This is how we see ourselves
To make sense is the interpreter’s foremost and noblest task. If he* fails to help his listeners from abroad to overcome the language barrier, communication will break down, which is the worst possible scenario in an international set-up. The interpreter’s product must be pleasing to the ear and easy to understand even when the original speaker’s thinking is woolly or his presentation is poorly worded.
Carpe Dictum – seize (and relish) each utterance!
A good speaker commands your full attention: you hang on his every word. You forget the world around you and remain focussed on his line of argument. If he structures his speech well, you will be able to follow his train of thought easily. You will appreciate the quotations and metaphors with which he liberally sprinkles his speech. At the end, you will take home with you the satisfying experience of a successful instance of human communication that enriches your life. Likewise, such speeches are the zenith of the professional life of an interpreter, who will concentrate one hundred per cent on his input and almost become the original speaker, conveying the full message to his listeners in the target language, including shades of emotional meaning and technical jargon.
Don’t shoot or underpay the interpreter
For centuries, the lives of interpreters hung by a thread (and they still do in some war-ridden countries). As they were able - and indeed obliged - to move between cultures, they were deemed to be close in spirit to foreigners and their outlandish thinking, making them suspicious. Occasionally, as harbingers of bad news, they were made the culprits and unceremoniously sent to meet their Maker. We are a lot better off today: Interpreters are recognized for their mediating role – which sometimes intersects with that of the diplomat – and are generally appreciated as cross-lingual communication experts. Their professional work is widely acknowledged as providing the communicative lubricant in international contexts.
* Note on gender mainstreaming: For better legibility this text uses the male grammatical form throughout.
The authors wish to point out that male pronouns should be understood to cover both sexes. They had better: more
than two thirds of professional interpreters are female.
language matters ... so do faces
Born in Stuttgart in 1979
Studies in Edinburgh and Montreal
Graduated from the Heidelberg University Institute of Translation and Interpreting
Member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (aiic)
Born (1958) and brought up in beautiful Hamburg
Education (primary/secondary school and uni) in Hamburg
Assistant Teacher in Northern England
EU Conference Interpreter Course at the Copenhagen Business School and member of aiic
Masters of Many Trades
The examples below illustrate the range of subjects Johannes Weber and Niels Hamdorf have covered since 1990.
As the inquisitive academic mind gets into a new subject it will invariably ignite and be fascinated by it: For the keen learner, there simply is no such thing as a boring subject. The conscientious interpreter spends more time preparing for his next assignment than during the actual event. He will catch the bug and often continue researching the subject at hand beyond what is strictly required. Chances are this will enrich and change his view of the world, and his insights will benefit his customer.
The world of languages and jargons is as diverse as that of biological species. The more of them we use actively and thereby help to preserve, the more colourful the world we live in will be. Language matters …
District court proceedings dealing with traffic accidents; depositions by American attorneys in Germany; and international arbitration proceedings;
A symposium on the Arts and the Law, the International Sports Law Conference at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg; the cross-examination by the investigating magistrate of a drug dealer apprehended in the port of Hamburg; and the German British Forum, organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Germany;
The official visit by the President of the European Parliament to Denmark; the final round of negotiations between Denmark and Germany leading to the signing of the State Treaty on the Construction of a Fixed Link across the Fehmarnbelt; and the visit by a delegation of MP’s from the New Zealand Parliament to the Constitutional Court in Hamburg;
The general meeting in Berlin of the first German car builder, with almost ten thousand shareholders; test driving 18-ton lorries in Eastern Frisia; and training workshops for mechanics in Swabia;
The visit by a Hong Kong delegation to Hamburg to meet their counterparts at the city’s local transport network operator including test driving a tube train; negotiations with the Federal Rail Authority; and logistics conferences on multimodal transport;
The world’s leading International Shipbuilding, Machinery & Marine Technology Trade Fair; conventions on the cruise industry and the standardisation work of European inland navigation players and regulators;
The International Air and Space Exhibition; a hearing at the Kiel Regional Parliament on data protection in the context of the modern social media; and government consultations at the level of various federal ministries;
The leading pipe construction exhibition and conference; the name-giving ceremony of jacking vessels for off-shore wind farms and the production facilities for the tunnel elements for the Fixed Link over the Fehmarnbelt;
CeBIT, the world’s largest computer fair; the EuroTier exhibition in Hanover; and the Hamburg Offshore-Wind;
The international Congress of Psycho-Oncology; a World Congress on Music Therapy; and a dream journey guided by a futurologist;
Celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia treaties in Münster; an international meeting on military history; and a reconciliation conference for the former Yugoslavia;
Going down a coal mine in Germany’s Ruhrgebiet; flying to a security conference on the island of Heligoland in a helicopter of the Federal Border Police; and a joint dinner of MEP’s and a Russian delegation on an ice breaker vessel in the port of Murmansk;
Internal deliberations of several of Germany’s largest banks; road shows by investment funds which manage billions of dollars; and gala dinners held by leading audit companies;
A tour of German abattoirs accompanying European Commission inspectors; food safety audits carried out by European authorities; and group and committee meetings at the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasburg;
A live TV-interview with the American ambassador on a primetime German news broadcast; a series of talks between the former Federal Chancellor and several elder statesmen held at the official residence of the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg; and the press conference at the launch of the German version of the BBC production “The Teletubbies”;
A European Works Council meeting in the middle of nowhere in Sweden; town hall meetings at global agricultural feed stock traders; and the quarterly news bulletins of one of the giants of the chemical industry in the company TV channel;
“The undead” - an artistic approach to zombies on the Kampnagel theatre and performance premises in Hamburg; an informal talk with a New York City Christofer-Street-Day veteran in Hamburg’s red light district; and the crochet and non-Euclidian geometry workshop on a North Sea island;
Accompanying a European Parliament delegation to the North Cape; a two-day conference cruise in the Adriatic Sea with the franchisees of a large systems caterer; and a gala banquet in the Emperor’s Hall of Hamburg’ City Hall;
Street marking vehicles and electrical insulating varnishes produced by companies around Hamburg; and formulations for the food industry which a company in Schleswig-Holstein exports to numerous countries throughout the world;
Roughly two thirds of our clients are private businesses. They are very focused on “value for money”: They will avail themselves of our services as professional interpreters when it simply is not enough to be fluent in the respective languages, e.g. at the annual general meetings of plc’s, at town hall staff meetings, when a representative of the management who does not speak German makes a presentation to employees, when negotiating with foreign investors, at European Works Council and economic committee meetings, during investment fund road shows, at supervisory board meetings, press conferences on the annual financial statements, TV interviews, in the course of plan approval applications and on many other occasions which require the expertise of Babel virtuosi.