In the beginning of the last week, a mate interpreter contacted me and proposed to work together at a workshop dedicated to plant health, potato diseases in particular. The workshop was arranged by Fera Science Ltd.
I was hesitating about it as I had never translated anything related to phytosanitary before. Usually, I offer English-Russian translation and interpretation services in technical fields, like geological exploration, construction, energy supply, mechanical equipment, etc.
But it turned out that my friend could not find English-Russian interpreters in Bishkek who were familiar with the workshop topic and he decided to invite me. He also convinced me that we would receive all materials required to prepare for the workshop. That’s why I decided to support my colleague and confirmed my availability.
I have to note that previously I interpreted only for small groups of people (8 maximum) mainly on a local level in Bishkek and in some regions of the Kyrgyz Republic.
This time, I had to interpret during 4 days for a large audience (20-30 participants interday) representing the countries of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) and Georgia. Besides that, I had very basic understanding of the workshop topic. I understood that it would be a great challenge for me as a translator and interpreter.
And I was right.
Preparation for Interpreting
Three days before the workshop we received digital versions of documentation covering the entire workshop program and PowerPoint slides for presentations. The major part of materials was already translated by other freelancers, however, we still had to translate several documents.
After reviewing the materials I prepared a list of common abbreviations used in the presentations. To my mind abbreviations are an eternal headache for translators and interpreters.
This time, abbreviations were the smallest problem. There were many industry specific definitions not to mention highly technical terms related to DNA analysis of pathogens.
Moreover, I had to learn basic concepts of plant disease identification if field conditions, sampling methods, laboratory analysis and much more. Of course, it was impossible to do that during three days and I just read presentation texts and learned terms.
Thanks to workshop facilitators we received Guides for interpreters with Glossary of Phytosanitary terms issued by ISPM that helped much.
Another thing that we arranged to streamline interpretation was two projectors – one for the English and one for the Russian slides.
That was a great idea since it helped me and my colleague to interpret with a higher level of accuracy relying on concepts stated on slides, in addition, Russian-speaking participants could see the translated text that increased the level of engagement.
Problems and difficulties
As you can imagine, it was impossible to get into details related to potato diseases within three days, especially concerning the methods of laboratory analysis like PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Therefore, on the second day of the workshop dedicated to disease detection and analysis methods, I had several slips and lapses.
Fortunately, there were two scientists among participants who knew English on a relatively good level, especially the terms related to their work. They helped me to interpret the most complex parts of presentations and discussions.
Another difficult part of the workshop lies in discussions. Interpreting for two speakers is easy, but when it comes to heated discussion, participants just forget about interpreters. We had to stop participants and remind them that only one person should speak at a time.
We also asked participants not to forget about pauses for interpretation.
During these four days, I learned much about plant health, met interesting people from various countries and had a chance to interpret for a large audience for the first time. It was a challenging job though it brought a unique experience that will probably help me in future translation and interpreting gigs.
In spite of all my fears, I managed to deliver decent interpreting services due to proper preparation. That means you should not be afraid to deal with something new as you never know what you can do till you try.