Dear conference interpreting students,
Upon Lourdes de Rioja’s request, I have listened to Phil Smith’s interpretation of President Macron’s address at the UN and would like to share with you a few – hopefully inspiring – comments.
You will see that some of them have also been picked up by Phil Smith himself in his second video where he comments his own performance just after completing it. This is certainly not a coincidence.
First of all, P. Smith elicits trust. He is composed. His voice is deep. His pace regular. As a customer/listener, I feel he is in control. He is in control of his production both as regards content and form. When he briefly pauses, it is to think about what has just been said, what is meant by it and how to express it so as to be understood by his audience (see for example towards the end of the video when Macron refers to “la conférence interlibyenne” and Phil Smith speaks of “a reconciliation conference that brings together all parties of Libya” ). There is no panic in his voice, no backtracking.
A rendition to be aimed for made possible by his experience, his understanding of French, his excellent command of his mother tongue and as he rightly points out, his knowledge of geopolitics and international current affairs. As a student or young graduate, you will obviously not be able to rely on experience, but you can prepare, prepare, prepare before each assignment and for that preparation to be useful, develop your general knowledge day in day out. Do also voice coaching, learn how to breathe, and develop your stamina by gradually extending the length of your interpreting exercises.
Be prepared also means organising your working environment so that you have everything you need within easy reach: pen & paper (Phil Smith’s “safety blanket”), your glossaries (hard and soft copies), the agenda, background and meeting documents duly organised, water, etc…
And then stay focused and, as Phil says, “keep going”, even if you have missed an acronym or a name.
Last but not least, communicate. Do not forget to talk to your audience the way Macron is talking to his (“the French speakers”). Even in English, you can use your hands if it helps, look at how Phil uses his. Nobody sees him or would see him in his booth if he were interpreting live in New York, but it helps him and reinforces his (Macron’s) message.
Keeping these few pieces of advice in mind, time has come for you to have a go!
The original speech is available following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21u0sWAG7bg
Analysis by Sarah Bordes, ISIT Academic Director, Conference Interpreting5