In Paris, speaking up on behalf of water

The French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce on sustainable growth. Two interpreters from Cultures Connection were on hand to relay discussions on an urgent topic that involves us all.

  • Cultures Connection, The French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce and sustainable growth.
    Cultures Connection, The French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce and sustainable growth.

International environmental groups used the World Oceans Day, celebrated on June 8, to discuss the alarming current state of our planet’s oceans and seas. The UN reported that the number and expanse of underwater deserts, which support little to no life due to a lack of oxygen, are increasing exponentially. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a warning about the situation in the Mediterranean Sea in particular, into which the region’s 22 countries annually dump 600,000 tons of plastic residue, the primary component of the waste spewed by humans into our seas. To generate ideas that promote international cooperation in search of sustainable growth, the French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce, and the France-Northern Europe Friendship Group of the Senate held the French-Norwegian Forum for Sustainable Blue Growth on May 24. Interpreters from Cultures Connection were on hand to provide conference translation services.

The choice of the imposing Luxembourg Palace as venue for the event was not by chance. Besides being the seat of the French Senate in Paris, it also in way reflects the magnitude of the debate in today’s society and European political circles over a problem that extends well beyond its shores. Billions of tons of waste are dumped into our seas and oceans each year. In the last 40 years, plastic contamination has increased tenfold to reach nearly 830 million tons. Europe is the second largest producer of this material, which takes many years to decompose, emits large contaminants into the environment, and is considered a genuine threat by the WWF, as it could transform the Mediterranean Sea into a “sea of plastic” in the near future.

On the 100th anniversary of its founding, the French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce brought together 50 politicians, researchers and NGOs, primarily based in France, Norway, the United States and the U.K., to discuss the idea of sustained economic growth that stops using the planet’s water as a garbage pit. The multicultural environment, typical of these international events, required the work of two professional interpreters to translate the forum’s discussions from English into French. Cultures Connection, with offices in Paris, was tasked with managing the interpretation services.

Simultaneous interpretation to save time and reach the audience

Innovation and technology to create cleaner oceans, funding for sustainable growth, and consideration of the environment in the transition to the use of renewable energies. Caroline and Tim, the interpreters contracted by Cultures Connection for the event, wrestled with topics, concepts and vocabulary that spanned various interrelated domains.

Caroline, conference interpreter for the Heriot-Watt University of Edinburgh, explained that while there were some difficulties with the technical language used at certain times during the discussions, the topic wasn’t a big problem. “We managed, as always”, she confided with a knowing smile. 

She often works with Tim in providing interpretation services of this type, and the experience of working together as a team allowed them to easily help one another. Since there were no speeches available in advance, the interpreters created a glossary from what they had on hand. “We researched the list of speakers, their bios, and watched videos of them speaking online”, recalls the interpreter.

The real inconvenience, truth be told, was the setup of the room where the event was held. The translation booth was positioned in such a way that they could not clearly see the presentations. “We worked from a booth that was behind the speakers, which meant we couldn’t very well see the slides they showed which explained their ideas. This made our work extremely challenging.”

Unlike consecutive interpretation, interpretation work at conferences requires the use of specialized technology. Caroline and Tim worked in a sound-proof booth with an audio mixing console, headphones and microphones, through which they could hear the discussions and relay the contents in French in real time. The audience listened, attentively according to Caroline, to the presentations and dialogue through headphones. 

This method of interpretation allowed them to save time and reach a large audience. This is the same objective set by the Forum’s hosts when organizing the discussions, so that reaching its Agenda 2030 objectives on sustainable development would feel closer and attainable.

Translation into English: Sean Mullen