French | English Interpreter

Interview with Michel, Conference Interpreter English / French:

First things first, we would love to learn more about you: why and when did you decide to become a translator/interpreter? Where did the idea come from, and have you ever considered doing anything else?

I was the Director of the Vancouver Berlitz Centre in the early eighties and supplying interpreters to conferences in Vancouver when on one occasion, one interpreter cancelled at the last minute and the second was late. I decided to jump in, run to the hotel where the conference was taking place a few blocks from my office and stepped in the booth to fill in. I realized that I really enjoyed it, that I could do it and wanted more. From then on, I kept on doing as many conferences as I could each year in additional to my regular full time job. It also often meant using some of my holidays. Now that I am retired from corporate life, I can work at conferences as often as Iā€™m needed. I could not think of any better job now that I am out of the stressful business world.

How different is being a translator/interpreter from what you had expected?

Interpreting for me has remained as interesting and fun as when I started. What is most enjoyable thought is that we are a small group of conference interpreters in BC, all fun to be with, very respectful of each other, forming a friendly and close team of very interesting people.

What is, according to you, the best way to learn a foreign language? How did you learn your languages?

I first learnt English and Italian traditionally in high school in France and was lucky to have very good teachers. I also picked up Spanish easily, and studied Rumanian and Russian at university (nothing much is left of these two languages). Having taught and trained teachers at Berlitz has shown the value of a more direct approach, the same as your own native language as a child, learning to speak, and the mechanisms of the language first, before learning the grammar. This method, if properly applied, is very effective.

What are the challenges of being a translator/interpreter? What are the perks?

For any assignment to interpret at a conference, a lot of work goes into preparation, familiarizing oneself with the topic and the vocabulary to be used. All preparation documents and speeches help a lot, but we are regularly challenged by presenters speaking and/or reading way too fast, disjointed sentences, a lot of numbers thrown out, acronyms and foreign accents. Jokes can also be very difficult to translate. Obviously, having copies of speeches, reports, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. beforehand improves the quality of our work.


Thank you very much!