“To thrive, you must be smart, use the perfect tone, choose the right words, and make the right moves, you need to be resilient, innovative and a little creative too.”– Gabriela Cleefi
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.
This blog features Gabriela Cleefi, a conference interpreter with over 22 years of experience. Gabriela recounts one of her most surprising stories working as an interpreter, as well as her thoughts on the future of KUDO.
How did you become an interpreter?
Conference interpretation found me when I needed it the most.
At age 21, after having lived in over 7 countries due to my mother’s job as a diplomat, I once again moved to a brand-new place where I had no friends or a job (so I was basically at the same spot I’d been in kindergarten) but this time around I had just majored in Journalism without knowing what to do with the rest of my life. I decided to take a diploma course on voice-over and writing and met an interpreter who was taking that same course to enhance her rendition. My inner thoughts were “you studied social communication, you already have a second and third language to work with, this sounds like a great opportunity, give it a try!”. I then took a diploma course in interpreting and was lucky enough to get hired almost immediately by a couple of agencies and haven’t stopped working since. Little did I know then that I would fall in love with the profession.
Why do you love what you do?
What we do in a 4-hour shift is exactly what I’ve been doing all my life: entering uncharted territory without necessarily knowing what’s going to happen next. Of course, we interpreters have our glossaries, our study materials, our preparation, our “navigation tools”; however, inside the booth, sitting next to the Nobel-prize recipient, escorting the celebrity on a red carpet or in front of the computer, you don’t necessarily know if after the initial soundcheck everything will continue working, if the brilliant scientist knows how to use semantic prosody, if you’re going to be working with a friendly colleague. As in life, you need to adapt, to cope with stress, to deal with people and their accents and their pace. To thrive, you must be smart, use the perfect tone, choose the right words, and make the right moves, you need to be resilient, innovative and a little creative too.
Please recount your most surprising experience in this business.
It was my second or third time working as an escort interpreter at a very high-level event, sitting at a dining-table behind/between the President of a Latin-American country and the President of Portugal who, after a couple of drinks, decided to communicate in an ancient – yet totally made-up – language called Portunhol TN. I was there, minding my own business, basically doing nothing but staring at myself in a mirror we had in front of us, acting as the Mandatories’ dictionary whenever required. If you’ve ever been in that situation, you know it’s uncomfortable, I even think it’s uncomfortable for the other parties involved as well. All the sudden, one of them came to notice that that particular “dictionary” sitting there was an actual person and started talking to me, in complete disregard of any protocol. I replied monosyllabically begging they’d get back to engaging with me only in seek of terminology because I was really concerned about complying with the protocol, but that didn’t happen. The evening went by, and they started asking me where I was from, how come I spoke Portuguese, where I grew up, if I had children, their names, if I spoke other languages, if I was hungry… which I wasn’t, because I was actually starving! But, of course, I said I was fine, “Thank you, Mr. President.” It was a never-ending evening that ended with these two very nice gentlemen giving me a hug and saying “See ya next time, Gabi, take care!” I even got an invitation to visit Portugal which I haven’t taken yet. I just recall eating like 4 slices of pepperoni pizza afterwards. Definitely, a night to remember. Luckily, I don’t get that nervous anymore when in those circumstances; we’re all humans, and humans will always need to connect.
TN Portunhol is a portmanteau of the words português (Portuguese) and (Spanish), and is the name often given to any unsystematic mixture of Portuguese and Spanish.
How did you become acquainted with KUDO?
In 2014 I started to work with KUDO’s local partner in Mexico, CM Idiomas, who introduced me to Remote Simultaneous Interpretation. I became KUDO-certified very early in the process, and a PRO almost a half a year ago.
Ewandro is an idol of idols, so knowing he was behind the KUDO magic was a no-brainer for me. It was a dream come true to get noticed by him to join KUDO and having the opportunity to work with him in the virtual booth has been this pandemic’s highlight for me. I’ve followed Fardad’s journey as the most recognized expert in congress technologies with Taiden, so what’s there not to admire about KUDO? Plus, Barry Olsen’s experience, knowledge, honesty, and kindness equals perfection in the RSI world.
What’s are your predictions on how KUDO will change the industry?
Every time I work on KUDO, I feel a sense of accomplishment and joy because the platform is truly superb, the technology is amazing and even the colors are super cool; however, to me, it’s all about the people behind the scenes. KUDO does not only have professional interpreters and linguists as part of their staff, but KUDO also has nice, warm, and kind human beings who love what they do and do it with passion. That’s what matters to me, the human element, and that’s what will keep on changing the industry and the world, especially in the post-COVID-19 world, if the focus continues to remain on that sense of community building. Machines and technology are great, and we should all embrace them as part of our lives, however, to me, the loyalty and commitment everyone at KUDO gives and receives is my main reason to love the whole package and truly believe it is setting up a higher bar in the language industry.
Gabriela Cleefi is based in Mexico City, Mexico. Her working languages are English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and she has over 22 years of experience as a conference interpreter and also works as a remote simultaneous interpreter, escort interpreters and translator.