A Premier Exponent of Broadcast Interpreting – Cesar Cardoza

I think we can learn much from colleagues who are at the top of their game and so I like to write about some of the ones I have been fortunate to meet and with whom I have enough of a rapport that they have agreed to have a public conversation about their work.  I am sure there are many of these individuals and  trust I will be able to feature more of them on an ongoing basis.

This is my friend Cesar whom I met many years ago when we started to work together on “live” shows for CNN. He is not only an excellent interpreter but has a wonderful sense of humor and an enthralling voice that mesmerizes you.  I reminds me of when I was a little girl in Cuba and at lunchtime I would sometimes take a nap with my grandmother while she listened to a radionovela.  There was an actor back then by the name of Enrique Santiesteban, who had such a voice.  He would say “bebe de mi copa pequena” (take a sip from my glass darling) and every female from an eight year old to an eighty year old would melt in her shoes.  I can say this has happened to me while working with Cesar in a recording booth.  I get so caught up listening to his melodic voice that it takes a swift kick to make sure I not lose my cue.

Without any further ado, here is a brief intro into the life of one of our interpreting colleagues on TV:

What was your background and how did you get involved with interpreting?

I am a journalist, and I was sort of “pulled into” interpreting due to the nature of my work. I worked for several years in international broadcasting and quite often I had to interpret material for my audience… I fell in love with it and as they say, the rest is history.

Walk us through a typical day when you were working for CNN in Atlanta?

For an interpreter in the news business, I would say there is no such thing as a “typical day”. Occasionally you get advance notice of an event, but more often than not, you have to go with the flow. This is especially true with breaking news… it is quite challenging because you really don’t know what to expect, and at a moment’s notice you may have to switch… let’s say… from science to politics, to finances, to terrorism or military issues…

Tell us about some of your most challenging assignments? How did you prepare?

On many occasions the challenge for me, like for almost every journalist and interpreter, is to remain focused on what you are doing regardless of whatever else may be happening… You are interpreting and at the same time you have to be mindful of the time… you are getting instructions from the director or the producer… you may need to consult a reference as you are interpreting… and so on.

The challenges abound… sometimes in the middle of a very dense political speech, the speaker throws in a joke and you have to interpret it faithfully… keep it witty or funny within the context and convey the point that the speaker is trying to make…

You may have, lets say, a message from the Pope and he quotes the Bible… you have to refer to the “official” biblical text… you cannot paraphrase… Sometimes the news event may be emotionally overwhelming on a personal level, yet, you cannot lose  focus of the task at hand.

Is/was stress management important in your work? What resources do/did  you employ to release stress?

Absolutely, there is no way to avoid stress but if you try to organize yourself before hand, it is a big help. In our case, for example, you keep meticulous track of your reference material… dictionaries, glossaries, etc. If you have enough lead time you may create a playbook for the event with whatever material is available in both languages.  The way you manage your work space also helps… where you keep your notes… where  you put your scripts or program rundowns… it is like having a mental map that help you stay the course no matter what happens. Sometimes the adrenalin pumps so hard that you also feel the stress after the event…

What are you currently doing?  Do you enjoy that more?  Why?

I work for CNN but now I am based in Miami. I am Senior Interpreter/Copy Editor for CNN en Español. I love what I do. It give me a very unique perspective of what is going on in the world and you get your information straight from the key players… it is a pleasure and a privilege to have the responsibility of conveying the news to our viewers… it has been said that journalists “write the first draft of history”… for an interpreter in the news business… it is exactly that… we bridge the language gap and become a link between the viewer and the newsmakers.


Posted on January 27, 2012, in Interpreting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Mr. Cardoza mentions something that I can completely relate to; my problems with quotes from the Bible. I was a Staff Court Interpreter in Federal Court in Puerto Rico, and as such I would handle hundreds of sentencings every year. Every so often, defendants would come along and quote the Bible during allocution, or they would bring Pastors as character witnesses who would give these very eloquent speeches full of Bible quotes. So my problem is that I do know the Bible, but everything that I know is in Spanish, because I grew up and went to Catholic School in Puerto Rico, and I have NEVER read the Bible in English!

    So I have to stand there and start improvising and paraphrasing, and using things that I have heard from the movies or TV, but I always end up saying things like “Let whoever is sinless throw the first rock” because these guys are talking at light speed and I just have to spit out the first thing that pops into my head and try to keep up and I know that I sound like an IDIOT! I hate it when that happens!

    • Thank you for your comment Jaime. I would suggest that you buy either a bible in
      English or a paperback missalette with services in both languages. If this is a situation you run into on a regular basis, you need to even the odds by starting to become familiar with biblical terms.
      Remember that the longest jorney starts with a single step. Before you know it, the language will be rolling off your tongue!

  2. Consuelo Burranca

    It is indeed a privilege to have Cesar working as an interpreter in Miami as well, one can learn so much by just being in the booth with him. Thanks to you and to him for this interview.
    Consuelo Burranca

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