One of the most difficult things to get used to, for me, is not interjecting your own opinions when interpreting.
As I have said before, when interpreting, you are supposed to be a conduit for communication. You are not supposed to be involved in the conversation. The only time you are allowed to speak on you own behalf is when you are unsure about the meaning of something. However, when you see two parties disagreeing about something and realize where the disconnect is occurring or hear someone lie about their situation, it is really hard to keep it to yourself. I often interpret situations where I can hear the issue that both sides are having with the other and I can see a great solution that would meet both of their needs. But I cannot break my role and start suggesting things. That is not my job and would actually make my job harder, because then I would have to be interpreting what each party said to me and what I said to each party plus what they said to eachother. No thank you.
There is also a good reason why we are not supposed to interject our own opinions. As much as you may think that the situation is simply a language, cultural, or point-of-view issue that you could easily resolve for your clients, it is often not that simple. People have ulterior motives. People have strategies that they employ to get what they want. Sometimes one party is saying that they can’t do something, not because they can’t, but to drive the other party to a preferable alternative. Sometimes, we just don’t know enough about the situation or technology to really understand the barriers to peaceful resolution.
Remember, disconnects happen among native speakers as well. Avoiding arguments is not part of your job.
I started working for a Japanese automotive company a little over a year ago. When I interviewed with them they asked me “can you translate?” I did what every eager job seeker would do. I said, “I never have but I am sure I can.” Oh boy, was I wrong.
Over the last year, I have improved a lot. I am learning a ton about being a proper translator/interpreter as I go. This blog is to share what I am learning with the world in hopes that it will help someone like me out there.
I have no formal training in translation and only a 40 week course in medical interpretation. So, what I share here is based on my own research. Please take it with a grain of salt and feel free to add anything from your personal experience.
A few months ago, I attended a 40 hour medical interpretation course. One of the things I learned there is that you should always speak in the first person when interpreting. They explained that if you speak in the third person it puts a gap between the provider and the patient. Also, you, as the interpreter, are a conduit for communication. Your existence should not be relevant to the conversation. You are the voice of the speaker.
However, the thing that blew my mind when I started researching it is that that is common practice. Most sites say that you should never use the first person in interpreting, even in business or legal. The sites listed many of the same reasons. Still, I live in a fairly big city and every time I speak in the first person, the listener looks at me like they have never heard anyone do that. This makes me think that either most interpreters are not trained or most people don’t work with interpreters.
Even in my current job, they don’t hire anyone as a flat-out interpreter. They hire bilinguals into other positions (I am technically a secretary, but what I do is translate). It makes sense that, if that is your practice, you would not be getting good quality interpretation and therefore would not be used to it.
Here is one of the discussions I was reading, if anyone is interested: