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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Interpreting  »  Accuracy in Interpreting

Accuracy in Interpreting

By Marcia Pinheiro | Published  07/7/2016 | Interpreting | Not yet recommended
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Quicklink: http://www.proz.com/doc/4280
Marcia Pinheiro
English to Portuguese translator
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Sometimes it is very hard to believe that we are doing the right thing for our clients (NES, Non-NES, and our employer), and this sensation seems to mostly appear when our actions may bring legal consequences.

I had to frequently interpret a standard text that is used for immigration purposes, a medical text, and the doctors I dealt with were all into pretty quick interaction for some reason. One of the questions was: Have you had any problems with your bladder?

The problem is that we have two bladders: One is the normal bladder, where the urine goes, and the other is the Gall Bladder, which is an organ that, if I understood well, supports the actions of other organs.

I helped with interpreting sessions containing the same terms before doing the sessions I have just mentioned and the medical staff member had at least sometimes meant Gall Bladder, so that this is all very risky: To be covered, a smart interpreter, and I then considered myself to be this one until recently, would use both Gall Bladder and bladder in the target language when passing the question to the NES.

Of course, a five-star interpreter would never mind stopping all, slowing down, and putting things to the right weight: So, doctor, just to clarify, you meant bladder only, not Gall Bladder as well, right?

On another occasion, the doctor would ask about HIV and abnormal test results. The main issue here is that I consider myself to be a person who has reasonable amount of knowledge of the cultures involved, so that I do think I should use that knowledge at least sometimes. When I left Brazil, more than one decade ago, almost everyone in the Country did not understand what HIV was or what it connected to. When we said AIDS, however, they all understood, so that it was common hearing the medical doctors from Brazil saying that their clients would be tested for AIDS, not for HIV. I got that addiction from there. An Australian doctor did properly clarify, of course: You may have HIV and not have AIDS, since AIDS is a manifestation of the HIV, but you may have a silent version. The words they used were not exactly these and the information was not half as complete, but I knew what they meant when they spoke. If I get into the habit, which I confess is what I did for a while, of going culture, and, in this case, culture that I actually imagine, since I have been out of Brazil for quite a long time, one decade is a really long time, then I will easily upset the doctor, who may expect to hear HIV and know a bit of Portuguese (in my case it is Portuguese). On the other hand, that is not right medical information, since, once more, they can simply carry the virus; the disease does not need to express itself in any form or shape in their organisms.

This is a very complex issue. The right decision is saying HIV because it may be that the NES answer no and they do not know that HIV is AIDS, but that will favor the NES on the occasion, not injure. At the same time, if the doctors were really worried about the issue, they should have both HIV and AIDS in the question, but they don’t. Besides, when it becomes a problem for the Australian immigration, they will certainly let us know, and it will be very unlikely that, on the date they find out that they have, let’s say, one thousand Brazilians who entered the Country having AIDS but claiming not to, they will point the finger at Marcia, The Interpreter, is it not?

In the end of the day, I would have done my job if I said HIV, so that it is obviously with them using arguments to defend any of the parties involved. I think this is definitely a final decision.

There are also standard texts for those who open energy and gas accounts. Lots of times the representative (of the company) forgets a few words or sentences or even intentionally skips those. If we are used to serve the company, it is all very tempting, but I am learning to police myself in those regards: We should realistically remain faithful to whatever they are saying. It is inconvenient, since, in this case, they will certainly turn the revolver on us.

Basically, the NES will unavoidably speak to another NES and the other NES will mention that, when they opened their account, the question was slightly different. That is when there is only one that they will blame, guaranteed: That is Marcia, The Interpreter.

Some calls are recorded, the representative will tell you. You are definitely doing your job if you simply say whatever they said. On the other hand, saying the standard text may mean preserving your job if the NES complains.

Some fellows have appealed to becoming friends, personal friends, with all involved. I definitely recommend that we do not do that: That is unethical. We can be friends at most with the employees of the company that contracts our services, assuming that they are not being served by us. If we are caught, the consequences can be very serious, and the possible consequences do include losing our credentials. It is best not to appeal to the emotions of the clients.

There is still the case in which the client uses words that are too refined even for us. Perhaps the words are complex and the text they say looks and sounds beautiful, but the meaning of all is quite trivial and could be said with one tenth of the words they have used. I recently have been through that. That is when I advise that we use Cultural Translation. We cannot hinder communication with our service provision: That is mentioned in our ethical code in some places of the world, and it is simply understood to be a requirement in others.

On the occasion, I had two main issues: One was that I really did not know any equivalent to the terms the NES was using, like nothing that could have the same effect in English. The second issue was that I would waste resources tremendously trying to mimic her speaking style and would probably get the other party lost in the middle as I myself almost became.

It is a very tough situation, since the speech of the NES ended up being more elegant, more eloquent, than mine. We should probably exercise judgement here: If the other party is a common person, so say a lower governmental officer or an admin, we should obviously simplify. If they are also eloquent people, so say a member of the academy of writers or something, then we should do our best to pass that idea, the idea of eloquence and elegance.

On the other hand, the value society gives to interpreting tells me that no interpreter could be wealthy or belong to the high levels of society if they are making a living out of doing interpreting. We therefore cannot possibly be charged on highest eloquence levels. In fact, only two or three of my clients, in more than three years working with that, have shown eloquence that was well above mine. We cannot fight against that, like we compare to the builders and the person compares to the CEO of the academy of the writers, so that we can only do what we can do, basically.

Accuracy DEFINITELY has its limits, I would say. We should probably discuss the topic way more than we currently do.





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