This text is about how literal we should be when interpreting. We talk about the differences between interpreting and translating and how the negligence of those has led to us being a lot behind in interpreting. We talk about frequency in discourse and lexicon proximity as ways to judge how usual or common a term is. Communication effectiveness and speed are items that should connect exclusively to interpreting.

Consider the verb to assist. In Australia, the average individual feels completely comfortable saying How Can I Assist You Today? In Brazil, the average individual is only going to feel comfortable saying How Can I Help You Today?  instead. We here, once more, have the figure of the Cultural Translation: We must consider frequency in discourse and lexicon proximity. And these things could actually be mathematically measured.

I myself, being a person of middle-high level of eloquence
and education and all else when Brazil is the adopted reference, feel much more comfortable listening to How Can I Help You. Somehow, To Assist leads me to wonder about things in my head. It takes resources away from me. To Help, however, comes almost instinctively to my most superficial brain level, let’s say. Maybe the native Australian would think I am a better interpreter if they heard Assisti-lo instead of Ajuda-lo, since to assist holds much more proximity to assistir in terms of shape, sound, and all else than to ajudar, but I think that righter is my heart: The average Brazilian would connect much more comfortably to ajudar than to assistir.

I definitely think that language should not be in this world to create barriers, so that we should choose simplifying if possible over keeping it literally equivalent.

We could insist and say Voce Tem Cartao de Concessao? However, things get much more easily communicated if we say Voce Tem Cartao do Governo Australiano? In the first case, we are being literal, but there is no such a thing in Brazil, so that the NES cannot connect to that in an immediate manner. In the second case, we are going for culture: Who gives concession cards is the Australian government.

Interpreting cannot be the same as translating: We need to speed up understanding and, in general, increase communication effectiveness when we interpret. Such is not necessary in translation: A printed document is not something we usually associate with speed.

As I keep on saying in my work, we are doing very wrong: Interpretation is something completely different from translation, and therefore the techniques we use should also be completely different.

With the persistent and historic negligence of all differences that matter between one trade and another, we seem to still be at the stage of crawling in what comes to interpreting. Yet, in translation, we are already piloting supersonics.

Copyright, 1999-2006. All rights reserved. -
How Common and Usual Easily Beat Literal Compatibility
Author: Marcia Pinheiro
English to Portuguese translator 
By Marcia Pinheiro
Published on 05/8/2017
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