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WHERE THERE IS PASSION, THERE IS JOY
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WHERE THERE IS PASSION, THERE IS JOY

a view from the booth interpreting musings

On London’s hottest day ever, I was sitting in a room together with my booth partner, a sound technician, one event coordinator, three moderators, a dozen panellists, and roughly 50 attendees sweating my unmentionable off while struggling to interpret to the best of my ability between desperate sips of water.

No open windows or closed curtains could ward off the heat nor achieve the impossible: make me hate my job.

I remember talking to a dear colleague of mine around Easter 2020, early in the pandemic, about how we missed the constant stimuli we were usually exposed to as interpreters.

Safely locked away at home, my colleague and I were becoming increasingly aware of how incredibly varied our day-to-day was, constantly meeting new and/or different people, dealing with random and unforeseen situations, and enjoying all sorts of new experiences. Some were great. Some were challenging. Some were dull. But they were never the same.

It wasn’t until months later, when the nights started to draw in and Zoom sessions were blurring into one another, that I realised that what I was missing had little to do with variety and more to do with the spice of life.

There are just as many reasons for loving interpreting as there are interpreters around. For some, it is the challenge of the unexpected that makes them tick. For others, the adrenaline rush we invariably get in the booth. The most philosophical among us enjoy having a front-row seat to world history, and travel enthusiasts love being able to spend a couple of hurried hours sightseeing around a new place.

For me, it’s the passion of those I interpret for that does the trick.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always get to interpret light and delightful events such as a wine tasting or to humbly put my skills at the service of a cause that is close to my heart. Most of the time, I’m lending my expertise to thoroughly dry and boring topics such as the commercial applications of ozone or the financial report of an accounting firm. And yet, there’s something special there. Something that draws me in, that keeps me engaged. Something that makes me want to go a little bit further than the typical extra mile.

It’s the passion, the sparkle in the eyes and the excitement in the voice of those for whom I’m interpreting. Yes, they might be talking about how to decommission a nuclear plant, but they love it! And I find that love incredibly contagious.

I’ve always known that witnessing first-hand the dedication of those who actually make the world go round, both the household names and the non- famous men and women anonymously giving it their all, was a privilege. What I hadn’t realised until virus and heatwave hit was how much their passion fuelled mine and translated into inspiration. For years, I was unaware of how much their spark motivated me and kept me moving forward.

No wonder COVID was such a 'bleh' time. There was no light! For all the advantages of Zoom and remote interpreting, the blue light of our screens is far too cold to carry such warm and bright energy across the globe. 

That synergy in the room when ideas bounce off minds quicker than words can be formed and people lean forward in their seats and reach out across the meeting table. The emails sent late at night before rest and sleep wipe our biological RAM memories out. The vision we can barely grasp but that we feel deep in our gut...

On that hellishly hot day, the topic of the event became almost irrelevant. Half the additional temperature in that room was cumulative body heat – the other half was creative energy set ablaze.

As usual, I was interpreting more than mere information. Instead, I was juggling the love, passion, and dedication of inspiring individuals between languages. I was helping them sow greatness.

And in the uncomfortable and searing heat, I felt... Joy.


Article originally published in the August 2022 edition of the ITI London Regional Group Newsletter under A View From The Booth 

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