Knowing your material

Knowing your material

An article in the latest 通訳・翻訳ジャーナル(春号)brought up a very interesting point. As an interpreter, it is not enough to simply look up the words you will need to know. You have to also understand the company, their goals and philosophies, as well as what they do. But more than that, you have to understand the subject matter. No matter how many words you memorize, if you don’t truly understand what is being talked about, you won’t be able to interpret it successfully.

This makes the interpreter’s job even harder than some people might think. Lets say you get a job doing medical interpretation. You know that the appointment is going to be about diabetes. You need to not only memorize the words related to diabetes, but you also need to understand all the implications that having diabetes has on your life, the different kinds of diabetes, different types of treatment, etc. And then, when the doctor comes in and says something way out of left field (like he thinks you should eat lots of fruit), even though your research has told you otherwise, you still need to interpret exactly what the doctor says. We need to be informed. But no matter how much we think we know, we cannot interfere. Our role is conduit of information. We are not meant to give our opinions. Who knows, maybe some study just came out that says specific fruit in specific doses will improve the body’s insulin production. I’m just saying. Remember, you need to learn, not to input your opinions, but to be able to say what the speaker says clearly and comprehensibly.

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