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Opinions wanted--Making message understandable vs. Paraphrasing
Thread poster: Sara Senft

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 26, 2009

I'm thinking about the difference between making a message understandable versus paraphrasing. The whole point of our role is to make the message understandable to the patient/defendant/etc.

That could involve simplifying the question. That happened to me once. The problem is that we are supposed to make the message understandable but we aren't supposed to paraphrase. (At least according to what I've heard.)

What do you, my fellow interpreters, think about this? It almost seems like a paradox......


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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:46
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
I don't see any paradox here Jan 26, 2009

As an interpreter you are supposed to render the speech into another language faithfully, without omission or paraphrasing and maintaining the same register. Now, let's say you interpret between a lawyer and his client and the lawyer uses a lot of highly specialized legal jargon, and you paraphrase it and use an everyday language, the lawyer will have a false impression that his client is very familiar with the legal terminology and the client would think that his lawyer doesn't know about law, no?

Another question: how do you know that the message is not understandable to the patient/defendant? Only if you interpret as is, without simplifying, the patient/defendant has an opportunity to say that the message is not understandable, and it is then up to the other party to explain it, in other words, if they wish so. Don't be surprised if they don't - this happens often especially during witnesses interrogation: sometimes the fact that they don't understand the question asked in a particular way is an important information on its own, and you better don't mess up things with paraphrasing and simplifying.

Remember that you're only a channel, and communication between people is not only words, but also reaction to words. Your interpretation should not alter this reaction.

In other words, it's not your job to respond to "I don't understand the question".

HTH,
Magda


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
You'll run into that often Jan 26, 2009

I can recall interpreting at a deposition once where the lawyer was asking the deponent some rather convoluted questions and of course he was not getting very good answers. So he turns to me and says "it seems like something is being lost in the translation here". So I replied: "No, nothing is being lost in the translation. If you recall at the beginning of this deposition you asked this man his level of schooling and he stated he had never attended school in his life. If you want him to understand, you will need to ask simpler, more direct questions."

Needless to say, the lawyer did not change things one bit. Nor did I; my job was to repeat his questions as he asked them and pass on the witness' uncomprehending answers.

You can try to get them to make things easier, but it's not your fault if they don't want to learn.


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 05:46
English to Russian
+ ...
misunderstanding the role of interpreter Jan 27, 2009

Sara, it is not our job to make the interpretation any more understandable than the original message. In fact, the interpreters code of ethics specifically states that the interpreter should never change the register to make the message understandable, nor should she paraphrase.

Of course, people we work with frequently don't understand this. And educating them might be as frustrating as getting the doctors to speak directly to the patient (rather then to the interpreter).


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Maybe I should have phrased it better Jan 27, 2009

Okay, maybe I should have phrased one thought better.

I know that we aren't supposed to change the message. The point I was trying to make is that we interpreters are a communication aide.

--Sara

Alexandra Goldburt wrote:

Sara, it is not our job to make the interpretation any more understandable than the original message. In fact, the interpreters code of ethics specifically states that the interpreter should never change the register to make the message understandable, nor should she paraphrase.

Of course, people we work with frequently don't understand this. And educating them might be as frustrating as getting the doctors to speak directly to the patient (rather then to the interpreter).



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Alexandre Coutu
Canada
Local time: 07:46
English to French
Translation is paraphrasing Mar 24, 2009

I'm new to interpretation, though not to translation, but...

Whether you are to make a message more comprehensible than the original or stick to what was said even if it wasn't comprehensible depends on the situation and your client.

Say a financial institution is having a presentation interpreted for its employees in a training situation. If the original message was convoluted and hard to understand, in whose interest would it be to keep it like that?

Of course, in court, where the lawyer's questions may be unclear or ambiguous, they need to stay like that. So it depends on the situation.

As for "how do you know that the message is not understandable to the patient/defendant?" -- well, if you don't understand the message, how well can you really interpret it? I don't think you can interpret without understanding what you are saying and hope that the listener gets it. The odd time, maybe, when you're stuck, but I don't see that as a principle to follow.

Personally, I always thought translation WAS a form of paraphrasing.


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