Katja Virtanen

Katja Virtanen

Carried away by the speaker – being an interpreter at Nordic Business Forum

interpreter, interpreter and interpreting, language technology, Nordic Business Forum, Nordic Business Forum, partnerships

Nordic Business Forum is the largest annual business seminar in the Nordic countries. Delingua’s interpreters will again take care of the on-site and live stream interpreting at this mega event this year. What is it like for the interpreters?

From the Finnish perspective, Nordic Business Forum is an exceptional event. No other business seminar sells out more than 5,000 tickets a year in advance, attracts equally prominent speakers to the stage or receives similar praise from its audience. At a well-organised event like this, the attendees are naturally provided with professional simultaneous interpreting.

The simultaneous interpreting of the English presentations into Finnish and Russian have been listened to by hundreds of attendees either at the venue or as a live stream at the NBForum LIVE service.


Each speaker is a keynote speaker

What is it like to interpret at an event where each speaker is a keynote speaker? Past speakers have included Al Gore, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Garry Kasparov. This year, the stage will be taken by actor and musician Will Smith and Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group.

According to Suvi Rapola and Mari Janatuinen, who interpret from English into Finnish at Nordic Business Forum, working at an event like this differs from ordinary interpreting assignments, such as the annual meetings of companies. Speeches are spellbinding and require the interpreter to identify in a very special manner with the speaker.

“Merely repeating the message monotonously would deprive the listener of the atmosphere of the event. The interpreter must truly get under the skin of the speaker. For me, it means paying close attention to the speech being interpreted and the speaker’s body language. I often notice that I gesture in sync with the speaker even if that is not necessary,” says Suvi Rapola.

On the other hand, the interpreter must balance between cultures also when it comes to the manner of speaking.

“Loudness exhibited in one culture may be regarded as highly artificial in another culture and what is considered compact and concise in one culture is felt rude in another,” Mari Janatuinen points out.


Getting ready with the aid of YouTube

A professional interpreter prepares thoroughly for each assignment, and often the majority of work is carried out before the interpreting itself. Usually, the speakers’ presentations are delivered to the interpreter in advance so that he or she can think about appropriate expressions. The interpreter also follows topical issues, such as current affairs, financial news and sometimes even sports results, as presentations may contain references to these.

The interpreters also got ready for their assignment by watching and listening to the speakers’ presentations on YouTube. As the speakers were famous, finding information was not difficult.

Interviews and speakers with predictable presentations have usually proven to be the easiest cases for interpreting, whereas fast speakers and culture-specific references are difficult for interpreters. Sometimes the most challenging speakers, with most references to American products and companies, such as Nilofer Merchant in 2015, speak at the end of a long day of interpreting.

“In that case, help from a colleague in the booth is priceless as he or she may have heard something more clearly or come up with a good expression faster,” Suvi Rapola notes.

“The biggest asset in challenging situations is comprehensive general knowledge that enables you to avoid things coming as a surprise, as well as sufficient humility: the speaker must be allowed to lead as if in a dance, the interpreter is there only to help,” Mari Janatuinen adds.


Well-functioning technology

At a well-organised event, technology works, too. A good sound system is key. Furthermore, interpreters either have a direct line of sight to the speaker or have separate displays. If the interpreting booths are positioned so that speakers are mainly speaking in another direction, separate displays are an absolute must. The event’s camera personnel do a brilliant job from the interpreters’ perspective, too.

“My interpreting at last year’s event was completely based on watching the display as it enabled me to observe the speakers’ gestures and expressions.”

Delingua offers interpreting to Nordic Business Forum with the help of the Linguali application. Download the app to your smartphone. Get comfortable in your seat at Helsinki’s Messukeskus on 2–3 October. Put on your headphones and let the interpreting begin!

More detailed instructions on listening to interpreting can be found on the Nordic Business Forum website.