Interpreting presidential debates: if you snooze, you lose!

By Tony Rivas

Being in a small television studio and knowing that you will be heard and judged by many known and unknown peers and the rest of the audience makes your adrenaline flow freely. The Second and Third Trump/Clinton Debates broadcast on CNN en Español on Sunday, October 9 and Wednesday, October 19 were not the first ones in my career. I go as far back as Ross Perot, remember him? He ran against George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton. I also interpreted for John McCain in his presidential debate with Barack Obama, and I´ve interpreted State of the Union and other addresses for former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Jr. and Barack Obama. 


Usually, there is a myriad of debate topics, and you never know which one will be raised in the debate, and what kind of linguistic rabbit will be pulled out of a hat by the candidate assigned to you. This came to mind again when I interpreted for Florida Senator Marco Rubio and his challenger, Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, on Wednesday, October 25 when they both debated. 

A line such as “Trumped up and trickled down” used by Hillary Clinton in the first debate caught off guard every single colleague interpreting the first debate. When Donald Trump let out of the blue in the third debate “What a nasty woman!” and “Bad hombres!,” it wasn´t a piece of cake either for me. It´s a matter of being, at the very least, as quick on your feet as your assigned candidate. Otherwise,  camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente, if you snooze, you lose.

Tony Rivas
Curriculum Development and Language Specialist
NCI/University of Arizona