Interpreting Tip: Try This

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For today's quick and short post about interpreting (which will take you less than three minutes to read), we'd like to share an easy technique that should help you improve your interpreting skills. It's a true-and-tried technique, but one that we also frequently forget about. Whenever we do remember to do it, we feel that our subsequent interpreting renditions are stronger.

The technique is called shadowing. Most of you will know what that means, but let us elaborate just in case. Shadowing means that you will listen to an audio recording via headphones and repeat what the speaker says in the same language word by word, trying to lag at least a full thought behind the speaker. This sounds easy, but some speakers are so fast that shadowing in itself (let alone interpreting) is a huge challenge. We purposely choose fast speakers (court hearings and especially trials on YouTube work very well) to make this as difficult as possible. It's still less draining than actual interpreting, so we try to do some 45 minutes of this. And we can really tell the difference if we do an interpreting practice session right after. In our experience, shadowing helps us with improve our pronunciation and speed, and repeating the same phrases over and over again during practice puts them the tip of your tongue for actual interpreting work, as we have found.

So try it, dear colleagues. We recommend doing this in both source and target (or in several source languages if you have them). What do you think? Have you tried it? Do you have some videos you like to interpret that you'd like to share? We'd be delighted to hear from you. 

Do Nothing

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We oftentimes hear from our lovely colleagues that they are stuck in a situation that they don't like, mainly that they don't receive the rates that they deserve. This is a common complaint not only in our industry, but in many other industries. In our book and on this blog, we have given advice for many years on how to get what you want from your business, including the rates that you want. However, what many don't think about is that changing a current situation to a better situation requires something crucial: changing something.  Doing nothing and changing nothing won't change the status quo.

We know that change is difficult, but if you don't like your current work situation (or even just a small portion of it), you have to change something. Doing the same thing over and over will give you the same result (presumably) that you have been getting and that you don't want. So change something, even if it's something small. If you don't like a current client, take the risk of not accepting any more work from him or her and look for a better client. If a client isn't paying you, write a strongly worded letter asking for payment. If you don't get paid, don't work for them anymore even if they promise they will do better with payment next time (which you've probably heard before). 

Yes, we are aware that some of these strategies are risky and may not yield the results that you want, but in order to be successful and put yourself in the situation that you want to be in, you have to take some risk. No one is successful (at least that we know of) without taking some risk, even if it's just a quantum of risk. Take baby steps and don't be too hard on yourself, but our main point here is: as a freelance linguist, you have the ability to change things. Try it and see what happens. No one else can do it for you, and it's almost impossible to change others, such as your clients, but you can change what you do and what kind of client you pursue. We have taken plenty of risks and not all of them have worked out, but we have stuck to our number one rule: we ask for and get the rates that we charge, but we don't get them for all potential clients, which is fine.

You always have the option of doing nothing. But if you don't like the status quo, you are going to have to make some changes.

What do you think, dear colleagues? We would love to hear your thoughts on today's quick post. 

A Career-Preserving Skill

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For today's quick post, we wanted to focus on a skill that's relatively easy to master.  All it takes is a few sentences, sincerity, and heart. However, its importance and impact are often forgotten.

All translators and interpreters are human, and as such, we make mistakes (see our previous post on Judy's mistake of the month). During some point in your career, you will make mistakes. Plenty of mistakes. We all do. They key is avoiding making the same one twice. The other key is making sure you apologize. 
Here are some thoughts in easy-to-read format:

  • Just do it, do it quickly, and mean it.
  • Be sincere and offer solutions.
  • As mortifying as it is to make mistakes, they happen. They are part of business, and part of life.
  • Take responsibility and accept that making mistakes is normal and human. 
  • Offer a discount if necessary and count your lucky stars if you client doesn't take you up on it.
  • It doesn't matter if it's a translation error, administrative error, if someone else made the error and somehow you are involved: 
    • apologize quickly
    • explain how you can fix the situation
    • and move on.

What do you think, dear colleagues? Meaningful and truthful apologies usually go a long way, even if sometimes all you can offer is: "Sorry about the oversight. While I investigate what happened here, let me offer my sincere apologies and a 10% discount on this project." We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Ouch: Mistake of the Month

Because few things are as fun as poking fun at ourselves, we wanted to do a quick post with this month's utterly horrifying mistake. We make many errors, but try not to make the same ones twice. This one was Judy's, so we will let her tell the story.

A few weeks ago, Dagy had the unique opportunity to interpret at an OPEC conference (English booth), and I was to be the back-up interpreter (I also did get to interpret). The setting in Vienna's regal Imperial Palace (Hofburg) was amazing, and the permanent booths were top-notch. As a US-based interpreter, I am usually quite impressed by anything resembling a permanent booth. We checked out the other booths, which are located on the third floor high above the stage, to meet our colleagues from the Spanish and Russian booths, but no one was there, so we reviewed our materials and got ready for the big moment. After we had sat down, a distinguished-looking gentleman walked in, extended his hand (without introducing himself), smiled, and said (in Spanish) that he was delighted to see us. I thought, don't ask me why, that this lovely gentleman was the colleague from the Spanish booth because no one else every ventures up there, so I immediately went into very casual small talk, and yes, I addressed him informally. As if I knew him. As if we were colleagues. As opposed to English, in Spanish we've got two pronouns, the formal usted and the informal (which I used). Among colleagues, we usually use the latter. 
The rest of the morning went better.

The only problem here was that this gentleman wasn't a fellow interpreter, but an ambassador to Austria of a South American country. Dagy had the good fortune of getting a glimpse of his badge, which had been facing away from me, and recognized the name immediately (research pays off; as the badge doesn't say "ambassador," either). She immediately greeted the ambassador with something appropriate along the lines of "Good morning, Your Excellency." This is of course when I realized my error and I was completely utterly mortified. However, the ambassador didn't miss a beat, didn't take offense at all, and just chatted away. I did recover enough to thank him for coming upstairs and for hiring us (yes, he hired us!), and exchange some other pleasantries. So yes, I committed a pretty big faux pas at a high diplomatic level, and I lived to tell about it. It's a nice reminder that people at the top can be very kind and forgiving, and I am grateful for it. I was pretty sure I'd never hear the end of this one from Dagy, and now that we've shared it here, I am guaranteed that it will last forever!

What about you, dear colleagues? Care to share your favorite mistake? We won't tell. Oh wait, this is a public blog....

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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