The Rise of Interpretainment

The Rise of Interpretainment
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July 5, 2017
Renato and Michael with Maria Paula Carvalho
The interpreter's job is to translate what a speaker is saying while keeping their own opinions and feelings completely separate. Or is it? When a motivational speaker wants to move an audience to action, how do you keep the main points from being lost in translation, unless the translator conveys the same feelings and excitement as well? The answer—INTERPRETAINMENT.
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Speaker Transcript
Renato I am Renato Beninatto.
Michael And I am Michael Stevens. And Renato, I know you know him, and I know our listeners who know Tony Robbins can recognize his voice. He’s best known for infomercials, statements like “it’s not the size of the fight in the dog, it’s the size of the dog in the….” No, I said it backwards. That’s why I am not Tony. He has self-help tapes, seminars, books that include Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within. He reaches out to people and fills arenas because they want to be inspired and challenged by him. He’s been a big influence on Marc Benioff, CEO of His events are highly interactive and very intense.
Renato Well there is a whole industry built around these events around the world. Maybe you and I should go into it, Michael?
Michael It might be our next calling, but you did tell me that you once tried to be an interpreter.
Renato Well, I did. I used to work for a company that brought Michael Porter, this famous Harvard professor, and they asked me—at the height of my 22 years of age—to interpret his presentation for a single customer who didn’t speak English. It was the hardest job in my life in the language industry. First it was exhausting, and it was also frustrating because I don’t remember a thing that he said, and the guy is kind of my guru. When you interpret, you act like a loudspeaker. You get information coming into your ear, and you just spit it out. So information in, information out. Nothing stays in your brain.
Michael You’re a conduit for the speaker.
Renato Exactly.
Michael So I know a little bit. There is a difference between simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation.
Renato Well, consecutive interpretation is when the interpreter waits for the speaker to finish a sentence or an idea, and then he renders those words into the target language. Here is a short example of President Xi Jinping of China and his interpreter during a joint press conference with President Obama.
Michael This looks pretty straightforward.
Renato And formulaic… In simultaneous interpretation, though, the participants wear headphones, and the interpreter renders the speaker’s words into the target language as she is speaking. This type of interpretation requires a huge level of concentration, so simultaneous interpreters usually work in pairs and they switch microphones – they switch their place every 30 minutes in general. Usually, the interpreters work in a sound-proof booth that enables everyone involved to focus on their work without the distraction of hearing another language.
Michael Probably a lot of people know this is what they use at the UN.
Renato That’s the UN, and it started in Nuremberg. The first time that it was used was in the trials of the Nazis in Nuremberg.
Renato So what you usually see on TV is also simultaneous interpretation, when the volume of the speaker is lowered and you can hear the interpreter’s voice over it, like this Donald Trump interview simultaneously translated into Russian.
Michael Cool! I get it. But this episode is about interpretainment. So we mentioned the term in our podcast about the forecasts for 2017, but I am not sure I completely get it.
Renato Well, Michael, I recently had the opportunity to interview Maria Paula Bulhões de Carvalho, who was the person who inspired me to create the term. Why don’t you hear it from her?
Maria Paula I’m Maria Paula Carvalho. I’m an interpretainer, and I work with events of coaching motivational speakers, some call themselves gurus, others don’t like so much that term, and I work with the pair of languages between Portuguese and English.
Renato What is an interpretainer compared to an interpreter?
Maria Paula All interpreters should convey the message as the speaker is choosing the words and vocabulary and so on, but what we found out is that in events of coaching, motivational speakers, personal development, people need an extra dose of emotion. They need to feel the translation and not listen to the translation. So we realized that we offered something different. We offered that emotional connection. We offered that … We surrender to the language. We surrender to the speaker’s choices. We surrender to his emotion and so we strip ourselves from the regular interpreter’s postures and attitudes, still hanging on to the core message and to what the goal of that lecture is.
Renato So you have more freedom, more creativity?
Maria Paula Yeah, because it has to sound very natural. Let’s say, if I am working here in Brazil with interpretainment, and I have 90 to 95% of my audience listening to the translation, people cannot miss the voice of the speaker. If he’s shouting, I cannot just tone down his choice. It is his choice. Everything in coaching and personal development has a purpose. So his shouting has a purpose. His laughter has a purpose. His gesture has a purpose. So, my voice has to convey that purpose. So, I have actually to dive into the character myself. I have to think as the speaker thinks.
Renato You said that you are the … The speaker is the face, you are the voice.
Maria Paula Yeah.
Renato Right is that what you…
Maria Paula Yeah, he’s the body. I’m the voice.
Renato So you need to convey the same emotions in the process.
Maria Paula Yes, and the events that we’ve been doing here in Brazil, even the booth is up front, so the audience sees the interpreters inside the booth. They see that we actually do the same gestures. It’s hard because we actually living through the message itself.
Renato So you have to convince the same emotions. You have to cry. You have to laugh. You have to dance?
Maria Paula We dance. Unfortunately we sing sometimes, too. Thank God it’s not glass in the booth, but when we’re there it’s almost impossible not to do it, because I have to close my notebook. I have to be looking at the speaker, and we dive so much into it that we actually, instinctively we do the movements. We do the gestures. We do the same. We are the same at that moment.
Renato Is that the same? Let’s say you go to an event where you have 15,000 participant, and they are attending in multiple languages. Is this something that is done in other languages or is that particularly added here of your type of work?
Maria Paula I would say this is us. It’s our signature. It’s my team and mine. We go to some events in the United States, where you have like, as you said, 15,000 people in the audience and we have 100 Brazilians. So my audience is pretty small if you compare to the total of it. But they depend on me to be on the same mood as of the other 15,000 people, and sometimes we even have to translation to seven or eight other languages. Then we realize that the Russians wouldn’t curse, when Tony Robbins curses. I mean he chose to curse. It’s not me. It’s not up to me to make that decision. That cursing word, that thing has a purpose.
Maria Paula Sometimes when we can, when we have the right equipment, we try to open the two mics and do the interventions with two voices. If it’s a short intervention, even with one mic, we kind of hold on, stick together and we try to do two voices because it gets more comfortable to the listener to realize there is a dialogue going on.
Renato So if there is a man and a woman…
Maria Paula I mean a woman … Even two men. I can dive into one character, while my booth buddy can dive into another character, and then we can actually convey what they’re feeling. I see that the other languages don’t do it.
Renato From a delivery perspective, you mentioned your engagement, your activity, your physical involvement. How is that different from interpretation, if we want to compare interpretainment to interpretation?
Maria Paula There is a certain code that interpreters must follow that we cannot get … We are neutral. It’s not that we’re not gonna modulate the voice. It’s not that we’re not gonna pace down things and so on, but usually interpreters, when the speakers goes “Good Morning!,” the interpreter goes “Good Morning.” We have to go for the same tone, but you’re not gonna do that with economics. You’re not gonna do that with mining because people are not worried about living the message. People are worried about getting information. When we go for living the message, you have to be exactly what you’re saying.

Let’s say you are in a crowd of 15,000 people and you have 100 Brazilian participants and they have to take part in the same process. So, let’s say Tony goes with a question, and he goes like, “Who here has started a diet and has never finished one? Raise your hand.” I have to start after him because I need to know what he’s gonna say, and I have to finish at the same time because my Brazilian participant needs to raise their hand along with the other 15,000 people. Otherwise, they won’t be engaged in the process. So it’s our responsibility to set the pace, set the mood, set the emotions.

Well let’s say we are preparing people to walk on fire. If I don’t work with them towards it, they’re gonna get burned. So they say “Dim the lights.” I turn off my lights in the booth. “Sit straight up.” I sit straight up. “Palms of your hands on your lap”. Palms of my hands on my lap. “Close your eyes.” I close my eyes. Because if I don’t do it, I don’t convey it,and they won’t go through the transformational process of walking on fire.
Michael Let’s interrupt the conversation and listen to a clip of Maria Paula’s interpreting Nick Vujicic (VOY-I-CHIK), the Australian motivational speaker born with a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs.
Renato You must make a lot of money, Maria Paula.
Maria Paula Well, not yet. I will though. I think it’s a process that we have to … We have to prove that it is different. And since it is very unique, it’s … It’s kind of tricky because we are also … It’s becoming trendy to bring motivational speakers, international motivational speakers to Brazil, but people are still not very aware of how this work is done. So, sometimes I see that there is this motivational speaker coming, and then I start sending quotes for the event. And they go, “Oh, no we already have hired the interpreter we usually work with.” Since my clients that go to Tony Robbins, that go to the Secrets of the Millionaire Minds, that go to other … Like Kevin Harrington, or other speakers, they send me Facebook messages, like “Oh, we missed you there. Why weren’t you there? Didn’t you send a quote?” and I go, “Yes, we did send a quote, but they already had a team.” You know.
Michael So as with any new service, it’s hard to show the value in the beginning, but it sounds like to me that not everybody can do this type of service. It’s a matter of skill, combined with just raw talent.
Renato Well, I like to think that interpretainment is to interpretation what transcreation is to translation. It’s an enhancement that has fewer applications, but definitely adds to the value of the overall experience.
Michael Seems like something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future.
Renato Well, if people take it up in other languages, let’s see how it goes. And at least we created a new term.
Michael Sounds good! Thanks for listening.

End of conversation

Maria Paula Carvalho

Maria Paula Carvalho is an experienced conference interpreter with a demonstrated history of working in the translation industry.


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