Monthly Archives: December 2013

Three Secret Weapons to Improve Interpreting


Dalai Lama III am sure we will all agree that some of the basic requirements for a professional to deliver a successful interpretation, be it in the booth or in a court or other environment, is to firstly have a disciplined mind to render the task at hand without distractions and in order to have a disciplined mind, your physical body must be healthy, relaxed and rested.

During my 30+ years in the business, I have tried a lot of methods to achieve this goal in the most expedient and effortless manner, ranging from diet, to personal trainers, to mind control methods, etc., all of which I found lacking in some aspect.  Either they conferred better health without the necessary relaxation and mental concentration or they met some other incomplete set of criteria.

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, and I have been able to verify through my personal practice, that the combination of the three basic legs of yoga: the postures, breathing exercises and meditation, achieve this end exceptionally well.

Postures

The postures differ from traditional Western exercises that focus on developing large muscles and disciplining the body. They positively affect both the mind and the body.  They are unique in that they also tone up the chief endocrine glands of the body, such as the adrenal or suprarenal capsules, the pineal and pituitary glands, the thyroid, carotid, the gonads, etc., which produce hormones that regulate your body’s growth, metabolism, and sexual development as well as function.[i] We need a well-tuned body to carry out the oftentimes stress-inducing work of interpreting, which will in time adversely affect us if left unchecked. It should be noted, in our youth-oriented society, that the gonads are responsible not only for an individual’s  sexuality but also for his remaining in an optimum state of health.  They  maintain youthful vigor, prevent the onset of senility and exercise a deep psychological and physiological influence on the organism.[ii]

Breathing

By learning to control our breathing, we can control our life energy, which we draw in through the breath, therefore life itself and its activities.  The aim is not to build a bigger chest as in the West, but to increase oxygenation of the blood. All metabolic processes in the body are regulated by oxygen. Our brains process billions of bits of information each second. Our metabolic processes work to rid our bodies of waste and toxins. Even our abilities to think, feel and act require oxygen-related energy production. Scientists now also agree that oxygen plays a powerful and primary role in our overall health and well-being. A growing number of researchers have shown that the best way to improve health may be related to the optimum oxygenation of every cell. [iii]

When energy is distributed evenly through this technique, we achieve psycho-physical coordination, get rid of our emotional complexes and the unbalances that give rise to fear, anger, envy or a sense of inferiority.[iv] The breathing is an indispensable resource for interpreters that may succumb to any of the above during an assignment because of external circumstances or because of his own sense of inferiority due to a very demanding job. It swiftly counteracts anxiety and allows us to perform optimally.

Meditation

Lastly and most importantly, there is meditation.  The fatigue of the senses demands rest.  Hence we sleep at night.  However, the mind is subtly working even during sleep so we do not achieve full rest.  Real rest is only secured through meditation.[v]

The whole mind and nervous system are re-modeled thereby. New grooves, cells and channels are formed.[vi] These will allow you to experience  serenity, a sense of focus, one-pointedness of mind, patience and contentment at all times. Even under stress. They will allow you to control the wanderings of the typical mind that often jumps unrestrained from one thought to the next without respite.  This is an invaluable asset in our field where we have to continuously render the thoughts and words of others, playing down the normal interference created by our minds as a reaction to said input.  It creates a space where our mind is stilled and we can be creative in how we manage the output of what we are hearing.

Not convinced?  Check it out.  The philosophy of yoga starts with the tenet that any idea not confirmed by experience must remain mere speculation.


[ii] Yogi Gupta (1958). Yoga and Long Life, pp.36, Yogi Gupta New York Center.

[iv] Yogi Gupta (1958). Yoga and Long Life, pp.121, Yogi Gupta New York Center.

[v] Swami Sivananda (Fourteenth Edition 2011), Concentration and Meditation, pp. 120.

[vi] Swami Sivananda (Fourteenth Edition 2011), Concentration and Meditation, pp. 124.

The Ego Deals With the Realities of Life


Continuation of “Freudian Tales” posted on October 24, 2013

Unknown-2

Miami:

Arriving at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to Judge Rubin’s courtroom promptly at 8:15 a.m. Friday morning, Harry introduced himself to Lia, the new interpreter, originally from Madrid,  more recently from Salt Lake City, with whom he would be working the weeklong Santeria trial.  In a gesture of  bonhomie calculated to put her off guard, he offered to go first, knowing full well that the thorny terminology would not crop up until after the voir dire and opening statement, when they started taking testimony from the Olorisha priest and his Cuban clients. Harry was basically going to throw her under the  truck. He intuited she definitely  had not had time to review any of the prior proceedings in the case to create a glossary. He was just going to subtly but relentlessly point out flaws,  offering the least assistance  he could get away with, without getting called out for it. He felt all new interpreters in his court needed to undergo their trial by fire, and it was his self-designated job to preside over that event, having been there over 30 years. The torture started on schedule when the black, exotically robed cleric started to intone in thickly accented Spanish that the defendant aleyo had been advised to undergo una rogación de cabeza and given an achó to take to the bembé where it would be performed, only a day before the homicide took place. Lia, did what she could with this, translating as above, without having the slightest clue as to whether these words actually had a translation or what they even meant. Preening like a peacock, Harry shook his head ominously and whispered in a very audible tone, “aleyo means outsider, bembé is a ceremony, etc.”  Of course this only served to make her  more nervous as the proper protocol was that he write these terms down for her and she could correct the record, if needed, subsequently.  You could see that the judge, the members of the jury and some of the santeros sitting in the audience were beginning to be concerned that they might not be  fully understanding what was being said. And so the morning dragged on.  In reality things were not as bad as they seemed to Lia, but to be faced with this challenge and an adversarial colleague on her first day at work in a new city was enough to unsettle anyone. The lunch break did not make things any better, to the contrary.  When she slinked into her office, she found a rubber chicken lying on top of her computer.  She had no idea of the significance or provenance of the item  and suspected it was a joke, until the janitor stopped by to empty her wastebasket.  When he saw the chicken, his eyes widened, his gaze went from the chicken, to her and then towards the direction of the courtroom where she had been working.  He quickly blessed himself and looked at her intently, unsure as to whether he should say anything or not. This was not lost on Lia who quickly asked him what was going on, and was told that in voodoo, when someone wants to do a number on you, they grace you with a dead chicken or pigeon. It was 1:45 and she had to be back in the courtroom and in her seat,  ready to go at 2:00, so there was no time to ruminate about this latest  incident. As she slipped into her seat, the judge came out of chambers and announced that the trial would be postponed until the following work day because he had an emergency to attend to. Keeping a straight face, Lia breathed an inner sigh of relief, while Harry was chagrined that his plan for the first day had gone awry. He had been sadistically looking forward to upping the ante in the afternoon before she had a chance to regain her composure over the weekend. Shaking inside, Lia did not say anything to anyone about the chicken episode so as not to draw attention to herself. She used the rest of the afternoon to read whatever scanty information was available on her work computer about the case, then  went home to get the guest bedroom ready for her old friend that was flying in that evening, while she started tossing possibilities around in her head.

Unknown-1Madrid:

Antonio Garrido, the ex-boyfriend of Ana, the conference interpreter we met last time, is boarding a flight at Barajas, to go visit his friend Lia Quesada, who has just moved to Miami. Antonio is an ex-federal agent from the US, who moved to Madrid upon retirement and is doing odd-jobs as a detective and security guard.  He has recently learned that his old girlfriend, whom he is unilaterally trying to get back with, is screwing some German dude.  In order to dampen the affair, he has arranged for some of his underworld contacts to take a hand in the matter and he is getting out of town to put some distance between himself and the events that are planned to transpire. Ana on the other hand is glad she has not heard from Tony again in the last week and is hopeful that he might be giving up his obsession that they hook-up again.  Kirsten has been telling her that she is concerned  about the area she is living in because at times lately, she has felt she is being stalked. She is glad that although Eric is acting strange and picking arguments with her, they are still living together, so she feels “protected”. Otherwise she may have to move from Carabanchel, although the rent is cheap, but she is still not getting a stable volume of interpreting work that will allow her to move elsewhere comfortably.  She has bared her heart to her friend, telling her how much in love she is and how she is doing all that she can to make the relationship flourish in spite of the handwriting on the wall. Although she feels a twinge of remorse over her hitherto unknown role to Kirsten in this “threesome”, Ana has a pragmatic philosophy that “such is life” and if love is not there any longer, you have to be strong enough to admit it and move on. She is ready to sacrifice her long-time friend for her own satisfaction, not realizing that the basis for her own relationship with Eric does not bode well for its outcome. From his perspective, Eric believes in the “survival of the fittest”, or those who successfully adapt to new environments.  He finds Ana’s hot, Latin blood alluring and he loves leading the sophisticated urban life in a big city.  He sees Kirsten as a traditional German girl of hardy, Bavarian peasant stock, whose goal in life is to make a little money using her bilingual talents, get married and move back to Schwangau to live on a farm or to own a bed and breakfast and raise a brood of children. It was good while it lasted because she was a compatriot in a strange land when he arrived, and she took him in  and made him feel at home, but it’s time to break with the past and start a new life with someone more to his present likings.  Nonetheless, he feels guilty because he knows how much in love Kirsten is with him and how she has pinned her hopes on him.  He also knows she is alone, living in a bad neighborhood because of her financial circumstances and is reluctant to leave her in the lurch. He is trying to plan for a yet to be determined date on which he will try to make a more graceful exit and he knows Ana is getting testy. He has not yet made his intentions known to Kirsten or shown any signs, or at least so he thinks,  that he is getting ready to leave, and Ana feels he is using her.  As the Spanish so quaintly say, puede que se quede sin la soga ni la cabra. (Literally, he could “lose both the rope as well as the goat.”) He might end up without one or the other because of his indecision so he has to make his move soon and let the chips fall where they may.  But as far as today is concerned, he is tired after a long day at his clerk’s job at Deutsche Bank. He is ready for  the hearty bohnensuppe Kirsten promised him this morning, which she knows is his favorite, and whatever else the evening might bring.  There’s no sense in depriving himself or poor Kirsten when he can’t make a move yet.  Maybe when they give him a raise at DB and he can help her to move to a better area…

imagesHong Kong:

As Bo walked towards his grandmother’s apartment in Happy Valley, across from the horse track, he gingerly criss-crossed through the street market reflecting on the different culture from what he was accustomed to back in San Francisco.  Vendors were aggressively hawking their colorful wares which varied from fresh produce, to esoteric potions, to live snakes and those bottled in brine, all leaking into the street in jumbled order.  They remind him of his uncontrolled thoughts abruptly spilling into his awareness. The day had gone relatively well for him.  Although a member of the legal team was always present throughout his lengthy interviews with the prospective interpreters, and the latter were obviously bilingual, he was successful in subtly planting doubts as to the loyalty and capabilities of the linguists they were interviewing.  The case they are involved in hinges on proving alleged violations by China of World Trade Organization rules in a greenfield direct investment project by a large American electronics manufacturer.  Bo is focusing on insinuating that they are not going to get a fair shake with these subcontractors because they would not be impartial due to their ties to the government, the chief user of language services in China. Practically all interpreters are government officials who deal with the “non-Chinese world” and perform interpreting duties as a secondary part of their work, although the freelance market is beginning to open.  As a point of comparison, a day’s interpreting fee is double or more than a month’s salary for a government employee, so the interpreters being evaluated are keen on getting this assignment. Although not privy to the conversations among the Americans, the Chinese are beginning to get the impression that their suit is not faring well.  Bo heard them in the restroom, unbeknownst to them, disparagingly referring to him as a “banana”, Hong Kong slang for a Chinese that has been assimilated into Western culture and is yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Bo knows that some of the candidates being considered are members of AIIC as he is, and it has crossed his mind that they might report their suspicions about his handling of this opportunity to their association representatives, not to mention the political implications this could have by undermining his own credibility and that of his client before the WTO tribunal, but it is a calculated risk he wants to take in view of the benefits. Regardless, this does not keep him from fantasizing that he could be prosecuted in China.  He  replays snippets in his head of the recent “show trial” of his namesake, Bo Xilai.  That guy had been sent up for life, even if the transgressions were not the same. In addition, if his U.S. employers catch wind of his self-serving maneuvers, he stands to lose his best  client and ruin his reputation back home. This would be disastrous as the main reason for doing this is  that he is “upside-down” on his mortgage and cannot make ends meet with his normal income. His wife adamantly refuses to consider moving from “Snob Hill”, so he is between a rock and a hard place, which invariably brings on a now-chronic migraine headache. Hopefully, his grandmother will have some traditional Chinese medicine to get him through the next few days, although he suspects that knowing her, the advice will be to eliminate conflict in his physical body by acting ethically. What to do?  What is best for him in the long run? He would probably never be found out, it would all be over in a few months and he would get out of the financial mess he had gotten himself into when he bought that damn apartment at the height of the real-estate boom. To be continued… Be part of the creative process by sharing your opinions as the storyline concludes:

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