Being an Interpreter is not an easy job at all. Actually, is considered to be the third most stressful job after the air-traffic controllers.
I guess that the simultaneous interpreter Andrea Seidenstücker will never forget the 2nd July 2003, when the controversial Italian prime minister, Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, was giving a speech inaugurating his country’s six-month presidency of the EU assembled MEPs, but his plans for Italy’s tenure of the union were completely overshadowed by a comment made to a German socialist MEP, Martin Schulz, in the subsequent question-and-answer session. In response to a question from Mr. Schulz alleging a conflict of interest between his political office, Silvio Berlusconi assumed the EU council presidency and immediately provoked furious controversy saying a German MEP should take a film role as a Nazi concentration camp leader.
Mr. Berlusconi came out with the below quote and then Andrea Seidenstücker started sweating. She transmitted his words from Italian to German: “Mr. Schulz, I know there is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of leader. You’d be perfect.” Then Martin Schulz rises, repeats the offense. Berlusconi listens to the back-translation from German into Italian. He nods. “The interpreter takes a load off my mind. She has translated correctly”.
The interpreter felt just horrible when transmitting those words into German and surely it was as if awakening from a nightmare as soon as she understood that her translation was correct!
Mr. Berlusconi then refused to withdraw the remark when given the opportunity by Pat Cox, the parliament’s president. Mr. Cox expressed regret at the offense caused to Mr. Schulz and said he believed it would be appropriate “to correct the record in this regard”. Mr. Schultz responded by saying: “My respect for the victims of fascism will not permit me to deal with that kind of claim at all. “It is very difficult for me to accept that a council president [Mr. Berlusconi] should be exercising this office at all when he comes out with this kind of statement.”
Mr. Berlusconi then attempted to play down the incident, saying his remark had been “ironic” and accusing Mr. Schulz of being offensive: “He was gesticulating and he used a tone of voice which is not acceptable in a parliament,” he said.
At the end of this conversation, Andrea was still shaking due to this memorable and stressful indeed dialogue between the two gentlemen.
Interpretation is really an extremely difficult job and this kind of statement within the EU Parliament can show the difficulties and the pitfalls that can come out if the words and phrases of one language are not known to an interpreter! All languages have their idioms and if one is not aware of them during a conversation, it is obvious that a conflict will occur. And if this person is an interpreter, who is well paid to translate the exact meaning of words and phrases of the languages to which specialized…the expectations are very high and the heartbeats go crazy!