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I am in London since 5 days, and I think it is fair to say that I have been lucky. I already have a full‑time job, plus a part‑time one that I had to reject, I’ve found a room in a flat with nice people and I am planning to move in this weekend, and I have been interpreting two days in a row, even if just for fun. Let’s be honest, London seems to love me a lot more than I love her and, maybe, I should really give her another chance.
The first thing I have to say is that coming back to London, and to the UK in general, feels really good, despite the guaranteed cold that I always catch as soon as I set a foot outside the plane. I love this accent, and I would be glad if, one day, I could really speak English with a nice British accent. In fact, I just listen to people on the buses and the underground to enjoy how they speak; of course, it can seem that I am a nosy, crazy person minding other people’s business, but it is really only for the sound.
This new post wants to be the rational continuation of what I thought during my trip back home on the underground. As I said, I’ve been interpreting both yesterday and today, for fun, not professionally, but that doesn’t change the point too much. The only thing is that it made me think about my interpreting skills, and about people’s vision of the interpreter’s job.
Yesterday, after running some errands, I decided that it was time to pay a visit to Westfield, my second house during my previous stay in London. It was nice to be back, and it was funny to discover that the music is still the same after all this time. I was having a look at cheap mobiles phone to buy a spare one for my Italian sim card, and I was just on the side of the counter. When I was about to leave, three Italian guys arrived and started asking questions to one of the employees, and I realised immediately that they didn’t speak or understand almost any English, because “Uhm, yes” was the answer to everything, even if they were not Y/N questions. I was leaving, ashamed of asking them if they needed some help, but I couldn’t resist, and I am glad I asked, because their broad smile told me immediately that they were completely lost. The result was that they bought a better plan than the one for which they were going before, they got cheap calls to Italy and everything, and I was glad I could help, and so were they.
What I’ve seen in this case is that young people are more interested in our work than older ones. One of them also asked me where I studied and which languages and how it worked for learning them, because he was interested in studying interpretation as well. At the end, he didn’t have a very precise idea of what the job is, but who really does before starting?
The second chance to interpret was this morning. I went to the bank with my brother, who speaks and understands English, but prefers to have support in some cases. The banker said to me: “He speaks good English but doesn’t trust himself, he should try and make mistakes, and he will learn.” You are right, but you don’t listen to him, and the proof is that, thanks to you, I magically became his girlfriend instead of his sister, so it is better to be two explaining things to you, otherwise who knows what happens? Anyway, that misunderstanding was funny, and it allowed me to say: “I am his sister, though, and his interpreter”, with a nice smile and a little pride. Something that I noticed quite immediately was that he was somehow comfortable dealing with an interpreter because, after stopping once or twice to let me talk, he just kept going and explained everything without making pauses, and allowing me to do a normal chuchotage. I reckon he worked with an interpreter before, and more than once, and that made my job easier.
So far, so good, it would seem; let’s see what happens next!