17 tips on how to prepare for interpreting assignment in diplomacy, Part 2

  • 17 tips on how to prepare for interpreting assignment in diplomacy, Part 2

    17 tips on how to prepare for interpreting assignment in diplomacy, Part 2

    British Prime Minister David Cameron with Chinese Communist Party official Li Changchun and two interpreters

    9. Agree when to interrupt your speaker
    Come a little bit earlier to discuss organisational stuff such as topics that will be mentioned, speed of speech and after how many sentences you will interrupt the speaker in order to interpret his or her speech (conference interpreting). This will allow you to better coordinate your actions with those of your speaker and, eventually, interpret smoothly.

    10. Register
    While preparing for an interpreting job in diplomacy (especially speeches), it is imperative to remember about a register. You cannot just use everyday language while, for example, interpreting the speech of the German chancellor during her visit to Poland on the anniversary of the end of World War II. This is a solemn occasion so the choice of words and style also has to be suitable. Omit abbreviations, use full forms of verbs and names of less popular organisations. Make a list of key high-register words, e.g. bravery, concerns, protect, bear fruit, address, challenges etc. And the last but not least, don’t forget about sentence construction that is so different from everyday language with its repetitions, metaphors, different word order and all other figures of speech that can be found in rhetoric.

    11. Introduction and response (courtesy form)
    It can also happen that you will have to introduce one person to another or the other way round, response adequately to such introduction. How does it work in diplomacy, then? Of course, everything depends on the agreed diplomatic protocol. In international diplomatic protocol, for example, the introduction will look like this:
    ‘Mr. Smith, may I present Mr. Jones?’
    And the accepted formal response will be:
    ‘How do you do’
    And informal: ‘hello’ (with smile) or ‘it’s nice to meet you.’

    12. Eating and drinking
    Sometimes a diplomatic visit involves a meal, for example, dinner (e.g. state visit) or lunch (working visit). So both politicians and their interpreters have to know how to act properly. It could be the case that you don’t like meat and you are served a lamb. The etiquette demands that you eat or drink what is served as this is also the way to get to know the other culture. Try small portions if you are not sure what you eat or if you are allergic to some ingredients or are a vegetarian, explain it to the hosts to avoid misunderstanding.

    13. Table etiquette
    Also, when at the table, remember all basic rules such as taking the napkin from the table and placing it on your lap. The style of eating is important as well. You have to know which one is adequate to the visit, e.g. American or Continental.

    14. Conversation topics
    Topics depend of course on the type of visit or meeting and interlocutors. But you have to know which ones are accepted and which ones are forbidden in various countries. For example, asking age or discussing children or food can be perceived as rude in some cultures.

    15. Dress code
    Your appearance is maybe as much important as your language skills as it also tells others who you are and whether you treat your work seriously and others with due respect. Various types of visits or conferences require that you wear something totally different from what you possibly pick for a business meeting or family gathering. Diplomatic meetings and visits require formal attire in subdued colours. Of course, you can say, that the jackets of Chancellor Angela Merkel are in all colours of the rainbow, but you have to remember that she represents her country on the international scene and you are an interpreter, who should be almost invisible. So it is highly recommended that you use black, navy and white colours, the suit for men is an obvious choice, women should wear suit or simple knee-length dress or longer, forget about too high heels and bold make-up. If you are also invited to dinner, remember about suitable clothing. If an invitation states black tie, try to abide by the rules: women should wear a long gown or shorter cocktail dress and men should appear in a tuxedo.

    16. Check recent news
    I can’t stress enough how important it is for interpreters to follow recent news. It’s not only about language, it’s also about knowledge. The more you know, the better you interpret. Our world and mutual relations between countries change every day so it’s crucial to keep up with the latest news. You never know when you will need them.

    17. Read a good book just before the assignment
    Don’t forget about a good book before your interpreting job. It will improve your language but also diction when you read it aloud. It is also a good opportunity to test your public speaking skills – maybe you should speak little bit louder or slower, check when to pause and control your breathing.

    Image courtesy of stil.amu.edu.pl/index.php/witold-skowronski

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    Hanna Gembus

    Hanna Gembus is a professional Polish English and Polish German translator and communication specialist based in the United Kingdom providing translation, content, interpreting and market research services to small, medium-sized and large companies and organisations. She specialises in business, marketing and e-commerce, using linguistic and cultural knowledge to help both start-ups and established companies improve their presence on the market and increase sales. http://langoa.eu

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