Friday, 13 July 2007

Interpreting, part II

'Ladles and Gelatin,

I am extremely grapefruit for the warm red-setter I always receive here and I hope as the days collapse we will have the misfortune to make one another's aquarium, but first I would like to begin with an amusing antelope...'

This is what I hope is not coming out of my mouth on the rare occasions on which I have volunteered as an interpreter since graduation.

The reason for my foray into the world of departure lounges, German and the international Financial Times was to spend a week volunteering in a gigantic fairy-tale castle perched on top of a mountain overlooking Lake Geneva. The building is a former hotel, unchanged since F. Scott Fitzgerald, where you feel you ought really to spend your evenings flitting aesthetically between the arches of the stone balconies in a wispy dress, sipping a gin fizz, or tripping a waltz underneath the chandelier in the great hall, whilst waiting for the 1930s to come crashing in. I half expected to have to dress for dinner.
Or to find a body in a remote linen closet at the far end of the east wing on the fifth floor. I am sure I spotted M'sieur Poirot at breakfast on Sunday morning, examining the relative thickness of brioche slices ('Eh bien, Mademoiselle, your command of ze French it is Most Excellent').

This last comment sadly betrayed by my liaison performance:
- 'Une minute! Une!'
hissed my colleague, demonstrating narrow-minded French conformity to gender stereotypes. Clearly the Academie Francaise is in need of a few sessions with Tinky Winky et al.

German tactfully has a neuter gender, as I was reminded in a German workshop run by a tiny yet terrifying intern who turned out to be achtzehn jahre alt. Most importantly, I learnt 'Wie geht es dir?'- 'how's it going, dear?'.

On the final night there was a talent show, which I got to watch since it was all in either English or Russian (neither of which I understand).
Out of all the acts, the hits were:
- A dignitary from a local NGO being a thoroughly Good Sport and miming the Theory and Practice of sewing on a button (incidentally, somebody miming the action of sewing their trouserleg to their sleeve is not at all dissimilar to someone trying to re-enact the action of banging their kneecap on the bathroom sink using the office radiator...)
- A part boy-band - part folk group improvising on the Titanic theme tune, complete with nerdy Japanese boy on the piano, dishy South American boy on the recorder and re-enactment of the 'I'm flying!' scene on the dais under the chandelier.
- Ukrainian 'Miss Universe' in drag: three strapping Slav chaps with cheekbones you could spread butter on, wearing their girlfriends' sarongs over their jeans. Extracts from the relay from the Russian booth: 'No, Kostya, you went first... in... the sauna this morning...' and: 'There is no swimsuit round. This is an intellectual competition.'

Near misses were any songs that were reminiscent of the karaoke on ul. Grodzka...

N.B. the author of this blog would like it to be known that she is Thoroughly Professional in all her linguistic undertakings and is well aware of the difference between male and female. Except in that club in Leicester once: that was really confusing. And occasionally when reading Jeanette Winterson.

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