This is a challenge that every interpreter faces. The terror of being ‘out there’ has fallen off; we know our duties, our route, and the information. We’ve learned to story-tell, guide and demonstrate. We can handle the crowds and that one guest with all the tricky questions. But what we can’t know is coming is…repetition.
It strikes unknowingly as interpreters are just starting to gain confidence – we think at first, hey I know this one! Or, yes, I’ve got this tour route down pat! But soon it starts to creep up – oh gosh, don’t they know that already? I just answered that question not 30 seconds ago. I’ve seen that tree 30 times today alone. I feel like a robot!
And soon, you sound like a robot, too.
You get so good at anticipating their questions. It becomes monotonous. Boring. Stale. How then can you take back that thrill of engagement?
Firstly, acknowledge that you will have to repeat information a lot. Period. No getting around it! It is part of what we do as interpreters. What you can do is control how you share that information.
So, secondly, ask yourself how you can change up your delivery of this information. Can you flesh it out? Change your tone of voice? Can you answer theatrically, or add humour somehow? Can you add an interesting tidbit? Can you change the route of your tour, even slightly? Can you learn something new to add? If you work with others, can you take turns or alternate?
Third, find that passion again that brought you to interpretation. Why are you working at your site? What do you get to see or do there that sparks your interest? Remember that feeling you got from a rewarding guest visitor or tour group that really got what you were saying.
And finally, remember that there is a person on the other side of that question or tour that really wants to know the answer or hear your story. Maybe it’s their very first visit, maybe they have come especially to your site, or maybe they just discovered it. Maybe they are a repeat customer and just love this place and want to come again and again. All are deserving of a better reply than a robot can give – and interpreters are defiantly not robots.
As we head out to our interpretive roles this season, let’s promise ourselves to stay fresh and fight against going stale, for our own sanity and for the betterment of our visitors!
Submitted by Kelsey Ross, Public Programming Assistant, Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary Canada