Interpreting Politics

Many times, there's an unsuspected intersection between politics and our profession. Although neither one of us in an American citizen, as our country of birth, Austria, does not allow double citizenship, but we are strong supporters of the party that does not feature an elephant.

As we have violated our self-imposed non-political-spending rule, we received an e-mail from the Obama folks that the candidate would be in Las Vegas this weekend. We headed to Bonanza High School and joined two friends and a crowd of 20,000 or so. You have to love Vegas weather -- it was a perfect fall day, with temperature in the 80s, which makes this a summer day elsewhere in the nation.

During Obama's powerful speech (during which, for some reason, he was not sweating like the rest of us), a sign language interpreter was moving her hands faster than a blackjack dealer at Bellagio (how's that for a Vegas reference?). It was quite impressive, and she even interpreted the few songs that preceded Obama's speech (who was, by the way, early). Talk about high-pressure simulatenous interpreting with all cameras on you, as she was standing right behind the presidential candidate, wearing a black business suit, the poor thing. It reminded me that there are so many different sides to our profession that we sometimes don't even think about. As blogged about in a previous post, high-quality language services are in demand!


Corinne on October 27, 2008 at 9:23 AM said...

Wow, talk about pressure!! Interpreters who work in those situations definitely have something that the rest of us don't, and what's more, they actually seem to enjoy it. My mom used to work at the US Embassy in Sarajevo and one of their interpreters told me a similar story about interpreting for Bill Clinton; Clinton's plane landed in Bosnia and they wanted to broadcast live from the runway, so there this interpreter was, live on CNN, BBC, you name it, and he said it was "one of the highlights of his career." I needed a tranquilizer just listening to the story!

Judy and Dagmar Jenner on October 27, 2008 at 10:13 AM said...

Wow, that is so scary; what a story! I think my brain would just freeze on national television for sure.

Masked Translator on October 27, 2008 at 10:17 AM said...

The vast majority (vast, vast majority) of translators and interpreters vote Democrat in this country; it's too bad more people don't feel comfortable talking about politics, or organizations don't take on certain political issues, since we are all afraid of client backlash. If we did feel more comfortable, we might actually have some small political sway in helping solve problems like insurance for the self-employed, self-employment tax, foreign-language education, etc.

Judy and Dagmar Jenner on October 27, 2008 at 10:31 AM said...

Good point, MT. We are happy to take a political stance and unconcerned about clients' possible feelings about our political affiliation. We figure it's the quality of our work that matters, and we agree with you: we should collectively come together to put pressure on lawmakers for some of the issues you mention. Affordable health care for the self-employed is on top of that list. BTW, I will land in Orlando for the ATA conference on November 4: hopefully a historic day.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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