Interpretation of/at a wedding

Last week I was the interpreter at a German-Australian wedding “out in the country”. I had requested and received the mayor’s speech beforehand so I could translate it – anyone who has ever interpreted at a wedding knows how fond the officials are of quotes, poems, pithy sayings and clever plays of words, and how hard it is to translate those off the cuff?!
The speech consisted of five pages and was full of typos and grammatical errors. When I spoke with the registrar, she said: “Yes, we know he likes to talk, but he’ll shorten it when he notices people starting to loose interest.” Great, I thought. The speech already sounded long-winded just reading it. 
I imagined the mayor in question to be a prime example of a country official: short, stout, probably red-faced and with a heavy Franconian accent. (Not that that’s a bad thing! After all, I live in the country and am married to a man who speaks with a heavy Franconian accent!) And giving that speech, he would be… well, long-winded.
When I finally met him, I was almost shocked at how spot-on my imagination had been!
He was very jovial, and one of the first things he said to me was: “I’m not going to follow that speech too closely, probably going to add some things, but that’s not a problem, is it?” “Of course not!” (What else could I say?)
To top things off, he was quite hard to understand at times, and it was only due to my marriage that I was able to understand what he was saying at times. Afterwards he told me that he had had a stroke and that’s why he had problems enunciating… Which was also why he had me read all the official documents, in German and in English, although I didn’t know why at the time. He just handed them to me and said: “You read that, you’ll do a much better job than me, I’m sure.” Good thing I read so well, it didn’t bother me to do it.
But I wonder what he would have done if I had refused to do it. After all, there are no few interpreters out there who are not very good at reading out loud, or doing things spontaneously, for that matter… (maybe not the right profession for them, but that’s just how it is, and not only in the interpreting business.)
This probably sounds like it was a terrible job, but actually, it was the most fun I had interpreting at a wedding ceremony ever! The things he added to his speech were ok to translate (and the wedding party was in a great mood and went along with everything we threw at them), I was able to follow his speech, even if he left out stuff and jumped around, he joked quite a bit, and I translated everything he said, to the great amusement of the English-speaking group (which made up more than half of the wedding party I would say). I have never laughed so much at an official act, nor experienced such a relaxed and fun wedding. 
And I had feared it to be awful, or at least awkward?! Just goes to show how easy it is to misjudge people and events by only partial information…
Have you had a similar unexpected experience interpreting? Funny or terrible? Do tell, please!

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  1. Laney

    I can honestly say this has never happened to me, but I bet it was a little frustrating!

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