Interpretation services: preparing for an event

When the Interpretation services prepares for an event, they usually document the theme in the greatest detail possible. If time allows, this documentation is very thorough, but sometimes, especially when short notice comes into question, the interpreter is faced with the urgency of being ready on fast-forward.

The interpreter needs to know as much as available

Knowing the general theme of the event is paramount. Knowing what it is all about makes the interpretation services easier to deliver, as the interpreter can refresh their mind prior to the event on specific words and phrases that are common to the subject of the conference or to the talk they are assigned to.

Thus, when preparing to deliver interpretation services, the first thing any interpreter will ask the organizer is pretty straightforward: “what is the event about?”

If the interpreter is lucky and the organizer has the right information and is willing to share it, they can work together so that the interpreter receives as much of it as available, such as:

  • a list of the talks (titles, brief descriptions)
  • a list of speakers
  • support presentations (PowerPoints, PDFs, speech notes, speech briefs)

All this information helps the interpreter prepare.

The experienced organizer knows that the interpreter will strictly abide to the privacy and confidentiality rules of their trade, so offering as detailed information as possible in due time before the event should be the norm.

But sometimes the information is scarce, and that’s when the professional interpreter gets creative. They may go througn the list of speakers and try and find their previous speeches on Youtube, just to see how those people articulate their phrases, how clear they speak and if their mouths are easy to read or not, as interpreters sometimes also use lip reading to fill in gaps and understand the talk, if neccesary.

Video or audio materials with the speakers performing in previous events also help the interpreter observe the frequency of specialized words or phrases, what kind of lingo is used, how simple or complex the ideas delivered to the speaker’s audience are.

This helps the interpreter put together an essential tool: the glossary, which is a simplified dictionary reflecting the specific words and phrases used in a certain field. For instance, for a conference about agriculture, the specific glossary will contain special terms about crops, equipment, substances, procedures, while for an event about marketing trends the glossary will fill with a lot of acronyms and concept phrases such as “ROI”, “Affidavit of Performance”, “PPC”, “Project creep”, “ROAS”, “SERPs” and so on. The experienced interpreter has already put together many such glossaries.

With every new assignment they just add new words and phrases to their lists, and when they don’t already have a glossary on a certain subject, they just make it when preparing for the event, and this is part of the process called “documenting”.

  • They perform searches on websites specialized on the theme of the event and extract specific words and phrases they encounter.
  • They watch and listen to podcasts, TV shows, radio shows related to the theme of the event.
  • They open the dictionary and research the new words.
  • They read articles and / or specialized magazines both online and sometimes on paper.
  • They consult with more experienced colleagues and friends.
  • They test themselves and their glossary by translating a specialized text at first sight.

Much of the preparation for delivering interpretation services is actually research, and it is very much like doing homework and preparing for a test in school: it means inquiring and learning about what will happen, asking for information and help from the ones who know more, carefully selecting and organizing glossaries and testing themselves prior to the event and getting creative when information is lacking.

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