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Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is the difference between interpreting and translating?

Interpreting is the spoken transmission of words from a source language into a target language. The interpreter hears information in one language and repeats the content in another language.
Translating is the written transmission of words from a source language into a target language. The translator reads a text and reproduces it in the target language in written form.

What can you, as the client, do to optimise your interpreters' performance?

Although our interpreters at Clever Voices have a university degree, many years of experience at home and abroad, and have acquired enormous expertise over the years, they still prepare meticulously prior to every interpreting assignment.
You, as our client, are our most important contact person for clarifying key information, such as:

The framework of the event:
What is the purpose of the event? How many speakers are you planning to have and how many participants are you expecting?
The agenda of your event:
Do not hesitate to give us an agenda even if is it has not been finalised. It still contains important information on the venue, duration and specific topics of the event, and possibly also on language combinations. All this is important information for the purpose of coordinating a team of interpreters. And maybe we can help you save money too!
Preparatory documents:
There can never be too many of them! The more material you make available to us abut the subject area or theme of your event and about company itself, the more you are helping us help you make the event a success: not only are we then able to becoming familiar with the topic itself, but you are also giving us a valuable insight into the specific terms and jargon you are used to using. In addition to the presentations and papers themselves, you might even want to share some Internet addresses, company brochures, conference files of previous events, or even a corporate glossary. It goes without saying that all this material would be handed back to you after the event.
Also, if, during an event, additional texts are read out or preciously unplanned presentations are given, we would very much appreciate it if they could be made available - even at short notice - to the interpreters, either on USB flash drive or as a paper copy.
An unobstructed view of the speakers:
Nothing makes the work of interpreters more difficult than an obstructed view of the speaker or the projection screen. Since Clever Voices places great stress on interpreting not only what we hear through the headphones but also what we perceive in terms of body language, vocal energy and whatever a speaker conveys between the lines, it is absolutely crucial to us to be able to see the speaker.
Interpreters are thirsty people because they usually end up talking all day long! We are always extremely appreciative of a generous provision of cold beverages during your event!

Simultaneous interpreting - how on earth do you do that?

With talent and a great deal of diligence and hard work! Students at university are made to start with intervals of three minutes. They listen to a passage of a speech made in a foreign language and try to interpret it into their mother tongue. The sentence heard is first put into the temporary storage in the brain and remains there until it is spoken out loud in the target language. While speaking that sentence the next sentence heard goes into the temporary storage, and so on. Technically speaking, there are five processes occurring at once during simultaneous interpreting: listening, understanding, language conversion, speaking and, finally, listening to one's own voice to check whether one has forgotten anything. With time, the period during which an interpreter is able to concentrate steadily on listening and speaking at the same time gets longer and longer.
Interpreting requires a constantly high level of concentration. Interpreters therefore switch turns every half hour. It is also the reason why it is highly unprofessional to work alone in an interpreting booth.
If you are curious to find out whether you have a gift for interpreting, just listen to a text, maybe of an audio book, using a set of headphones and repeat what you hear in the same language. This exercise is called shadowing. You may be surprised just how tiring it is!

What is fascinating about being an interpreter?

That is impossible to say in a single sentence! First and foremost, there is a huge amount of variety. No working day is ever the same. We gain so much insight into so many different topics, from amoebic dysentery through magnesium die casting to zero-tolerance policing. We get the chance to travel a lot and sometimes even meet world-famous people. In a nutshell: this job is never boring!

What is negative about being an interpreter?

Sometimes it is a bit difficult to harmonise one's work life with one's private life - but even that is manageable.

What can you, as the client, do to optimise your translators' performance?

Although all the translators at Clever Voices have a university degree, many years of experience at home and abroad and have acquired enormous expertise over the years, they still prepare meticulously for every translation assignment.
As our most important contact person, you are our primary resource for key information:

Target group / purpose:
It is vital for us to know who the translation's intended readers are and what purpose you are pursuing with it, so that we are able to assume the author's voice as we translate. Our main concern is to provide not just an accurate translation of the content but also to reproduce the style and character of the writing in the target language.
Before translating any text, Clever Voices translators always read up on the subject. And since we place great emphasis on using your own (corporate) terminology it would be very helpful for us if you made some reference material available to us, such as background information on your company, your website, product brochure, etc.
Prior to and during the course of producing a translation is prepared Clever Voices enter your corporate technical terms into a glossary. That way we can guarantee that recurring terminology is always translated consistently. Indeed, this glossary enables us to grant consistency not only in style but also in terminology. Perhaps there are even terminological databases in use in your company which we could use and expand.
Contact person:
There is always a chance that your text contains insider abbreviations or terms that are unclear to anyone unfamiliar with your field of work. In cases like this, having access to a specific contact person would be most helpful to us. Whenever appropriate, a translator might arrange an appointment with this contact person in order to be shown around your premises, perhaps to have a look at the product in question, get a glimpse of the way it is manufactured and to ask any relevant questions.
Handling time:
Please give us a reasonable time frame so that we can translate your documents to a professional standard and proofread them thoroughly. Realistically, we can translate between 300 and 500 standard lines per day; depending on type face, type size, etc. this corresponds to four to ten pages.

What makes the interpreters of Clever Voices stand out?

As the person whose words are being interpreted into another language, you will naturally expect the interpretation to correspond to your presentation in all respects. It goes without saying that Clever Voices don't simply convert your words into the target language - after all, your presentation contains so much more than just your words. Clever Voices also follow your manner of speech, presentation and communication. When you are talking in a very matter-of-fact manner, the interpretation will also be very matter-of-fact. When you include a lot of body language and energy in your talk, it won't get lost in translation: it will be conveyed through emphasis and accentuation. When you use a lot of rhetorical language, the interpreter will too.

As the person depending on an interpretation to understand what's being said, you will expect it to be listener-friendly. Interpreters at Clever Voices will not merely convey the words of a presentation in your language, they will provide you with that little bit extra information that is indispensable to your understanding. For example, when a speaker refers to something that is absolutely self-evident in his or her country, such as the name of a political party, the abbreviation of a football club in the national premier league, or an innuendo about a person currently making the headlines of every newspaper there, Clever Voices will see to it that you understand this as quick as a flash, as if you were familiar with that country yourself!

Let us give you an example:
One of our Clever Voice interpreted once at a symposium for trendy hair cuts in the USA. The owner of a hairdressing salon told the audience that she thinks up a new motto every month as a way of greeting customers when they call or come into the store. That month's motto was Love is in the hair. If the interpreter had simply translated this literally into German (saying Liebe liegt im Haar), the whole charm and humour of the motto (a reference to the famous love song) would have been utterly lost on the audience. The Clever Voice said the following: This month's motto is Love is in the hair, which is an allusion to the song Love is in the air, meaning in German Liebe liegt in der Luft. The literal translation of the motto is Liebe liegt im Haar.

Another example:
During a conference in Germany an American speaker walks onstage and steps up to the lectern. The audience sees him trailing a toy dog on a lead. He begins his presentation with the saying: You can't teach an old dog new tricks. If, at this juncture, the interpreter had translated this by using the strict German equivalent of this proverb (Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr.), his or her listeners would still have had no idea why the speaker was trailing a dog on a lead. The Clever Voice slipped in that crucial extra bit of information explaining what the English proverb means in German when it is translated literally, so that the listeners were able to understand the connection between the speaker's idea and the prop he had brought along.

Another example:
An American police chief gave a talk in Germany on zero-tolerance policing in New York. In the course of his presentation he mentioned that turnstile-jumping had recently been defined as a criminal offence there. If the interpreter present had just said that it was now against the law in America it is now forbidden to jump over turnstiles, the listeners would be at a loss to understand why that should be so. What was needed was some information about the New York subway system: passengers insert their MetroCard into a turnstile before boarding a subway train. So it was absolutely crucial for the interpreter to mention that turnstile jumping means fare dodging.

Another important feature that distinguishes Clever Voices is their expertise in bridging cultural gaps between different national mentalities. This becomes paramount in cases of disagreement between two or more debaters. A good interpreter needs to take account of the culture of debate and conflict management reflected in the languages concerned. Germans are said to have a rather straightforward and direct way of communication. The British, however, tend to be diplomatic and more formal. If, let's say, a German and a Briton are of different opinions, the German might say something like Wir sollten das anders machen und wie folgt vorgehen? - which in English would translate literally into: We should do this differently and take a different approach!. However, a Clever Voice would never say that. A Clever Voice would phrase this just as a British person might, namely something like this: I think at this point I would like to suggest we take a different approach.

Clever Voices can be heard clearly above the rest because they not only reproduce accurately the content of one language in another language; they also provide echoes of the unspoken context of the original message by taking differences in culture, mentality and conflict management into account in their presentation. In other words: they don't just reproduce what is said - they also reveal what is hidden between the lines!


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