Saturday, April 26, 2014

On Civilians

You’ve made it in and out of an EMCI programme. You’ve put in the blood, sweat, and tears and made Rocky look like an amateur. With little pomp and circumstance, the jury d’examination finale told you you passed, handed you your diplôme provisoire, and sent you on your merry way. You navigated the murky waters of whatever market you are in, received a helping hand (or not) from your former profs, and maybe even scaled that elusive Everest we know as “institutional accreditation.”  

But have you forgotten something during those long hours talking to your dictaphone?  Namely, the 7 billion other people on this world who don’t know what the devil AIIC stands for?  

That’s right, old chap. Most people don’t know or care what an A language is. Let alone a B or C.

For the past 12-36 months you may have eschewed such peons as ignorant fools. Sooner or later, however, you will have to accept that most of your non-interpreting friends are… well… not interpreters. (You did remember to keep them around on Facebook and What’sApp for after you finished your EMCI, right?  Right?) You may wind up dating such a civilian. If you had any rational bone left in your body, you certainly wouldn’t date another neurotic, narcissistic interpreter. While you were rewriting your old consec notes for the nth time did you forget that most likely you were actually begat by not one, but two people who do not know who Danica Seleskovic was?

How, indeed, do you return to normalcy and conduct a semi-functional relationship with the non-interpreting set? Remember, no cheating: translation alumni from your programme don’t count.   
* First things first, accept that interpreters’ standards for language proficiency are not the same as normal people’s. Your Erasmus friends who knew you as having excellent Polish back in Warsaw are bound to think that you interpret into Polish all day long and just won’t understand why it is only a C. In words of a great sophist, let it be. They can’t understand. They aren’t crazy enough to, anyway. Also, be kind, and overlook people’s language faux-pas on social media. Not everyone is a perfectionist when it comes to crafting the perfect tweet.

* Dating- prospective mates are bound to be drawn to your exotic persona and mysterious past.  Little do they know what awaits. Try to milk that manic pixie dream girl charm for as long as you can before they realise what kind of a neurotic, narcissistic, and crazed artist (but without the groupies) they have gotten into, come to their right senses, and get the hell out of Dodge. Try not to let them witness you practicing UNGA speeches before a big accreditation exam. And keep a shred of mystery dear, don’t let him hear you play your dictaphone.  

* Parents- your parents don’t even know what a sophisticated and cosmopolitan creature they have created. Try not to remind them too much of this. Still, they do enjoy hearing about your close encounters with various Prime Ministers in the hallway. Try not to outwardly express your irritation when they excitedly ask if you spoke to Nigel Farage. Of course you didn’t. On the other hand, do send them pictures of yourself interpreting in faraway lands or standing inches away from Bundeskanzler Merkel. They will eat that shit up.

* EMCI friends who didn’t pass- You will no doubt have several class chums who either don’t make it through, or who decide they’d rather live a normal life and quit interpreting. Depending on the circumstances, you may never see them again. Then again, they may go on to lead fulfilling lives and careers in another field. Yes, it happens. See above item regarding the 7 billion people who don’t work in an interpreting booth. Be nice and keep them around. Others will persevere and begin working on the gray market, they may even make it to the legitimate market one day and you might see them at UNESCO. It will be awkward, but when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!  

* Musician, actor, dancers, and other artist friends-  Perhaps no one can understand the pain of accreditation exams like someone who has to go through painful auditions for income. As time goes by, you will realize how much you have in common with these folk.

* Oxbridge lawyers, Normaliens, anyone who went through a French prépa- No one can appreciate extreme academic pressure like these friends. They also need to blow off steam from time to time.  Keep them around for when you buy a bottle or ziplock baggie of the good stuff. Better yet, let them buy the good stuff, they can afford it.

* Globetrotting friends- You met them on Erasmus, in a hostel during a séjour linguistique, somewhere where you picked up another C language, and a lot of good hash. You share a lot of great memories (“Erasmus orgasmus, hermano!”), and they own a lot of photographs and video footage that could probably destroy your career. Maybe they’ve settled down, maybe they are on permanent duty at a bar in the Algarve. Keep them in your life, but don’t be surprised when they think you’ve sold out and started working for the Man when you tell them about how you have to wear a suit to work and shave now, and were the voice of Barroso last week.

These are some of the major groups that you will have to deal with in your
reéducation into sociability and la bienséance. Keep in mind: recovery does not look like a straight line in a graph. It will be full of progressions and regressions. Don’t worry about the regressions, your interpreter colleagues will always be there to further pull you into a pit of eccentricity and isolation.

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