opinions about being an interpreter
Thread poster: bklynally (X)

bklynally (X)
Dec 5, 2005

I am an undergraduate studying the role of the interpreter for a final paper. I would like to know as an interpreter, what are your likes and dislikes about the position? Additionally, how much freedom do you feel you have/don't have during the actual moments of interpreting, i.e. is it a literal translation -- word for word -- or do you have some level of agency in deciding what to interpret? Anything else you have discovered about the profession would be helpful as well. Thanks so much.


Balttext  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:42
English to Latvian
+ ...
Interpreting freedom Dec 5, 2005

For me it rather depends whether it is consecutive or simultaneous interpreting, but I still feel I have the freedom of not sticking to word-for-word interpreting, since it never is/was the concept of translation anyways.

So in consecutive I do cut it short to some 3/4 of the text by summarising, while in simultaneous it is almost around 90%, the target text being closer to the source, sounding maybe a bit less "smooth" but anyway not word for word.


Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:42
English to Dutch
+ ...
I like dealing with people Dec 6, 2005

when I'm doing telephone interpreting (my main interpreting job for the past few years). On the other hand: dealing with the people (both callers and receivers of calls) can be extremely frustrating. It's a good thing people can't hear me think "You stpuid idiot/moron/[insert your favorite curses here], I just interpreted that." But I just put a smile on my face and in my voice and continue to be a professional.

On the other hand, it's a great feeling helping calming down a 911 caller until the police get there, or helping a patient get through to the doctor.

I try to be as litteral and complete as possible, often asking callers to speak in short sentences so I can better remember (and/or write down) what they say. That's easier on the telephone than in live situations because people are used to the give-and-take of a phone conversation.

And the commute (all the way to my telephone) isn't bad either.


A Hayes (X)
Local time: 10:42
Pragmatics Dec 6, 2005

(There is a great deal of fascinating theory behind all this, but) Very basically, pragmatics means that you need to interpret the ‘intention’ of a message. Now, in order to achieve this, you don’t necessarily need to use the same words.

I agree with Balttext that the technique you adopt will depend on the type of interpreting. Here in Australia, there are three main interpreting settings: community -which includes medical, legal, and educational settings, as well as the housing commission, etc.-, conference, and business or liaison interpreting.

In the context of court interpreting, accuracy means reproducing both the content and the form of a message, i.e. what and how something is said. Whereas in conference interpreting, the interpreter is usually expected to relay the content of a speech – the ‘what’ – in the best possible way. In other words, if the speaker hesitates or backtracks a lot, the interpreter is supposed to fix or improve this, producing a smooth, error-free interpretation.

[Edited at 2005-12-07 07:06]


A Hayes (X)
Local time: 10:42
Variety is the spice of life Dec 6, 2005

Combining interpreting with translation is ideal for me. Translating gives me time to carry out research and obtain in-depth knowledge about different issues. Interpreting gives me speed, and helps me keep in touch with the external world.

Just as exercising helps me translate better – because I feel good and fresh and healthy and alive – so does interpreting.

Like my colleagues, I also enjoy the contact with people and the challenge that interpreting entails. Finally, I like acting – and interpreters need to be good actors.

[Edited at 2005-12-07 07:04]


Edwal Rospigliosi  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
I love it Dec 7, 2005

What I love of being an interpreter is the fact that every day is an adventure...literally. You can be in a noisy factory on Monday, a quiet museum on Tuesday, a big hotel on Wednesday and a mud hut on Friday. Compare that to be stuck in the same office watching the same walls everyday!

[Edited at 2005-12-07 04:18]


Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:42
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Exactly, Edwal! Dec 7, 2005

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:
What I love of being an interpreter is the fact that every day is an adventure...literally. You can be in a noisy factory on Monday, a quiet museum on Tuesday, a big hotel on Wednesday and a mud hut on Friday. Compare that to be stuck in the same office watching the same walls everyday!

I also combine translation with interpreting, and it's always nice two have these one or two occasions per month when I get out of my box and am able to refresh my mind. As to the "word by word" issue, I agree with previous commentators that it's always the concept/underlying message not the pure words to be conveyed. Your choice of words in the target language may greatly differ from what's being said in the source.


[Edited at 2005-12-07 09:23]


bklynally (X)
more than an interpreter Dec 11, 2005

thanks everyone

one other question:
Are there instances/situations when your role as an interpreter goes beyond pure translation (be it literal or selective)? What other roles does the interpreter play?


José Luis Villanueva-Senchuk (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
Of course Dec 11, 2005


We do have to go beyond the 'mere' role of performing a translation. We are linguistic mediators and not just a human who transposes the original speech ‘word by word.’

We have to convey a message despite the cultural differences that may arise. To do this, we must mediate.



bklynally (X)
observation site Dec 11, 2005

does anyone have suggestions on where I can observe an interpreter at work? I'm concerned that issues of confidentiality and privacy will prevent me from finding an observation site.



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