Barry S. Olsen (@ProfessorOlsen), a professional interpreter, recently prompted a question on his Twitter feed to his followers – “When interpreting a speaker who is confusing and incoherent, have I done a good job if those listening to my interpretation are just as confused and perplexed as those who were listening in the source language?”
The responses he received were a variety of different opinions. Some think that yes, the interpreter does his job right even if the speaker is confusing. Others believe no, the interpreter did not do his job right if the speaker was struggling to express himself. Some believe it is the interpreters job to rework information so it is more clear, while others think that if the speaker is confusing and incoherent than it is hard for the interpreter to relay the information effectively. While many opinions can be expressed, what is the right way to go about these problems interpreters are faced with? Which leads us to interpretation standards and ethics and many questions that have been brought up from this tweet by Barry Olsen.
The Challenges Interpreters Face
Interpreting is one of the main components of language services, but with that comes many challenges interpreters face to promote understanding and communication. Whether the interpreting is done over the phone, Skype or in-person and if it’s for healthcare, business, or legal purposes, new and experience interpreters are likely to face many challenges every once in a while.
Difficulty Hearing the Speaker
This is one of the busiest challenges interpreters face, and the situation can develop from only two things. One, in which can be fixed, the audio equipment is not working properly, and two, a problem with the individual speaker.
While audio malfunctions can easily be fixed, a problem with the individual speaker cannot be fixed right away. These problems can be –
- When the speaker speaks too fast
- When a speaker speaks to softly
When interpreters do simultaneous or consecutive interpreting, it is important for them to clearly hear what is being said. They cannot interpret words and sentences that they cannot hear.
Being an interpreter is very demanding. Aside from a high level of proficiency in the source and target languages, another of the challenges interpreters face is that they must be highly knowledgeable of the culture of different countries. So, what if you are but your speaker does not know the language they are speaking in that well? Or, they know it but are not pronouncing words correctly or the way you studied?
While this may occur a few more often than it should, the interpreter has to know the differences in how the language is spoken by people from different regions. Speakers will often use local idioms, slang and jargon when they speak, so it is very important for an interpreter to know that or else the job will not get done.
Cultural awareness is another of the many challenges interpreters face. When interpreting another language, the interpreter should not have to use any extra red sources, they should be able to interpret the target language right away.
Interpreters rely not only in their excellent language proficiency but also in their vast knowledge of a different cultures, the cultural connotations of the words spoken, and how the language is expressed in a different culture.
if an interpreter is not entirely knowledgeable in the language, culture or different slangs they should not be interpreting for that specific job.
Interpreters act as a bridge for intercultural communications. It is important to not only interpret the words, but to deliver the source language in the tone of voice that reflects how it normally sounds in the target language.
It is challenging, but interpreters must be quite flexible yet quick in making decisions right on the spot.
What type of interpreting is it?
This can play a huge factor when interpreting. Whether it is Video Remote Interpreting, or in-person, it is important to know what to do when interpreting in that specific industry. When working in healthcare, the interpreters must be knowledgeable, somewhat on the topic. For legal, do not change anything as this can lead to many issues.
It is also important to know the patient or the person. Some interpreters will come across mental health patients, that will simply just not make sense because of the state they are in. When this occurs, it is best to hear what they have to say but then explain the situation to the doctor or whoever you are interpreting too. Always explain your side, and make sure everyone knows that something like that would not be your fault.
In order to determine if the speaker is deliberately confusing or not, interpreters need to come to the conclusion that they cannot do their job effectively. If you cannot hear the speaker, understand the language they are speaking in, or know what to do in a certain industry situation you will not be able to interpret successfully.