Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simultaneous translation

The exhibition I've been working on opened Sunday, and a cadre of scholars from China (who'd written essays for the catalog) came for a symposium we organized to go along with it. We were all limited to 10 minutes (not that most people kept to this) due to the need to translate all the presentations from one language into the other.

For translating the English presentations into Chinese, we were able to hire an interpreter from the grad program in translation and interpretation, who came with fancy headsets for all the Chinese visitors. Translating the Chinese presentations into English was harder, as our scheduled translator quit (or something happened, I don't know what) two weeks before the symposium. We (English-speaking China scholars) ended up doing the translation ourselves, though not simultaneously.

I translated for a speaker who was improvising his talk off the text of his PowerPoints on a computer screen as I sat next to him looking over his shoulder. I thought it would help to have the text in front of me, and it was helpful for those long lists of river valleys and artifact typologies. But it appears that my brain treats reading Chinese and understanding what I'm listening to as two different problems, and I found myself doing simultaneous translation after all, as I read what was on the screen (at speaking speed) and tried to connect it with the (slightly different) version of the talk I was hearing. I had to translate between my ears and eyes before I could get anything to come out of my mouth. By all reports what I did say made sense, but I am not sure whether I can take any credit for that.

1 comment:

Mokihana said...

It sounds a bit frazzling, but looks like you did great! I do understand the translation problems, trying to coordinate brain stuff!