Nordic Business Forum, one of the world’s largest business conferences, was held last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic. The last time the event took place was in 2019, and since then we have been looking forward to world-class speakers, business buzz and networking.
Of course, professional simultaneous interpreting was also available at the event, where everything had been thought of. This was the ninth time we participated in NBForum as the official interpreting partner. The interpreting could be listened to either on-site with headphones or with a smartphone application connected to the live stream. We also had our own stand, where we met a lot of our existing customers and other conference participants interested in language services. Hopefully, we will also be the interpreting partner next year and celebrate a decade of partnership.
Interpreting was intensive but eye-opening
What is it like to interpret at an event where every presenter is a top speaker? We interviewed our Finnish interpreters Mari and Minna as well as our Russian interpreter Alexandre about the interpreting experience at NBForum.
“NBF is one of the highlights of an interpreter’s career. The world’s top speakers, recognised experts in their fields, are people you think you only read about in the media, and here you get to interpret for them. Going to the event is already a mood-lifting experience in itself, and the atmosphere is like a rock concert,” says Minna. Mari describes interpreting at the conference as challenging and intensive but, at the same time, rewarding and eye-opening.
The easiest and hardest to interpret
The easiest speakers to interpret are those who are present in the media, who speak at a natural pace and whose thoughts the interpreter can follow easily. “For me, the easiest to interpret was Rutger Bregman, because I have translated his two books into Finnish and I’ve met him before, so his way of thinking and presentation style were already very familiar to me, and also close to my own way of thinking. In addition, he is a lively speaker who is able to use a nice rhythm when speaking a foreign language, i.e. English, too,” Mari says. According to Alexandre, the best people to interpret were Yuval Noah Harari and Joseph Stiglitz. “Both are university lecturers who know how to create content for the public. Amy Edmonson, Erin Meyer and Zoe Chance also knew how to engage the listener (and the interpreter) with their words.” Minna continues: “The nicest people to interpret were Bregman and Harari because I follow them on social media anyway. I pretty much knew what they were going to say. They also spoke naturally, as if explaining their case to a friend.”
“The fastest speaker is always the hardest because the interpreter must not only understand but also translate the message into another language and formulate it, as well as observe and fine-tune their interpreting,” Mari says. The fastest speakers at the event were Erin Meyer and Duncan Wardle. “Meyer was easier because her presentation was very logical and well thought out from the beginning. Wardle spoke erratically and also used a lot of colloquial language and expressions. Generally speaking, interpreters have excellent general knowledge to help with difficult speakers, but Wardle’s speech took unexpected turns time and again, which made interpreting difficult,” Minna says. Alexandre also thought that Wardle was the most difficult speaker: “He spoke too quickly and enthusiastically. His speech also included a lot of topics and brand names, as well as rapidly changing slides.”
Preparation is key
Preparation is very important in simultaneous interpreting. The conference speakers rarely send their speeches to the interpreters in advance, so the interpreters prepare for the interpreting by other means. Interpreters familiarise themselves with a speaker’s background, mentality and way of speaking through, for example, websites, blogs and videos. It is also important to take notes, follow current affairs and keep yourself alert. Mari says: “I tried to be outdoors, exercise and rest a few days before the conference so I was in good shape at the event.”
Nordic Business Forum is also an inspiring experience for interpreters. “Next year there will be interesting speakers as well – I look forward to Jos de Blok and Malala Yousafzai,” Mari says. Hopefully, we will be at next year’s conference, too!