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Friday, September 23, 2016

Mentoring: An old idea that’s still new


Conference Interpreter




Are you a young interpreter just starting out, feeling rather alone and not knowing quite how to jump-start your career? Have you thought about working with a mentor?

Are you a more experienced or retired interpreter watching beginners in their efforts to break into a complicated market and wondering what the future of your profession may be? Have you thought about offering your services as a mentor to help orient them?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a mentor as "a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school".

The term was derived from ancient Greece and both its meaning and purpose have remained the same till today. A mentor may play a formal or informal role, which may change according to the mentee’s needs.

It is important not to confuse mentoring and coaching, although the two concepts have some points in common.

Coaching is more project oriented and is also more focused on technical aspects, somewhat akin to preparing for a conference — clarifying terminology, gaining a basic understanding of the subject matter, studying presentations.

Mentoring takes a wider approach, looking beyond the practical skills. In a nutshell:

         Practicing the profession. Things like ethics in professional practice, relationships with fellow interpreters who may be both colleagues and competitors, relations with clients.
         Balancing personal and professional life.
         Tricks of the trade, beyond what the young interpreter learned in school.
         Dilemmas typically faced by independent professionals; for example, when to accept an assignment and when to turn it down.
         A conference interpreter is a skilled linguist but is also managing a business, something not usually included in interpreter training programs.


The mentor’s view

What does a mentor do?

A mentor can be a role model, coach, sounding board, voice of reason, emotional support, counselor, and a trusted resource. A mentor is an experienced person who can help a young interpreter cope with the doubts and uncertainties we all face when beginning a new venture.

What do I need to know?

It is important to understand the new interpreter’s view of the profession and be aware that things will have changed since you started, especially if you have been working many years or are retired. Today there are numerous ways of applying simultaneous interpreting beyond the traditional conference setting, such as videoconferencing, remote interpreting, web streaming, combinations of the different modes…

There is more international contact in the world now, so an interpreter may often work on a team with a wide variety of languages, many of them not used in your part of the world years ago when the world was divided into smaller compartments, usually within a limited group of languages.

The technical skills required by the conference interpreter today will not be the same as the skills needed by interpreters when you started working.

It is important for young interpreters to understand that being an interpreter is more than just interpreting. They also need to acquire skills for running a business.

Where do I start if I want to become a mentor?

If you belong to a professional association, inquire there. The Internet also has plenty of resources, including discussion groups. Colleagues who have experience in mentoring can orient you.


AIIC has information on mentoring available to members and non-members alike. The Vega network is oriented toward young interpreters but also has valuable resources for prospective mentors.

Useful links:

An overview of mentoring

A good place to start to find out more about being a mentor

Similarities between mentoring and coaching

Differences between mentoring and coaching

The mentee’s view

How can a mentor help me?

When young people complete their studies, their thoughts turn to finding employment. A first job is more than just a way to earn a living; it is also a place to learn how to use new skills out in the “real world” and start building a career. Young people also learn on-the-job skills from their companions in the workplace.

Conference interpreting is a profession that has few entry-level jobs to offer new interpreters coming into the marketplace. International organizations are the most obvious source of employment, but they require a level of skill and experience that most beginners don’t have.

In the private market, few businesses feel the need to hire permanent interpreters. They may only occasionally organize activities that require linguistic skills beyond what company staff members have.

Which means that recent graduates find themselves thrust into the role of independent professional, something they may not have expected and may not be prepared for.

What do I want from a mentor?

You need to explain to your prospective mentor what you want him/her to do. Once you start working you will begin to see areas where you could use some advice and assistance, such as:

         Gray areas like linguistic limitations, technical knowledge gaps, what types of assignments to accept or not accept
         Approaching a prospective client
         The business side of your profession: taxes, legal requirements, setting your fees
         Professional ethics
         Relations with other interpreters

How do I find a mentor?

         Older colleagues, including retirees, living in your town or elsewhere.
         Ask other colleagues if they know of someone.
         AIIC can offer assistance to its members in finding a mentor through its Vega network, a world-wide network of professional conference interpreters - all of them members of AIIC - dedicated to helping junior interpreters in pursuing their new career.

How can I be certain of making a good choice?

Like anything in life, there’s no recipe for success. You do your research and step out. If you are not convinced after a first interview or if you’re not satisfied after a while, you needn’t feel obligated to continue.

How do I stay in contact with my mentor?

Ideally, by meeting in person. This may not always be possible since interpreting, especially conference interpretation, requires frequent traveling. However, there are plenty of online communication solutions that can be as satisfying as a personal meeting.

In sum, mentorship can be a valuable resource for young interpreters and a satisfying activity for older interpreters.

Useful links:

Why do I need a mentor?

AIIC’s Vega network

Advice on finding a mentor
http://lifehacker.com/how-do-i-ask-someone-to-be-my-mentor-1626463146


Monday, August 29, 2016

Pokalbiai po pavėsine (Conversaciones debajo del hórreo)


   Por Pilar García-Crecente, intérprete de conferencias, AIB




En plenas vacaciones me resulta difícil concentrarme y escribir un artículo mínimamente digno para el blog de AIB, sobre todo después de que Hugo dejase tan alto el listón en su última entrada. Así que pido disculpas de antemano por no estar a la altura.

Lo cierto es que he pasado unas cuantas semanas sin trabajar (por cierto, esto es lo bueno y también lo malo del autónomo) y bastante apartada del mundanal ruido en un lugar precioso, apartado e inmerso en un valle de la Galicia rural, donde el tiempo se detiene y los días vienen marcados por las golondrinas que vienen a beber en bandadas por la mañana y a última hora de la tarde. Aquí la interpretación de conferencias parece algo de otro tiempo y el único contacto con el mundo laboral son algunos clientes que no parecen irse de vacaciones, a los que hay que atender y apoyar, y este artículo que debo escribir sin falta. Pero la procesión va por dentro, o mejor dicho, ¡la profesión!
Así que cuando estamos conversando debajo del hórreo sobre los pájaros que nos sobrevuelan, a la intérprete que una lleva dentro no le queda más remedio que apuntar los nombres que otros sueltan en gallego para más tarde buscarlos e intentar recordarlos  (¡qué difíciles me resultan los nombres de las aves!)

Andoriñas, lavercas, anduriñons, curuxas, mouchos, bufos, pombos, alfaneques…
La charla continúa, pero el pensamiento va por otros derroteros: ¿en qué se diferencia la lechuza del mochuelo? ¿Y el búho? ¡Qué bonita palabra andoriñas! ¡Qué bien suena! ¿Golondrinas en inglés, swallows, verdad? ¿En italiano rondini? En catalán son orenetes, ¿y en portugués igual que en gallego? Ahora toca revisar cuantos más nombres de aves mejor en los demás idiomas de trabajo; listas y listas de términos e imágenes para intentar fijarlos en la memoria; la intérprete siente una comezón incómoda que solo se calma delante del ordenador intentando aprender lo que no sabe, o recordar lo que ha olvidado.  

Este verano las conversaciones nocturnas bajo el hórreo se han visto aderezadas por la presencia de un invitado lituano con quien nos comunicamos en inglés y a quien intentábamos hacer partícipe de lo que acontecía. Siendo probablemente la primera vez que venía a la comarca alguien procedente de Lituania, es comprensible que fuese sometido a un interrogatorio exhaustivo que, gracias a la presencia de la intérprete, se resolvió con más gloria que pena, ¡eso sí, en inglés! Para satisfacer esa lógica curiosidad por su país, su cultura y su reciente historia, la interpretación consecutiva resultó ser la mejor herramienta, así todo el grupo de oyentes recibía la información y esperaba pacientemente la prestación de la intérprete, disfrutando en vivo y en directo de esa profesión que por estos lares sigue siendo una auténtica rareza.

En cambio, cuando la presencia de nuestro amigo lituano se diluía y los temas de conversación pasaban de las aves a lo humano y lo divino, un suave susurro ininterrumpido acompañaba las charlas hasta bien avanzada la noche consiguiendo que su cara reflejase alegría, interés o preocupación en sintonía con los demás rostros.

Ha sido muy curioso ver cómo mi profesión, que algunos nunca habían entendido muy bien, permitió que reinase el entendimiento, el buen humor, que disfrutasen de la mutua compañía y que hasta se olvidasen de que no estaban hablando el mismo idioma.

Yo me he quedado con la espinita del idioma lituano, reconozco que me ha entrado la curiosidad y he preguntado ya cómo se dice “conversaciones debajo del hórreo”. ¿Seguro que es Pokalbiai po pavėsine? ¿Corresponde Pavėsinė a hórreo? ¿Cómo se diría hórreo en inglés? ¿Y en italiano?...y otra vez empieza esa comezón que afortunadamente siempre nos acompaña.

Dentro de muy poco volveremos a esa profesión que tan afortunados somos de disfrutar, ¡os deseo una feliz vuelta al trabajo!

Sėkmės grįžtant į darbą
¡Espero haberlo escrito bien!