Let\'s tell Newsweek the difference between translators and interpreters
Thread poster: Jack Doughty

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:56
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Feb 7, 2003

Someone at ITI (that\'s the Institute of Translation & Interpreting, UK) is trying to take advantage of a recent article in Newsweek to publicize the distinction between the two branches of our profession. I have just received this email, to which I would like to reply, but I anyone\'s contribution on the subject would be welcome (either in this forum thread or direct to Newsweek).

Could you lend me a hand in an experiment aimed at getting a

little translator PR in a widely distributed magazine?

I was in the US last weekend and picked up a current copy of Newsweek on

the plane.

In it there is a full-page article facing a full-page photo of a basketball

player with the title \"Talking the Talk\". The pull-out on the text page

states \"With a record number of foreign players in the NBA, there\'s demand

for a new position: translator\".

The text goes on to profile an ad hoc interpreter who trails around after a

Brazilian basketball player hired by the NBA and \"translates\" for him. On

closer examination, the word interpreter appears nowhere in the article --

while upbeat & emphasizing the importance of allowing these star players to

communicate, the journalist uses only \"translator\" to describe the people

doing the language transfer.

I think that emphasizing the need for using a *trained language

professional* is a red herring here, might make the letter-writer come over

as humourless (Nene Hilario\'s interpreter seems to be bilingual by virtue

of family connections, sort of)..

But this *is* a good opportunity to bring home the translator = written,

interpreter = spoken message. I think. I also think it might be fun for a

few geographically scattered (!) people to write in to the Newsweek letters

page saying as much, then sit back and see if Newsweek runs the letters

side by side.

Eugene Seidel (Frankfurt) has agreed to send in his comment from our last

FA&WB column, i.e., approx. \"a translator is to an interpreter as Michael

Jackson is to a heart surgeon. Translators and facial reconstruction

addicts live with mistakes forever after, whereas heart surgeons quietly

bury their mistakes and interpreters commit them to the wind \".

I thought I might note that a translator is to an interpreter as

(journalist, author of this article) Adam Piore is to Dan Rather; one

writes, the other talks.

But if a few other people from different countries could make the same

point v. briefly and in a good-humored way that would be good too (e.g.,

\"Correction: translators

translate written work. The people trailing around after your basketball

stars work with the spoken word; they are called interpreters, not


I figure the more letters, however short (shorter the better, in fact), the

more likely it is the magazine will print something. Ros Schwartz has

already sent in a note.

[Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@newsweek.com. Include

writer\'s name, address and daytime phone number. ]


Erika Pavelka (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
French to English
Great idea! Feb 7, 2003

Hi Jack,

I\'m all for educating the media about the differences between translators and interpreters. In fact, I\'ve already sent off my letter. I hope others do too!



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Let\'s tell Newsweek the difference between translators and interpreters

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