I think that, in many ways, we still work as if it were an occupation when it comes to Interpreting: Nothing is guaranteed.
Today, once more, and this happens very rarely, but the thing is that IT DOES HAPPEN, I faced the situation of Double Ignorance: Ignorance in both languages, target and source.
The word of the day was CLAVICULA. I thought I fully mastered it, and I then went: RIB.
The context was informal, and the importance of the word inside of it was close to null, so that the Double Ignorance did not cause any actual impact on performance.
Several issues then emerge: the context may be classified as formal or informal, the appearance of the word, or its fitting in the context, may be graded from irrelevant or null to essential or infinite, and the mistake may be classified as meaningless (in a relative way), medium or horrendous.
We really need to change Interpreting into a job: The time at which it could be an occupation has long passed.
We need to converse with our fellows, we need to progress in our understanding of the languages, we need to have rights and guarantees like everyone else, from every other trade, has.
I always bother because I am quite obsessed about excelling, so that I am able to dig really deep to improve my performance, even it is by a meaningless lambda. Sometimes it will be 1 AM, and I will be thinking about solutions and possible improvements.
Clavicle is a special bone, not a rib.
Because of the coincidence of the application in context that I experienced in Brazil, I took for granted that I knew what it was about: It is definitely the same.
Worse: They would not have a similar word in this case. That has happened to me several times, actually. I am the one who wrote about how nice it would be if we just had to repeat the words in English, and therefore not work at all. Yet, it is frequently the case that I don’t trust that the job could be that easy, so that I look for more complex things.
I ended up consulting the dictionary by the end of the session, and finding out all this: That Clavicula was not a rib (oh, no, all those years in Brazil thinking that it was). That the translation is as easy as Clavicle, and therefore almost the same sound and writing.
Now, the context I was in was informal and the word was irrelevant, since the NES wanted to find services that were covered by the insurance, and only that.
It could be important and we could have a mistake that matters.
It is obviously, once more, impossible for the interpreter to master all topics and all details in both languages, so that we must get used to go through situations like this and not want to kill ourselves instead after we realize what we have done.
When I write about something, I tend to keep that something in my mind more easily, so that by writing about my Double Ignorance, I am actually teaching myself better, and I may not commit this mistake next time. That is all we can guarantee, however, very unfortunately: That we may.
It is very hard to get rid of what seems to be engraved in our minds, like I spent several years in Brazil observing the word being applied like that, I never paid real attention to it, etc.
A bone in the human body is something as specific as the name of a car piece.
Some people don’t drive to make it all worse.
That is when we need spaces to converse about all that with frequency, like how to get around it, what the best strategy to deal with this is, etc.
I myself can only think of having a computer readily available, but that is not always possible.
We have to accept that mistakes of this nature will happen and are part of the trade.
Just like when we are alcoholic, we first learn that we are and acknowledge, and we then see how we can address the problem.
The alcoholic will never get rid of his problem, but he learns how to deal with it in the best way as possible.
We need to obviously get rid of the internal/spiritual injury that we impose upon ourselves each and every time we commit a mistake: Mistakes are pretty normal things, and nobody can get it right 100% of the time in anything. It is precisely by working in places like Australia that we learn how to deal with things that seem to be absurd. Once I was at a court and the cop did not have what to say because they had forgotten to prepare. They don’t lose their jobs or apologize. They simply state the facts.
For us it is very hard because it is just the fashion the practice goes in this trade: We definitely cannot be 100% right all the time. Mistakes are not only expected, they will invariably happen. And they will happen in both languages, believe it or not.
We are not walking dictionaries, things depend also on equipment, interactions, etc., and there is still all this universe of things that flow in the background: personal experiences, mistaken source-associations, mistaken inferential processes, etc.
In any hypothesis, what appears here is the need of changing Interpreting into a job. We do have to stop treating it as if it were an occupation.
This word occupation obviously appeared from thinking that we don’t really need to do that. We certainly need that to pay our bills, to feel included in human kind in a proper way, etc.
We cannot deny: Interpreting is a profession of fundamental importance and may indeed make the difference between life and death, since the Double Ignorance factor, for instance, may appear when we least expect.
So, I am a very experienced interpreter by now, one could say, since I am on my 8000th assignment, like around that, and I have performed extremely well in most of them, but I still get totally annoyed when I commit a mistake of this type, and, given my levels of knowledge and predictive power, I definitely think that we need to invest way more in promoting these changes than we currently do.