First experience of simultaneous interpreting. What is it like?

Today I once again worked with one of my first customers: we are together for more than 10 years and it feels like we are already a family. But it is not the point. Each time we meet I am overcome by nostalgia and remember my VERY FIRST experience of simultaneous interpreting. I believe every simultaneous interpreter has a similar story, which you can never forget. Here is mine. At that time I was a University student yet. I was recommended to my clients by one of my teachers, which was flattering and I wanted to fulfill expectations. The first experience of working with them was a consecutive interpreting, which went quite well, and after it they invited me to go to Switzerland to interpret the conference simultaneously. Even today I am astonished by the bravery of my clients (they knew I did not have any experience at all) and my own, but then I decided that I could not afford to miss this chance. So I am in Switzerland and walking to the interpreting booth (and I saw the conference interpreting equipment in the booth for the first time there as well since the equipment in the University looked significantly different), my knees are trembling and my heart beating super fast. Here I should say that the topic of the conference was quite sophysticated: medical equipment and among others several scientific presentations on physics. But I am fearless and so I am going to the booth. However, it is not enough that it is my first simultaneous interpreting and the topic is difficult, to top that all I am in the booth alone…Why? I did not quite understand back then how simultaneous interpreters work. They seemed to me very high above, unreal perfect people from another planet. Only afterwards I learned that in fact simultaneous interpreters work in pairs and change every 20-30 minutes. Thus, 1st simultaneous interpreting, complex medical topic, I am all by myself but even that was not all! The client comes to sit next to me in the booth. And – attention – when I do not understand something and interpret wrongly he takes the headset of me (!!!) and starts to explain to me what it really means and how I should have translated it. So you understand, right, the conference goes on, the speaker develops his/her idea and here I am sitting and listening to the client (naturaly, I hardly understand anything due to adrenaline) and when I finally put on the headset again I am trying to once again get what it is all about. Later my listeners told me that once or twice I exclaimed in the microphone “Oh my God!!!”. However, despite all that I was really lucky – both with the client, who was amazingly good willing and tolerant, and with the listeners who always supported me. If anyone of you ever reads this – thank you so much! Thanks to you I did not run away from the profession and continued to learn and develop my skills, though my first simultaneous interpreting experience was so stressfull. And thanks to you I traveled all over Switzerland afterwards. It was great!

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