Omelette du fromage isn't going to cut it...
July 5, 2012 10:43 AM   Subscribe

So I have a chance to interpret for a bunch of French chefs who are coming to my city. The catch: I have zero knowledge of the hotel industry.

I was offered an interpretation assignment with a group of French chefs who will arrive for a week-long stay at one of my city's best hotels. Initially, I was under the impression that they were simply going to be conducting workshops for the hotel chefs, and so I prepared accordingly- my vocab lists focused on ingredients, techniques, what have you. Except it turns out that I'm expected to help coordinate between the French chefs and the hotel chefs for two major State events. Things like checking whether supplies have arrived, how the two teams are going to manage time and resources, checking up on the state of materials, resources etc provided by the hotel, making sure the two teams work smoothly together, the whole nine yards.

I have zero background in hospitality and no idea even where to start. The assignment starts Sunday afternoon. I have a good working knowledge of French, but right now I'm panicking so hard I can't think straight.

posted by Tamanna to Grab Bag (3 answers total)
First, congratulations on the gig! Second, I've been there, and I know how unpleasant things can get if the people you're supposed to be interpreting for lose confidence in your abilities.

However, no need to panic. Things are going to be okay - the challenges you have are not really related to interpretation at, all, but are more operational.

Think of yourself as a project manager (another tough gig).

Who is paying you? If it's an agency, you need to find out from the agency who the project lead is on the client side - who is the agency trying to make happy? Who is paying the bills?

What you really need to do is to determine who is leading this initiative - you need to have access to an agenda or project plan, with key outcomes. You need to know who on each team is responsible for making sure that these objectives are getting met.

Basically, you've got to find out what the hell is going on, and who cares what's going on, and you need to really narrow down the people that you've got to please - for example, identify a key player on the French side, and a key player on the English speaking side and try to get them to act as gatekeepers in a way. You'll need their info so you can effectively do your job, and to also enhance your reputation with the group early on.

Don't panic, though. The actual interpretation is going to be pretty easy.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2012

Another thing: never show fear. Above and beyond possessing the ability to fluidly and accurately parse what is being said in real time, interpretation also depends on establishing the trust of your clients.

So if you appear nervous or tense, they're going to pick up on that. One thing you could do to prepare yourself is to try interpreting in front of a video camera, and playing back to observe your mannerisms.

Turn on the TV to a talk show or something, and start interpreting what's being said as though it was a business environment. Record what you look like, and review the recording to observe your body language
posted by KokuRyu at 1:48 PM on July 5, 2012

Thanks for the answers so far! I should clarify that I spent two years in interpretation school, so that aspect doesn't bother me, it's just that I have no knowledge of the hospitality industry and therefore no idea where to start looking for vocab. Any pointers in that direction would be most helpful.
posted by Tamanna at 7:18 PM on July 5, 2012

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