Interpreting a Live Broadcast.
March 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
During the past few weeks we have watched many movie award shows on TV. We have also been bombarded with political debates and town hall meetings. All of these events have been on live TV, and many of them have been simultaneously interpreted into Spanish and some other languages. As I was watching if my favorite movies and actors won anything, I remembered the times when I have simultaneously interpreted some of these events. Immediately, two things came to mind; the enormity of interpreting the broadcast of a presidential debate, and the live broadcast “5-second delay” factor that we have in the United States because of the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction during a Super Bowl half time show several years ago. I will deal with the latter issue sometime in the future. For now I would like to talk about the former subject.
Interpreting political debates requires many skills that are not always necessary when we work doing other interpretation. The candidates deal with questions on very different subjects, and their answers are somewhat spontaneous and sometimes unresponsive. The interpreter needs to be ready for this type of work. Reading about the issues, learning about the candidates’ background, views, and platform are needed parts of the interpreter’s preparation. Besides political interpreting, a debate is also a media interpreting service. As a media interpreter, you are required to work with technicians and radio or TV equipment, and you have to work with an awareness that many people are going to listen to your rendition, and that everything you say will be recorded and replayed over and over again.
I remember being at Mile-high Stadium in Denver, Colorado during the Democratic National Convention interpreting President Obama’s acceptance speech live. I remember the commotion, the crowd of “famous” politicians and broadcasters coming and going all over the broadcast center; and I remember the moment I stopped to think of what I was about to do: Interpret the nomination acceptance speech of the first African=American candidate from a major political party who had a very good chance of becoming President of the United States. All of a sudden it hit me: There will be millions listening to my rendition, it will be broadcasted and replayed by Spanish language news organizations all over the world. Wow! Then, as I was getting a little uneasy about the historic significance of the task, I remembered something a dear colleague once told me about broadcast interpreting: Your rendition is to the microphone on the table in front of you. It is only you in that booth. I regained my confidence and composure and did the job. I know that interpreting for a big crowd, or interpreting an important event, not only for a broadcast, but in the courtroom or a conference, can be very stressful and intimidating. Please share with the rest of us your stories and how you overcame the pressure that goes with this type of interpreting.