lunes, 1 de diciembre de 2014

Interpreters around the world: Brazil

Brazil has grown a lot in recent years, Brazilians are everywhere these days in the business, academic, political and scientific arenas, so it should not come as a surprise when I say that Brazil and China are the names of the countries that keep on making an appearance during most of the interpreting projects I have worked in for the last three years.

Also, when I think about all the international events that have recently taken place in Brazil or that will be hosted by this country in the nearby future, the first thing that comes to mind is the magic word: interpreters.

Right now, I am full of questions about the market, the new opportunities and the training resources available in the country, and I know very little about these things. Therefore, if I want answers, the best thing I can do is to ask the experts:

Two professional interpreters: Richard Laver (PT and EN A; ES C) and Raquel Schaitza (PT A; EN B). They have been working in Brazil for 20+ years as freelancers and got gradually more involved with training in the last 3 years. They will shed some light on these topics and offer some information on good training opportunities for those colleagues who already work from Portuguese or those who are not quite there yet (the Portuguese "D") as well as the Brazilian interpreters that are looking to improve their skills.

Si quiere leer la entrevista en español solo tiene que pinchar aquí: Castellano

- First question, as usual, how and why did you decided to be an interpreter? Where did you received your training? How was the market in Brazil when you started? 

If there are just a few training opportunities in a continental country like Brazil today, it was even more difficult 27 years ago in Curitiba where I live. So, I would say I started Nuremberg-style working for a Forestry Conference because my husband is a forester and the organizers knew I was a translator. Their obvious conclusion was that I could interpret simultaneously, too. Though I said I could not, they insisted their budget was too tight to fly professionals from Rio or São Paulo (so tight transmision was via a pirate radio station!) and would hire anyone ready to take the challenge. Well, I found another anyone, my good friend Patricia Tate who's now an AIIC interpreter based in Rio, we made our debut together and at least nobody booed! Initially I had no more than 10 days a year, but it gradually improved, I started my own interpretation firm and we were the only interpreters in our market for quite a few years. In the meantime and to this date, I've always looked for training opportunities to make for my lack of initial training. Also, this is the main reason why I started to train interpreters: I want them to learn in the classroom what it took me years to learn on the fly! I would have felt so much more confident if I had had formal training. Not to mention that trained interpreters tend to take the profession more seriously and this is good for them, for the colleagues, for the clients, for the market as a whole.

My mother is an interpreter and partly because of that I never wanted to be an interpreter.  And when I started the market was at a boom due to the fact that many state-owned companies were being privatized and most of them had been purchased by foreign companies.  Those acquisitions led to many booth days.  I didn’t have any formal training but thanks to working with great interpreters, many days in a row when starting, I can say I fit the definition of on-the-job training.

- Now that we know a little bit more about you, what can you tell us about the evolution of the freelance market in the country in the last few years? Business between Brazil and the rest of the world has done nothing but grow in the last 5 years, that has to have an impact in our market. 

Yes, it's a 99% freelance market really. Richard and I have different scenarios, but as for me, in the south of Brazil, the market grew a lot, but clients know very little about professional interpretation. Most are just like my first client ever almost 30 years ago who would hire anyone speaking two languages. And, of course, they want to pay as little as they possibly can. So, we have to work very hard on client education and the problem is not really working conditions, because they normally do not argue about booths, hours or having two interpreters. The problem is that they will easily find someone who speaks two languges and offers to do (supposedly) the same thing for 30% of what a professional will charge. It's hard to convince them it's NOT the same thing. So, one has to compete with both professionals and amateurs and this demands negotiating and business skills we sometimes lack! An interesting thing I noticed over the years is that we used to work for high profile international conferences mainly, but now there are many small meetings hiring interpreters. These are businesses that, in the past, would never bring a foreigner to train their employees, for example, but they now do. And I love working in this kind of scenario, where they actually need us and appreciate our work.

Brazil has grown a lot recently and this is also reflected in the market and consequently in the number of interpreters.  Therefore, the total number of days is growing amongst a greater number of interpreters.  I think we also have the same problems seen in most markets of the world where clients are able to find much cheaper services provided by non-professional interpreters who have the language skills, but no formal training or very little experience.  As a significant number of Brazilians are not bilingual I do think that we are valued, but we could definitely help clients and people in general to understand the difference between professional and non-professional interpreters.

- We have already mentioned the international events a couple, the World's cup was last summer and the Olympic Games will be hosted in Rio in 2016. What can you tell us about these events? 

I'll leave this one to Richard. He lives in Rio, worked for FIFA during the World Cup in July and is already working for events leading to the 2016 Olympics. My role is to try to offer more training opportunities so that we have more professional interpreters, instead of "foreign language speakers" eventually ready to work not only for the Olympics, but for any client needing interpretation in Brazil.

 One year ago before the World Cup I was interviewed by a major Brazilian newspaper and I mentioned that I did not think that these major events would give us more work.  Very few interpreters worked for or during the World Cup because so many hotels and event organizers were so busy that, of course, few other events took place during the same period.
I believe that it will be very similar during, although in some other areas in Brazil the Games might not have the same impact they will have in Rio. So, unlike the World Cup, maybe other conferences will take place.

- Going back to one of my favourite topics: training. What you tell our readers about the training opportunities in Brazil right now? 

The most traditional programmes in Brazil are offered by the Catholic Universities in Rio and São Paulo, and they are both in the AIIC directory. Another program is offered by Associação Alumni, a private school. Apart from that there is a variety of other programs like Universidade Estácio de Sá, including short-term programs like ours.
Raquel offers a Basic Introduction to Conference Interpreting in Curitiba and the details for 2015 will soon be announced at
Richard and Raquel are offering the second edition of the Curitiba HITs, two high-intensity interpreting training programs. One is for novice Brazilian Portuguese Ainterpreters who are eager to get extra practice and serious feedback. The other is for our foreign Portuguese C colleagues who are increasingly more exposed to Brazilian Portuguese in the booth. Details are here: And, on top of that, we'll be offering another very short HIT just before the AIIC Addis Assembly. So, if you're planning to be there, this is an excellent opportunity!

Some novice interpreters in action in the booth at the Intensive Portuguese A Workshop, 
while others were getting ready to give peer feedback 

Experienced colleagues working from Portuguese C are observed by a
novice Portuguese A interpreter who learns from their
experience while she fills out the form used during the feedback sessions

- I usually ask the interpreters that share their experience with the readers to tell us about the type of interpreting they do most (consecutive, simultaneous) and the language pairs that the clients demand more in their cities.

Personally, I like simultaneous better and work EN< >PT only. So that's what I do the most. We are a retour market, so I normally work both ways. Consecutive is a challenge because I never had proper training, so it becomes intermittent or "dialogue interpreting" more than consecutive comme il faut. Together with Daniele Fonseca, a colleague in São Paulo, Richard and I made an informal survey on interpretation in Brazil using social media and results showed that, by far, clients are in demand of PT/EN all over the country.

PT/EN supposedly account for 90% of the market and most of it is simultaneous.  We are living in a dynamic and fast moving world and that is one of the reasons for clients to opt for the simultaneous mode.  Personally, I have no preference for one mode or the other, and quite often do consecutive as I work with live TV interviews.

- Richard and Raquel are both AIIC members, Richard is the current AIIC council member for region Brazil and works with novice interpreters in the VEGA Activities, can you tell us a bit more about what are these activities?

Brazil is a huge country and the aforementioned survey leads us to believe there are approximately 500 interpreters and that most have not had any access to formal training.  Therefore, we decided that we had to create outreach activities to contact these interpreters and be able to tell them more about AIIC, about working conditions etc.  These VEGA Talks, organized in many different regions of Brazil have been attended by more than 500 students, novice interpreters and interpreters in general.  The growing interest in these talks over the years show that they all yearned for more information.

Richard giving a talk

- We have mentioned AIIC, but are there other professional associations in Brazil? Students always want to know where to go when they end their training and good associations are always helpful.

The only other association we have in Brazil is APIC, the Association of Professional Conference Interpreters. As it was founded by some colleagues based in São Paulo, the "P" initially referred to "paulista" which means "from the state of Sao Paulo" in Portuguese. As it grew and colleagues all over the country started to interact more, it changed its name and nature to shelter interpreters from all states. Many colleagues are both AIIC and APIC interpreters, but some belong to only one of the associations.

There is another association that unites translators and interpreters called ABRATES.

Our guest speaker at the Portuguese C Workshop 
talking about Brazilian art 

- Do you want to share any story or anecdote with the readers? 

I always share the same story because if I survived this one, novice interpreters can expect to overcome all obstacles! The speaker said the first social project ever financed by Rotaract was the construction of public restrooms in New York. Please, don't ask me how, but I heard restaurants!!! I remember that for a split second I even thought "what does she mean ... as far as I know all restaurants are public", but I was stupid enough to say "restaurants" in Portuguese only to realize again a split second later she was talking about "restrooms". My boothmate couldn't believe her ears! Of course, I had to correct myself and some people in the audience started laughing. Well, the speaker stopped and asked what was so funny about Rotaract's social projects. I asked listeners to (please!) have an English speaker in the audience tell her that it was a mistake already corrected for which the interpreter apologized. All I wanted was for it to be over asap. She finally resumed her talk, but my Brazilian listeners left the room thinking I was totally insane because Brazilians who learn English tend to know the words "bathroom" or "toilet", but rarely "restroom". So most were left wondering how on Earth I could have mistaken one word for the other!

I was once called to interpret at the Federal Police Station at Rio’s International Airport as some foreigners had been arrested for International Drug Trafficking.  The interviews were going ok, the traffickers were taken back to holding and the police officers all walked out to do other things.  At that point a police officer who had been on duty elsewhere – but who had heard that some foreigners had been arrested - walks in and sees me there alone and without handcuffs and starts shouting at me to lie on the floor etc.  Nothing I said convinced him I was just the interpreter until another of the officers came back in and half laughing at the situation and half worried explained to him I was “just” the interpreter.  He was very apologetic and all ended well and today I find it funny, but believe me, those were 2-3 minutes that lasted years!

Students, observers and instructors enjoying a caipirinha
 after the course (Raquel front right) 

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