“The interpreter is a key player, not just audible furniture.” – Céline Browning
At KUDO, we pride ourselves on having an incredibly talented network of professional interpreters. While being a crucial part of every single KUDO meeting, they are often behind-the-scenes players that are heard and not seen. In this series of blogs, we are bringing our interpreters to the main stage and highlighting them and their stories.
Our first blog features Celine Browning, an American interpreter raised in Japan with an inspiring story of how she broke into the world of interpreting.
How did you become an interpreter?
I became an interpreter purely by chance, but the origins go back to my mother. At around 2 years old, my mother took me and my brother to Japan and put us through the Japanese public school system where we learned Japanese. We were the first and second ever non-Japanese students to attend a very selective school in my home prefecture of Hokkaido. She refused to learn Japanese so that we would have to speak English with her, and as a result, I ended up interpreting for her since I can remember. I studied human rights and conflict management for my BA and MA, but soon realized, that a profession in human rights was not as I had hoped. I got to thinking about what I did well, and naturally, I landed on interpretation. So, I went back to the then Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) for a Master’s degree in conference interpretation in Japanese.
Why do you love what you do?
I love interpreting because the feedback is immediate. We, interpreters, are facilitators of communication. If we do not do our job well, meetings do not proceed smoothly, intentions skewed, and meanings lost. I believe confusion can arise in any conversation merely due to how presenters speak, but also by the way interpreters do their job. Trying to make meetings go as smoothly as possible feels like a new challenge to me each time. I always strive to save time and effort on behalf of the participants, by being effective and efficient, all while making sure not to shift content or meaning, of course.
Please recount your most inspiring, incredible, or surprising experience in this business.
During the COVID lockdown last year, I was in a month-long assignment from my home using KUDO. Everything had been going smoothly until one day when we got a FEMA warning that we were due to have what is now classified as an inland hurricane with wind gusts up to 65 miles an hour. Sure enough we lost power for many hours during the night. By morning, power was restored, but I realized that the internet, though working, was nowhere near the quality it should be for RSI. We got our generator and our backup modem’s power bank working, but the internet was still quite sub-par. It turns out that one of the major power stations in our area was damaged, and all data-traffic was being redirected to the same one repeater, so our bandwidth was far lower than promised by the ISP. If I did not have to do RSI, I would have been perfectly fine with my generator and the internet speeds as they were. However, I had a commitment with KUDO to fulfill. After frantically driving around the Salt Lake valley for hours, I was finally able to connect to the assignment with 5 minutes to spare from a hotel business center with much more ambient noise and foot traffic than is allowed during regular RSI. For me, this was a study in what we take for granted daily. A fast, stable, and secure connection is the standard these days, but even regular grid systems are still hard-pressed to withstand severe weather events. With the Zoom-era and post-pandemic world upon us, I feel this was an invaluable lesson to learn and I am far less likely to take good connectivity for granted again. Needless to say, my KUDO-assigned partner and project managers were extremely helpful and supportive during that crisis of mine.
How did you become acquainted with KUDO?
I was introduced to KUDO through a colleague who was suddenly unable to fulfill an assignment with them. KUDO was still very new, and this was a fairly atypical assignment. However, the team members who reached out to me and worked with me on the assignment believed in me and kept in touch with me. It was also a fun connection that Ewandro, one of the co-founders, was a graduate and former professor of MIIS. As we say at MIIS, there is definitely a “MIIS Mafia” out there, and once you find someone, it’s hard to let them go.
What’s are your predictions on how KUDO will change the industry?
My prediction about KUDO is that they will change the game for anyone who truly believes in quality communication. What makes KUDO special is that it was created with interpreters and AUDIO quality in mind. Even if visual components fail, on KUDO, you are assured the best possible audio quality, and that is what interpreters need, above all else. Everything about KUDO is intuitive. Their platform is user-friendly, but the team members are always open to feedback. The RSI interpreter console is also created very similarly to a regular interpreting booth console to make the work-from-home interpreting experience as natural as possible. Also, this console is made to actually protect your ears from damaging noise levels! This is fantastic, as we are much more susceptible to harmful audio quality and effects when in a relatively uncontrolled environment such as our homes. The way I see it, KUDO is first and foremost a conference platform that was created to accommodate interpretation. With KUDO handovers are smooth, communication between the client and team is optimal, and at the end of the day, the interpreter is a key player, not just audible furniture.