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How do you prepare for a simultaneous interpretation assignment? In this episode Darinka will unpack the secret to becoming a great simultaneous interpreter and how to be prepared for literally any interpretation assignment no matter how difficult the topic. Simultaneous interpretation is the process of interpreting what is said at the same time the speaker is giving a speech. It is considered one of the most challenging types of interpreting and requires excellent proficiency in both the target and source languages, as well as the ability to deliver the intent of the message.

headshot of darinka manginoDarinka Mangino is a conference and court interpreter for Spanish, English, and French. Darinka has over 24 years of professional experience as a high-profile Conference Interpreter. She has served as the personal interpreter of three presidents of Mexico and is hired by several international organizations like the UN and the OAS.

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Transcript – The Invisible Profession Podcast Ep. 09

Welcome to the Linguava podcast, The Invisible Profession, where we give you tools, tips, and resources, and medical interpretation and translation that helped bring to life our industry, and ultimately help improve health outcomes for the limited English proficient communities.

David: Welcome everyone to our episode. Number nine, numero nueve on our Linguava podcast, the invisible profession, and we are all in for a big treat. Today is we have a amazing guest and her name is Darinka Mangino who is coming to us straight from Mexico city this morning. She has an incredible resume that I’m going to share just a little bit to do it justice, but I won’t be able to share all of it because we would be just a little bit too long, with reading and all, but she is a conferencing court interpreter for Spanish, English, and French. She holds a master’s in advanced studies for interpreting trainers from the university of Geneva, Switzerland, and a PGC in forensic linguistics from Aston university. She also is a member of the international association of conference interpreters and the Mexican translators association.

Um, something very interesting about her that will we’ll will be unpacking as well as she has served as the personal interpreter of three presidents of Mexico and is hired by several international organizations like the UN and the OAS. So it is a huge honor to have Darinka on the show this morning.

Darinka thanks for joining us all the way from Mexico.

Darinka: Thank you, David. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here with your audience, with the colleagues, and I’m very happy to be here and share a little bit of my experience. And, uh, we would love to hear a little bit about your story as such a accomplished and professional interpreter interpreting for three different presidents of Mexico.

David: How did you get started? As, as an interpreter?

Darinka: My story as a professional interpreter began almost 25 years ago, 24 to be precise, but my actual training as an interpreter, I guess it started the day one when I was born and I in doing this days of confined and I have had a lot of time to reflect exactly where certain skills came from.

And I think that, uh, I could share with you a bit of that to understand what were the experiences that made it possible that I could pair the values and the passion for language that I learned in my early years with the skills and training you get into university. When I was born, my parents decided to make an experiment.

So my mother would speak Spanish to me. My father would speak English to me. There were both Mexicans, so they were not, uh, well, my father was not a native speaker of English so they did that experiment for a world where I was exposed to two different languages from a very early age. So I realized that at a very early age, that languages are tools and languages are part of your, of your identity. So my grandfather could speak German and he could speak Mayan because his mother was a Mayan woman from Guatemala, but he decided not to. So it was a big question that, uh, just got stuck in the back of my mind, like. Oh, can I speak another language? Can I decide which one to speak and which other language not to speak?

David: You know, it’s, it’s funny hearing, hearing your story and talking about just that, that curiosity and that interest in and passion for languages in it. I hadn’t really even thought about it that way for me as to why I, why I got started and interpreting, I was always enamored with the ability of the skill of, of interpretation is very, very challenging at first, just like it would be for anyone. But I, but now, now that you mentioned that I think about the fact that I was always drawn to idioms and just how, how language works and you really, I think that there’s, there’s something there for us as interpreters that we’re, we’re drawn to language in a sort of a unique way, not just simply learning languages.

It was great, but of course that doesn’t make you an interpreter. Right. So I think that there’s something, something there too, like really being drawn to more of the what’s behind the curtain with, with languages.

Darinka: Exactly. And, uh, I always like to define. How important languages are for interpreting as having a vehicle. So you can have a car, a very nice car and languages are the gasoline that you put into the car, but to make it work, you need a whole lot more. And in my case, I was exposed to different cultures, even in my own family. Well, my parents got divorced, so I spend a lot of time with my mother’s family. Just visiting my father’s family was a completely different culture.

And, uh, on his side, I was in close contact with a lot of artists as well. So it was a very interesting way to see, okay, we’re all Mexicans, but I I’m seeing two different cultures. They don’t use the same words. They don’t laugh about the same things. So I was somehow. If I use the word force to be neutral, or somehow as an observer of this two realities, it’s, it’s a very strong word to say force, but when you are little, well, you are in the world of adults and you cannot make a lot of, of, of decisions.

So I somehow saw that, that you can use that language is not only words. For example, the, the art that I was in contact with was a video art. My, my father’s wife was the first woman to bring video art to Mexico. So it was a complete novelty. So it, I realized that you can express through images a lot and some, some expressions in, in language.

And, uh, I think of many images that, uh, can describe how the Mexican culture works are very vivid. So the way you can add knowledge, and emotion into what you want to communicate and expressing it by, by choosing the right words. It was fascinating to me from, from the beginning, understanding the culture of the language that you’re speaking is essential to be an interpreter.

And sometimes when we live in a country, for example, in Mexico, I need to make an extra effort to understand sure. Of the U S for example, the culture of the UK, the culture of Australia, because we get all of those varieties of English here. In your case, you get all the varieties. So Spanish, for example, when, when you hire a Spanish interpreter, You hope that the user of that service comes from the same country, because otherwise you would sometimes, uh, feel that they are speaking Greek to you because it’s, uh, you don’t know the culture.

So speaking a language. Yes, it helps. But if you don’t understand the culture, you are lost.

David: That’s so important to when you’re going into any, any sort of an assignment. For interpretation, knowing ahead of time, what that organization is and then who you’re going to be interpreting for and where they’re from is not always information that’s, that’s, uh, available to us as interpreters, but extremely important, especially depending on the type of, uh, type of type of assignment.

It is a skill and a challenge. And I’ve talked with a lot of interpreters that have tried to learn simultaneous interpreting. Um, and not, not been successful or not felt comfortable to that level. So what would be your advice for some of those interpreters who are wanting to maybe they, they are able to do consecutive well and they feel comfortable and confident there.

How do they make that, that big step to being able to get that the level of competence and training and confidence in, in simultaneous interpreter, what would be your advice?

Darinka: Of course, well, practice makes perfect. So we have to practice and practice and practice until certain skills become automatic. And by this, I mean, being able to listen, speak, think the side, choose, watch what is going on in front of you, use your glossary and communicate with your colleagues.

So there are many things that are needed to perform simultaneous interpretation. So what, what happens is that most of the times we see the outcome, you see someone just clicking the on button on a console and they start speaking and you only see them speaking in a different language and listening in a different language.

So in between there is a lot that goes on, but, uh, we need to step back. Uh, certain steps in order to begin understanding what is needed in every time that a speaker comes to the floor and shares a speech, for example. So if an interpreter only practices simultaneous interpreting, just turning on the TV and shadowing in English, what the they listen, or they just start interpreting what they hear from the radio.

Of course, it will help you get comfortable with having two sound inputs at the same time, but we are missing a lot in terms of what communication is. So a simultaneous interpreter is saying in a different language, what the speaker is, uh, just said in, in, in a different language. So we need to understand first, who is the speaker?

What is the purpose of that speaking, sharing? An idea, a comment, whatever it is with their audience or the person in front of them. So, first of all, I would advise people to understand communication and the role of the interpreter in that, uh, exchange. Another advise would be to understand your language, know it very well.

And understand how people communicate ideas in their own cultures because every organization will have their own format. And in conferences, for example, we, we get a lot of delegates. We get a lot of speakers that would speak in very formal terms. And according to the rules of specific, uh, situations like the UN assembly, for example, Uh, a welcome address from, from a precedent.

For example, there, there are rules, there are very specific rules that sometimes, uh, newcomers to the profession, they are not aware of all of those protocols that, uh, that, uh, speakers of a language in a specific context have to comply with. So if you’re not aware of that, it’s very likely that you are going to make the wrong choice.

And, uh, the best example is what happens in court. So there are many rules. You don’t know the rules, you won’t be able to understand a thing. We call ourselves interpreters, but we don’t do the same work. And if you usually working courts and then you are offered a job for a specialized conference. If you don’t have the right skills, it might be very likely that you would run into trouble.

And the same thing for a conference interpreter, if they are asked to interpret in a, in a hearing and, uh, well we both have the skills. It doesn’t matter if it’s simultaneous consecutive sight translation, we all do the same, but these realities are very. And the way community, uh, the information is presented is very different so that when people decide to move from one area of specialization to the other, well, sometimes they are unaware of how different communication is.

And, uh, for aspiring interpreters, for example, we all want to be UN interpreters. Well, that is this specific field that requires a specific, uh, skills that you. Have to use in court. For example, there you need other skills, so, well of course, if you work for the international court, it’s, it would be similar, but, uh, the, the crimes are different.

So you need to adapt depending on the area where you, you envisioned to work and the future, but it’s not easy to do. To jump from one setting to the other, without the right training and with the right awareness of the rules and the ethics, because that is also a very important component of professional interpretation.

David: Yeah. And one thing as far as preparation are relating this, even to the medical field, when you’re, when you’re thinking about. Taking an assignment that could be that oncology is going to be very different than going to the dentist, interpreting for someone getting a tooth extraction or our physical therapy appointment or someone who’s, who’s having a heart condition.

So knowing that information and following, following something similar. You’re going, are you going to a hospital or going to a clinic? What’s the department that you’re, that you’re going to knowing that is, uh, is, is extremely important. And I’m a big advocate for all of us as language service providers, to make sure that we are doing our part in, in sharing that information and providing that information to all of our interpreters before they go to an assignment.

So then that way, if they’re going to let’s say the leukemia appointment that they’re able to be extra versed in that terminology before showing up and having to feel like you’re scrambling.

Darinka: Exactly and, uh, when it comes to technical terms, those are words that you’ve never heard. You’ve never used and, uh, acquiring language and using new words require a long time.

Well, we can see it when when kids learn to speak, well, they start articulating phrases after two or three years of practice. So. We need tools. We, and it’s possible. We, we, interpreters, are very adaptable. I can learn. Well, on average, every time I have a new topic, a new topic in, in my assignments on average, I research over 300 terms. So that’s, uh, that’s how, how big.

David: We don’t, we don’t know every word already in the entire, in every, in every language. You’re not, you’re not a human dictionary. I think a lot of times, I think a lot of times. Um, and I want to, I want to pivot here to, to another topic talking about, um, limitations as interpreters.

We are humans. We are not human dictionary. We are not calculators. We, we do not know every, every term a word. So I think that that’s really important too, to be real about because sometimes as an interpreter, when we’re asking. Uh, clarification on a term that maybe we have not heard before. We’re not familiar with, we didn’t quite hear, or we want to make sure before we just assume we think we might know what that term is, but we want, we don’t want to assume how do you, as a, as a conference interpreter with so much at stake of different people’s speaking tone, their speed, their actions.

The, the volume in which they’re speaking or the, maybe even the volume that you have access to. So if you’re in a booth, how, what is that volume level? How close are they to the microphone? How much do you have access to be able to ask, ask that question? Um, for them to speak louder, speak closer to the microphone.

When things, things go wrong as they can sometimes , Murphy’s Law. What, what are you, what is it a, a simultaneous interpreter able to do when it comes to correcting themselves? If they, if a mistake is made, how are we able to adequately try to correct, correct that, and when are we not, when do we not have the opportunity to, when we have to just move on?

Darinka: In conference interpreting, we have the benefit of a stepping into the shoulders of the colleagues who were here before us and created this profession. So they did a very good job in setting the rules. And, uh, and in terms of, uh, informing, uh, organizations, what were the needs of interpreters? So most of those rules and those practices are well established.

So if you watch videos of the United Nations, you see that they use various specific microphones and you can only have one voice at the same time. So. In terms of, uh, the level, the minimum working conditions. I believe that, uh, in general, There is a lot of ground that we have achieved under rules are understood by public speakers because as public speakers, they just want to be heard and they know that, uh, microphones are tools so we tend to work with very experienced people in terms of communicating before an audience. So you might get a, in a specialized conferences, people who are not that experienced, they are nervous and they might want to talk very fast because the only thing they want is to step down and do something else, but being presenting a paper, so we might get something of that sort more often, but in general, Uh, technicians, which are, are part of the team in conference interpreting they it’s their job to take care of that. Well, that is speaking in general. We, we, we see that, uh, meetings are changing and format, for example.

So we tend to have faster speakers because you only have two hours and you need to have all delegates speak or people who have to present in a, in a briefing session. So that can be, uh, an obstacle, but in terms of what we do in conference interpreting, we don’t have a record that is all the time overseeing what we do. And there are, uh, different rules that you do find in medical interpreting on in court.

So we are, our job is to enable communication and present communication in a way that is understandable. So we have a little bit more room of, uh, shaping the message in a way that, uh, the listeners of, for the message can digest easily. And in court, you have to be very, you, you can’t even take away the umms and the hmms and the, uh, you know, all of those particles of communication that have a specific role in, in court.

They’re assessing the witnesses’ credibility. And conference interpreting it is about spreading knowledge spreading ideas. And that gives us an opportunity to tweak a little bit the message in terms of shape, not in terms of substance. So in that sense, we can, we have more more, more space, but at the same time, we need more knowledge of different fields in order to do that.

Because in conferences we might sometimes omit information. For the sake of communication. It’s not taken information out because we don’t know how to say that in the other language, that if you don’t know how to say something in the other languages, because you didn’t prepare probably your mastery of the language is not good enough, but there are choices that, uh, that are valid.

In in this field, and this is something that you can’t do in other settings for my, my, what I know about, um, medical interpreting in community settings is that you serve more of as a mediator and you have other roles, do you interpret, but you can add information. You can contribute to prevent any misunderstanding because there’s liability and doctors have certain responsibilities that, uh, get them to court if they don’t comply with that .

David: When that’s done so with, with, you know, clarifying language, and together, there are times where you step out of that conduit. And you become the cultural broker or, or, um, clarifier or even advocate at some, some situations where someone may be maybe at harm. We’re getting, uh, getting close to our time here. There’s so many questions I, um, I still have it. I’m going to just leave it to one, one more. And then before I get to that question though, too, I want to make sure that, that everyone here in our podcast community has the ability to, if they did want to get in touch with you, uh, maybe a follow up, follow up question for you directly.

What’s the what’s the best way people can, can get in touch with you, LinkedIn or email?

Darinka: Thank you. Yes. Yes. Uh, I use um, social networks. I’m on LinkedIn. Look for Darinka Mangino on Twitter at DMW underscore interpreter, um, on Facebook as well, that Darinka Mangino and my website well actually, I have three projects.

So the way you can contact me is, uh, That’s my own personal project for on demand courses, personal coaching, and, uh, some other, some other trainings that, uh, that I offered that cover court interpreting conference. And, uh, And well, I also get contacted by associations to the sign specific courses.

So you’ll find a wide variety there. I also, um, part of our collective, I recently created , which is www with a Y in Spanish. Uh, oh, cenzontle that’s uh, that’s uh, now what the world is where it is. So it says C E N Z O N T L E .com. Uh, we never thought that a ha how difficult that would be to share internationally, because most of the courses that you will find there are specific for the needs of Mexico, which is a very, uh, it’s a market that has very different needs.

So. Basically offer courses for Mexico or whomever is interested in learning more about Mexico and how we work in Mexico. That’s uh, another place. And I also have another project with my dear colleague and we design an offer courses to hone your. Yeah, your skills in the use of technology and interpreting basically Chi tools and, uh, well, with all of the changes that the pandemic brought along, we share trainings on how to interpret using zoom and many other many other options.

David: That’s excellent. Well, and that’s a great, great resource, encourage anyone that’s interested to reach out. And as we know, from our very own. Oh, as there speaks volumes and raves about your, your training courses. So we know that directly from, from experience. So, and we’ll make sure I’m put all your information on the, on the video as well as, as, as any posts that we do so people can, can be able to get in touch with you, Darinka.

And my last question for you here before, before we close is, you know, you’ve, you’ve dedicated. So many years, 25 years to, to interpretation and to bridging, bridging the, bridging the gap. And it really, you know, helping, making sure that the communication is, is, is had, what is, if you had to say in one phrase or one word or one short phrase, what is it that, that drives you to, to be the, be the best interpreter you can be?

Darinka: Uh, service, I would say that, uh, having the possibility of being someone else’s voice is a huge responsibility and I take it very seriously. So I, in every job, I try to be the best version of my professional self. So, and that requires to lifestyle. So I try to. To keep my skills up and on running. And I tried to learn as much as I can from every, every field to feel confident that I can be up to the task, because if, uh, you, you cannot feel that you’re ever ready for everything and interpreting.

So I like to take that responsibility very, very seriously. So that, that would be the phrase.

David: I love that service. And from talking with you, it’s very clear that, that you have that, that servanthood leadership, that heart of a servant to, uh, to be able to lead and, um, and really give back to the community in so many different, different countries and presidents that we’ve been able to, um, uh, to help service. So, so we thank you for all, all of your service that you’re, that you’re doing. Thank you for the example that you, that you’ve been to so many of us interpreters that are, that are learning and, and, and coming up and, um, we, uh, we’ll continue to continue cheering, cheering for you and all of, all of your endeavors and trainings.

And again, we just encourage everyone to take a moment and check out Darinka’s trainings on online, check out her site and be able to connect with her because she is an amazing trainer. And we know that, know that from experience. And we want to just thank everyone for tuning into our episode number, number nine here.

If there was a question that you have for, for us from, from this conversation. Go ahead and, uh, pop that into the comments. There’s a topic that you’d love for us to, to share about an upcoming episode. We’d love to hear that as well. And also if you haven’t already take a moment and hit like, and subscribe to the podcast so that we, uh, we know that you’re, you’re enjoying enjoying it and feel free to share it with your community and networks so that they can also get the same, same content as well.

So Darinka, thank you so much for joining us today.

Darinka: On the contrary, David, it has been a pleasure from the moment I got your email. And in preparation for this interview, I have to congratulate you because you are very organized and all the information that I received I’ve been interviewed in many occasions, but you have a very, very unique style so, so thank you for that opportunity to prepare in advance. And thank you for this opportunity to meet the, your colleagues and for sharing a little bit of my view, uh, interpreting. So thank you. I appreciate this opportunity and good luck with every Linguava interpreters endeavor, and I hope to see you in the future.

David: Excellent. Thank you, Danika. It was honestly our pleasure and we’ll be definitely will be talking soon and look forward to connecting again.