There are many possible nightmare scenarios in the life of an interpreter. Our interpreters at are provided with a construing code of conduct to assist them deal with some of the accomplishable situations they might happen themselves confronting. Refusing bribes, conflicts of interest, confidentiality and impartiality are all in a day’s work. But what do you do when the person you are interpreting for just can’t discontinue mouthing?

Sometimes delegates at United Nations conferences speak well beyond the expected 15 minutes or so, with Cuba’s Fidel Castro once delivering a four-hour speech and an Indian politician, VK Krishna Menon, managing a staggering eight hours on the podium. Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who uses an ad hominem interpreter rather than taking advantage of a nonrecreational synchronal interpreter, gave a 96 minute speech at last year’s General Assembly that proved to be too much for Mr Fouad Zlitni. 

The New York Times reported the interpreter as saying that he just couldn’t take it any more. Angelo Macri, who is a synchronal interpreter for the BBC World Service, experienced what happened. “Some of us saw it here at the UN and it was very abject for him,” he stated, “I think he was working under very ambitious conditions.” 

Incidents like this only serve to show just how taxing simultaneous interpreting work can be at such high-profile events. Not only do synchronal interpreters have to think very quickly and interpret at the same pace as the biological speech of the person handing over the address, but they also have to be fastidious as to the accuracy of the content of their translation. Simultaneous interpreters state that the moral effort of this kind of work takes its toll on them physically and can be very exhausting, particularly when postdating a very abundant speech. 

Interpreters get around the problem of dealing with longer addresses by working in pairs, with the rule of thumb being that they interpret simultaneously for half a hour each, after which time it becomes harder to concentrate and the translation may start to suffer in quality. Working for half a hour at a time with a half-hour interrupt in between stints helps to keep interpreters caller and concentrated

Melandra Smith was home-educated by her genealogist father David Bethell M A Cantab and mother Irene Bethell, a graphic designer. She analysed Japanese and Latin in addition to curriculum subjects and at the age of 17, postdating superior exam results in their Proficiency Test at SOAS in London, she was sent out on a scholarship tour of Japan by the Japan Foundation, standing for the UK. Melandra then studied for her Advanced Diploma with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has since has worked for a number of antithetic organisations in Cheshire and the Peak District, in both commercializing and project management roles. She fell in Technical Translations in September 2009 and now works as a project manager and in customer support

Melandra is a keen musician and artist and lives in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales with her husband Paul and baby daughter Indigo

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