Performance Plastics

Portuguese Interpreting for Plastics Manufacturer

Portuguese Interpreting for Plastics Manufacturer

So another assignment took me to New Hampshire, a 2-day assignment assisting a group of Brazilian engineers, during a training session at the multinational Saint-Gobain Plastics, in Merrimack, NH. Talk about nerves… I was asked if I felt confortable with the subject matter of “plastics” but was given no specific info as to what would be discussed. Would they use technical terminology? Would they discuss aspects of the machinery? The process? The materials? Business Strategy? Management? Situations like this one, are always tricky, imagine all the money that goes into R&D and New Market Development… who wouldn’t be reluctant to open up all of that information to a random interpreter they never met before?

All interpreters and translators should know that most of their work must be done with a high level of confidentiality; some are better at it than others. Herein lies the value of dealing straight with your interpreter instead of going through an agency: when dealing straight with the service provider, you can count on the fact that you are evaluating that person who will be working with you, when using an agency, you are trusting an agency, who supposedly trusts their freelancers. The thing is, an agency is not only looking to hire a trustworthy interpreter, but they also are looking to hire one who charges them a little less and thus allows for a greater profit margin, I’ll let you figure out which one turns out to be more important for them.

After some negotiation they agreed. Meetings started slow with some safety overview, which was pretty simple and allowed me to get a sense of what they did and how they did it. That was followed by a short visit to the plant floor where I saw the machines and learned some of their names. Next we went into a series of meetings where I drew on my knowledge of some general mechanical terms while at the same time I learned some new ones. I confess that it was confusing when I heard that they were buying a calendar from abroad (at this point my interpreter’s brain sounds an alarm and in a millisecond I think about how unlikely it is that they would discuss the purchase of a calendar – who buys a calendar these days? -, and worse, why would they decide to buy it from a different country?), so I stopped and asked them to describe the calendar for me, as they described this huge multi-ton machine, my ears adapted and then I could hear that the proposed purchase was of a calenDER machine; ah, that made a lot more sense, I could then go back to my Portuguese Interpreting.

Calender Machine

Calender Machine


In the next few hours I learned the names of some of their products, materials, abbreviations, etc. I learned the difference between fusing and semi fusing, carrier belt and film, substrates, oven, dispersion, splices and thermal mapping. At the beginning of day 2 I was asked to stay for an extra day as they found that my services were key in ensuring their goals for this training session were met.


Once again I finished an assignment feeling like someone just paid me to gain some knowledge of a very specific industry. Thanks Saint-Gobain, I hope this was the first of many.


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