Oscars ceremony with our interpreters

Oscars Dolmetschern TranslataAre you a fan of contemporary cinematography? If so, you were probably anxiously waiting for the most prestigious awards ceremony in the world of movies – the Oscars – late on Sunday night. Award-winning movies, festive gowns on the red carpet, and the accompanying programme were all good reasons to stay up late that Sunday evening.

Several members of the Translata team joined a number viewers in Slovakia who decided to tune in to the Oscars ceremony live. These viewers weren’t only motivated out of sheer curiosity, but also by their expectations of how well our interpreters would cope with the live interpretation of this gala.

Through our interpreters, Translata directly contributed to the success of the show, which was followed by a sense of well-deserved satisfaction and relief.
Live broadcast interpreting requires experienced and resourceful interpreters, whose preparation consisted of several days’ worth of studying information regarding the nominated movies, actors, directors, and screenwriters, as well as any commonly-used practical jokes.

We let our interpreters get some sleep after their night of interpreting before congratulating them on their exceptional performance and asking them a couple of questions.


First of all, we’d like to thank you for how well you coped with such a challenging event despite its late hour.
Could you tell us something more about your preparation? Is it possible to prepare for the interpretation of a live Oscars ceremony at all?


DANIELA: We prepared for the interpretation of the Oscars very diligently, first by looking up information on the movies, nominations, actors, and the history of the Oscars, and then by focusing on the presenters as well. Plus, we watched available shows from previous years in order to familiarise ourselves with the atmosphere, the individual parts of the programme, etc. We were also given a partial script – which kept changing constantly. Live broadcasts are truly unique, though, and no one can predict what will happen next. The best we could do was to gather as much information as possible, leaving the rest up to our resourcefulness and interpreting strategies based on several years of experience.

MARTIN: Hm. You can’t be 100% prepared, because you don’t know exactly what’s going to be said. You really can just guess what’s going to happen. We took our cue from the Academy Awards from previous years, and that helped us become familiar with the production environment. Plus, I watched the movies nominated for Best Picture, looked up the Slovak names of these movies (if available), prepared a glossary and list of actors’ names, read some news from backstage, learned designers and cuts by heart… The intensive part of my preparation lasted about a week. We were also given a significantly abridged version of the script, which helped us a lot.

When did you arrive at the studio? Were you given any instructions before you began interpreting?


DANIELA: We arrived at TV Markíza at 11:30 p.m. to look around the studio, agree on a strategy with the presenters, test the equipment, and finish up some last-minute details. We were told that all of the men’s speeches coming from the Red Carpet should be interpreted by a man, and the women’s speeches by a woman – sometimes we even interrupted each other. Plus, we were asked to respond flexibly to the director’s instructions, and to the presenters’ input as well. It was a new experience for all of us. I would like to emphasise our wonderful collaboration with the presenters, Roman Juraško and Boris Pršo, as well as the entire crew.

MARTIN: We arrived at the studio at approximately 11:30 p.m., where we met with the crew and the presenters, familiarised ourselves with the equipment, discussed the basic outline, and agreed on the strategy and organisation of the event. We agreed with the crew that as far as the Red Carpet was concerned, my colleague would interpret women’s speeches and I would interpret men’s speeches. The aim was to make sure that the viewer always knows who’s speaking, so that the dialogues don’t start to blend in with one another. By the way, as I’ve said, we didn’t receive any specific instructions from the US regarding the course of the event, so we had to promptly deal with any problems on the go and in the moment. You could say that it was like an extreme sport.

Did you have any memory lapses during your interpreting work, i.e., when you were unable to recall a specific word?


DANIELA: I, for example, couldn’t remember the name of the illness that Stephen Hawking suffers from, so I interpreted it generally as an ‘illness’ during the live broadcast. I updated this information in the edited version, which aired later in the evening.

MARTIN:I can’t recall having a complete memory lapse. There’s always a chance that you won’t precisely remember the word you’re looking for, so you have to improvise, but all interpreters are familiar with this situation. I had a problem with the jokes (which according to the reactions of the audience weren’t always funny) and puns used that night. If I recall correctly, the presenter introduced Reese Witherspoon as ‘Reese With the Spoon’, which is a pun based on the similar pronunciation of her actual surname. You simply cannot interpret things like that without prior preparation, but fortunately there weren’t many instances like this. I remember that we had a long discussion with the crew about what we should do with the presenter’s opening song. The problem was that we didn’t know when it would start, how long it would last, or what it would be about. However, we decided to interpret it live during the broadcast, so that non-English speaking viewers could at least have a rough idea of its content, as it was directly related to the structure of the entire event. We had to make many similar decisions, and we had to resolve them on the spot.

What do you consider to be the hardest part of interpreting a live show?


DANIELA: Live shows are unpredictable, unrepeatable, uncorrectable. You have to make split second decisions, with plenty of people listening in. That’s both a stressful and exciting factor at the same time. It’s a huge responsibility.

MARTIN: I think it’s the audience and their expectations. You know that you’ll never meet everyone’s expectations – that it’s not even possible, I guess. When you’re interpreting a conference for doctors, you know exactly whom you’re interpreting for, you know what they are expecting, and you adapt your interpreting strategies to that knowledge. Moreover, sometimes you even receive the presentations in advance, which gives you a basic idea of what to expect. This is different. You don’t know exactly what you’ll be interpreting or whom you’ll be interpreting for. In this case, I would say that it was quite challenging to interpret at night and go nearly two days straight without any sleep.


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