2nd CTS Professionalisation Talk 2020/21

Matthew Perret gave a professionalisation talk to the current cohort of Leeds interpreting students on interpreting in a post-covid world.

Matthew Perret is a Berlin-based freelance interpreter, interpreter trainer and AIIC member. He is also a trainer in public speaking and communication skills, and a developer of online training materials. He has a BA in Modern Languages (French and Spanish with Catalan) from Oxford and was a staff interpreter at the European Commission in Brussels from 1995 to 2000. Matthew has a long history of collaboration with the University of Leeds, including establishing the cooperation between the interpreting department in Leeds and The European Institutions when the course first started. More recently, Matthew has travelled to Leeds to teach “masterclasses” and participate in mock conferences.

On Monday April 19, Matthew gave a professionalisation talk entitled “Interpreting in a post-covid world”. We were delighted to welcome Matthew back to Leeds, albeit via Zoom on this occasion. This was a fascinating insight into a rapidly changing profession from a great communicator, who is witnessing the changes in the market first hand.

Matthew focused on the “core concept” of interpreting, which remains unchanged by the pandemic. The interpreter is still required to analyse and communicate ideas where a language barrier exists. Experts and political leaders are not given posts or promoted based on language skills, so the need is still there. Emphasis was placed on meetings where parties need to negotiate or find a solution. In these circumstances, where there is a language barrier, there will always been a need.

Matthew raised the question of whether there will be physical meetings in future. Often, where there is a need for negotiation to achieve an outcome, a face-to face meeting is required. To illustrate this, Matthew referred to the COP 26 Climate Conference, taking place in November this year, in Glasgow. Experts and officials who will attend have said that whilst preparation can take place online, there is a much better chance of an agreement (and there is a lot of pressure for them to reach an agreement!) if the final discussions are made with the parties in the same room. Again, where there is a genuine need for negotiation and a language barrier, there will be a need for interpretation.

A fascinating section of the talk was when Matthew reflected on the implications of remote interpreting on the interpreter’s presentation. In remote, it is essential that the interpreter use their voice, with effective intonation, to communicate. This is because it is much harder for a client to trust a “remote” voice, particularly with compromised sound quality. A voice we do not trust, a process managed by the Broca area of the brain, is a voice we do not listen to. We are used to working in a booth, and having to use intonation for effective communication but in remote conferences, “the booth glass is thicker”.

During questions, Matthew added many practical tips for new professionals, such as what do if the sound is poor, or what you can do if you simply have not understood the speaker.

Some of the ideas were subsequently further discussed in an Interpreting Skills class with the Leeds students.

Thanks again to Matthew for sharing some fascinating insights and for giving some really good advice to a group of students who are about to join the profession.

Author: Cyril Joyce