Interpreting swear words

I’ve been reading an essay written by Mari Yonehara, one of the most famous Japanese – Russian interpreters. She used to interpret in very high-profile international conferences.

She uses many anecdotes and introduces situations and frustrations that are familiar to any interpreter. But there’s one thing that doesn’t apply to my life as an interpreter.

That’s about swear words. She wrote she hardly encountered the situation in which meeting participants swore. I guess people would be sensible enough not to swear in such official occasions.

At my work, people do swear a lot, well except during client meetings.  The worst case is when people have arguments shouting at each other. English speakers use the F-words in this situation as one might expect. I hate being in that situation as I feel speakers throwing the F words at me. Listening to arguments itself is mentally draining and interpreting such words make me feel worse. I don’t normally interpret the F-words themselves, I just tone them down a bit. Japanese people at my work can hear the F-words and they know what they mean and obviously they know they’re badly told off. One of my fellow interpreters do interpret the F-words into Japanese, which apparently makes the listeners feel they are told off twice.

After this kind of meetings,  I feel mentally drained really and their abusive words linger in my head.  I wish I knew how to get rid of that as soon as possible and wonder how the other interpreters handle with this situation.


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