Interpreting and Flying: The Connection

At the tiny airport in Ixtapa, Mexico. Photo by Judy.
Today's quick post is about two of our favorite things: interpreting and flying. Yes, we love to fly, and we fly a lot. Neither of us knows how to fly a plane, even though Judy's recent Google searches include "private pilot classes in Las Vegas." We've often thought about the similarities between interpreting and flying, and if you think that's a stretch, hear us out.

Once the plane--no matter how big or small, a Cessna, a C-130, a Boeing 737 or anything in between--is in the air, there's only one way to bring it down safely: by landing the thing. The same is true for interpreting: once the microphone has been switched on, or you have simply started interpreting without equipment, the plane has left the runway and you have to keep on going. There's no turning back in interpreting, and only one way to land the proverbial plane: by finishing the job that you have started. Again, we've never flown a plane, but we've been inside thousands of them, and in a way, we bet the adrenaline one must feel getting behind those controls is not that different from a high-profile (or not) interpreting assignment. Something we've learned along the way, while interpreting at international events, for presidents, CEOs, judges, lawyers, doctors, defendants, diplomats and everyone in between, is that starting an interpreting job means needing to finish it, no matter how scary or difficult the assignment is. The same is true for flying: the landing might not always be pretty or smooth, but you have to do it to complete the job and keep everyone safe. 

If you are a new interpreter and are trying to get used to landing the plane, we'd like to suggest that you train your brain to keep on going by forcing yourself to interpret every video and audio file you have clicked on. Keep on going, even if it doesn't feel great and it's not a great "flight." It's important to get used to the fact that you have to keep on going, no matter what. If you are lucky enough to work in formal conference interpreting situations, you will have a co-pilot, err, booth partner, to come rescue you, but in all other interpreting scenarios (legal, medical, community), you usually don't. Happy interpreting and flying! 


MissDior on July 29, 2016 at 4:55 AM said...

Thank-you for this post, because I get mental fatigue fast. My current job I am in customer service during the week so when I have to listen to someone in either language for more then 5 minutes I notice I stop paying attention. This is something I have to work on & love your suggestion of interpreting everything I click on, this should help with my attention span. This was very helpful!

Edgar Weiser on July 30, 2016 at 5:38 AM said...

There is however a major difference: the Earth seen from above is much more beautiful and inspiring than a conference room seen from the booth ;-)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on August 3, 2016 at 1:26 PM said...

@MissDior: We are very happy to hear that you find this post helpful. It sure is true that most attention spans are short, but one can train to increase it for sure. And yes, do interpret everything you click on, until the bitter end! Land that plane. :)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on August 3, 2016 at 1:27 PM said...

@Champollion: Very good point indeed!

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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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