Much respect to people who interpret for a living. Much more to simultaneous interpreters, who do it all the time, and skillfully.
Just this past Wednesday, yours truly helped smooth the process of interaction between visiting high school students from Vermont and local students at Koryo High School and Tottori University of Environmental Studies. I don’t have much experience interpreting, and it has always been rather stressful. In this case it was an unending onslaught under hot and dehydrated conditions. The Japanese speakers generally understood that I needed time to think, and besides it’s always much easier to work into your native language; but the Americans often didn’t stop speaking until I had way more than I could remember. I took notes, of course, but took them so intensely that when it was finally my turn to interpret, I couldn’t read my own handwriting. Most of the time I think my delivery was accurate, but there were times I missed things out. Somehow I got through it, but it’s not something I look forward to doing again.
I was, however, quite impressed with the students from Vermont. Having watched the decline of educational standards all over the world for quite some time, and on occasion being exposed to regular people via the Internet, I had low expectations. On the contrary, they were vibrant and articulate, eager to engage the locals, and intellectually curious. One of them was already making money in graphic design and web building.
I was also pleasantly surprised at how much the Koryo students seemed to enjoy their studies. They are tracked prior to entry, with an even number going into each of five fields of study, and they were obviously interested in what they were learning. The biggest surprise was the landscape design section, which I wasn’t even aware existed. Quite a distance from the school proper, students work in greenhouses raising strawberries and bees, and outdoors constructing fences and walkways and the like. Inside, we also saw students build little sound-operated robots that moved and picked up objects.
I hope that the participants got as much out of the experience as I did, and better more. It renewed my faith in humanity, slightly.