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English mother-tongue conference interpreters of Oriental languages?
Thread poster: janthony (X)

janthony (X)

Local time: 01:09
English
+ ...
Jan 10, 2011

I have an unusual situation and I need some advice...

I am rowing a rather strange boat. I am an English-mother tongue translator of Arabic -- we are few and very far between, as are most... what you call, orientalists. In translation, I naturally work one direction, Arabic into English. However, I am considering pursuing a second career as a simultaneous interpreter.

My question.. or concern... comes in two parts:

1) Is it possible to make an at least
... See more
I have an unusual situation and I need some advice...

I am rowing a rather strange boat. I am an English-mother tongue translator of Arabic -- we are few and very far between, as are most... what you call, orientalists. In translation, I naturally work one direction, Arabic into English. However, I am considering pursuing a second career as a simultaneous interpreter.

My question.. or concern... comes in two parts:

1) Is it possible to make an at least part-time career of interpreting from Arabic exclusively into English? I can work from oral Standard Arabic (and at least three dialects) beautifully as a passive language, but not an active B language.
2) Do Western/European simultaneous interpreters of Oriental and African languages exist?

If European interpreters can get away with working from multiple languages into their native language... would it be too far fetched for a Western interpreter of an Eastern language like Arabic or Korean... to interpret from Arabic exclusively into English as well? We have an incredible advantage in that we are able to provide a very natural flowing dubbing so to speak free of accent yet filled with the nuances expected of cognitive native English speakers.

I've breathe and use Arabic on a daily basis... I could never work into Standard Arabic for the life of me.. yet, my comprehension of the language within numerous technical genres is flawless. In the UN, I know that Arabic and Mandarin Chinese interpreters work both directions only because no interpreter's yet presented themselves with either language as a C language!

I would do anything for some advice!

Yallah! Thank you.

[Edited at 2011-01-10 22:37 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-01-11 03:56 GMT]
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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:09
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why not? Jan 10, 2011

I'm not too sure I understand you, but it's standard practice to translate and interpret into one's native language. This is because the reflexes regarding correct usage are more developed in that language. I'm familiar with the situation you mention that speakers of Chinese, Arabic and many other less "popular" languages are sometimes fielded in the inverse combinations, but that is, as you observe, because fewer people fulfil the B or C requirements for those languages than there are native sp... See more
I'm not too sure I understand you, but it's standard practice to translate and interpret into one's native language. This is because the reflexes regarding correct usage are more developed in that language. I'm familiar with the situation you mention that speakers of Chinese, Arabic and many other less "popular" languages are sometimes fielded in the inverse combinations, but that is, as you observe, because fewer people fulfil the B or C requirements for those languages than there are native speakers in them who fulfil the A requirements for the inverse. So by that reckoning, sticking to Ar>En is quite conventional, feasible and, in fact, advisable.Collapse


 

janthony (X)

Local time: 01:09
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 11, 2011

My apologies, I got lost in my own world for a moment when writing that - I lost perhaps the point I was trying to make and thus ask advice for.

It's because of the bidrectional nature of conference interpreting that's expected of interpreters of Oriental languages which is what's causing me to question if I can offer a mono-directional service -- especially since I make up one of the rare cases where the Oriental language is NOT my mother tongue. I cannot interpret into Arabic at
... See more
My apologies, I got lost in my own world for a moment when writing that - I lost perhaps the point I was trying to make and thus ask advice for.

It's because of the bidrectional nature of conference interpreting that's expected of interpreters of Oriental languages which is what's causing me to question if I can offer a mono-directional service -- especially since I make up one of the rare cases where the Oriental language is NOT my mother tongue. I cannot interpret into Arabic at the level expected for conferences, the academic language used is far too intricate - but I can do the visa versa all day long without missing a beat.

I've yet to find outside interpreting for intelligence or militaries a single Oriental-language conference interpreter with a European mother tongue like English or Dutch etc. There are translators, but interpreting is another ball-field all together.
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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:09
Flemish to English
+ ...
What if? Jan 11, 2011

Parrot wrote:

I'm not too sure I understand you, but it's standard practice to translate and interpret into one's native language. So by that reckoning, sticking to Ar>En is quite conventional, feasible and, in fact, advisable.


What if on there freelance market, there is no demand for a native language, because its users all know two or three foreign language up to the B2 or C1 language level of the Council of Europe?


 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:09
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Actually... Jan 11, 2011

Williamson wrote:

What if on there freelance market, there is no demand for a native language, because its users all know two or three foreign language up to the B2 or C1 language level of the Council of Europe?


.. isn't that the status of the rest of the world? The profile of language use in the UN describes a post-colonial scenario.


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:09
Flemish to English
+ ...
The position of English. Jan 11, 2011

Whereas English has become thé "lingua franca" of the world, AIIC as well as some schools for interpreters strictly adhere to the post-colonial scenario. As if the world hasn't changed in the past 66 years?



[Edited at 2011-01-11 11:27 GMT]


 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:09
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
The industry is need-based Jan 11, 2011

It's a political (and hence, possibly artificial) stance in the EU that all official languages are equal. It's a stance that was not taken by the UN as an organization -- among other things, it speaks against budget constraints, which the EU is feeling even now. Still, the need for services in other languages is implicit in the Human Rights concept; i.e., if a Swahili speaker wants/needs to use this language in court, for instance, s/he must be respected. And the industry moves forward on the ba... See more
It's a political (and hence, possibly artificial) stance in the EU that all official languages are equal. It's a stance that was not taken by the UN as an organization -- among other things, it speaks against budget constraints, which the EU is feeling even now. Still, the need for services in other languages is implicit in the Human Rights concept; i.e., if a Swahili speaker wants/needs to use this language in court, for instance, s/he must be respected. And the industry moves forward on the basis of need. There is really rather little to "stipulate" against that. The best you could do would be attempt to upgrade the available services in the field. In short, there's always been a market for a better mouse trap, and the leaders of today have actually been the pioneers of the past. Every successful niche represents a past pioneering effort. It's possible the task of today is reflecting today's circumstances in one's work processes in the course of satisfying real needs.Collapse


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:09
Flemish to English
+ ...
In plain English Jan 11, 2011

The freelance market for interpreting into Dutch from FIGS-languages : almost 0. Can you live off two or three assignments a year.
From other languages : it depends.
The market of the official institutions:
The only place where there is a need for civil-servants interpreters into Dutch are the institutions of the E.U., where once every decade there is a concours to fill up the vacancies left by those, who retire.
So,if as a native of Dutch, you want to get on the freelan
... See more
The freelance market for interpreting into Dutch from FIGS-languages : almost 0. Can you live off two or three assignments a year.
From other languages : it depends.
The market of the official institutions:
The only place where there is a need for civil-servants interpreters into Dutch are the institutions of the E.U., where once every decade there is a concours to fill up the vacancies left by those, who retire.
So,if as a native of Dutch, you want to get on the freelance market, you do not have another choice as to work towards creating a near-native capacity in another major language, be it the second language of your country or the linga franca of the world.
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janthony (X)

Local time: 01:09
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
But here's another point... Jan 11, 2011

Find a non-native interpreter of an Oriental or African language! What I'm talking about is the improvement in the quality of interpretation if a native speaker of English interprets.... I am referring to the simultaneous interpretation provided at the Saddam Hussein trials. The level of English of the interpreters though high was still not fit enough in my belief for the quality required of any form jurisprudence --- why? There were no native speakers of English able to interpret simultaneousl... See more
Find a non-native interpreter of an Oriental or African language! What I'm talking about is the improvement in the quality of interpretation if a native speaker of English interprets.... I am referring to the simultaneous interpretation provided at the Saddam Hussein trials. The level of English of the interpreters though high was still not fit enough in my belief for the quality required of any form jurisprudence --- why? There were no native speakers of English able to interpret simultaneously from Arabic. This problem also applies to Chinese, to Japanese, to Korean, to Persian etc. Not to French, not to German, not to Italian etc.

However... seldom do you see in the EU, UN, or Canadian Parliament for instance, an interpreter working into a B language unless the combination is obscure. Chinese and Arabic in the UN have no European or North American interpreters who can interpret from either language into English, French etc who are non-Chinese, or non-Arab. It would significantly improve the quality of an interpretation again if such were the case. We cannot however be expected to work back into Arabic or Chinese if it is not spoken by us flawlessly. Is it not possible to specialize -- to say that one interprets from Arabic exclusively into English. We can get away with this in translation. Interpreters can get away with this if they are working between multiple European languages. Asian/African interpreters are almost always native speakers of their language with fluency in a European language - - but what about the odd visa versa!

Cheers!
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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:09
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
As I see it... Jan 11, 2011

... that would be your niche! But maybe you're still trying to convince yourself it's possible?

At the outset, I could tell you that the booth set-up makes it difficult for one person to work two ways (can you imagine a scenario of interpellation? But that's what partners are for).

But to be practical, and in partial agreement with Williamson, second-language speakers who attend a conference often dispense with interpreting services, which is probably what makes your sp
... See more
... that would be your niche! But maybe you're still trying to convince yourself it's possible?

At the outset, I could tell you that the booth set-up makes it difficult for one person to work two ways (can you imagine a scenario of interpellation? But that's what partners are for).

But to be practical, and in partial agreement with Williamson, second-language speakers who attend a conference often dispense with interpreting services, which is probably what makes your specific market harder to break into. (I assure you I've tried to learn Arabic on the ground and found myself with more native speakers willing to speak any other language I knew than to bear with my Arabic. I thus came to the early conclusion that it was necessary to pay a professional for the effort of restraining the natural bilingual reflex). Now, that doesn't mean that there are no sectors that persistently require interpreting services in the combination (petrol, the military, sectors with bilateral agreements, or even cultural conferences). It's merely a matter of canvassing, establishing contacts, and specializing, as I see it.

One thing you should consider in all this is that our profiles as professionals are highly individual. It is perfectly possible for an ethnic Asian, Arab or African to be more native in English or some other post-colonial dominant language than you expect him to be in the other language you suppose he should be a native of (check out some second-generation Canadians, for example).
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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:09
Flemish to English
+ ...
Not so seldom. Jan 12, 2011

janthony wrote:
However... seldom do you see in the EU interpreters working into a B language unless the combination is obscure.
Cheers!


Baltic languages and (other rare langues) are often interpreted into English, French or German and from English,French, German into the other working languages. That is called liason-interpreting.
Principles are fine, but what if they don't bring bread on the table i.e.money in your bank-account.


 

lucagandi
Italy
Local time: 10:09
English to Italian
+ ...
not really Jan 12, 2011

Williamson wrote:
Baltic languages and (other rare langues) are often interpreted into English, French or German and from English,French, German into the other working languages. That is called liason-interpreting.


I think you mean relay/relais, whereby the interpreters working in their B language act as a "pivot" for the other booths. As far as I know, liaison interpreting is a synonym of dialogue interpreting.


 

juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:09
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Long term Jan 14, 2011

You cannot get away without being able to speak the other language reasonably well. Even when you interpret a lecture from Arabic into English, when the coffee break comes, the participants may want to converse with the speaker and need assistance.
You will have to practice and attain a level of fluency to be able to accommodate these situations.

On the practical side, you should find an Arabic mother tongue interpreter partner, and he/she could take on most of the English i
... See more
You cannot get away without being able to speak the other language reasonably well. Even when you interpret a lecture from Arabic into English, when the coffee break comes, the participants may want to converse with the speaker and need assistance.
You will have to practice and attain a level of fluency to be able to accommodate these situations.

On the practical side, you should find an Arabic mother tongue interpreter partner, and he/she could take on most of the English into Arabic interpreting, while you do the reverse. This would only work on assignments where the expectation is primarily into English, but you wouldn’t take on any other in any case.

As for demand, you would have to do your own research, because geographically you can only work within a certain distance. As someone living in the UK, I fly or take the train to virtually anywhere in Europe, but I am not asked to go to other continents, because it would not be viable for the clients and for me either. I would expect your travelling distances would be similar, so you would have to look around in that area to gauge the actual demand. Or you could decide to move somewhere else for the sake of having more work.


[Edited at 2011-01-14 11:48 GMT]
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janthony (X)

Local time: 01:09
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I see your point... Jan 14, 2011

juvera wrote:

You cannot get away without being able to speak the other language reasonably well. Even when you interpret a lecture from Arabic into English, when the coffee break comes, the participants may want to converse with the speaker and need assistance.
You will have to practice and attain a level of fluency to be able to accommodate these situations.

On the practical side, you should find an Arabic mother tongue interpreter partner, and he/she could take on most of the English into Arabic interpreting, while you do the reverse. This would only work on assignments where the expectation is primarily into English, but you wouldn’t take on any other in any case.

As for demand, you would have to do your own research, because geographically you can only work within a certain distance. As someone living in the UK, I fly or take the train to virtually anywhere in Europe, but I am not asked to go to other continents, because it would not be viable for the clients and for me either. I would expect your travelling distances would be similar, so you would have to look around in that area to gauge the actual demand. Or you could decide to move somewhere else for the sake of having more work.


[Edited at 2011-01-14 11:48 GMT]



Well, my oral fluency in Arabic is strong, but because it's been used a passive language for so long as I work in literary translation almost exclusively, my comprehension has been honed (I in fact subtitle extensively for the Lebanese film industry), but my speaking articulation is just not sharp enough to handle working for extended periods into Standard Arabic -- any Arab can testify to this as well, for native speakers it doesn't come easy! For non native speakers, its all the more challenging to produce Academic Arabic well enough without sounding like a fool.. it's not like European languages even remotely with this respect.

I might take that practical side idea though, or I may stick with where my niche is. This is tough.


 

FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:09
English to Hungarian
+ ...
actually... Jan 14, 2011

lucagandi wrote:

Williamson wrote:
Baltic languages and (other rare langues) are often interpreted into English, French or German and from English,French, German into the other working languages. That is called liason-interpreting.


I think you mean relay/relais, whereby the interpreters working in their B language act as a "pivot" for the other booths. As far as I know, liaison interpreting is a synonym of dialogue interpreting.


It's neither. It's called retour. It's very loosely connected to the 'pivot' concept, as a retour often serves as a pivot.
Retour: working into your B language
Relay: interpreting from another interpretation (as opposed to directly from source)
Pivot: interpratation taken by all others on relay
Liaison: interpreting a two-way conversation without tecnical equipment


 
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