the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated.
the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
A few weeks ago I attended a conference as a translation services expert in which most of the speakers were foreigners; therefore, there were some interpreters around. I checked the booth and did not recognize any of the interpreters; to be honest they were so young that they did not even realize I was there. They were so nervous and taking notes from every single slide they had, that they forgot about one of the most important things: Supplies; as in water bottles and snacks. The first speaker was interesting, the second I really did not care for, so I decided to go to the booth and pay a visit.
They were so tired and out of themselves that I decided to introduce myself and lend them a hand, not interpreting of course, but rather with advice. “How to deal with pressure 101” One of them knew who I was, which made things easier. They asked me to check the presentation and in that moment I discovered what was wrong. The organizers gave them the very first draft for the presentations, rather than the ones being used on stage. Every effort would be futile since the order of the slides was wrong and most importantly, the information had substantially changed. There was new terminology, new as in “the scientists on stage came up with those terms two weeks ago” (so, there was nothing to do). I gave them a few tips, they relaxed a little bit more and ended up having fun. When their shift ended, I took them to the pub. At the pub, they asked me about those of conferences that are meant to be a failure, and how often a translator-interpreter will run into them during its career.
This is how this story begins:
In the spring of 2014, I was hired to go to the state of Tlaxcala, in Mexico. Tlaxcala is the kind of place in which most things go slower than usual, everything seems to be so far away, and for some reason, a dear friend of mine told me to stay close to a pirul tree (Schinus molle) because, “there are witches everywhere”. So, I was hired as a translation services expert to interpret for an American who was supposed to introduce some new technology at a conference. As I have said before, most translation agencies will never get the slides/material and they will blame the client; and vice versa.
When I arrived to the hotel-convention center, one of the members of the staff greeted me and right before I had a chance to make a question, he said: “I would like to inform you that there is no internet available in here”. I was going to ask him for a few bottles of water, but it is good to know that in some places, the absence of Internet is considered some sort of achievement. Minutes later, I realized that my phone was dead, so, it was going to be a real demon ride scenario; since any kind of “support” was discarded before starting the conference. I checked the booth that I was going to use, it was in the middle of a massive white hall, with large windows, around two hundred chairs and a tiny podium. On the right side of the hall, there were twelve industrial sewing machines. Textiles. Oh yeah!
The term GIGO (Garbage in, garbage out) is one of best terms that I could have ever learned from my methodology professors at college. It is so simple and there is no way to contradict it. Although there is always that person who tries to change the order of things and ends up failing… brutally.
GIGO is some sort of action-reaction, that unfortunately will always end up in an indirect lynching of the agency-translator-interpreter, a series of fights over the telephone/e-mail and some degree of stomachache and acidity for a couple of days.
Many colleagues in the interpretation & translation business are so good that they are capable of taking a defective piece of text and transform it into something that flows like water. But some others, specially the rookies, are not so lucky. This business is wild; and one bad interpretation-translation, will put a mark on everybody, that mark has the shape of a thought, as in the clients thinking that these services are more of an expensive and useless luxury item.
I am talking about building commercial relationships, doing what each party knows best, without interfering with one another. I am talking about healthy business relationships.
Why am I telling you this? What happened to those industrial sewing machines? Well, most of the textile companies that I have worked with are very jealous of their technology, designs, materials, etc. In fact they have nightmares in which their technology filters to the outer world, ending up in a Chinese sweatshop. The problem is that most of the time, this mentality works against them. In this case, the interpreter (me) received three outdated pages… in “portuñol” (portuguese-spanish).
But don’t worry, the speaker was an Ohioan and we ended up creating some new content.