Professional interpreting is an art, and high-level interpreting takes this art to the world stage. High-level government officials wield enormous influence over policy issues and are directly involved in shaping decisions that affect the lives of countless people. Because so much is at stake at these conferences, the skill and specialized knowledge of the professional interpreters involved is critical to the outcome of the event and beyond.
In June of this year, Translationz had the great privilege of being asked by the Australian Department of Industry to provide Japanese/English conference interpreters for the 35th Australia-Japan High Level Group on Energy and Minerals Consultations in Brisbane. The terminology involved was complex, technical and highly specialized. Presentation topics were diverse and included policy updates, minerals and resources policy issues, petroleum and LNG, energy markets and technology updates, as well as a coal workshop that addressed supply and demand, clean coal technology and opportunities for cooperation.
The conference was a huge success, and we were humbled by the many compliments Translationz received for the role it played, both from the Japanese and the Australian officials. What follows are what we believe to be the two key components that made our participation excel, factors which we hope may be useful to others as well. It is a time-tested, deceptively simple formula: assemble an outstanding team, and prepare rigorously for the big event.
A winning team
Most conference interpreting situations require simultaneous interpreting, in which the presenter speaks in real-time, and the interpreter translates via microphone directly into the delegates’ headsets. Simultaneous interpreting is less common and more specialized than consecutive interpreting, in which the person speaks and then waits for the interpreter to translate.
Simultaneous interpreting requires extraordinary concentration, skill and experience to be performed well at this level. The work is demanding, and the interpreters often work in teams in order to rotate out after every presentation or every 15 minutes. Every person on the team must be highly qualified to perform at this level; if one team member is less proficient the others, the whole team will suffer.
Because of the specialized nature of our conference assignment, we staffed only experienced conference interpreters proficient in interpreting the complex terms associated with mining, minerals and energy. We chose precisely the right mix of interpreters; all were extremely capable and highly fluent in both English and Japanese, and all worked exceptionally well with each other, a critical factor in such a high-pressure environment.
Part of the conference was devoted to technical presentations relating to Japan’s energy situation, in particular the impact of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant three years ago. In these presentations, English speakers alternated with Japanese speakers, each in their native language. Because of our hardworking, talented team, the interpretation was delivered seamlessly between the two languages.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
“Fortune favours the prepared mind,” said famed scientist Louis Pasteur, and nowhere does this apply more than in the world of professional interpreting. For a successful high-level conference to go smoothly, precise planning is crucial.
It seems hard to believe, but with so much to coordinate for a conference of this magnitude, the interpreting needs of foreign speakers often comes as an afterthought. It is the very nature of the interpreter’s job that, when it is performed well, the efforts go unnoticed. However, when interpreting is poorly performed by amateurs, conference organizers are quick to receive complaints from disappointed attendees who were denied the opportunity to partake of key speeches and presentations because of poor language-service planning.
In our case, our interpreters meticulously studied the presentations well ahead of time. The terminology for each slide was reviewed extensively, and whenever possible, slides were translated in advance. We researched the presenters’ backgrounds in order to better understand their style and delivery, so as to best convey their message in another language. And we arrived on-site early each day to recheck all of our equipment – even after having tested it the night before – to ensure that all was in order. We believe that this attention to detail made all the difference.
One of the stated goals of the 35th Australia-Japan High Level Group on Energy and Minerals Consultations was to “provide an opportunity for businesses active or interested in the Japanese markets to investigate key policies impacting the resources and energy sectors in both countries.” In addition, it was intended to provide “a valuable opportunity for delegates to meet with key Australian and Japanese representatives from government, industry and research communities who are actively engaged on Japanese energy and minerals business and policy issues.” Happily, both of these objectives were met – in part due to the often behind-the-scenes efforts of professional conference interpreters.
At Translationz, we believe that all our clients deserve excellence in their translation and interpreting services. We were honored to be chosen by the Australian government to work at the 35th Australia-Japan High Level Group on Energy and Minerals Consultations and to participate in such an influential and wide-reaching event. We hope that pausing to reflect on what went right for us may be of benefit to others, as well as reinforce our own dedication to excellence in all of our future endeavors.
Karen Hodgson, CEO of Translationz