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TransLink Translation Agency acted as the official translator of the events during the Russian Chairmanship of the Group of Eight (G8) in 2006, including the summit held on 15-17 July in St. Petersburg.
For the implementation of this event of the highest international significance, we attracted more than 100 best professionals in the translation field. It was the largest project in the translation market at that time. And we did well!
To try to understand the nature of the project from within, we asked the translators: What did it feel like to work at the summit and the other G8 events? What was particularly memorable for you? Did you encounter any difficulties? How anxious were you?
It is all exclusive information, directly from the translators, unaltered.
Mikhail Kabitsky. Portuguese language: the meeting of the Group of Eight energy ministers.
“During the meeting, I worked, on the whole, as usual. You could feel the large scale of the event; the organisers were running around a lot. I was especially pleased that I made new acquaintances among translators. The overall impression is satisfaction with good work.”
Mikhail Shumikhin. English language: over 15 events in the framework of the G8.
“As you know, it is the first time that Russia has been serving as Chair of the G8, so it would not be entirely correct to juxtapose this working experience. However, I would like to note that, for a number of years, I have translated for the ministers of different countries many times, including during important “telebridges”.
The most significant thing about the G8 events is, probably, the fact that foreigners really discover the new Russia all over again: sometimes they get some positive information that they do not really expect, whereas the Russian side makes quite practical adjustments in its earlier views (for example, moderator of the healthcare round table Prof. Komarov informed our President through Ms. Pamfilova about the realistic assessments given by foreign specialists to the status and prospects of the development of the Russian medical sphere). I think he was going to return to this topic in September-October 2013 in Moscow.
It was interesting to participate in this event from various “intellectual” points of view: to hear what the high-ranking representatives of the other countries’ governments had to say and, most importantly, to see for myself how our country made the most worthy showing in terms of the concrete politicians and the organisational level.”
Mikhail Firstov. German language : the meeting of the finance ministers (Moscow), the energy security conference, the meeting of the healthcare ministers, the meeting of the finance ministers (St. Petersburg), the meeting of the interior ministers.
“It is not the first time that I have translated at an event of that level. However, I would like to note that the top-level events that I have so far translated at (mainly, thanks to my continuous cooperation with the German embassy) were bilateral, where the working languages were only Russian and German; for example, the Governmental Consultations with the participation of V. Putin and G. Schröder held in October 2003 in Ekaterinburg. But all the events with so many working languages as at the Group of Eight were one level down.
How was I feeling? I was slightly nervous, of course, as the level of the event was extremely high. But this was compensated for by the relative simplicity of the topic. At this type of event, participants rarely manage to get down to the discussion of any purely specialist issues. In this sense, I think it is much more difficult to work at some technical, medical or agricultural conference, where the translator has to immerse in a fairly narrow topic at which he or she is a priori far not as good as the discussion participants because this field is the matter of their whole lives. So I did feel nervous but, probably, no more than before any other simultaneous interpreting event.
There was, obviously, curiosity as well like at any other top-level event. Moreover, participation in such activities is, to a certain extent, a mark for the translator’s professionalism, which surely boosts your pride.
My meetings with colleagues were, perhaps, most memorable, as events with so many languages are rare. So it was very nice to see some of my old acquaintances again and to meet translators who I have never met before.”
Peter Aleinikov. English language: the International Anti-Drug Conference (Paris II), the Civil G8 International NGO Forum 2006.
“I have already worked at conferences of quite a high level before (for example, I have translated for Mikhail Gorbachev and Shimon Peres), but this is not something I am used to do. I felt slightly nervous at the Ministerial Conference, but the atmosphere at the Civil G8 was more familiar and it was probably, I would say, more interesting and informative for me – I translated at the meeting of a specialised group on genetically modified products. I learned some interesting facts there and met a few biologists who I had earlier worked with. Perhaps, one of the most curious moments was when, during V. Putin’s speech at the Ministerial Conference, the Greens unfolded their anti Nuclear Power Plant banners.”
Eline Tyuremnova. English language: the International Anti-Drug Conference (Paris II), the Civil G8 International NGO Forum 2006.
“Of course, it is not my first experience of working at this type of event. On 27-28 March earlier this year, I translated at the first meeting of the Russia–Islamic World Strategic Vision Group attended by Mr. Primakov, Presidents of Chechnya and Tatarstan; on 3-7 April – the Moscow International Energy Forum “Russian Fuel & Energy Complex in the 21st Century” attended by Anatoly Chubais, Vladimir Zhirinovsky etc. I also regularly translate press conferences at RIA Novosti: I have translated a press conference with Madeleine Albright there. A couple of years ago, I translated at V. Zhirinovsky’s meeting with Condoleezza Rice at the State Duma. So many events that you can’t remember them all. What sort of emotions did I have? Probably, my main emotion was the sense of responsibility and association with a matter of universal importance. What was particularly memorable? The excellent, clear-cut organisation of your events.”
Dmitry Bolotin. French language: over 15 events in the framework of the G8.
“Was it my first experience? Of course, it wasn’t, otherwise we would not have been given this job. Before I have translated for presidents, prime ministers, ministers and many other outstanding people, for example: Joe Dassin, Patricia Kaas and Claudie Haigneré (France’s first woman astronaut)...
There were no particular emotions. Work is work. I remember I felt quite sad when we had to have lunch in a horrible canteen for service staff at the President Hotel. Translators are not a creative profession but “servants” – we have been treated like that since Soviet times. Back then, one of our officials that I translated for said to me: “Why would you be tired? You are just wagging your tongue, that’s all.” Hopefully, through joint efforts, we will take our profession very soon to a new level.”
Nikolai Zhivago. Italian language: the meeting of the Group of Eight finance ministers (Moscow), the meeting of the heads of the government regulatory bodies for environmental and technological energy security, the meeting of the Group of Eight healthcare ministers, the meeting of the education ministers, the meeting of the Group of Eight interior ministers, justice ministers and prosecutors general; the meeting of the foreign affairs ministers.
“I have been working at the top-level State and government events since 1972. I had the same thoughts and feelings as I always have in these types of circumstances: informational sharpening, responsibility and, of course, constructive creative unrest, without which you cannot work. Simultaneous interpreting is similar to a solo performance: here it is impossible to win something once and for all. A top-notch translator is like an actor. Hence, every time they have to try to win the surrounding space, everything around them, first of all to win themselves, by proving their ability to tame and conquer the material. Good nervousness help you mobilise psychologically and intellectually, it helps you pull yourself together. And you should remember that ministers and presidents are also people, just like us. This restores the equilibrium.
At the Group of Eight, I was particularly pleased to meet up again with my old acquaintances – my talented colleagues – and to meet new people, who are also really special and talented. I do not look at all these activities as an event; for me it is interesting, creative and even adventurous work and also an excellent opportunity to meet up with my colleagues.”
Georgy Melnikov. Portuguese language: the meeting of the Group of Eight energy ministers.
“My first experience of simultaneous interpreting is not so easy to describe chronologically – it was years back somewhere at the 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th Congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, access to which was given only to the most scrupulously selected and trusted interpreters in each language that was required. These events were the meeting place for the elite of the translation beau-monde of that time. There were also various international trade-union and industry conferences and seminars as well as other activities which required the participation of simultaneous and consecutive interpreters.
There were no emotions, just some nervousness. Even by the UN standards, if a speaker is going to make a speech from the international stage, the text of his or her speech should be submitted a few hours before the speech is made, otherwise that presentation can be removed from the agenda. But, as you would appreciate, this is not possible in simultaneous interpreting.”
Mark Bernardini. Italian language: the meeting of the Group of Eight energy ministers, the meeting of the education ministers, the meeting of the Group of Eight finance ministers, the St. Petersburg summit.
“I have been working in translation since 1978. I have repeatedly translated for Italian personalities as well as for Russian and Soviet figures, including Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin, Kudrin, Medvedev, Sergei Ivanov and Shvydkoy. I also interpreted at various functions of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the observers’ missions in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan. I also worked at the Group of Eight in 1994 in Italy during the Italian Chairmanship.
Working at top-level events is my standard. I would, probably, single out the feeling of inquisitiveness: the more experience you have, the better you translate at the subsequent events in terms of terminology, awareness etc. You always need to be in the know, that is why I have satellite TV at home so I can watch the channels of the Italian and European Parliaments.
To be honest, I was slightly surprised to see that the level of technical equipment at the G8 events in 2006 left much to be desired. The only place where everything was more or less ok was St. Petersburg.”
Sergei Yemelyanov. Spanish language: the meeting of the Group of Eight energy ministers.
“Before the work started, I felt proud, curious and a bit nervous. During the event itself, there was no nervousness on the part of the organisers and those who were in charge simultaneous interpreting. We worked in a calm, businesslike atmosphere.”
Tatyana Dotsenko. German language: the meeting of the Group of Eight healthcare ministers, the meeting of the Group of Eight education ministers.
“The level of these meetings meant a lot to me. Before the start of the event, I felt slightly nervous, which was natural; it is that feeling that, perhaps, every good actor has before entering the stage. Among the most memorable moments for me at the event is the seamless work of the technicians given the not so advanced simultaneous interpreting equipment. A big thank-you to them.”
Alexander Heitzman. French language: the meeting of the Group of Eight interior ministers, justice ministers and prosecutors general; the International Anti-Drug Conference (Paris II).
“In the course of the events, I felt both interested and curious. I was nervous no more than usual – simultaneous interpreting involves a certain degree of stress associated with creative unrest. The meetings with my old friends were particularly valuable to me as well as making new acquaintances among my colleagues.”
Olga Korsheninnikova. English language: the IAEA International Conference on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems – Facing Safety and Security Challenges, the World Social Forum, the meeting of experts and high-ranking officials on the preparation for the meeting of the Group of Eight healthcare ministers, the meeting of the Group of Eight healthcare ministers, the meeting of the Group of Eight interior ministers, justice ministers and prosecutors general; the Civil G8 International NGO Forum 2006.
“I can’t complain that I have had lots of these events in my life – I am still quite young :-). In January 2005, I was at the economic forum in Davos (Switzerland) – I provided interpreting at the cultural programme events and a couple of meetings of high-ranking officials.
After a dozen attempts to answer the question about what sorts of thoughts and emotions I had during the events, I have to admit that all of these would sound silly. I could, of course, think of something pretentious or politically correct additionally, but I did have a pleasant sense of belonging afterwards. It is a shame that everything nice and interesting has the habit of coming to an end.”