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The fascinating story of conference interpreting

01-12-2023 10:00

Giorgia De Zen

Interpreting, Dialogue interpreting, Business interpreting, businessinterpreting,

The fascinating story of conference interpreting

Where was conference interpreting born? Who were the first interpreters? How did we get to simulateneous interpreting and why can't we do without it now?




Do the interpreters know everything? Of course not! They can be specialized in a field, but they always have to study before an assignement.




One of the aspects I love most about my job is that it can potentially cover any topic: from music therapy in Dutch prisons to blood analysis, from gemstone cuts to installing an endothermic gas generator, etc. 


Every time someone contacts me for a new assignment, I am curious and thrilled because as prepared as I may be on the most diverse topics, the paths of interpretation and translation are infinite (semi-quote), so I very often study a new topic to which I will inevitably become passionate about.


In particular, for interpretation assignments, a thorough preparation is necessary beforehand to arrive as prepared as possible on the day of the event.

Interpreters don't know everything

Of course, unforeseen circumstances can always happen, as demonstrated by the widely circulated video on social media of the German interpreter translating Michele Rech, aka Zerocalcare. The Italian cartoonist and illustrator, famous for his distinctly Roman accent, was talking about an anecdote regarding a character from the Netflix series Stranger Things, which was unfortunately unknown to the poor interpreter. 

In such a situation, the important thing is to keep calm and accept that nobody is perfect, no matter how prepared they may be!

But going back to when a client contacts me for an interpretation request, first of all I make sure that the following conditions are met:

  1. It may seem obvious, but condition number 1 is that I work with that language combination. For example, I don't accept simultaneous interpretation jobs in Spanish or Dutch because I don't work with these languages in the booth.
  2. Terms must be clear: depending on the type of event, simultaneous , consecutive, whispered, or business interpreting may be required. For example, I won't accept a simultaneous assignment without a colleague in the booth. If you're not sure which one would be best in your case, you can ask for a free consult.
  3. I need a couple of days to get ready for the event, so I check that the timing allows it.

When I make sure these three conditions are met, I prepare the quote. If it's accepted, then the interesting part begins, i.e., getting ready for my business interpreting assignment.

How do I prepare for a new assignment in a company?

Firstly, I'll ask questions to the client. I'll ask about the focus of the meeting: goal, participants, any past encounters. 

Note: at this stage, it's always better to speak directly with the client, i.e., with whoever will take part in the meeting because they will have the most precise and detailed information.


Secondly, I do research. I'll start gathering information about the client's company: I'll visit their website, read their story, mission, all the information that seems interesting and useful, study their products and/or services. Then I'll visit websites of foreign companies working with similar products/services and take note of terms (machinery, products, processes, etc.) in that language because often they are not found in the dictionary as they are very specific.


As a third step, I'll watch videos, if there are any, that explain any production processes that may be obvious to the client but not to me: having a visual idea of what is being discussed is very important, as well as knowing the term translation. This step is optional, depending on the topic of the assignment.


Last but not least, and perhaps the most obvious, I create a bilingual glossary and study it.

Better not the day before

As one can imagine from the list above, two or three days are necessary to prepare properly, which is why contacting me a few days in advance is fundamental. 

Pretending to know everything is not a sign of professionalism, quite the opposite. The more questions I ask in preparation for an assignment, the fewer surprises there will be during the meeting. Simply knowing languages does not guarantee success. Always rely on a professional interpreter for your business meeting.

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Hi, I'm Giorgia!

I am a conference interpreter and professional translator.

I work with Italian, English, Spanish and Dutch.

I am specialised in medicine and healthcare, jewelry and music therapy.

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    Do you need an interpreter or a translator?


    Don't worry, just write me and we'll figure it out together.

    Or maybe a linguistic consultation?

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