The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022 - 28

The other interpreter
could have been the most
brilliant interpreter in the
country. She could have had
all the certifications and
training required and may
have done an incredible job.
However, the attorney made
a quick judgment call based
on her lack of professional
attire and chose my
colleague to interpret. There
were no other questions
asked, no request for a
summary of qualifications.
The choice was made
based on the interpreter's
wardrobe.
I'm sure this is not news
to anyone reading this, but
part of being a professional
is dressing as one. As an
interpreter, I'm usually
working in courtrooms or
at conferences, and so my
professional " costume " is
a suit. However, different
situations require different
" costumes. " Even though a
suit is my go-to professional
gear, it would be odd
to wear one at a pre-op
medical appointment, just as
wearing scrubs to a jail visit
would be. Bottom line: make
sure you look the part for
each assignment.
Sound Check
When we arrive for our
assignments, what's the
first thing we usually do?
We probably check the
equipment. We make sure the
microphone is working. We
check the audio quality to see
if we can hear. We check the
batteries in all the receivers.
But how often do we check
our own " equipment " to
make sure everything is
running smoothly? Do we
do vocal exercises such as
tongue twisters to warm up,
or do we just jump on the
microphone and begin.
If I had to put a number
on it, I would venture to
guess that 90% or more
of an interpreter's work
happens before they start
an assignment. We work
developing our languages,
learning and mastering
industry/field-specific
terminology. We take
classes on how to improve
our consecutive, sight, and
simultaneous skills. We
develop our note-taking
techniques. We try to gather
materials specific to the
assignment so we can create
glossaries and learn unique
terms. All that preparation
can take days, weeks, or
even years.
And it can be all for
naught if, when the
microphone is turned on, the
audience can't understand
a word you say. If you
mumble, stammer, or speak
too lowly or too fast, or your
words run into each other
and everything comes out
garbled, you're not doing
your job.
If you don't have proper
diction, good intonation,
and can't be understood,
then all your effort, all your
degrees, and all your years
of study and certifications
don't matter. You're hired as
an interpreter because the
client already has at least one
person they can't understand.
They don't need two.
Most professionals who
speak for a living-from
voice actors to opera
singers to newscasters-
warm up their voices and
their facial muscles before
every performance. If
you're thinking about the
performance aspect of your
28 The ATA Chronicle | November/December 2022
work, you should probably do
so as well.
Stage Presence
One of the keys to being
a successful actor is stage
presence. The same holds
true for interpreters. People
are not just focused on
your words when you're
interpreting but are watching
you and your movements.
Actors know that every
movement communicates
something. As the camera
zooms in, a narrowing of
the eyes can tell an entire
story. A glance off camera
can signal that something is
happening in the distance.
When you're interpreting,
what's your body language
communicating? Are you
slouching? Do you fidget
and rock back and forth?
Are you leaning on the edge
of the witness stand? Do
your hands and legs tremble
when you're speaking in
front of a large group? Or
do you have command of
the " stage " ? Do you look
confident in the work you're
doing? Are you able to mask
your facial expressions as
you search to find a word?
Or do you have a pained look
on your face as you struggle
to extract meaning from a
speaker's utterance?
A professional interpreter
should be able to control their
facial expressions and have a
poker face when interpreting.
Likewise, an interpreter who
can't stay still draws focus
away from the person that
the audience should be paying
attention to.
When you're on an
assignment, from the
moment you step into the
room until the moment you
leave, the audience will be
noticing you and your body
language. You must look
and sound professional at
every moment, not just when
you're actually interpreting.
Stardom
Although interpreting is a
performance art, we, the
interpreters, are not the stars
of the show. We're the
supporting cast-the
secondary support to make
the real stars shine, allow
their voices to be heard, and
their messages be understood.
We may never be awarded a
Tony or an Oscar, but if we
perform our roles well, we'll
help communication happen.
We can allow the parties to do
what they need to do, and
hopefully we'll get a callback
to be in the sequel.
Javier Castillo is president of Castillo
Language Services, Inc. He is an interpreter,
translator, consultant, and speaker. He is a
federally certified court interpreter, certified
court interpreter (North Carolina Administrative
Office of the Courts), certified medical interpreter (Certification
Commission for Healthcare Interpreters), and contract
interpreter for the U.S. Department of State. He is a frequent
speaker and trainer at national and international conferences.
He is the president of the Carolina Association of Translators
and Interpreters, an ATA chapter, the chair of the National
Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, and
head of the U.S. chapter of the International Association of
Professional Translators and Interpreters. javier@castillols.com
www.atanet.org
http://www.atanet.org

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