The ultimate purpose of interpreting is to facilitate communication and exchanges among humans. From this perspective, accurately rendering a speaker’s utterances into a target language is only part of the job. There are situations where the interpreter is expected to ‘put on a great show’ with the speaker giving the impression that they are old friends getting along. Interpreting for music artists in the consecutive mode at meetings with the press is a case in point.
As a professional interpreter catering exclusively to the music industry, I find the emotional burden on all the stakeholders to be rather heavy. Journalists are usually over the moon, either eager to grill artists or simply excited about meeting their heroes. Record company executives are nervous: they go out of their way to please artists and their managers making sure everything goes smoothly, as the outcome of the press conference or round table will have an impact on the artists’ sales and reputation. Artists may be anything from tired or bored to intimidated. And the interpreter has to juggle the feeling of being star-struck and the pressure of making everyone happy.
In this context, establishing a positive rapport with artists and journalists in particular is a decisive factor. This, I believe, is what happened when I worked with Noel Gallagher. As is often the case, I didn’t have the chance to meet The Chief before his press conference. When you interpret for music stars of his calibre, you are asked to sit at the table before they even enter the room, and once they arrive you quickly shake hands with them and get cracking – no time for small talk. Empathy is the keyword here: you really need to get on the same wavelength with the artist to grasp the meaning of what he says and translate it in a way that does him justice. This requires preparation, as with any interpreting assignment, but also a great deal of emotional intelligence, I would argue. On the other hand, in order to provide journalists with quality interpretation, you need to understand where they’re coming from, which I would say is easy for me because of my journalism background.