During our second coffee break, a guy approached me with: ‘So what do you do for a living?’
Feeling all the excitement which the question inevitably triggers in me, I began with my minimal version of my elevator pitch, but then suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.
‘Wait,’ said I, ‘do you know what “translator” means anyway?'
People here don’t usually know we translators exist as such. I mean, as human beings who make a living out of translation, localization, transcreation, etc., so I had to ask this very relevant question before I jumped into the specifics of what I actually do in the industry.
He smiled smugly and said,
‘Of course. In fact, there’s a difference between being a translator and being an interpreter.’
I blinked twice.
He wasn’t asking for confirmation here, oh no. He was actually assertive.
Unbelievable! Worse still, I failed to disguise my bliss.
See, I was so tired after a long week's work, an ongoing splitting headache and the adrenaline of attending yet another networking event—one of my favourite hobbies—that I nearly broke out in tears of joy.
Gosh, he must have noticed I was transfixed.
I really don’t know what expression I pulled, I just know I was speechless. Thinking.
‘Yes! It’s just—if only I had known you—and I could have recorded this moment to share it with fellow translators!’
He nodded, clueless.
‘So, how do you know about this… difference between translators and interpreters by the way?’
He said he usually took part in language groups and clubs and stuff like that. The conversation immediately went back to what each of us did for a living, so I couldn’t really delve into the details of his knowledge about this difference between translators and interpreters according to what he’d seen or heard or read.
But I was still positively shocked to hear a complete stranger claim he knew something about us translators and/or interpreters which would normally take me a while to explain.
A few minutes later, when the next talk was about to start, we exchanged presentation cards.
There’s no telling whether he’ll ever need an English><Spanish translator specialised in Marketing and Advertising, or whether I'll need an electronic engineer with a background in Japanese. But...
If we ever meet again, I’ll definitely ask him to pose for a vlog and explain, in his own words, the difference between a translator and an interpreter. I bet he’ll do just great.