The importance of breathing for interpreters

When thinking about interpreters, people usually envision strange and invisibile individuals who make it possible for their audience to understand foreign speakers. Sometimes, people don’t even contemplate the real person behind the voice they hear.

However, there are instances when interpreters are actually visible. For example, consecutive interpretation requires these professionals to interact with their audience: sometimes, they stand on a stage right next to the speaker they’re translating and in front of their public, which can generate performance anxiety. Most interpreters long for the privacy of their booth, where they can translate relatively undisturbed and supported by their boothmate: they know they are being listened to, but they take comfort in the fact that their voice is not associated with a physical person. On the contrary, some other interpreters start feeling anxious as soon as they step inside the booth: simultaneous interpretation requires constant focus and the ability of performing different tasks at the same time in order to keep up with the speaker.

All this to say that interpreters need to manage their anxiety and this is where proper breathing comes into play. When judging the quality of an interpreter’s performance, people take several elements into account, such as the pitch, tone and volume of his or her voice and his or her intonation. These parameters can be influenced through breathing techniques, which resemble those taught to singers.

Diaphragmatic or deep breathing involves the contraction of the diaphragm, a muscle located between the thoracical and abdominal cavity. This kind of breathing is extremely useful to relax, but it also provides an individual’s bloodstream with a greater amount of oxygen: an interpreter can employ this technique to modulate his or her voice and to avoid getting out of breath while speaking. This way, both the interpreter and the audience can enjoy a great experience: the interpreter can carry out his or her job with reduced stress levels, whereas the audience can fully profit from the expertise of the professional delivering the translation.

I’ve been singing in a choir since I was six years old, so I was taught deep breathing when I was just a child and it now comes as a second nature to me. I have first-hand experience with this breathing technique while working as an interpreter and I can vouch for its effectiveness as far as voice modulation is concerned. Luckily, I’ve never felt particularly anxious before starting an assignment: my nature is not that of an anxious person and my enthusiasm probably ovverrides everything else. However, some of my colleagues, following teachers’ and experts’ suggestions, have tried employing this technique and this resulted in a clear improvement of their performance and in a great reduction of their stress levels.

For this reason, I strongly suggest interpreters and other professionals who work with their voice to gather some information about deep breathing and to try some exercises. It may be that I’m in love with my job, but I’m firmly convinced that working should be a pleasant experience, at least if one likes one’s job: reducing anxiety also means improving one’s working and personal life, which is why I think diaphragmatic breathing is worth a try. Should it work for interpreting assignments, nothing prevents you from trying it in other circumstances too!


The importance of translation for companies

Most companies today aim at reaching a global audience, but in order to offer their products and services they need to address their potential customers in a language they understand. This is where translation and localisation come into play: a good translation provides companies with an attractive business card.

Translating company websites means localising them as well, adjusting their structure and contents to a specific foreign market: once again, translating from a source language into a target language also entails building a bridge between two different cultures and providing potential customers with clear and consistent information.

A translator’s highest goal is to produce a text which sounds natural to the readers, so they don’t even realise they’re reading a translation: this is even of greater importance for company websites, product and service descriptions, communications addressing customers and potential customers and so on. In order to achieve this objective, a translator should “get a feel” for the company he or she is working for, be familiar with the company’s organisational culture and with the culture the company operates in and be knowledgeable about the target market and culture.

Each of us likes reading clear, well-written information when considering  purchasing a product or service: typos, grammar mistakes and expressions which don’t sound natural in the target language must be avoided, which is the reason why translation tasks should always be performed by professional translators. After all, a translator – just like any professional – needs to study and learn to do his or her job: knowing two or more languages doesn’t mean being able to translate simple or complex texts.

Companies should bear in mind that a “simple” translation can have a great impact – either positive or negative – on their image. This is why they should always choose the right professional, considering their needs and the results they want to achieve. Translation can help them accomplish their goals and should be regarded as a stepping stone to success: every investment in this sense should be considered as a potential gain rather than a potential loss.


Why an interpreter and translator?

While still in high school, I decided I would become a conference interpreter and translator. That choice was primarily due to my great passion for foreign languages and for my own language, but also to my wish to put to good use everything I had learnt in high school.

When I started attending university, one of my teachers told us that we should see our career as an empy bag to fill every day with something new and that metaphor shaped the way I see not only my career, but also my life. I embraced the concept of lifelong learning, according to which life is a long path offering those who are willing to grab it the chance to learn more and more with each passing day. The reason this concept appeals to me is probably that I think perfection is a great but unattainable goal, which means always striving to get as close as possibile to it: this gives me a reason to constantly challenge and improve myself because, in the end, life is a learning curve.

Being an interpreter and translator means being informed about the topics you need to translate and the industries you work for. This is what I love of my chosen profession: I can satisfy my thirst for knowledge and – at the same time – make my knowledge available to my clients, facilitating communication between them and a specific target.

This is probably the reason why I’m deeply in love with my job and why I approach every new project with genuine enthusiasm: in every assignment, I see a chance to further my knowledge and my expertise, while simultaneously helping my clients achieve their goals.

Furthermore, I am interested in a variety of subjects, such as law, medicine, art, philosphy, Italian and foreign literature, history, chemistry and biology, marketing, business in general, technology, food, fashion, design, music and so on. Being an interpreter and translator means having the possibility of pursuing my interest in all these topics not only for my own pleasure, but also to meet my clients’ needs.

Translating in itself is a fascinating job because it entails a comparison between different languages and cultures: the translator’s goal is to preserve the original meaning while making a specific text available to a different readership, which implies an in-depht analysis of that readership. Translating can’t be limited to simply transposing single words and sentences from a source language into a target language: translating means rendering the meaning of a source text into a different language and culture, which entails the knowledge of the languages and cultures in question, but also of the principles of communication, of the topic which is being dealt with and of relevant technologies.

Interpreting basically means the same thing, even though the approach and the techniques employed are different: first of all, interpretation happens orally and simultaneously, which means the interpreter has no time to elaborate what is being said by the speaker. An interpreter needs to process the speech immediately, providing a consistent translation to the audience, while at the same time paying attention to his or her tone of voice, pitch, pronunciation and accent.

Translating and interpreting are difficult but rewarding activities: I have always liked difficult things because I think they are the most gratifying and this is something else I love about my job.

When I think about the path which led me to choose this profession, I can’t be anything but happy: perhaps I’m too young to say I made the right choice, but it is how I feel and I am one of those people who think that being content with yourself, being positive and in love with your job and life in general reflect on your relationship with others, be they clients, friends or family.