A Interpreter’s Suitcase

An essential element in the life of any Chinese interpreter is the suitcase. Unlike translators who prefer to focus on written translation, our interpreters have to travel more or less frequently outside our city of residence and base of operations.

Sometimes people around us tell us how much fun it is to travel so much, to discover new places and not just get on a train or plane for the summer holidays. It’s true that traveling for work makes you get to know places you might not normally go for pleasure. However, the other side of the coin is that you usually have little (or no) time to see anything other than the venue where the conference or hotel takes place. Because, yes, we are travelling, but we are working.

Chinese simultaneous translation booth

Recently something happened to me that might not cause too many problems for a normal tourist, but it did for those who travel for work: my suitcase did not arrive on time at the airport of destination. The first plane I had to get on was considerably delayed and the connection time between flight and flight was non-existent: I had to run like a soul chasing the devil through the airport. I arrived with just enough time to embark, but not my suitcase.

The main problem was not to receive compensation or not, but to have to work the next day without knowing what you are going to wear. Despite the company’s promises, which assured me that my suitcase would arrive safely at the hotel that same night, I was suspicious. I couldn’t risk showing up in the simultaneous translation booth with the travel clothes from the previous day, so I went to the nearest mall to buy some suits. Luckily, the meeting I had to work at was relatively informative: a summer polo shirt and pants were enough.

simultaneous translation equipment

Finally, the suitcase arrived at the hotel that same safe and sound night, just as I had been promised. The purchases I made were unnecessary… but what if I had risked not buying anything? Would I have had to go into the booth with shorts and summer sandals?