It's no secret that interpretation, especially simultaneous interpretation, is a highly-demanding task. If not addressed and managed well, peculiarities of this profession can lead to overwhelming tiredness, called interpreter fatigue. This condition, of course, severely compromises translation quality and the well-being of interpreters.
Interpreter fatigue arises due to the extreme complexity of the job. Few activities require the kind of cognitive agility, concentration, and multi-tasking dexterity that interpretation demands.
You have to manage a range of internal and external factors simultaneously: listen to the speaker, find the right word or phrase in the translated language, convey it, predict the flow of the speech, and gauge the audience's response. No doubt, such an exceptional cognitive load can severely exhaust you.
So, is there any way to prevent it? That's for sure! Bear with us for some tips to avoid interpreter fatigue.
We usually analyze meetings and conferences on their outcomes. This is true even between individuals or groups with different language proficiencies. If they can convey the information, understand others, and reach a favorable decision, the interaction would be deemed as successful.
Yet, there is little analysis of the effect the meeting has on the interpreter. Event organizers, for example, could put more emphasis on what could be done better to help interpreters during the event. The lack of this post-event examination might mask interpreter fatigue and the resulting gap in translation.
Secondly, we need more understanding of the complexity of the interpreter’s tasks. This is especially true when there is remote simultaneous interpretation involved. The lack of discussion on language fatigue can result in incomplete preparation for events with interpretation services.
The third reason is that interpreters cannot rely on previous interactions to predict outcomes, unlike most professions or tasks. Every meeting or conference would be different, and even if the interpreter had worked with the participants, they could never know what the conversations would be about. This makes the task particularly challenging.
Due to these reasons, interpreters usually work in teams. This reduces the workload on interpreters and gives them adequate time to take breaks.
With a bit of planning, you can avoid fatigue and ensure that you stay functional and energized. Let’s take a look at some proven tactics that can help you relax and be productive.
As experienced interpreters know, one of the most effective ways to avoid exhaustion is to come well-rested for the job. Interpretation is a complex task that requires comprehensive preparation. But it's equally important to relax before the event.
If it's a new set of participants or topic, you can rehearse by listening to the audio or video clips of the speakers or some speeches on the subject. This will familiarize you with the topic and help reduce nervousness.
Acclimatizing with the venue and soundproof booth is important to ensure that you feel at ease. Even if you have seen images or videos of the place, it's better to take your time and know the surroundings.
Make sure you settle into your workspace well ahead of time, with your connection, video and audio tested, and set up correctly. Get in touch with the organizers and your teammates and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Get all the supporting documents together with notes and glossaries.
The easiest way to get exhausted is by working longer slots. It happens because you might be engrossed in the speech and believe that you are in a natural state of flow and don't want a break. But this can have detrimental effects on your energy levels and concentration skills.
Don't be tempted to work longer slots than what you would have agreed with your booth partner. It's tiring and stressful for your partner and you, and completely unnecessary. Remember that any change in the agreed-upon slots will also be confusing to your partner and lead to translation fatigue.
Considering the pressure of your job, it's extremely important that you take regular and adequate breaks. This is why it's essential to not just work with a partner but schedule your slots.
Walk away from the workstation if possible. If you're working online, use the luxury of being out of sight of your participants to stand up or stretch. Take deep breaths and calm yourself down. This will re-energize your mind and body.
When you take breaks, don't use it to open another tab or go online. Don't check your social media handles. Don't spend the time answering emails or messages unless it's related to the job.
If you have access to a corridor or balcony, take a short walk. Look at some greenery if possible. Spend a minute or two with your pets if you're working from home and are a pet owner.
Interpreting is an extremely high-performance activity. Don't make it even more stressful by being disorganized! You should have all the relevant documents and information days before the meeting, event, or conference. Go through the job list and documentation and clear all your doubts with the organizers or event managers.
If it's an on-site event and you have never been to the location, familiarize yourself with the route and the venue. This will make it easy on the day of the event. Ensure that you have all the documents a day before the event. Make it to the event ahead of time and get used to your workstation and the hardware.
If you're working from home, make sure that the workstation is well-lit and away from your television or kitchen. Ensure that your pets or family members don't disturb you when you are at work. Check your internet connection and see that all your devices are adequately charged.
Event managers and organizations have a crucial role to play in helping prevent interpreter fatigue. The first step is to meet your interpreters and brief them about the scope of the event, topics under discussion, and background about the participants. If there are videos or audio clips, you should share those with the interpreting team.
According to the recommendations of the International Association of Conference Interpreters, it's important to provide necessary breaks to interpreters. Organizations should hire simultaneous interpreters as a team and make sure that an interpreter gets a break after every half an hour.
Meeting interpreters before the event can also help organizers understand the unique needs of the profession. On top of that, it'll also familiarize event managers with the pace, diction, and enunciation of each interpreter. These meetings will ensure that the interpreters are aware of the software and hardware that the organizers will use for the event.
Interpreter fatigue might have serious mental and physical consequences for interpreters. While there is a lot that you can do to avoid translation fatigue, organizations and event managers can also do their part to ensure a fatigue-free interpreter experience.
Make sure to become part of the organization which takes care of its interpreters!
Feb 8, 2022