Being an interpreter in London during the 2012 Olympic Games did not turn out to be the godsend I had expected. I did join in the odd fringe event professionally, but as most local fish-and-chip sellers will tell you, a lot of the business went to the Big Boys. And whilst my Country and our local neighbour Vatican City undergo great turmoil, general and presidential elections and queenly visits that never were, I still have more than enough time to compose my thoughts here.
Never mind. The thing is that there are two ways to write about great events. Or the little things of our lives.
One is the Mediterranean way. Monumental, but delayed: everyone is always too busy finishing up that last airport shuttle terminal they said would be okay on the night to worry about narrative. Which would be mostly untrue anyway.
In Northern Europe things are different. Much before anyone drank any, airlines quickly announced how many cups of tea they were expecting to serve up during the Games, measured in stadia - and I mean the modern oval circus erections, not the ancient Greek-god inspired unit. I know there is a connection, and no fear, there is none between tea and my previously vented ideas on liquid consumption immortalized here.
Back to the Games. There was more: how many meals, decibels, lost office hours; seconds until the beginning, escalator passengers per minute, pints of make up...
Okay, I think I know what you think is coming next. An event isn't just a collection of beads of saline drinks in an ocean of statistics, there's more, let's focus on what counts, get back to basics and so forth.
In fact, no. And in keeping with my promise to write nothing but the truth here in true Public Service Interpreter style, I must admit that I myself was not immune in my younger years from dabbling in a few hardcore statistics occasionally. But if you have just clicked that link, you will have experienced a completely different register for a moment. Now, I don't feel at home there any more. Please close that window and read on if you can.
What makes any experience including interpreting for a living special is what is not replicable deep deep down inside. The ten things to remember in your bag, the two best software packages, the five mugs of whatever herbal concoction you like are all reproducible, by anyone. It is all useful advice, no doubt, but because it can be copied, it cannot be considered the essence of the show, just a rosary of incidentals. And correct me if I'm wrong, if any reader of mine does a little teaching, don't you often encounter learners who are a walking summation of all these qualities, who "know all the right people and take all the right pills", as the Eagles once put it, and seem disgruntled because nothing's happening?
I'm going to regret writing this, but I think it's selfish when watching a football match to focus on what makes the viewer the same as the players (usually the boots and the strip) rather than what keeps them worlds apart (blood, sweat, and a differently shaped abdomen). Is that why some players give up the job and continue to enjoy our unswerving admiration just to thank them for becoming more like us, as we really like to think we are becoming like them? Going back to the Greek gods, is that what made us worship them?
I was brought up by a spark, like so many other professionals I know. It can only be transmitted by osmosis. As a young interpreter, I wondered about the details which at the time were not available if not apocryphally, since there was no blogging or social networking. I had wanted to devise a little compendium myself, but now I see someone has beaten me to it, and I thank them.
So I choose to write about epiphanies, the ethereal nothing which is the only real spirit keeping us going despite the statistics and the knowledge that my perfect headphone still isn't doing it for me. So sorry if it's vague. But am I alone? Then why would so many follow such a route once it has been clinically proven that there is no room for new kids on this block? I understand it cannot be packaged, and therefore not taught, i.e. sold. But it is the one gift all are in need to receive.
The rest is like air, and breathing. Whilst one could not live without, they cannot be the object of our life, nor can we focus on simply staying alive as long as possible. So the dictionaries and the business cards, though essential, are but a symptom, and never a cause. A website reflects, and does not make, the man.
Expertise, experience, knowledge, know-how and luck all just crucially happen along the way, as we walk our path, which is quite another thing.
And usually, as my own, the road is clearly marked no deposit, no return.
I know. Just a thought. And yet...
About this blog
A sideways glance at conference interpreting, living bilingual and balancing the composite identity. The poetics of a craft and a repository of past thoughts. (Some links may no longer be active).
Copyright Martin Esposito - All rights reserved