Our Secret Interpreting Weapon

 Our secret weapons on vacation in Mexico.
You might think: is it a special note-taking technique? Is it a memory-strengthening exercise? Some new and revolutionary way to excel at the dreaded long consecutive form? No, it's none of these things. Our secret weapon is simple, cheap, has nothing to do with technique and everything to do with confidence.

Interpreting is challenging, especially in high-pressure situations like court/legal and international conferences and meetings.  We love it, but we are also aware of how confident one has to be in her or his abilities to excel at this job. Portraying confidence to everyone present is also essential. After all, no one wants an intimidated interpreter.

We've heard from colleagues who have simple tricks that boost their confidence before a day of interpreting. Maybe it's eating a specific breakfast, a lucky pair of socks, the same brand of notebook every time, a favorite suit that always makes you feel great or a lucky pen. For us, it's nails. Yes, nails. It sounds trite, but we've painted our nails our trademark red for years, and having nicely polished nails makes us feel comfortable and confident. Plus, it's a very inexpensive confidence booster (about $7 a bottle, which lasts for months). Having nicely done nails is a symbol to ourselves that we are working and that this is the time to shine. We also see our hands a lot when interpreting and/or taking notes, and knowing that they look good makes us feel good. When we want to splurge, we head to a small nail salon in Vegas and get a $12 manicure (not too many nail salons in Vienna do non-acrylic nails well). Our favorite color: Vampire State Building by OPI (pictured), now unfortunately discontinued. Our second-favorites: Bogotá Blackberry, 20 Candles on my Cake, Teas-y Does It and I'm Not Really a Waitress by OPI.  

What's your secret weapon? We'd love to hear about it in the comments section. 


Jenn M on February 22, 2011 at 6:35 AM said...

How charming. I had thought I might be the only one with a 'lucky' confidence booster. In my case, it is a lucky shirt for deadline day with translations. It's a send up of a pulp movie cover that features a small hovering box that vaguely resembles a Tardis. The text is something like "explore space and time, everywhere, all the time" In other words, it's a bit silly, but I figure as a master of time and space, surely I will meet my deadlines. Hasn't failed me yet (knock on wood).

Sophia Ozog on February 23, 2011 at 7:33 AM said...

That's nice! Mine is a golden Leo birth-sign pendant my family got me a few years ago, right before I left France to spend a year in the UK. Whenever I feel under pressure, I use it and it helps me focus on my goals and relax a little. Hasn't failed me yet either!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on February 23, 2011 at 11:19 AM said...

@Jenn M: Thanks for sharing -- we completely forgot to ask for translation lucky charms as well. Sounds like a very, very lucky shirt. Be sure to wash it with extra-gentle detergent so it lasts a long, long time and continues bringing you luck.

@Sophia: A pendant is fantastic -- goes everywhere and doesn't need to be repainted like our nails. Glad to hear it has a 100% success rate. Way to go!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I found your blog by chance. My fiancée and I are running our own translation business, but, in my case, my confidence booster is my hair ;) not only when I'm interpreting but also whenever I have an important interview or meeting... It's a great idea to share these experiences.

Corinne McKay on March 2, 2011 at 9:14 AM said...

Great post! I'm not a real jewelry person but I have a custom-stamped "cup of love" necklace (from BragAboutIt on Etsy) that I wear when I have to do a big presentation. One of the "cups" has my husband's and my anniversary and the other has my daughter's birthday. I do think it's fun to have a confidence-booster that means something to you (nails, jewelry, shirt, etc.) but that is not obvious to other people. Jenn, hold onto that shirt!!

EOA on March 23, 2011 at 11:17 AM said...

This is scary. Nails are one of my tactics, and I happen to own Bogota Blackberry. When I am going to a deposition (more so than a hearing), I put on one of my signature suits, black patent leather heels, and my nails (clear if it's last minute). That allows me to exude confidence. My business partner has power hats. Funny, he forgot to wear it on Monday LOL.

Isabel on August 10, 2011 at 9:49 AM said...

After reading your post, I just realized what my confidence booster is when I have an interpretation project. It's my working outfit or suit. I shopped specifically for 3 outfits, all business-like, semi-formal, that make me feel really good about myself and my professionalism, to wear for my interpretation jobs. As soon as I get dressed in one of them, psychologically, I'm "Dressed for the Part", and that feeling stays with me all day! Isabel, from Mazatlan, Mexico.

Andrew on June 20, 2017 at 5:16 PM said...

In the same vein as the manicure, I definitely save my sharpest attire for the most intimidating appointments. I've noticed that when I look and feel the part, my interpretation noticeably improves; I assume it's due to the confidence factor.

My pre-assignment ritual also involves singing at the top of my lungs in my car and a good dose of prayer. A quick chat with the creator of the universe usually soothes any nerves!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 20, 2017 at 6:11 PM said...

@Andrew: Great stuff here, thanks so much for sharing! We love the image of you singing in your car at the top of your lungs. We should try that too; as that would be more fun than the usual voice warm-ups that we do. And I bet you can also get your voice warmed up quite well by singing.

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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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