Sunday, July 9, 2017

You Don't Need to be Fluent to be an Interpreter

Sometimes you don't even have to talk.


A camera-shy Igarashi-san.
I paced back and forth through the clutter of my living room, calendar in one hand, cell phone in the other. On the other end of the line was Mr. Sato, a programming director for NHK, Japan’s national television broadcasting station.

“Have you ever done any interpreting?” he asked. He sounded about my age.

Ten years prior I’d gotten on as a temporary interpreter for ESPN, at the World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo. No matter that I spent most of the week taping down loose wires and restocking the fridge in the staff area. It was, at least in name, an interpreting gig.

“Sure, I’ve done a little interpreting,” I said, ending the qualification section of this phone interview for a job I knew virtually nothing about except that it would involve either interpreting or stocking a fridge.

Miura-san, my friend from the inter-cultural community resource center here in town, was the one who initially put me in touch with NHK. “They need someone to go to Hakuba for three days,” she’d said. “Starting this Thursday.”

“Sure, I can do it,” I told her, which was a lie. I had three classes to teach on Thursday. “No problem. Please give them my phone number.”