It’s Not a Squirrel!

It’s time for Friday Fancies, where I talk about pretty much anything that strikes my fancy.  Maybe it will strike yours.

This week officially began my day job as a sign language interpreter.  Interpreting is very challenging.  Simultaneous interpreting, which is the most often used, is a complex process of various steps all done at the same time on a loop.  First, you take in the incoming message and search out any implied meanings or cultural nuances to decode.  Then you begin working out how you will translate it, and then you produce the actual product, while at the same time continuing to listen to the incoming message and doing the same process over again.

Another thing many people may not realize is that interpreting is not done *exactly* at the same time as the original language is being produced, word-for-word.  There is usually a 4-10 second lag.  Because of the various grammatical structures of different languages, it’s important to listen for the complete sentence before trying to restructure it appropriately.

For many assignments, sign language interpreters work in teams.  The team interpreter monitors the “working” interpreter’s production for accuracy while also listening to the original message and holding onto details should the working ‘terp miss something.

We had a lot of practice with this in my training program.  (We were usually there for 12-hour school days.)  The following incident was my absolute favorite moment in the whole program.

A classmate was giving an oral presentation on one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Statue of Zeus.  I interpreted, another classmate was my team, and everyone else played the “audience.”

Zeus sat on a chair, yet still his height was 43 feet tall.  He was constructed with ivory and gold-plated bronze.  Precious stones decorated the throne.  In his right hand he held a statue of the goddess of victory, and in his left a sceptre.

As can happen in the interpreting process I described above, the sound door to the ear can shut.  I became so focused on my interpretation, that I didn’t hear what sat on top of the sceptre.  That’s where my team came in.  I leaned over and raised by eyebrows at her, signaling my need for a feed.  She was ready with one.  Now, I didn’t understand how what she told me related to the Statue of Zeus, but I had nothing else to go on, so I went ahead and interpreted that atop the sceptre sat a…squirrel.

There was no squirrel on the Statue of Zeus.  It was an eagle.  We laughed so hard during that debriefing session.  At graduation, that classmate drew each of us copies of this picture:

See the squirrel on top?

Have you ever been given wrong information, only to find out it was wrong *after* you repeated it?  Was it embarrassing, or were you able to laugh about it?  Have you and your friends or family shared any blundering moments?  I love hearing from you!  Have a great weekend everyone!