|Is this Judy or Dagy interpreting? We actually don't know.|
Dagy was in the English booth and understood him alright (here’s to the advantage of working from your first language). However, this meant trouble in other booths staffed by excellent interpreters who were working into their native language. Not surprisingly, they understood very little of what the motivational speaker was saying since his German had almost no resemblance to the kind of German usually spoken at conferences. Apparently, after a few moments of shock, my fellow interpreters did the best they could, which involved mostly guesswork. At some point, they decided to switch to the English channel and work from there into their languages, which was probably the best call.
However, in the meantime, many conference participants who depended on the interpreting service had already started to complain to the organizer, which prompted her to send up members of the organizing team who grabbed the microphone from the professional interpreters and tried to do their job. This only made matters worse. These staff members might have understood the Austrian German, but they spoke only basic foreign languages and had absolutely no training in interpreting, which is why they threw in the towel after a few minutes. To me, that’s one of the biggest imaginable affronts that any interpreter might experience in their professional life. I felt vicariously humiliated and decided to mention it to the client after the conference.
But it got even worse: the company’s CEO spoke on the following day and actually made fun of the hard-working interpreters and their troubles on the previous day, while thanking just about everybody else for their work. This struck me as particularly offensive, given that it was the company who had hired an incomprehensible speaker whom even a lot of native German speakers in the audience did not understand (I overheard many conversations to that effect during the coffee and lunch breaks).
I later e-mailed the client about this matter and she mostly dismissed my concerns, which considerably lowered my willingness to work for this client in the future. What would you have done in such a situation? We would love to hear your opinions.