Tourism interpretation in sunny Marseille

A group of tourists from Hungary, Poland, Romania and Turkey were able to experience one of the most important cities in France firsthand, thanks to the services of Cultures Connection.

Is it possible to get to know Marseille without speaking any French? How could you possibly learn about Le Panier, an ancient quarter that seems to be another city within the city due to its tranquil, colourful and well looked after streets that were established by the Greeks when they arrived in 600 BC?  How would you ever know that the culturally diverse markets which overwhelm the grimy streets in Belsunce actually hide one of the most powerful areas during the golden years of the Vieux-Port? On the 24th October, 250 tourists from Hungary, Poland, Romania and Turkey were able to make the most of this unique French experience thanks to Cultures Connection and its interpretation services.

The group arrived in Marseille on the luxury cruise ship Symphony of the Seas, a new vessel belonging to the shipping company Royal Caribbean that is believed to be the biggest in the world. Eight interpreters, hired by the company, arrived bright and early to greet the group in the port, along with buses that would take them to the city centre. Marseille is known for being one of the oldest cities on French soil, the second most populous and one of the most important ports in Europe. Our team accompanied the tourists on a guided tour for around five hours, facing the challenges of both liaision and consecutive interpreting from French and English to Hungary, Polish, Romanian and Turkish.

The tour covered the best of Marseille’s history, culture and landscapes. The group made stops along the the Kennedy Corniche, a chance to marvel at the intense blue of the Mediterranean sea, as well as at the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica, a Byzantine cathedral that watches over the people of Marseille from above. They also went on a walking tour of the Vieux-Port, a buzzing, cosmopolitan area of the city. Rather than the autumnal rains which are so normal for the season, good weather, as well as the good interpreting services, stayed with the group all day.

On the buses, the interpreters acted as liaisons for the passengers and their questions, and the explanations of the guides about museums, the historical forts or the street markets. Whenever stops were made,  they would give their consecutive version of the information. “The interpretation worked really well due to the guides’ cooperation, the research I did about Marseille beforehand, and the help of the agency which allowed us to make our lives and work a lot simpler¨, Attila notes, one of the English-Hungarian interpreters who participated on the day.

Interpretation services against the clock

Cultures Connection received the request for services just five days before the tourists arrived in Marseille. In this time, managers at the agency, from the head offices in Nice, contacted professionals who were best suited for the job, organised the journey and accommodation for those coming from afar, and coordinated the day, all whilst in constant communication with the client. Some significant tasks behind the scenes.

“The agency representatives were very helpful in all respects; from informing us about the nature of the work to booking my hotel and flights”, Attila comments. He has been a professional interpreter for five years and has a Masters Degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Eötvös Loránd in Budapest.

Oana, one of the two English/French to Romanian interpreters,  explained that the biggest challenge was managing such a large group and keep an air of professionalism in a relatively informal atmosphere. “Organising was quite complicated due to such a large number of people involved. The program was made shorter and we worked to optimise time and results. On our bus, there were 39 tourists, two guides and two interpreters. My colleague and I would alternate the work so it was shared relatively evenly between the two of us. We had headphones and microphones to use. I think the outcome was positive and everyone seemed satisfied with the guided tour”, she commented.

With a degree in Translation and Interpreting from the West University of Timisoara, Oana travelled from Strasbourg for the tourism interpretation event. Already with another project in the French city, she managed to take on both jobs successfully. “The preparation needed beforehand made me think twice before accepting but, in the end, I did it. Being part of this project gave me the wonderful opportunity of combining my two passions of interpretation and tourism”, she notes.

Attila had to come from even further, travelling from Hungary for the event: “I often take jobs with very little warning beforehand; I rarely find myself having committed a long time in advance. Therefore, I had no trouble fitting a three day work trip to Marseille into my schedule. It was a great experience.”

Translation into English: Madeleine Hancock

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