and everybody burst out laughing.
    During the same tedious course, after 3 hours of dreary presentations, the speaker said something like: And now I’m going to show you a video…and I said “And now we’re going to watch a video, hurray!!”. Everybody turned and laughed.
    Of course, you have to be very careful with these things because nothing is more disconcerting to the speaker than to see the audience laughing when he/she didn’t make a joke!

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