Dodge the bullet, get the gun: the elasticity of simultaneous interpreting

This 9 December 2017, I had the privilege to join a simultaneous interpreting session at Universitas Indonesia. It was the first interpreting session ever held by a prestigious university I’ve ever noticed, so I waited no more. I signed up with 800 bucks and immediately was e-mailed about the event agenda. And, it was my first time on a train! Haha. Pardon my ndheso-ness.

Anyway, I thought this was going to be one of those big moments in my life, since I’ve dreamt of becoming an interpreter since college. The speaker, Ibu Inanti Pinintakasih Diran, who is a senior interpreter formerly assigned for the umpteenth G-20, gave a quite inspiring talk, partly due to her bubbly personality. She spoke about some strategies and methods of interpreting, one of which was that interpreters “are actors.” It also fueled my awe for her regarding to the fact that she is an interpreting professor in UI as well!

The event was divided into 3 parts: cloze test, simultaneous interpreting demo using an SIS, and relay interpreting demo. My favorite part of the event was, of course, all of it! During the cloze test, the participants were given a set of pieces of paper, consisting of a long, but broken, paragraph. Some words in the sentences were made missing. Our task was, while listening to the audio, NOT fill out those missing spaces, but PREDICT what word that came across to our minds as we read out the context.

When it came to our turn to read out the text, it was quite nerve-wrecking when Bu Inanti handed the microphone over to me, because I was one of those participants who “have experiences in translating.” As it turned out, it was a bit hard since I needed to interpret those sentences in the text which I had not read, thus so many pauses and elisions. This was not my favourite moment though. After our lunch break, we were given the chance to test out the SIS machine. You know, it is, as I would call it, a box located above or right behind the conference room where the interpreters do their magic.

Andhika, the ancillary keynote speaker, who is also a doctorate student majoring in Translation and Interpreting in UI, played a video of Pak Jokowi delivering speech on the Teacher’s Day held in Bengkulu earlier this December. With Richi, my new mate on the event, I was asked to go into the box and interpret that speech into English. Once I got inside, it wasn’t as small as I expected it to be. I put on my headphone and, before me, there was a complex of buttons reading “On/Off”, “Mute”, and “Take Over.” Richi sat beside me waiting, as we had agreed that I did the first half of the video. We divided the 13-minute video into a chunk of 5, 5, and 3 minutes.

As I had never seen or heard the speech before, I was convinced that the speech was going to be easy. This made me remember the year 2015, when I was a translator internist at Kementerian Sekretariat Negara Republik Indonesia, I had to translate Mr. President’s impromptu speech manuscript, and it was a walk in the park. Often did he use filler words like “yes” (ya), “so” (begitu) or “like that” (seperti itu) in almost every other phrase. But this time, I was wrong. He had a script in his hand!

All in all, I enjoyed the event as much as I enjoyed the learning process I had to endure. At the end of every session, Bu Inanti always gave suggestions of the supposed vocabulary to use. She also mentioned that interpreting was not about “using those elegant and sophisticated words that the audience won’t understand.” But it’s about the meaning. She emphasised that how well we understand one’s culture and incorporate that understanding into your translation, will determine the success of the message delivery.

From this event, I learned more about what it felt like to be “an actor,” linguistically speaking. As in, whatever the speaker says, then we say it. Some new words and phrases are also included in my vocabulary list this year. I hope that this could become my catapult to finesse my career in the linguistics field. Amin!

Desainer bahasa. Copywriter dan penerjemah lepas. Senang masak, tarian K-pop, dan serial drama.