Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual meeting of the Colorado Association of Professional Interpreters. The morning portion of the meeting was a professional development session, and I presented some tips for working with premium clients and ways to use Web 2.0 tools to market your freelance services.
I made some tentative and best-forgotten forays into the world of interpreting when I first started freelancing and was actively looking for work. Oddly enough there are very few French interpreters in Colorado and it wasn’t that hard to find interpreting clients, but it didn’t take me very long to figure out that a) my personality is much better suited to translation than to interpreting and b) my spoken French is not strong enough to do simultaneous interpreting from English into French. Since then I’ve found less stressful ways to channel my verbal energy (such as podcasting about translation) but interpreting still intrigues me. Certainly, translation has its moments of glory; when I’ve translated a book or seen my work on a client’s website, it’s definitely been gratifying. However, it was a humbling moment to find myself seated next to an interpreter who talked about his recent work like “when I was at the Democratic Convention, interpreting Obama’s acceptance speech…” (this was Tony Rosado, a high-level Spanish conference interpreter). Wow!
Translators and interpreters really are different breeds of people. At the recent Colorado Translators Association marketing workshop, Judy Jenner asked us to get into small groups and discuss the selling points of our freelance businesses. There was a moment of terrified silence, and then a small voice in the front of the room said “Can’t I just post it to the CTA e-mail list?” Talking…selling…groups of people…all things that many translators are terrified of. By contrast, many of the interpreters I met at the CAPI meeting could charmingly chat up a potted palm tree and pass it a few business cards in the course of the conversation. It was a really interesting chance to “cross the aisle” of the language profession and get a sense of what many interpreters’ daily work consists of.
Fortunately or unfortunately, every time I’m around a group of interpreters, I start fantasizing all over again about how fun it would be to be one of them… like many translators, I’m a naturally cautious and risk-averse person. I drive below the speed limit, wear those nerdy velcro straps that keep my pant legs from getting caught in my bike chain, get my teeth cleaned four times a year, check my credit card statements for unusual transactions, you get the picture. When I’m around interpreters, I often get the impression that many of them live just a little more on the edge than we translators do, and sometimes when I’m tapping away at the keyboard it’s fun to imagine, just for a minute, what it would be like to interpret for Obama!