March workshop attendees learn about the techniques, standards, risks, drive and passion required to excel at conference interpreting. BY STELLA HECHT

It was late winter—March 31st—the date of the Introduction to Conference Interpreting workshop. Driving to San Francisco in rain falling non-stop, I was a little apprehensive, imagining whether attendance would be affected by the weather. My colleague and I arrived at SF State ahead of time and were warmly greeted by the presenter and Sarah Llewellyn. Everybody in the packed room wanted to hear what Jacki Noh had to say! Everything was very organized, from the name tags to the list of attendees. Jacki, who has been an interpreter/trainer/voiceover talent for over 25 years, opened her presentation with definitions of various modes of interpretation, followed by a brief explanation of each technique. Her account of real-life examples provided the attendees with a rare opportunity to learn what happens behind the curtains; later that day we would experience Conference Interpreting first-hand. We had the participation of several seasoned Conference Interpreters who also shared their experiences and opened our minds by posing pertinent questions.

Ready as can be
Jacki also recommended that we always keep ourselves in check regarding our ability as interpreters. Indeed, it’s dangerous to feel overly confident! According to her, we should always keep an open mind and a humble approach regarding our knowledge and abilities. Then she continued, telling us about the importance of preparing glossaries that can be sorted as industry-specific and company-specific, accompanied by pronunciations used in the country of the target language and not the pronunciation used by the target audience here in the US.

Another important recommendation was to create glossaries for the acronyms that are industry related to better convey them in the target language. She also mentioned that we will encounter peculiar situations when the client is reluctant to share the material in advance; therefore, she recommended we “fish” for the relevant information on websites of specialized publications and make phone calls to universities in an effort to prepare and enrich our knowledge about the subject.

Preparation is the key to boost our confidence and to give us some solace in knowing that even after countless hours preparing, reading, researching terminology, reading articles from reputable sources…we will make mistakes. You prepare ahead, you come to the battlefield ready, ready as can be, but you need to accept that brains get tired and, sometimes, lack of ideal working conditions can also play a role in degrading a performance! We have to accept that reality: we are not perfect, and we must continue with our quest to better ourselves in every aspect of our lives. We have to strive to follow standards of quality. We owe this to our fellow interpreters, our clients, our listeners. And then, it was time to practice!

Humble reflection
After a nice and lively break with snacks and drinks to replenish our stomachs and dry throats, there came the time to check our abilities.

Jacki played two segments, and we set up to do our best. One of the most important moments of our careers happens when we first look at ourselves in the mirror and check the quality of our rendition. It’s the moment of humble reflection, of fine tuning our voices, our vocabulary…

The first item in the job description to become an interpreter is: passion, nothing more, nothing less. Passion for words, for ethical behavior; passion for knowledge and a relentless quest for quality!

Thank you, Jacki Noh, for an awesome conference. For more about the workshop, visit the NCTA website summary. SH