Monday, 4 June 2012

Same in any language

About thirty people are shouting at me, enthusiastically. "Commerce!Commerce!Commerce!" I am bewildered. What arrrrrre they saying? Because they are all speaking at the same time, and not in unison, I don't really know, but smile politely and pretend to have understood.

Today was the first day I ever interpreted, officially. At the moment the university is hosting a course for diplomats from francophone countries in Africa, and some of the Masters and Honours students are helping with the interpreting. Most of the visitors do understand English, but to make some points clearer it helps to have someone. Perhaps that someone is not me, yet.

The diplomats know we aren't professionals, but still I was stressing. It was like a first date, except that the butterflies in my stomach were evil and eating my insides. I prepared, read some articles, found some terminology I thought was relevant, and remembered to translate, above all, "le sens" (the sense) and not the individual words. But what you do at home is not the same as when you have to interpret words and acronyms that you don't even know in English.

After a while I decided to fuck translating the slides and simply pronouncing English words in a French way. I just made notes, and when I didn't know the word or expression, the group was more than willing to help. They were all very friendly and understanding, and after an hour, I felt a lot more at ease. I'm sure a professional would have cringed and thought that it was a bit of a pathetic effort.

But the diplomats came up to me afterwards to say "good job" and to give advice on how to improve, which is great. I think good interpretation comes with experience. I'm glad I tried this, and will do so again for Wednesday's session. It can only get better.

Someone ( I found either Roosevelt or Vonnegut as sources) said that you should do something everyday that scares you. I'm scared of lizards, sharks and people breaking into my house/car and hurting me. Academia normally doesn't scare me. Speaking in front of people is also mostly fine. This, however, was terrifying. It was the fear of not understanding, of misinterpreting, of not finding the right words, of embarrassing myself, and most importantly, of failing.

But without trying, you can neither succeed nor fail. So suck it, evil intestine-eating butterflies. I got this.

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