In the past few days we have been busy interpreting at the best multilingual conference ever. With attendees from all over the world and 12 amazing interpreters divided in six booths (English/Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian), this has been the best example of a multilingual conference we have seen so far.
Not even the EU is so multilingual: interpreters of all EU languages might be there ready to do their job, but unfortunately many speakers still decide to speak in English rather than in their mother tongue, leaving the English booth’s microphone off most of the time. In our opinion, this makes their message weaker, less assertive, with potential negative consequences on what they wanted to accomplish with it.
This case, instead, was simply amazing. Each and every person on stage spoke in their mother tongue, even when interacting with people of a different language. The event was taking place in two different auditoriums at the same venue, with more than 2,000 attendees in total.
Some sessions were held by two different hosts talking to each other, one in each auditorium. Most of the times, it was a Spanish-speaking host talking with an English-speaking colleague. This of course was piece of cake for us Spain-based interpreters, all with English and Spanish in our language combination, because each person of every booth could interpret alone this dialogue.
The most complex situation for us interpreters, though, was another session in which a French-speaking person was talking with his German-speaking colleague, again in the other auditorium. The only booth who had both languages covered was ours, the Italian booth, since I could interpret directly from German into Italian, whereas my colleague from French into Italian. We just had to be quicker than normal to keep about the same timing as the original dialogue, but it wasn’t complicated for us.
In the remaining five booths, though, our colleagues had to use what is called relay interpreting, i.e. using a colleague’s interpretation as the source message to be interpreted into their native language. For example, during this French-German session, our Russian colleagues (who had English, Spanish and Russian in their language combination) had to rely on the relay of both the German interpreter and the French one into Spanish, which they then rendered into Russian.
The tricky part is due to the delay. Even if it is called simultaneous interpreting, there is always a slight delay (in general, a couple of seconds) between us and the speaker, so that we have the time to process the information and offer it back in the target language. In this case the delay was double (from French/German to Spanish and then from Spanish to Russian); plus, the speakers were two with short parts each, which meant it all had to be very quick.
Again, the organisation of this event was superb. They provided in advance the scripts of the sessions and scheduled several rehearsals, where we could check whether we had enough time to do it with relay. As they say, practice makes perfect, and everything went great.
So the next time you organise a multilingual event, think about this great example, deliver your message as strongly as possible in your native language, and let us interpreters do the rest!