By Simmi Choudhary, Modlingua Learning, New Delhi
What exactly does “Interpreting” mean? Is it possible for every bilingual or multilingual person to step into the shoes of a professional Interpreter and rightly claim to be one? Does interpretation merely require knowing two or more languages? Would one need to possess any other specific skills apart from the knowledge of languages? Well, these not so intriguing questions could occur to either someone who is planning to take up languages as a career or someone who needs to hire an interpreter.
Talking about interpreting, the process of “Interpretation” takes place when two or more number of people do not understand each other in a common language. In order to share information, thoughts and ideas, they need to have somebody who understands, speaks and communicates in a language that is commonly understood by both. The purpose of communication here could be anything from business, social, political, diplomatic, educational, cultural, legal to simple human communication. Here comes in the role of an Interpreter who should be able to understand the meaning of information and thoughts being spoken in one language and communicate them with exactly the same meaning in the other language. Needless to say, this would require the Interpreter to possess high levels of comprehension skills and fluency in both the languages.
Depending upon the requirement of the client and as per the demand of the situation, Interpretation can be broadly divided into the following four categories:
1. Conference or simultaneous interpreting: This kind of interpretation is done by highly skilled, experienced and competent language professionals. It requires the Interpreter to attentively listen to the speaker (in the source language) and instantly begin translating or interpreting his/her words (into the target language) for the benefit of the listener. This kind of interpretation usually involves only the transfer of information rendered by the speaker and not the listener. This kind of interpretation is generally required during conferences or large meetings. Often, more than one interpreter is deployed on the same job as high levels of concentration that are required during simultaneous interpretation tend to get taxing for a single individual. It is also known as booth interpreting as the interpreters are usually sit in a secluded booth with specialized equipment like microphones, headsets, etc.
2. Consecutive interpretation: This is the most widely used form of interpretation. It is handled by trained bilingual or multilingual individuals. During consecutive interpretation, the interpreter is seated between Party A (there may be one or more persons) and Party B (this may comprise one or more persons). The speaker gives appropriate pauses after completing small part of his/her talk. The Interpreter usually takes down notes and then during the pause, translates and conveys the talk to the other party. This kind of interpretation is often used in smaller set ups like meetings, professional training sessions, business meets, delegation visits, official negotiations, etc. The level of expertise required for this kind of interpretation is often high with considerable years of experience in order to handle the task well.
3. Facilitation / escort interpreting: This kind of interpreting is usually done in informal environs. The interpreter acts as a facilitator between two parties so as to communicate the spoken information or message of one party to the other. Escort interpreters are often seen working at tourist spots, with travel agencies, tourist and information offices of the government, buyer-seller meets, etc. This form of interpreting is quite similar to consecutive interpretation but as mentioned above, it is more of an informal activity.
4. Web or phone interpreting: As the name suggests, this kind of interpreting is done either over the internet or the telephone. It often involves 3 parties, the calling end, the called end and the Interpreter. It is the Interpreter’s job to listen to and understand what is being said by the calling party, translate and convey it to the called end and repeat the same process vice versa. Such interpretations are mostly done consecutively. The efficiency levels of the Interpreter involved are directly linked to the purpose and nature of the phone call. Web or phone interpreting can be used for business meetings, telephonic interviews, somebody electronically or telephonically joining a business meeting or conference and other purposes.
Interpreting, as a career, is very challenging and rewarding too. This specially stands true for individuals who enjoy working with languages, understand how people make use of language to get things done and those who can effectively play an important role in helping people communicate with each other. Interpreters get to work with a wide variety of people of all ages, in a myriad of settings and situations. In professional setups, the demand for interpreters always seems to outweigh the supply, so one can always find work. In the words of a highly experienced self employed Interpreter, Chris Friedrich from North Carolina, “As an interpreter, you can be very independent, work on your own, work for yourself, make your schedule, be able to manage amount of work, enjoy learning, know a little bit about everything, computers, zoology, always learning new things and more about interpreting.”
For a successful career in Interpreting, one should diligently understand and consider the following:
One of the most important prerequisites to being an excellent Interpreter is having the ability to correctly and completely translate and convey each speaker’s words. An Interpreter should at all times, stick to translating only what has been spoken and not make the mistake of summarizing or expanding the original spoken words. Adding any personal opinions during interpretation is a strict no-no.
It is of utmost importance that the Interpreter is able to clearly and fluently speak both the languages required for the interpretation. In addition to having near native mastery in the required languages, one must speak out clearly and loudly and pronounce correctly so that the translated messages are conveyed properly.
A professional Interpreter is expected to work and look like one too. He/she should always be meticulous in their work, demeanor and appearance. During the interpretation, a good Interpreter will not forget to remain as unobtrusive as possible. Chewing a gum or other substances is not appreciated as it is likely to affect clear speech.
During the course of interpretation, often confidential details about the lives or businesses of the parties involved are divulged. Professional Interpreters are rightly expected not to discuss or disclose any personal or business information about their clients, unless the law requires them to do so. Any confidential details learnt during the interpretation should by no means be required for personal gains by the Interpreter.
Competence and Misrepresentation
In order to get hold of a financially or professionally lucrative assignment, Interpreters should not be tempted to accept assignments that do not fall within their sphere of competence. They should never misrepresent their training, their abilities or their professional credentials to get a job.
In case of where many Interpreters work together as a team, it is a must that Interpreters treat their colleagues with professional courtesy and respect. Those having considerable experience, should provide mentoring and professional assistance as needed and share information when necessary to serve the clients' needs.
To remain in sync with latest methods, technology changes, upgrading of one’s skills is a must for Interpreters. Professional interpreters should regularly take part in seminars, classes, conferences and other professional development or continuing education activities.