Imagine that you’re interpreting at a three-day conference that requires you to perform simultaneous interpretation for long lengths of time. After six hours of interpreting on and off during the first day of the conference, your voice begins to crack. You clear your throat and continue on, but as the day progresses, it gets worse. You wake up the next morning ready to go to work only to find out that your voice has decided to take the day off. You try to produce some sentences, but nothing comes out. Your fear is now realized: you have lost your voice.
Panic sets in. What do you do? How will the conference organizers take the news? How will you even tell them? Do they have a replacement? Will your career be negatively affected by this? How could have this been prevented?
More often than not, interpreters will focus on everything to prepare for an assignment but themselves. As an interpreter, it is your voice that allows people who do not understand each other to communicate effectively. Likewise, it is your voice that allows you to practice a craft that you get paid for. Your livelihood depends on your voice, so why not take care of this important asset?
Here are some things you can do take care of your voice:
1. Do not strain your voice by screaming or shouting.
2. Ask for a microphone if you need to increase the volume of your voice beyond a comfortable level.
3. Try to avoid or minimize factors that negatively affect your voice (smoking, alcohol, lack of sleep,etc.)
4. Drink water so that your vocal cords are moisturized and free of mucus. Avoid carbonated drinks as they tend to cause unwanted side effects such as burping.
5. Maintain your overall health in order to avoid colds and other sicknesses. Get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. Exercise will not only help you feel better, but it can also strengthen your breathing and, by proxy, your voice, which will allow you to speak longer and help you project your voice to the audience.
6. Interpreters providing whispering simultaneous interpreting sometimes have to go on for long periods, which can strain and irritate the vocal chords. You may want to invest in simultaneous interpreting equipment. Buying a set of one transmitter and one receiver is not too expensive and will help protect your voice.