Package Insert 39
Interesting facts and figures for customers and partners of mt-g.
November 2016
mt-g insights
Interview with two former interpreters
Mikhail Evstyugov-Babaev und Elena Shvets
In addition to translations, mt-g also offers interpreting services. And some of mt-g's project managers are also interpreters. We would therefore like to introduce you to two of these employees. Both work in the Medical Technology Team and were professional interpreters before they joined mt-g.

mt-g: I'm sure our readers would be interested to know what exactly you studied and where.
Elena Shvets:
I completed my Master's Degree in conference interpreting at the University of Mainz, in the Faculty of Translation Studies, Linguistics and Cultural Studies in Germersheim and I am a conference interpreter for German, English and Russian. I interpret German-Russian in both directions and I also interpret from English into Russian.
Mikhail Evstyugov-Babaev: I completed my degree in Saarbrücken in the Department of Applied Linguistics, Translation and Interpreting and left university as a qualified translator. My working languages are English and French.

mt-g: How should people picture the road to earning an interpreting degree? Presumably there are a lot of practical exercises involved?
ES: Yes definitely, the practical component of the course outweighs the theoretical component, which is sensible. We had rooms with interpreting booths set up specifically for interpreting exercises, in which it was possible to simulate working as an interpreter. We practiced both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting and in this way, we were able to learn about the respective types of interpreting by means of practical assignments.

mt-g: It must be very nerve-racking to be alone in the interpreting booth or interpreting in front of the group?
Yes it is, even for simultaneous interpreting, where you normally have a partner by your side who you can alternate with. I can still remember that there were real conferences held in the conference halls every Friday, which were interpreted by us as students. The booths were occupied by various students, and therefore various languages, and we had to interpret what the speakers said as well as the discussion following the speeches. As you would expect, our lecturers also sat in the audience and evaluated our performance. Of course, this doubled the pressure we were under. When I look back on it though, I wouldn't have wanted to miss these exercises – they were really good preparation for actually working in this industry.

mt-g: I can imagine. So you have both worked in this field before?
Yes. After my studies, I wanted to do something with the knowledge I had gained and the skills I had acquired, and I dived straight into business as a freelance translator and interpreter, which was quite an adventure.

mt-g: In what way?
My assignments led me to oil rigs and drilling facilities all over Europe. These assignments were extremely complex. You had to read up on the subject matter extensively in advance to ensure that you were speaking the same language as those on-site. Flexibility was the top priority. You could sometimes receive a phone call in the middle of the night and be interpreting on a remote drilling facility in the French wilderness 12 hours later. In the space of a year, I clocked up 140 days of travel, during which I was in constant demand as an interpreter: Communication must be maintained at all times, not only at work but also later when you're having a post-work beer in the hotel bar. You are in constant discussion with your respective contacts, which can be extremely challenging and trying.
ES: In contrast, I didn't go freelance after my studies, but in the meantime, I did some interpreting as part of a theatre festival and provided support for welfare services as a member of a voluntary interpreting service. However, I also gained first-hand experience of the exacting requirements in business when I was employed as a trainee for six months at an automotive company. I worked there as a negotiation interpreter throughout the duration of the traineeship. I still work as an interpreter for the city of Ulm on a voluntary basis.

mt-g: That does sound very challenging indeed. Aside from the kinds of circumstances already mentioned, what was the greatest challenge for you as an interpreter?
It is often difficult to extract the essence from conversations. In contrast to consecutive or simultaneous interpreting, a liaison interpreter can quickly check whether something was actually meant in the way it was said. However, there are often a lot of emotions involved, which make it difficult to extract the actual information from what is said. When I worked on the oil rigs, people's nerves were very strained – there was normally a lot of money at stake as well as tasks to be performed, such as repairs on important parts, with little time to spare. As such, you also needed to have a great deal of intuition as well as an understanding of human nature.
ES: For me, it was less a case of filtering out information and more about making sure I didn't leave anything out in my interpretation. As a general rule, the interlocutor pauses briefly after a few sentences so that the interpreter can interpret what has been said.
However, in the heat of the moment, many speakers tend to talk for a long time and forget that the interpreter is there and has to interpret what is being said. As Mikhail already mentioned, as a liaison interpreter, you can ask a question to make sure that you have understood everything correctly and can accurately relay what has been said.
If you forget an important piece of information as a simultaneous interpreter, then it is simply lost – unless you have time to correct your mistakes, but that is normally not the case. The cognitive challenge of listening and almost simultaneously relaying what is said is actually the greatest challenge.

mt-g: So you both carried a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders. Now you are both employed at mt-g as project managers. Cross your heart, which do you enjoy more? Interpreting or project management?
I had a lot of fun when I was interpreting and I enjoyed working with people. But I must say that the work did not completely satisfy me – as an interpreter, I was just a medium or a mouthpiece and could achieve little to nothing on my own. Looking back, I found that a pity. For this reason, I really enjoy working in project management and I am very satisfied.
MEB: My feelings are similar. I would certainly enjoy working in this industry again, as I liked the freedom, the interpreting itself and also the travelling, but there were a lot of drawbacks. Nowadays, I can no longer take such a casual approach to the constant travelling and being away from home as I could at that time shortly after my studies. So I could imagine doing it again, but certainly not on the same scale as before. What's more, I have learnt so much from project management – more than at almost any other time in my life – and I really enjoy working here.

mt-g: Many thanks for the discussion!
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