martes, 11 de febrero de 2014

The art of translation and translating art

How many times have we read that translation is an art? Way too many and, nevertheless, it is still hard to make people understand that translating art is not translating an easy general text, if there is such thing as a general text.

[La traducción al español de esta entrevista se puede leer aquí]

To learn more about this, there is nothing better that to listen to an expert in translating art and the challenges it entails: Joanna Martinez. She translates from Spanish/Catalan into English and will teach a workshop on February 21. I have been lucky enough to ask her some questions for the blog, for those of you that cannot make it to Madrid in time. This workshop is part of a MET event. MET is the association of Mediterranean Editors and Translators, and at the end of the post you will have some extra information and the links to the program for the day.

- You mention that Art is usually considered a general topic in translation. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a general topic but it is true that it rarely received the same status as a legal text or a technical translation. Now that translators of technical architeture documents are fighting to get some recognition, I think it might be the time to explain and let people know why art is not such a general topic. What can you tell the readers about art as an area of expertise?

Yes, strictly speaking you’re right to say there’s no such thing as a general topic, though I think you’d agree that some subjects are certainly considered more “light” than others. Art is a very broad field and embraces painting, sculpture, print-making, architecture, photography and the decorative arts, all of which have their respective technical terminology. On the other hand, art criticism – writing about art – is not so much technical as extremely broad-ranging in its often obscure references and impenetrable discourse, and this can involve endless research and brain-racking. The trend towards art-speak, or what’s been termed “International Art English”, actually makes things a bit easier because it allows for a more literal translation.

- Do you have a specific rate, like, for example, many translators have a rate for general texts and then another for more technical or difficult documents, do you different rates? if so, do the clients and agencies understand the reason why?

I’ve always charged the same rate to the same client, whatever the text type. I would certainly never base the rate on how “difficult” a text is because that’s a highly subjective yardstick: a highly technical text can be easy for a translator who specialises in that subject, and sometimes the most apparently simple texts can be the hardest to get just right. When I tell people I specialise in art and law, they always say “Oh, law must be awfully difficult.” And I always say no, art is actually far more difficult and takes twice or three times as long!

- You talk about "tourism literature" as something different to art translation, could you explain this in detail?

By “tourist literature” I mean general guidebooks, leaflets, etc. that cover town and countryside, monuments, events, customs, food, places to stay – much more general in scope and aimed at the average reader/traveller. However, that’s not to say these texts are easy to translate – in fact when translators have approached me for work, I’ve always given them a bit of tourist literature as a test piece! On the other hand, by “art” I mean basically museum/gallery stuff and coffee-table books.

- Which are the main types of texts / types of formats (video, text, audio files) that an art translator could receive? Which one is your favourite?

The only formats I’ve worked with have been text files (you usually need special equipment for handling audio or video files for dubbing/ subtitling and even for transcribing/translating). The main text types would be books, essays, press articles, reviews, exhibition catalogues, panels, picture captions, etc.

My favourite of all are audio guides – which you translate from a written script – because you’re speaking direct to someone who actually wants to listen; whereas I’m sure a lot of the translations I’ve done for exhibition catalogues, which have involved a huge amount of effort, never ever get read at all.

- Do you work more for direct clients or agencies? 

I’ve always worked for direct clients: publishers, galleries and museums. Agencies approach me from time to time but they find my rates too high – which they probably are for them as they’re closer to what the agency would be charging its client.

- What has been the most challenging art-related project that you have accepted? What were the challenges and how do you solve the issues?

Without doubt it was the first book I did for a UK publisher, on Marcel Duchamp – not the easiest of artists at the best of times. Imagine pre-internet days, no art books in English to consult in Barcelona libraries or bookshops – just my own rather limited reference books. It was very hard-going indeed. Now, of course, one would have endless resources at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger.

- Are there good research sources (specialised dictionaries, glossaries, websites, forums) or do you create your reference materials? I know you will talk about this on the workshop but gives us just a sneal-peek.

The resources I still rely on a lot are printed books, mainly because I already have them and they don’t date very much; but also because I think a lot more care used to be taken over publishing a reference book than is taken now over producing a website. That said, museum websites can be a mine of information. I also have my own Wordfast glossaries, which simplify and speed up much of the translating process.

- How has the crisis affected this area of the translation market?

Probably as much as in any other sector. Clients are cutting costs, looking for cheaper translators in other countries, sometimes getting short translations done by staff who speak English – and in one instance even using Google Translator and sending it to me to revise!

- Now, focusing on the workshop, what can you tell us about its target audience? Can you give us some spoilers about what are you going to show/teach in the workshop? 

It’s basically aimed at translators who’ve already done work in this field and those thinking of entering it. I’ll be pointing out to them what to expect, what problems to be aware of and how to tackle them, particularly when working for Spanish clients, who don’t usually have native English editors, proof-readers, etc.

- Why art? Why not other areas?

Art is what you might call a “universal subject”, like science but unlike law with its different national systems based on Roman law, common law, etc. Spanish-English legal translation can be a minefield, and probably no two legal translators would agree on how to translate any given term.

But that is not all we can learn at the MET worskhops in Madrid. Oliver Shaw will tell us a bit more about what we can expect from this event:

- I’d like to know a bit about the “medley” you will be having between the two workshops. What it is about, what can people expect to learn, and what topics will be discussed?

Since this is the first MET workshop day outside of Barcelona­—where the association is based—we wanted to give participants a taste of the kind of issues that are relevant to our members. So we decided to put together a medley consisting of several 10-minute presentations by MET members and make the session free and open to the public. The medley will open with a short presentation by MET President Alan Lounds on the strengths and challenges of a peer-training association like ours. This will be followed by more industry-specific talks on changes to Google search algorithms and why it’s important for language professionals to keep up with these changes, Google alternatives for editors and translators, the broad scope of today’s medical market for English language supporters, the expectations placed on in-house English language supporters, a talk on art and its related markets, and finally MET’s plans for its 10th annual meeting to be held this fall. I believe participants will come away with innovative approaches that can add value to their daily work and also gain a fuller picture of the niche markets open to professionals working into or with the English language.

- Is there anything else readers should know about the event on February 21 or the organization itself?

Yes, we would be delighted to see many new faces on hand at the International Institute, but spots for Joanna’s workshop are limited and people must register beforehand through the workshop page. And although the medley is open to everyone, we ask that people use the online sign-up form so we can organize the event. People who are interested in what we do should check out our website, our Twitter feed, and our Facebook page.

lunes, 10 de febrero de 2014

Interpreters around the world: Switzerland - Bern

The interviews to interpreters of other parts of the world are still coming, I have been working way too many hours lately but I owe you one so today we are visiting Switzerland thanks to Scilla Di Donato.

[La entrevista también está en español aquí]

In the booth, ready to start in 3,2,1...

- For the last two and a half years, you have been working as an interpreter, but you have many more years of professional experience as a translator, why did you decided to start interpreting? What motivated you to do it? Can you tell us a little bit about your training as interpreter?

How football and the police lead me to become an interpreter…

So I’ve been working as a translator for longer than I care to remember, both free-lance and in-house for various companies. Since 2005 I worked part-time as an in-house translator for the Bern Police in Switzerland. One day, they asked me to be the “translator” during a peer review session on security and organization of the UEFA Euro 2008, for which Bern was to be one of the host cities. At the time, I had no idea what it meant to be an interpreter. I was asked to “translate” from and to English, German, French and Dutch, since those were the languages spoken by the peer review team. Luckily I am fluent in all 4…. But as you know, that doesn’t make you an interpreter! Anyway, it all went rather (too) smoothly and next thing I knew, I was *the* “translator” for all security briefings held in Bern for the event. The police force from the host city had the assistance of police officers and hooligan specialists from France, Italy, The Netherlands and Romania. 
At the end of that exciting but extremely difficult assignment, I decided I needed training in order to be prepared, should such a situation ever occur again.

Finding evening classes for interpreting in Switzerland proved delusional. So I went for the next best thing: an introduction course to Court Interpreting at the ZHAW (more about it here:

The course was very interesting and I thought I would be prepared should there ever be such an opportunity to interpret again.

Meanwhile, our teacher (and for this I am eternally grateful to her) thought I had an ounce of talent and suggested I should become a conference interpreter. This implied passing the admission test, starting a fulltime MA degree at 38, with a 4 hrs commute 3 times a week, while keeping my job at the police!
Getting my degree at the ZHAW in Winterthur (near Zurich) was obviously an excellent thing. They offered a custom-made program for my language combination (we were only 3 students with French A, and I was the only one in the combination Dutch-French, for which my teachers flew in from Paris and Brussels twice a month). Also the advantage of having state of the art facilities at our disposal and working in small groups made the study very efficient and of high quality.

Honestly, I never regretted the hard work and sacrifice this study implied (like giving up my social life for 2 years). I had discovered my (rather late) calling in life. I still work as a translator too, as I find both professions are complementary. I’m sure that being a translator before helped me become an interpreter, and working as an interpreter has made me a faster and more confident translator.

- You have worked part time with the Bern Police Department and now you have decided to be a freelancer full-time, that is an interesting change. What can you tell us about the interpreting market in Switzerland (from the point of view of a freelancer)? Where do you work most of the time: your city, all around the country/Europe? Which are in your opinion the usual topics for interpreting projects and, what are your areas of expertise?

The Swiss interpreting market is a very interesting one, as it consists of a private sector and of institutions, both national (governmental) and international (e.g. UN).
I work mainly on the private market, and occasionally for the public sector with the odd incursion at the Swiss parliament (photo) in Bern, which is exciting and daunting at the same time J
The majority of my assignments take place in Bern, Zurich and the area of towns and venues in between, as well as occasionally in Montreux and Lausanne.
Most clients hire me for corporate events, which are often held in 2 or 3 languages in Switzerland. I also work for sports federations, trade unions and NGOs. So the topics are immensely widespread and diverse (insurance, sports, environment, education, marketing, gastronomy, car industry…). This variety of topics is really what I love so much about my work. You get an insight in all kinds of professional environments, meet people of all walks of life and, for one day, become an expert in a field you knew nothing about the previous week…

Swiss parliament

- Do you work as consecutive and simultaneous interpreter? What are the clients asking for?

Most of my assignments are in simultaneous interpreting. I’m quite lucky as many venues in Switzerland are fitted with rather modern booths. Of course, sometimes we have to use the mobile infoport (or “bidule” as we call it) for smaller assemblies.
The only times I do consecutive is in police interpreting. I’m doing less of that nowadays, but I still get called regularly by my old colleagues, as they’re happy to have a professional to rely on when interrogating witnesses, victims or the accused. I find this area of work is often underestimated, as it is quite demanding and doesn’t have the aura of prestige that conference interpreting has. Also police interpreting is often done by non professionals; therefore it tends to suffer from poor reputation.
As a matter of fact we’re trying to tackle that problem with a training scheme to professionalise police and court interpreting in Bern. I’m currently setting up a course with a colleague. As a first step, we will provide a one-day intensive training for non professionals already working as police or court interpreters. The aim is to provide basic training in consecutive interpreting and to convey the essentials in work ethics and role understanding.
I’m aware that this is but a small drop in the ocean, but we have to start somewhere. A year from now we’ll see if the results are satisfactory and if we can take the whole scheme to the next level…

- Switzerland has 4 national languages, of which 3 are official languages. That must offer a challenge and an interesting setting for interpreters. Can you explain us a little about this? Is it necessary or just a plain good idea to work in all the 3 official languages? Which languages in general are the ones clients require the most?

With German, French and Italian as official languages, Switzerland provides the ideal playground for an interpreter. Of course, many Swiss are bilingual or at least have a basic notion of a second language. The 4th national language is Romansh, spoken by a very small minority of bilinguals and thus factually irrelevant for interpreters. On the other hand, English is taking over an increasing important place in Swiss society, as it happens that French and German speaking people will use it as lingua franca if they’re not fluent in each other’s language. For now, the impact this has on interpreting is limited, as many are aware that their fluency in the other language is indeed too limited to communicate properly and without restrictions.

In the private sector, most events take place in German and/or French, Italian being sadly neglected as the majority of Italian speaking Swiss are also fluent in a second national language. For corporate events, there will be a French/German booth (with retour) and sometimes an English booth if the client is a multinational company.

In the Swiss Parliament, debates of the National council are multilingual and simultaneously translated in all official languages. So there’s an Italian, French and German booth. It’s possible to follow the debates live in Internet streaming in all 3 languages here:

- As we are talking about Switzerland, it is impossible not to think of the UN institutions. Does having the UN have helped the way people (clients) see and understand what an interpreter is?

Clearly, international organizations such as the UN but also FIFA, UEFA, the IOC and many NGOs based in Switzerland have probably contributed to shed a light on our profession. Yet, as everywhere else, interpreting remains a bit of a mysterious profession to most. Therefore, it is important to explain to our clients why we work in pairs, why it’s useful to get documentation and gather as much information as possible before an assignment, etc.

- What can you tell us about the working conditions in Switzerland? I mean, how do you agree on payment terms, working details, do clients send material for research, do you have to be part of a specific association, etc.?

Professionals pretty much work according to AIIC standards, even if not affiliated. So we have a written contract with the customer, and, if all goes well, we get paid within 30 days.
As to material for research, it really depends on the client. Some will give you their PowerPoint presentations or speeches in advance, but more likely, you’ll get the whole batch the night before the assignment or not at all. I found that it also helped to debrief with the client after the assignment, stressing again how useful it is to have access to research material beforehand and how it increases the quality of our work.
In Switzerland there are several associations of translators and interpreters. I’m affiliated to the DÜV – Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association, which also runs its own agency.

- Networking seems to be the Holy Grail in the industry, do you agree? How do you approach networking?

Of course, being affiliated to an association or an agency does not guarantee that you will work. Here too, networking is the ultimate recipe. During my studies, I’ve had the good fortune to have teachers who are also active professionals. They introduced me to the market, having me as booth mate on their own assignments, some of them recruiting me repeatedly and becoming regular colleagues. It’s incredibly helpful to have this kind of support when you start out. Then of course, the quality of your work is your best asset. Switzerland is a small country and word spreads fast. Once a client is happy, he’ll call on you again, tell people about you. Sure, this knife cuts both ways: mess up, and it’ll be known all around…
I’ve not yet devised a networking strategy. In fact, I’m not even listed in the phone book! Until this point, direct contact with clients and fellow interpreters has proven successful.

- What has been the most peculiar (weird) thing that you have encountered in the job?

Somehow, I always hear funny anecdotes from your colleagues, and they seem to have many up their sleeves. It’s true that due to the stress in the booth, sometimes awkward and hilarious situations arise. But they would be “inside jokes” and not fun for our readers.
Instead let me tell you of a moment that I found both deeply moving and extremely challenging:
After giving a speech on motivation, sports and work-life balance, a former Swiss politician answered a few questions from the audience. It was my last turn of the day, my booth mate already packing her stuff and preparing to leave. Everything was going smoothly until a question from the audience got an unexpected and very personal answer. The speaker, who had just published his autobiography, started telling about the recent and unexpected death of his son and how this was affecting him and his wife. He was so candid about this deeply touching tragedy that everyone in the audience was in tears. As it happens, the booth was located in such way that I could see the audience as well as the speaker. At that point, seeing all these people so moved and realising what was actually being said, I had to choke back tears of my own, and found it very difficult to keep a steady voice. I pressed the mute button, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and started talking again, in a lower voice, closer to the microphone concentrating on my breathing. This got me through it, and I managed to finish in a tone that was as close as possible to the one of the dignified speaker. Afterwards, I realised that this was probably the only situation my training hadn’t prepared me for.

- Is the economic crisis affecting the market in Switzerland? If so, how?

I can’t speak for the whole Swiss market, but in my area things seem rather stable at this point. Now and then it happens that a client turns down a quote, saying that it’s too expensive. But I’m unable to determine whether this is crisis related or simply a matter of trying to negotiate rates. Anyhow I never lower my rates in order to get a job; this would have a very negative impact on our line of work. We would never ask dentists or surgeons for example to lower their rates, as we expect a professional service from them. I don’t’ see why this shouldn’t apply to interpreters or translators.

- Final question, one a bit more personal: Why are you the Elusive Interpreter? ;)

I find that interpreters are elusive by definition. We are ghosts, a mere voice in people’s ears, mostly invisible… and yet essential. It’s a job that suits my shy yet extrovert nature. I love being tucked away in the booth, far from people’s scrutiny, and yet getting their attention.
Just like actors, we become the speaker’s voice, so what we do does matter; but who we are, is ultimately of no consequence.
Another contradiction that makes this job such a fascinating one….

A booth with a view (a tasty one!)

lunes, 3 de febrero de 2014

El verano sabe a interpretación

Durante el mes de julio de 2013 se han celebrado los dos primeros talleres WISE (Workshop for Interpreting Skills Exchange) en la London Metropolitan University y en Universidad Europea de Valencia. Por lo que se comenta en redes sociales y en los corrillos de intérpretes (que sí existen) el resultado ha sido espectacular así que he pedido plaza para la edición del 2014 y al mismo tiempo he bombardeado con preguntas a los coordinadores y padres de la criatura: Joe Burbidge, fundador de los seminarios WISE y organizador de WISE London 2013 y WISE Bruselas 2014 y José Sentamans, coordinador de los seminarios y organizador de WISE Valencia.

Antes de nada, Joe, José, ¿qué hacen dos intérpretes como vosotros en un seminario como este? ¿Cuál ha sido vuestra formación y vuestra trayectoria profesional?

JS: Joe y yo estudiamos juntos en el Máster Europeo en Interpretación de Conferencias de La Laguna. Previamente, yo había trabajado durante cuatro años como traductor en plantilla en una empresa de traducción del Reino Unido y, desde el máster, compagino la traducción con la interpretación de conferencias en el mercado privado.

JB: Having made inroads into the teaching profession, I ended up opting for interpreting as a career choice. Following my EMCI studies in La Laguna with José, I spent a couple of years plying my new trade in a wide variety of different settings before finally settling for Brussels as my base.

Joe y José en Londres

- ¿De dónde nace la idea de los seminarios WISE?

JS: Como preparación a las pruebas de Bruselas, hace un par de años nos reunimos en La Laguna un grupo de compañeros del máster para practicar de forma intensiva durante 3-4 semanas. Éramos intérpretes de cabina inglesa, alemana y española y, sin saberlo todavía, de aquí surgiría la idea embrionaria de los seminarios WISE.

Fueron semanas de muchas horas de práctica al día y, por tanto, una experiencia tan fructífera que quisimos repetirla al año siguiente. No obstante, el año pasado solo podíamos en reunirnos en verano, el máster de la ULL ya había concluido y no era posible utilizar sus instalaciones, por lo que empezamos a ponernos en contacto con distintas universidades de nuestros respectivos países. Tanto Danielle D'Hayer y la LondonMet como Emmanuël Hazé y la Universidad Europea de Valencia apostaron fuerte desde un principio por algo que no era más que una gran incógnita en aquel momento, y por ello, quisiéramos aprovechar estas líneas para agradecérselo (de nuevo).

JB: As luck would have it, my first two years as an interpreter allowed me to get to know a wide array of colleagues from across Europe and beyond, many of whom seemed eager to hone their skills by receiving additional training. Some wanted to work on a retour, while others may have wanted to dust off their consec notepad. Many had long since left the university environment, yet were still keen to work on their own booth performance. More than once I came across the view that while working professionally in the booth, seldom is there the chance to receive honest, high-quality feedback on one’s own skills. It seemed to me that there was a lack of options for working interpreters to enhance their skills despite the willingness expressed by many to receive advice in exchange for giving advice. A number of working interpreters I crossed paths with seemed to be on the lookout for a setting in which they could work on their skills in a mutually beneficial way along with colleagues with complementary language combinations.

From my perspective, providing an opportunity of this sort was simply a question of tying the loose ends together by bringing together the right people in the right place. Two other key elements were the need for a structured event and a time of year when interpreters would not be working. Thanks to the efforts and dedication of a number of colleagues, Jose and I were able to organise this in the form of the first WISE sessions, held in Valencia and London respectively. The success of these events and the support for the idea shown by many have meant that WISE is now to be held on an annual basis, with Brussels and Valencia hosting separate week-long sessions in 2014.

- Para los que aún no han visitado vuestro blog,  ¿podríais explicar brevemente qué son los seminarios WISE? ¿A quién van dirigidos? ¿Cuánto cuestan? ¿En qué ciudades se celebran? ¿Qué combinaciones de idiomas ofrecen?

JB: The idea behind the seminar is that all participants give speeches and feedback to each other, allowing each interpreter to enhance their own skills while helping others to do the same. Colleagues listen to one another and constructively help each other improve in an atmosphere of equality which is more laid back than in a working booth. It is also a great chance to get to know other people with similar interests during the breaks and in the evenings. Nevertheless, the chance to share one's expertise with professionals with similar goals creates a serious working environment during the practice sessions, with all participants benefitting mutually from each other's advice.

JS: El año pasado ofrecimos EN, ES, FR en WISE London, y EN, ES, FR, DE, IT en WISE Valencia, combinaciones que serán muy similares a las de este año.

Este año celebraremos de nuevo dos sesiones: WISE Valencia y WISE Bruselas. Ambas tendrán lugar a mediados de julio con una duración de una semana. Muy pronto daremos a conocer las fechas definitivas y otros detalles.

- ¿Ha sido difícil organizar dos seminarios en dos ciudades diferentes el mismo mes y con tantas lenguas de trabajo? ¿Cuáles han sido los principales retos y las ayudas? (no todo es siempre malo)

JS: Sinceramente… sí. Para hacerte una idea, te diré que en un principio nuestra idea era reunirnos solo un grupo de compañeros para cubrir los idiomas básicos... y en WISE Valencia acabamos siendo 25 intérpretes de cabina inglesa, francesa, alemana, italiana y española, incluyendo sesiones de retour al inglés, al español e incluso al francés. Como puedes imaginar, simplemente la elaboración del horario fue un rompecabezas de proporciones considerables. A ello cabe sumar la comunicación con cada participante, cuadrar fechas con las universidades, la búsqueda de alojamiento gratuito en la medida de lo posible, así como de ponentes ajenos al mundo de la interpretación, etc, etc.
Dado que teníamos poco más de uno o dos meses para organizarlo todo, empezamos preguntando a compañeros de distintas promociones del máster y a colegas con los que habíamos coincidido en foros o en el mercado privado. Estos, a su vez, recomendaron a otros compañeros y la bola se fue haciendo cada vez más grande, hasta el punto de tener el doble de candidatos que plazas disponibles… hay opciones para dar cabida a un número mayor de intérpretes, pero consideramos que la selección de los candidatos es esencial para garantizar el máximo beneficio mutuo.
En total, seguramente acabaríamos dedicando a la organización de dos a tres semanas completas, pero debo decir que fue una tarea enormemente gratificante porque, desde el primer momento, sentimos que la idea despertaba un gran interés y la ilusión de todos los candidatos era muy apreciable, hasta el punto de que incluso intérpretes en plantilla de la Comisión que estaban de vacaciones se ofrecieron para ayudar con un valiosísimo feedback sin más recompensa que nuestro profundo agradecimiento. Además, trabajar con Joe (así como con Kim Park y Maisie Greenwood, sin las que esto tampoco hubiera sido posible) es siempre un auténtico placer y estuvimos en permanente contacto mientras cada uno preparaba su seminario, por lo que nos retroalimentamos mutuamente de las ideas y sugerencias del otro, nos quedamos con las que consideramos mejores y de esto se beneficiaron ambos WISE.

WISE Londres 2013

- ¿Cómo se enteró la gente de la existencia de los seminarios: el boca a boca, el blog, los centros en los que se realizaron?

JS: Nos pusimos primero en contacto con los intérpretes que conocíamos del máster y de distintas colaboraciones a nivel europeo, estos a su vez hicieron lo propio con su círculo de compañeros y así sucesivamente.

JB: Word of mouth was the main way in which colleagues learnt about WISE at first, and I suspect that this will continue to be the case in the future. The idea behind WISE spreads very effectively when one participant explains the idea to a boothmate or friend, and in this way a sense of community has started to develop among those interested.

- En vuestra opinión, ¿qué ha sido lo mejor de los seminarios y qué os gustaría mejorar o añadir en los seminarios de 2014? (alguna anécdota graciosa)

JS: Fueron dos semanas muy intensas y, como te puedes imaginar, repletas de anécdotas... pero eso lo dejo para Joe, que es el rey de las historias desternillantes. Personalmente, me quedo con todo lo que aprendí personal y profesionalmente de todos los participantes y colaboradores puntuales, con los momentos compartidos tanto dentro como fuera de cabina y, muy especialmente, con la ilusión que generó en todo momento la iniciativa y con el compromiso mostrado por todos y cada uno los compañeros.

JB: The stories that could be told are indeed many and would by no means fit into one interview! Similarly to Jose, what will stay with me is the community spirit developed during a two week-long sessions of hard work, but also of very memorable times spent with friends and colleagues.

Having said that, I think what I will never forget is the exhaustion I inflicted on my poor fellow coordinator, Jose, at WISE London. After spending a gruelling week in charge of the Valencia session, the lucky guy flew out to London only to be dragged from one end of the metropolis to the other for five jam-packed days of cycling up and down hills on the way to the train station at ungodly hours while being bombarded by yours truly on questions regarding timetabling and booth planning. Oh, and let's not forget all the interpreting, speeches and feedback he gave during the day as well. I also made a point of getting Jose along to the pub every evening after our practice sessions, just in case he wasn't completely zombie-eyed by the WISE experience already. His joy at being released for August holidays was boundless.

WISE Valencia 2013

- Pregunta complicada, ¿los seminarios WISE nacen para hacer la competencia a los cursos universitarios, para ofrecer una alternativa o como resultado de un vacío en la oferta formativa?

JS: En primer lugar, decir que WISE surge simplemente como una necesidad de un grupo de colegas de prepararse específicamente para unas pruebas y, posteriormente, de seguir mejorando y compartiendo conocimientos. Dado que ya habíamos superado un máster especializado, simplemente necesitábamos más horas de vuelo en combinaciones lingüísticas y modalidades menos habituales en nuestros respectivos mercados (como, por ejemplo, la consecutiva de alemán, en mi caso).

A partir de ahí, vamos moldeando esta idea inicial y el hecho de reunir a intérpretes de varios países en un mismo lugar y en un contexto de colaboración mutua abre nuevas posibilidades, como trabajar un retour con feedback de intérpretes nativos en nuestra lengua B.

Nuestra idea no es, en ningún caso, hacer la competencia a los cursos existentes. Ninguno de nosotros actúa en calidad de profesor durante las semanas de WISE y así lo hacemos constar cuando explicamos en qué consisten los seminarios. Todos participamos en pie de igualdad e interpretamos, leemos discursos y ofrecemos feedback a compañeros de nuestra misma cabina a partes iguales.
Personalmente, creo que el encanto de los seminarios radica en que el resultado general es la suma de cada contribución personal y esto genera una serie de sinergias que se traducen en una experiencia tan positiva como fructífera para todos y cada uno de los participantes. Sin lugar a dudas, si tuviera que describir los seminarios WISE, los resumiría en un ambiente de mucha ilusión y mucho compañerismo.

Trabajo en equipo en Valencia

- Me parece una gran idea y ya he dicho que quiero ser parte de WISE en 2014 (pena no haber podido serlo en 2013) así que, ¿es este un proyecto a largo plazo? ¿Qué podemos esperar de WISE en el futuro? ¿Más países, más idiomas?

JS: Sí, nuestra intención es seguir ofreciendo los seminarios a largo plazo. Estamos abiertos a celebrar seminarios WISE en otros países, pero para ello es necesario que reúnan una serie de requisitos comunes a fin de garantizar que las distintas experiencias sean lo más similares e “intercambiables” posibles. Por otra parte, como he comentado antes, consideramos que la selección de los participantes es esencial para garantizar el máximo beneficio mutuo y, por ello, el número de seminarios posibles es limitado.

sábado, 1 de febrero de 2014

La curvatura del espacio-tiempo en cabina

En ocasiones me encuentro en cabina con el fenómeno del milagro de los minutos, también conocido por otros nombres, motes y epítetos. ¿En qué consiste? Bueno, se trata de los casos en los que algunos ponentes (no todos) deciden que la teoría de la curvatura del espacio-tiempo de Einstein no iba tan desencaminada porque el tiempo que se les ha asignado para su charla es definitivamente relativo.

Todo esto empieza muchas veces con un error de programación, es decir, con un fallo al calcular que en una hora y media puedes tener a cuatro o cinco ponentes y asumir que ninguno de ellos va a tener un fallo técnico o que se va a pasar unos minutos del tiempo. Generalmente el primer ponente tiene todo el tiempo del mundo y el resto ve poco a poco como su momento se va reduciendo peligrosamente ante sus ojos.

El segundo error de planteamiento es el no tomarse la molestia de pensar en el público a la hora de preparar el discurso. Muchos ponentes (insisto, no todos) reciben el encargo de hablar durante quince minutos, les dan un tema más o menos concreto y unos días, meses o semanas para que lo preparen. Vamos a poner un ejemplo para verlo con más claridad: el ponente A tiene que hablar sobre el impacto que ha tenido la apertura de una estación de tren en un barrio con problemas económicos. Lo suyo es hablar un poco sobre la situación del barrio antes y después de la apertura de la estación, dar algunos datos, mostrar algunas tablas en las diapositivas, plantear algunos ejemplos concretos y dejar espacio para las preguntas y respuestas. El problema viene cuando dicho ponente A decide que aunque tiene 15 minutos, no vendría mal contar la historia del ferrocarril en España desde sus inicios, luego dar absolutamente todos los datos demográficos, con sus estadísticas completas sobre el barrio, contar el número de polideportivos que tiene, si en el 2008 además fue elegido el barrio con las mejores tintorerías y ya de paso hablar sobre los presupuestos municipales de los últimos siete años, esa disputa por terrenos que mantienen con el barrio de al lado y como uno de sus equipos de fútbol tiene opciones de ganar el próximo partido de la Copa del Rey. Toda la información tiene que ver con el barrio, eso es verdad, pero son datos que ha escrito en un documento de 35 páginas, con elaboradas fórmulas más propias de algunos premios Planeta. Por supuesto, el ponente A no ha leído en casa esas 35 páginas en voz alta para ver si quedan bien o suenan algo pomposas, tampoco ha calculado el tiempo que le lleva recitar esas páginas y no tiene ni idea de si se ciñe a los quince minutos marcados o no pero se siente satisfecho por el trabajo realizado.

Ahora llega el momento de la verdad: la conferencia. Personas de medio mundo han acudido y quieren intercambiar casos prácticos sobre cómo combatir la falta de motivación en barrios en situaciones complicadas. Se fusionan nuestros dos errores y empieza la tercera mesa redonda de la mañana con cinco ponentes, cada uno de una ciudad diferente y con una historia propia. El ponente A es el tercero, así que cuando le llega el turno los otros dos ya se han comido la mayor parte de la hora y media asignada a la mesa y el moderador le informa de que tan solo dispone de 10 minutos, aunque sería mejor si solo hablase cinco y dejase espacio para la pausa de la comida.

En realidad es bastante injusto para el ponente A, porque ha perdido tiempo que le correspondía y cinco minutos no permitirán explicar bien lo que ha pasado en su barrio. Eso no lo voy a negar.

Aún así el ponente A no se viene abajo y saca su taco de 35 folios y avisa al público que dado que no tiene tiempo va a proceder a leer a toda velocidad las páginas, que lo siente por los "traductores" pero que es lo que hay. En efecto se pone a leer a toda marcha, sin apenas hacer pausas para respirar, acelerando el ritmo aún más cada vez que el moderador le avisa que se queda sin tiempo, sin levantar la vista del papel, sin resumir, recortar o cuidar de la presentación de ideas e ignorando las miradas asesinas de sus intérpretes.

A todo esto, el público está en la sala recibiendo el discurso sin enterarse de mucho. Es bastante frecuente que después de uno de estos ponentes, se te acerquen los asistentes en el descanso y te comenten:

- No sé cómo le habéis podido traducir, me costaba entender esa charla a mi y es mi propia lengua.

Esto pasa tanto con ponentes que hablan en castellano como en inglés y es una pena, en primer lugar por el público, que suele desconectar al cabo de dos minutos si el ponente se limita a leer a toda caña un texto escrito y pensado para una lectura sosegada y no para un auditorio. Muchas veces, las ideas son buenas, los ejemplos interesantes y se pierden por el camino debido a una pésima presentación.
Finalmente, si me lo permiten, también querría recordar que los intérpretes no somos el enemigo a batir, somos una herramienta de comunicación, nos limitamos a transmitir en otra lengua el mensaje y lo que queremos es hacer nuestro trabajo lo mejor posible.

Recientemente un ponente nos dijo: "Voy a dar solo dos ideas claves, con sus ejemplos y voy a hablar despacio y de forma clara porque mi hijo es intérprete y se queja mucho de lo mal que hablan los ponentes, así que quiero ayudaros porque mi objetivo es llegar al público"

Somos un equipo, aún así somos conscientes de que siempre existirán ponentes metralleta o correcaminos, convencidos de que el tiempo es realmente flexible y que el milagro de convertir cinco minutos en media hora es factible.

Ponente A y su intérprete