The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2021 - 26

INTERPRETERS FORUM By Daniel Sherr
Chuchotage-Separating Fact
from Fancy: A Film Review from
an Interpreter's Perspective
How many hours have I spoken in these dark, tiny booths, hidden in the
back of the room? I'm a man in the shadows. I'm not part of the protocol,
yet here I am, interpreting politicians, tradesmen, lawyers. I'm the
guardian of secrets. Countries and millions depend on me. I live by strict
rules. Nothing ever puts me off. Except you.
I've never been so confidential with someone before. Except you...I see
you're listening to me. There are 70 people in that room, but you're the
only one hearing me. I flew over half of Europe, I got up at 4:00 a.m.,
landed in Prague at 7:00 a.m., and have been watching you since 9:00.
Can't take my eyes off you since then...I want to meet you. I want to see
you. Up close. I want to hear your voice. For you I would step out of the
shadows into the light.
-from a scene in the film Chuchotage
C
ould an interpreter
at an international
conference cease
to interpret a speaker's
remarks and substitute their
own thoughts? Of course.
Would they? Never-unless
26 The ATA Chronicle | November/December 2021
they wanted to instantly
end their career in a blaze of
dubious glory.
The monologue above is the
heartfelt message delivered
by a suddenly lovestruck
interpreter in director
Barnabás Tóth's short film
Chuchotage, selected for more
than 40 festivals, winner of
more than 20 awards, and
short-listed for the Best Live
Action Short Film at the 2019
Academy Awards.
In Chuchotage, two
interpreters become
convinced that only one
person is listening to them:
a blonde woman seated
three or four rows in front
of them. The two set out to
gain her affection through
their interpretation.
The film has garnered
many overwhelmingly
favorable reviews, but
I've seen none written by
interpreters. One movie critic
wrote: " I've always been
impressed with interpreters
and translators, particularly
those people doing it live,
while the person they are
interpreting for is still
speaking (chuchotage is the
Hungarian term for this). " 1
Not a very accurate definition.
Chuchotage, from the
French chuchoter (to
whisper), is also known as
whisper interpreting. The
interpreter sits next to, or
stands or crouches behind,
a person or group and
interprets in a low voice.
Its principal virtue is that
it's cheap; there's no need
for a booth, console, or a
technician. The method
has various drawbacks:
interpreters cannot move to
a spot where the acoustics
might allow them to hear
the speaker better, and
not everyone likes to have
another human being, let
alone an interpreter, in
such close proximity. This
technique is also particularly
ill-suited to interpreting in
the COVID era.
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