Most people use the terms “translation” and “translator” erroneously — as they refer to written work — instead of the appropriate terms — “interpreting” and “interpreter”. Interpreting refers to the spoken transmission – carried out by an interpreter – of an oral message, from the source language into the target language. There are several forms of interpreting: conference, liaison, simultaneous or consecutive.
It is important however to emphasize that a good interpreter does not “interpret”, i.e. modify, the message to be conveyed. On the contrary, our duty and pride as interpreters is to be as faithful as possible to the original message, to fully convey the author’s intentions and ideas, in the clearest, neatest, most easily comprehensible form. Interpreting, as in its main definition, should always affect form but never content.
A counter-example would be the Italian pun “traduttore, traditore” — “translator, traitor”. This reflects the stake and importance of the role of translation and interpreting, at the crossroad of peoples, nations and civilizations. The quality of this filter can make all the difference, one way or another!
Investing into this type of service is thus a good strategic choice. Indeed, poor quality in the restitution of a message could entail failure: as talented as the speaker can be, his message would remain stuck behind the language barrier, separating him from his audience. The key to the success of any meeting resides in communication, i.e. in being able to convey one’s ideas clearly to the audience.
The role of interpreting is thus a decisive component in the success of any international and cross-linguistic meeting.
In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter uses headphones to convey, almost simultaneously, the speaker’s message. In order for the interpreter’s voice not to disturb those nearby, he works in an isolated booth. Thus, his voice is only heard through headphones, in the target language.
In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter expresses the message in the target language after the original message has been actually delivered. Unlike simultaneous interpreting, where the interpreter is heard but not seen, consecutive interpreting requires the interpreter to stand in front of the audience and speak to them directly. This implies a different use of time and space, than with simultaneous interpreting.
The back-and-forth between the speaker and the interpreter makes it easier for the audience to assimilate the message. The length of the sequences in each language must therefore be adjusted: neither too short – in order to avoid interrupting the speaker’s momentum, nor too long – to avoid the audience feeling left out. This subtle balance requires good listening skills, as well as an ongoing interaction and harmony between the speaker and his interpreter.
The interpreter relies on his attention, concentration and memorization skills. Indeed, a mere few seconds of inattention are enough to miss crucial components of what is being expressed.
The interpreter does not only deliver words, but also their flesh – sounds and vibrations: rhythms, melodies, intonations, gestures (in consecutive work), giving an added emotional dimension to the words. A good interpreter thus matches the speaker’s energy, as he is, to some extent, his spokesperson and extension. A good energetic match between them guarantees a certain comfort, high quality communication, a source of harmony and an understanding between all those involved. Such value is priceless.
I was often congratulated on the quality of my work both after consecutive and simultaneous interpreting sessions. Instead of delivering the message mechanically, I tend to clarify it, to make it more lively and easier to understand. As Boileau once said: “What is clearly conceived, will be clearly expressed, and the words to say it will come easily and effortlessly.”
The significance of interpreting in a more and more globalized society is primordial, and should be considered and respected as such.
In compliance with international trade standards of the AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters), interpreters should always iwork in teams of two or more so as to take turns about every 30 minutes, considering the extreme concentration and skills required for this work.
While the conference interpreter’s work is aimed at a significantly large gathering, the liaison interpreter acts is a go-between in a much smaller groups or meetings. It is thus a more confidential and private type of work. The interpreter acts as a sort of attaché or spokesperson for the people he accompanies. He can also intervene as a guide or a chauffeur.
Technical translation, as opposed to literary translation, refers to any work that is not meant to be published
A technical translator can be an employee or freelance, as opposed to the literary translator who is paid in author’s rights. Usually, the material to translate is shorter than a book. However, it can be longer, for instance when I translated a judgment of about 140 pages on British trademarks.
Literary translation – 30 books translated, both into English and French.
Literary translation is published work. It is not limited to works of fiction or literature but also to essays of all kinds, manuals, political pamphlets and everything that belongs to the “non-fiction” category.
The translator is considered as the author of his translation. If he is paid by a publisher, he gets author’s rights, i.e. he yields his intellectual property and exploitation rights to the publisher, in exchange for a fee.
In France, as authors have a protected status, they contribute to the Agessa (French Association for the Management of Authors’ Social Security). A relatively small percentage of their wage (compared to other professions) is taken out for taxes.
Usually, the contract between the publisher and the translator plans a payment in three installments: the first is paid upon signature of the contract (advance payment), the second, once the work is delivered, and the last, upon the publisher’s acceptance of the actual text, as a quality guarantee. Depending on the type of contract, the publisher may ask the translator to review his work in the target language before accepting to pay the last installment.
Lozanov, the founding father of suggestopedia, pointed out that inhibitive psychological factors often hinder the learning of foreign languages. People who have gone through French schools may have noticed that qualifying as ”wrong” – with all the moral connotations linked to it – something that in reality is a “mistake” has a significant impact on the learning process: the fear of “doing wrong” is so strong that students would rather keep silent.
Adults are often charmed by a child’s mistakes while he is learning his mother , and so any mostakes are perfectly well accepted. This creates a positive environment. However, this unconditional support often disappears, when adults are learning foreign languages. Daring to making mistakes without self-censorship is the key to their progress. As the saying goes: nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Oral practice, regardless of mistakes and imperfections, is the only way forward. “Repetition is the mother of all learning.”
According to statistics, Lozanov noticed that learning was more efficient when it was entertaining. Games, entertainment and passion lead to a faster and more complete, dynamic and permanent learning. Lozanov even used relaxation to help his students impregnate the musicality and deep structures of the language.
Research in audio-psycho-phonology (APP), a science developed by Dr. Alfred Tomatis, open up interesting perspectives on how to train the ear and develop listening skills to better perceive the specific frequencies of a language, so as reproduce them more accurately: “the voice cannot emit frequencies that the ear is unable to hear” (First Tomatis Law). A French ear, for instance, has to switch its bandwidth to latch on to American English, which uses higher harmonics than French. Training with an electronic ear (Tomatis Method) is an excellent preparation: it makes the learning process faster, easier and better.