How interpreting changed my life

10 ways in which interpreting “transformed” me as a person!

Being an interpreter is not only about exercising a profession. Once I have completed an interpreting course and I have actually worked in the field for some time, I have realised that I have become a different person. Interpreting changed the way I think and act in my daily life. Here are 10 ways in which interpreting “transformed” me as a person!

1. Interpreting made me more flexible and not too strict with myself. An interpreter should always find a solution for everything. While interpreting simultaneously, an interpreter faces unpredicted situations and needs to interpret on the spot, terms and meanings, which they might not be familiar with or they are not sure about the correct term. However, the meaning needs to come across and be conveyed. This means that the interpreter needs to make a decision within a few seconds and find a solution, which might not be the best, but it certainly serves the purpose, which is understanding the meaning and communicating. I try to get on with such situations in my life and not be very strict with myself if I know that I have done the best I could.

2. It made me think on my feet. As I mentioned already interpreter should make decisions very quickly and on the spot. This applies to my daily life as well. I try to be quick and efficient when it comes to a problem and be sure that there is a solution for everything! Sometimes I also accept that I need to sacrifice something to have something else. But I guess that’s life!

3. It trained me to work efficiently under extreme pressure, be calm and manage stress. That is a typical characteristic an interpreter should have, but it is also further developed over time. During interpreting, consecutive or simultaneous, an interpreter works under extreme pressure and needs to be efficient. This has helped be a lot in my routine as well. I do not panic when I am in a stressful situation, when many things need to be done at the same time and quickly. I believe that I have developed a strong sense of multitasking and mental strength.

4. I have learnt that preparation is the key for everything. I have always been a proactive person, but interpreting has taught me that thorough and timely preparation is the key for any success in life. If you are well prepared, you are more confident, you have less stress and therefore you are more efficient in your work and you also enjoy it more. Before an assignment, an interpreter should study many things, apart from terminology. They need to know about as much as possible about the speaker, the audience, the subject of the conference, the purpose of the message which needs to come across, they need to be able to distinguish between the most important and the least important things and be ready to deal with any situation. This is extremely important when dealing with speakers who speak very fast.

5. I listen to people differently. As an interpreter I have adopted a method of active listening as a way to understand more what people really want to say. I concentrate more on the essential message and I pay attention to the words people use while they speak, but also intonation. These things show a lot for the person, their beliefs and purpose. While interpreting, you need to figure out all of these and choose the words, which suit the speaker and his style more.

6. I got used to different accents, speakers and I have developed anticipation. As an interpreter, I usually have to interpret speakers, who speak a language, which is not their mother tongue, they might have a different accent due to their place of origin, or they might have their own special way of expressing themselves. I learnt and I am still learning to manage such speakers. I have also developed a sense of anticipation, which is a key characteristic an interpreter should have. This is to be able to anticipate and expect what a speaker will say next. This can be done by 2 ways: know the subject and the speaker’s intention well or have a feeling for it and master the language spoken.

7. My memory has improved. Practicing and developing memory techniques is another essential for an interpreter.

8. I can take very few notes and remember a lot. During consecutive interpreting, the interpreter takes notes while the speaker is talking. At some point the speaker pauses and the interpreter says what the speaker said in the other language. Typical interpreter notes do not look like stenography, but they mainly consist of symbols and very few words, which will remind to the interpreter what was mentioned and visualise ideas. Most of them are personal. You will be amazed when you see the notepad of an interpreter and listen to what they say by reading them. I use this note-taking technique I have learnt in my life as well and I would say that it makes me very efficient!

9. I want to know more about the world and I have improved my general knowledge. An interpreter should be informed about everything is happening around them and in the world. They have to be curious and thirsty to learn more. Sometimes, I am so amazed by myself catching me to know strange things or very technical information, just because I have interpreted about it before.

10. I understood that language is more about culture and not about words and grammar. Understanding and speaking a language requires a lot of cultural knowledge. Language is transformed by the people who speak it and give it meaning and life!