An Interpreter’s Summer Wish List

Around this time last year, I wrote a post on my blog about what interpreters do to keep themselves busy over the summer. There are usually plenty of options out there for those of us looking to do some professional development during the holiday break, and Summer 2012 is no exception.

Just a few weeks ago, Bootheando published an exhaustive list of what’s on offer for interpreters over the next few months, and if you’re still wondering what you are going to do with yourself during the upcoming low season, I highly recommend that you go over to her blog and check it out.

As usual, I have a pretty long wish list of summer professional development goals of my own. Unfortunately, not all of my wishes will come true, since many of the events that interest me most are scheduled for weeks when I already have other commitments (and last I checked, those replicator thingees that look so good on Star Trek still won’t do living organisms).

These are the events I most regret not being able to fit into my Summer 2012 schedule:

June

InterpretAmerica’s upcoming 3rd summit, entitled “21st Century Interpreting: Staying Relevant in a Transforming World”, is shaping up to be even better than the first two editions (if that is at all possible).This annual event is quickly becoming the point of reference for the interpreting industry in North America, and I would love to have been able to hop across the pond to Monterey to check it out.

The dates for this year’s summit are June 15-16, which is next week already (!), and so I imagine it’s too late for anyone who hasn’t already registered to sign up at this point, but at least we’ll have Twitter to help us follow the goings-on from afar (the hashtag will be #IASummit).

July

Berlin is in serious danger of being overrun by interpreters next month, with a number of interpreting-related events being planned in the German capital. At the top of the list, there’s the “Interpreters for Interpreters” workshop scheduled for July 13, which looks very promising indeed. Program highlights include coaching, yoga, retirement planning and stress management for interpreters, and much more. I read the report and saw the photos of the last such workshop held a few months back and it looked like a good (and educational!) time was had by all.

Scheduled to take place just before that event, on July 12, is a day-long workshop looking at IT for interpreters, organized by AIIC Germany and offered by Ignacio Hermo (@ihermo, my partner in crime at @aiiconline).  And then, on July 14-15, AIIC will be holding its semi-annual Private Market Sector meeting, which I’ve never attended but am told is very much the place to be. Sigh …

As if those weren’t enough reasons to want to go to Berlin next month, the week of July 16-20 will see the city playing host to a German Language and Culture Seminar for interpreters. I understand the registration deadline is June 15th, so if you think you might be interested in attending, you’ll want to decide quite soon.

August

The highlight of my summer could easily have been a visit back to Canada (my home and native land), where the Glendon School of Translation in Toronto is organizing a Professional Development Series for conference interpreters. In Week 1 (August 6-10) of the Series, Glendon will welcome recent graduates of interpreter training programs. In Week 2 (August 13-17), they will host seasoned conference interpreters who are eager to take their game to the next level, or to add a new working language.

Both weeks will focus on language enhancement in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese or Russian. The instructors for the Series will be former Government of Canada staff interpreter Roland Sarot, former UN staff interpreter Lynn Visson, and former UN Chief Interpreter James Nolan. I’m told there just a few spots left, so if you think you might be interested, you’ll want to contact Glendon ASAP.

I’d also played with the idea of spending some time in Lisbon this August on another one of those excellent intensive Portuguese courses that they run at the CIAL language school (the Portuguese & Surf course sure looks tempting!), but it was not to be. To make up for it, I’ve already made a mental note to keep a week free in January 2013 for the next intensive Portuguese course for interpreters at the University of Lisbon.

From the looks of it, I am going to have to get into the habit of making more such mental notes, or I’m never going to get to do anything on my professional development wish list…

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

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Memory Techniques: Test Your Knowledge

These days on the training course at the ULL, it’s all about memory. Students are spending their days desperately trying to improve their memory skills so that they can survive the first module of the course, during which they are trained to remember – without the use of notes – the substance and structure of speeches up to five minutes in length.

The question I am going to address today is not so much how one can go about improving one’s memory (although we’ll look at that in a minute), but why in Bog’s name it is considered necessary to have this introductory module in the first place. Test your knowledge about memory and interpreting by taking this brief quiz.

TRUE OR FALSE?

1) Memory exercises were invented by sadistic interpreting trainers as a way to make the first few days of their students’ training sheer hell.

2) Although having a good memory can be useful, it isn’t really necessary for interpreters, a good since note-taking technique will spare them having to remember information.

3) Memory exercises are intended to teach students how to memorize information.

4) Giving classes on memory is a good way to break the ice during the initial phase of an interpreter training course.

5) The first classes on memory techniques allow trainers to get a good idea of what their students are like and what they can expect of them over the course of their interpreter training.

6) Doing memory exercises helps students learn how to listen actively, and teaches them to identify and analyse the underlying structure of what they are hearing.

7) Reproducing a remembered speech helps students learn how to synthesize and reformulate discourse effectively.

8 ) If you don’t learn proper memory techniques first, you will have a very hard time ever learning consecutive and simultaneous techniques.

While readers are mulling those statements over, let’s look briefly at what is written about interpreting and memory. In response to a student’s query about what sort of background reading might be helpful when trying to hone memory techniques, I dug up this list of memory improvement techniques (courtesy of Interpreter Training Resources, which is the place I always go whenever I need to find something, since I know that if it is out there, they will have found it first!).

Bootheando has also written about memory in a post entitled Ejercitando las memorias. Another post of hers looks at how contact with nature can improve memory (that’s it, my next class will be held out on the campus quad!).

Anyone looking for a more academic approach to the same question might want to read this article on Memory Training in Interpreting, or this one on Working Memory and Simultaneous Interpreting. These are just two of the many scholarly articles that are out there on the topic. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to everything that is said about memory out there, at least the presence of these articles are testimony to the fact that the business of memory and interpreting is taken rather seriously – and not just by all those poor, sweaty-palmed students suffering through the first days of classes…

 

 

 

To the answers to the quiz, now. To me at least, all of the above statements are true except two – and if you can’t guess which two are false, you might want to sign up for one of my classes ;). As for the remaining six, I listed them in ascending order of importance. So the last ones on the list are what it’s all about, really.

The Long Dark Summertime of the Soul

“That’s it for this season! I won’t be back in the booth until mid-September.” These words were spoken by a colleague of mine almost a month ago now (on June 17, to be exact). Her comment got me thinking about one of the things at the top of freelance conference interpreters’ minds around this time of year: the dreaded summer break.

Now, don’t get me wrong: freelance interpreters like their summer holidays as much as the next person! The problem, really, is that we tend to get far too much of them. Take my colleague, for example. Let’s assume (reasonably, I think) that she, like many freelance interpreters in Europe, won’t be getting back into the booth until the second Strasbourg session in September, which starts on the 26th. That gives her a whopping one hundred days of summer vacation between interpreting jobs.

That figure, while falling just short of the 104 days that Phineas and Ferb made famous, is still considerably more than most other professionals would consider necessary to recover from a busy spring season. This year, my own summer break will start tomorrow (which explains why I am writing about holidays today) and will last until my first fall contract on September 12th. That gives me a total of 65 days to do … what?

I know it’s from the wrong book, but still, it fits here, don’t you think?

Well, first I’ll spend some time recovering from a grueling spring season that saw me travel 83,599 km and spend 62 nights away from home (I know this for a fact, because I have this little app on LinkedIn that actually keeps track of my travel times and distances – depressing, really). I also plan to refamiliarize myself with where everything is kept in my kitchen and bathroom at home, not to mention reintroduce myself to my kids.

A big highlight of my summer will be the trip I’ll be taking back to the homeland to see my family and celebrate both my mom’s birthday (the big 65) and my Oma’s birthday (the big 100). That trip, which starts this weekend (yay!), will take up what’s left of July.

Then what? Well, it would be great, having fully recharged the ol’ batteries and caught up with my family, to be able to get back down to work upon my return home on August 1st.

Of course, we all know that’s impossible. I can hear my readers laughing uproariously already. Everybody knows the entire European continent shuts down for the month of August while its population heads for the beach or the mountains, and there’s nothing that you or I or anyone else can do to change that. This is where the bright, happy summer break starts turning into a very long, dark summertime indeed.

Wowbagger, eat your heart out…

A conference interpreters’s working life – being concentrated, for obvious reasons, into the periods when people hold conferences – is highly seasonal. In Europe at least, the busy seasons for interpreting are surprisingly short, with one peak from March to May and another from October to November. The Germans have a good word to describe the lengthy bit in between: they call the dip in activity seen in many industries in August the Sommerloch. For interpreters, I’d say it’s not so much a “hole” as a gaping chasm.

The Long and the Short of It

Despite the seasonal nature of our work, interpreters, like all other people, have to pay the rent or mortgage, the car loan, and all the other bills on a monthly basis. So what does this mean? Well, for me at least, it means working like even more of a madwoman in the short high season so that I have something left over to make it through the long summer. For others, it might mean taking on other types of work to bridge the gap.

The good news here is that the translation industry seems to work in reverse to the interpreting industry. Companies seem to tend to get their big jobs ready to ship out for translation just before they shut down for the summer – and expect to have the translations sitting on their desks waiting for them when they open up shop again on September 1st. This summer translation peak is manna from heaven for those interpreters who also translate. They get to spend those empty days actually earning money instead of just watching it disappear from their bank accounts. A bonus here is that many full-time professional translators also choose to take some time off over the summer, meaning that companies are more likely to call upon “standbys” to fill the gap.

Of course, not all interpreters can or do translate (I touched briefly upon this point in my recent article for IAPTI, Confessions of a Conference Interpreter). Similarly, not all interpreters are lucky enough to be able to work “overtime” in high season to compensate for the lack of earnings during the rest of the year. I guess everybody has to find their own way of coping with the lack of income over the summer season, and there are probably as many solutions as there are interpreters in this world.

Busy, Busy …

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that conference interpreters sit around doing nothing at all during their extended summer break. On the contrary, interpreters are notorious for finding ways of keeping themselves busy, and so I suspect there are precious few out there just sitting around all summer bemoaning their underoccupied fate.

One excellent way to fill up those long summer days is to use them for professional development. Learning new languages or brushing up on the ones they already speak are probably among the favorite summertime occupations for interpreters. This can be done in any number of ways: by arranging stays in countries where the language is spoken, ensuring their summer reading list includes books in those languages, or signing up for extra language classes.

Professional development can also come in the form of one of the many summer courses targeted at conference interpreters. This year, there are refresher courses for practicing interpreters being offered at Cambridge, Lisbon, Heriot Watt University in Ediburgh, Germersheim, York University in Toronto, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg,  and probably some other places I’ve missed. There was supposed to be a refresher course this summer at the University of Westminster, too, but we all know what happened to that plan. Also, there is a Training for Trainers seminar scheduled for early September in Budapest and run by the incomparable Dick Fleming. The UIMP summer school is not specifically targeted at interpreters, but is a popular summer destination for colleagues planning to add Spanish. And there are probably many more courses that I haven’t heard about.

Anyone looking to network in person this summer might want to check out the FIT’s XIX World Congress in San Francisco on the topic of “Bridging Cultures”. Conference interpreting highlights on the conference agenda include keynote speeches by Olga Cosmidou, Director General of Interpreting for the European Parliament and Benoît Kremer, President of AIIC. Funnily enough, the World Congress is being held in August. I don’t know whether this is an admission of the fact that interpreters have nothing better to do at that time of year, or if it is because other unwritten rules apply to the U.S. conference season that I know nothing about.

As for my own long, dark summertime of the soul, I imagine that I will be forced to spend much of August emptying my inbox, which currently boasts almost 2000 unsorted emails and is sure to have doubled in size by the time I get back from my three-week-long, largely internet-free holiday (just for readers’ information, I have prepared and scheduled blog posts throughout the month of July, so there will be something coming out every week while I am away). Also, my Portuguese teacher has come up with the brilliant idea of holding a test in the first week of September, an event for which I am woefully unprepared. Well, I guess I’ve got 65 long, summer days ahead of me to remedy that …