The Summer Olympics were quite a show. They were especially exciting for our family as my brother, Alberto Salazar, made a splash when the coaching of his two runner protégés, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, paid off, the former winning gold in both the 10K and the 5K and the latter silver in the 10K. Their hard-earned triumph caused me to reflect on how the parallels between the training for the two endeavors theoretically dovetail to a remarkable degree.
Following Your Natural Aptitudes
If you want to be good at what you do, by default you should choose to engage in something that comes easily to avoid rowing against the current. If you stand out as a sprinter you will focus on shorter running events rather than long distance races. As an interpreter, you may decide between becoming a specialist in legal terminology and working for the courts, becoming a medical interpreter, or switching gears every day interpreting at conferences on different subjects, depending on your intellectual predilections.
Selecting the Best Coach
Once you have made a choice, find the best coach you can in the area of expertise identified. You may have to work with that person for a while to ensure that he is the right individual to mentor you. Assuming that you click and your preferences are aligned, apply yourself and learn as much as you can. Remember the axiom, “no pain, no gain”, but do not be afraid to switch if you are stagnating.
Simulation of the Optimal Environment
My brother runs the “Oregon Project” for Nike which seeks to physically emulate the conditions in which top long-distance runners outside of the U.S. live, concentrating on factors such as climate, high altitude, oxygen levels, etc. Alberto’s runners live in that replicated environment. Likewise, interpreters-in-training must immerse themselves to the extent possible, in the type of settings where they plan to work so that they have a realistic outlook of what it takes to achieve the skills needed to succeed. This can be accomplished by shadowing other interpreters, going to court, medical settings or interning for a company that will allow you to attend conferences in some capacity as part of your training.
Practice; Where the Tire Hits the Road
There’s no cutting corners here. This is what will determine your success or lack thereof and there are several components to it. You must be steadfast in your exercises. You cannot expect to have satisfactory results from half-hearted attempts. You must set aside the time to train and make sure you are employing the right techniques. Watching replays is key both in the sports world as well as in the interpreting world. Thankfully, technology has advanced to a level where we can monitor the output of excellent interpreters through the internet and pick up invaluable pointers. It is also important to have the right mental attitude despite lulls in your enthusiasm, to do visualization as all athletes do, to use the right gear and have the right nutrition. For interpreters, this is analogous to using the right equipment, be it dedicated glossaries, dictionaries, computers or simultaneous interpreting paraphernalia. Otherwise, you are working at a disadvantage in comparison to colleagues that aim to be at the top of their game.
A Man Is Known By the Company He Keeps
If you wish to improve in your chosen career, lift your spirits, and remain on track, associate with positive, like-minded people who enjoy what you do. For the athlete as well as the interpreter, this means spending time with committed individuals that will support your goals be it through professional running clubs or interpreting associations that strive to develop the interests of their members through a forum that will benefit the collective in an efficient way that is difficult to attain individually.
Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
Lastly, never become complacent. Always be on the lookout to see how you might expand your skill set and help others. I am inspired by my sibling who won three consecutive New York Marathons and a Boston Marathon in the 1980s . The Rookie, as he was called, predicted and set a world record in the marathon in 1981. He followed that up, fourteen years later, with a win at the Comrades Ultramarathon (56 miles) in South Africa. Presently he devotes himself to sharing his accumulated expertise with today’s up and coming athletes, leading them to victory.
As interpreters, we have many options available to follow suit, from improving our own competence, to providing support and assistance to those colleagues interested in our help. Pitch in and become involved, there’s a lot to be said for giving vs. receiving!