Open Thread: Spooky/Scary/Funny Interpreting Experiences

Image by freepik.
Happy Halloween, dear friends and colleagues from around the world! Halloween-based posts and newsletters (and advertising, of course) are a thing this year, so we thought we'd jump in by asking interpreters to share their scary/spooky/funny stories as they relate to their interpreting experience. Some assignments can be very scary, others are emotionally draining and difficult, while others are simply funny. Of course we do not mean to make light of challenging or scary situations, but we would love to hear about them and share them here.

Below are some of ours:

Scariest interpreting experience:  A few years ago, Judy went into a county jail to interpret for a defendant and his public defender. After the appointment was over, all three of us were locked in the interview room because the jail doesn't have enough staff to come and unlock the door. Judy wasn't scared of the defendant at all, who was very polite, but didn't enjoy being locked in a small room. Being claustrophobic doesn't help. Plus, it was lunch time! It took about an hour for staff to let us out.

Spookiest interpreting experience: Last year, Dagy had the pleasure of interpreting at an OPEC event in Vienna (Judy was there as back-up interpreter), specifically at the gorgeous Hofburg (Imperial Palace) Conference Center. It was a high-profile event with media from all over the world, but finding your way around, especially to the interpreting booth, was a bit spooky: think dark corners (no ghosts, though), hidden corridors, and hallways so complicated that it makes you want to leave breadcrumbs so you can find your way back from the bathroom. The Imperial Palace dates back to the 13th (!) century, and the fourth-floor interpreting booths are obviously much newer than that, thus creating an architectural challenge and was not always solved in the most elegant way. After much running around, we are happy to report we did did find our way to the booth, to the bathroom, to the hall were lunch was being served, and back out without needing any breadcrumbs.

Funniest interpreting experience: Judy showed up at a mine (yes, a mine) in desolate central Nevada wearing a business outfit, only to be told that she'd be interpreting outside in 115-degree weather, and that she'd be working around corrosive and potentially explosive (!) materials. Since there was no other clothing available, she was given the nurse's scrubs, socks, and steel-toed shoes, which she wore under fire-retardant clothing (brand-new, at least). The client showed up and was puzzled that the nurse spoke German.  Judy had to explain that she wasn't the nurse, but the interpreter. 

We'd love to hear your scariest/spookiest/funniest interpreting experience, dear colleagues! Please leave them in the comments below and have a fantastic Halloween!


Jesse Tomlinson on November 1, 2017 at 7:14 PM said...

Wow! Great stories.

Scariest interpreting assignment - where there were videos of telephone extortion by inmates, and their voices copying how victims would be pleading for their lives was pretty scary
Spookiest - ?
Funniest interpreting assignment - Going to a retirees home and interpreting a woman who said she had 11 kids, and not one of them was taking care of her in her old age, and she called them bastards and I interpreted that

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 2, 2017 at 2:24 PM said...

@Jesse: Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. Wow, that first experience sure does sound terrible indeed. We bet that was quite a struggle for you. The last one was sad AND funny. 11 kids -- you figured one of them would be there for her...

EP on November 4, 2017 at 9:15 AM said...

I don't think you'll be able to top the German nurse in desolate central Nevada story. Too cool.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 5, 2017 at 6:50 PM said...

@EP: That might be a hard one to top indeed. Sometimes life sure is strange than facition. Still can't believe that actually happened. :)

EP on January 13, 2018 at 9:10 AM said...

The breadcrumbs in Vienna incident sounds cool, although I'm glad it didn't happen to me. And the being locked in jail number I can do completely without. Interesting. Vienna, by the way, is one of my absolute favorite cities. Keep on charging hard!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on March 1, 2018 at 8:46 AM said...

@EP: Thanks for the comment and so sorry for the late response! Yes, being locked in a jail is not on top of our favorite activities indeed. Delighted to hear you love Vienna. It's pretty impossible not to love it, and we are not surprised it usually places on top (or near the very top) of most livable cities in the world.

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

Subscribe by email:


Twitter update

Site Info

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

Translation Times