Honda Interpreter Training

Honda Interpreter Training

So, I went to Honda’s Interpreter Training Seminar yesterday and wanted to share with my readers (which I don’t think are actually out there) some of the information that was presented. This is an overview and please understand that I did not come up with any of the information on my own. Most of it is well established interpretation theory.

Before we go into this too much, I want to make sure that everyone understands one fundamental thing: translation is written, interpretation is spoken.

Methods of Interpretation

There are four main forms of interpretation:

  1. Simultaneous Interpretation (SI)- Where you interpret what is being said a few seconds behind the speaker. This way your interpretation doesn’t take up any more time than it takes the speaker to complete his sentence (more or less). This is used in various different settings: meetings, interviews, etc.
  2. Consecutive Interpretation (CI)- Where you wait until the speaker stops to interpret what he has said. Ideally, the speaker will stop every few sentences but sometimes CI requires you to take notes for several minutes and then interpret the entire message. This is sometimes less of a strict interpretation and more of a summary, though it is important never to deviate from the original message. However, since you have more time to grasp the full message of the speaker, it can be more precise because you won’t make mistakes half way through the sentence and have to correct yourself. For that reason, it is the favored method for medical and some legal interpretation. Additionally, people who have trouble speaking and listening at the same time may find CI easier.
  3. Whispering– SI done for one to three people. This method is used when only a handfull of people in a large group need the interpreter. Rather than stand in the front of the room, the interpreter sits behind the person or persons and whispers the interpretation to them. (*Note: do not take “whisper” too litterally. A lot of my clients have had bad hearing and “whispering” was not an option)
  4. Sight Translation– This is the oral interpretation of a written document. Basically someone hands you a document in language A and you, as you read it, verbalize what it says in language B.

Skills Needed to be and Interpreters

  1. A strong sense of duty – You need to be responsible for your own preparation, study, and presentation. You must be contentious of whether the listeners understand your interpretation. You must put all effort into rendering an accurate translation. You must abide by the ethical guidelines for interpreters.
  2. A good command of the languages involved
  3. An encyclopedic knowledge – Just because you know a lot of Japanese doesn’t mean you will be able to handle every interpreting situation. It is very very hard to interpret something that you yourself do not understand. So its important to know at least a little bit about a lot of things.
  4. Acute hearing
  5. Good articulation
  6. Note-taking skills –  During consecutive interpretation, you don’t have time to take notes the way you would in a high school or college class. Its important to familiarize yourself with the established methods for CI note-taking. (See this article for more.)
  7. A good memory – Essential with CI because you simply can’t write everything down.
  8. Quick and accurate responses

9 Interpreting Errors

  1. Omission – Leaving out a word that the speaker used.
  2. Addition – Adding a word that the speaker didn’t use.
  3. Substitution – Exchanging one word for another, and thereby changing the meaning.
  4. Conceptual Error – Literal word for word translation that doesn’t mean the same thing in the target language.
  5. Lexical Error – Wrong word
  6. Grammar/Syntax Error – Wrong grammar
  7. Distortion – Twisting the original meaning (whether by mistake (ex. wrong word or grammar) or on purpose (ex. to soften the blow of what was said))
  8. Register – Not matching the speaker’s level of formality
  9. Para-linguistic Features – Not adding important “non-words” (like “eh” “um”) that were used by the speaker and give nuance to the original message.

The first 3 are the most important and the trickiest. For example,

好感度がアップする「美しい姿勢」の作り方』 –

How to get “Beautiful Posture” that will improve your reputation

So, in the translation of this article title we have substitutions and additions (I couldn’t find a good title that would let me omit something). But, they are for a reason. In English, we don’t say “make posture”, we use the verb “get” or “have”. This was necessary so as not to make a lexical error in English. Next, we have アップする. While English does have some similar phrases like “level up” or “boost”, the general intended meaning of アップする is “to improve”. Substitutions like this are often needed with カタカナ語 even though they sound like they are English.

There are also a billion other ways that this could be translated and still be right. As it is a newspaper article, you could go with something like “Improving your posture to boost your reputation.” It all depends on what your client wants. But, when you are interpreting, its important to stick fairly close to the original. And its vital to never add, change, or omit ANYTHING that will give the sentence a different meaning.


4 thoughts on “Honda Interpreter Training

  1. Hello!
    I just wanted to leave a comment and tell you that this blog has been a big help! I recently got a phone call from Honda for an internship to be an interpreter as well! I have my interview very very soon and since then, I’ve tried to “study” but it is very difficult to study because I feel that it is whether you know it or you don’t.
    Reading your blog post was very helpful in terms of preparing me for what I am getting my self into.
    I just wanted to ask a few questions about the process of getting the job. Did you have to take an assessment for the job? If so, was the assessment very difficult in terms of vocabulary ? (were many of the words technical?) Are you a native Japanese speaker? Ahh so many questions ! I’ll stop here, but once again, I really appreciate your blog posts.

    1. I am not a native Japanese speaker. And I didn’t really have much of a language assessment for either of the jobs I have had as an interpreter. But they were for Honda suppliers, not Honda itself.

      A friend of mine works for Honda and she said the language evaluation was pretty intense (not to scare you). If I remember correctly, they tested her on J to E and E to J consecutive and simultaneous and they also tested her sight translation. I think there was one that was one portion that was highly technical, but she said that it was just to test how much knowledge you have, not a deal breaker. Honda expects that you will come in without much knowledge of cars. The rest of the evaluation was pretty standard, everyday content. BUT, before you get very nervous, that friend was interviewing for a full-time position. The process for an intern is probably a lot easier.

      Just remember to speak in the first person when interpreting. Do your best not to omit any CONTENT (meaning: you don’t have to translate every word, but every concept must be communicated). Lastly, relax. If you are confident, you will do better 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for your reply! I am actually also interviewing for the Honda supplier, and for Honda it self. the suoplier I am going to an interview for has mentioned about the assessment so I was very nervous.

    I am very bad at writing in terms of all the difficult kanjis. But I am capable of typing and knowing what Kanji it is when I see it on the comouter. I have a feeling that is going to be an issue.
    Thanks again.

    1. No need to worry about kanji. No one should ever ask you to hand write a translation. It would look very unprofessional because handwritten documents are not something we use in the business world anymore.

      When I did “language assessments” at the few Honda suppliers where I interviewed, it was basically just a bilingual interview: part in Japanese and part in English. One supplier tried to read a long complex document and have me interpret it but I couldn’t because the way documents are written is so different from the way people speak naturally. I couldn’t do it in either language. But when I explained that and apologized for it, they let me interpret my interview and give each answer in both languages. That was for the job that I have now. I would guess that most smaller suppliers do some kind of a bilingual or interpreted interview. If it is a bigger company with more interpreters on staff, you will get something more complex like Honda’s process.

      Make sure to ask things about the job like: What percent is translation vs. interpretation? Do they prefer simultaneous or consecutive? Is most of the work Japanese to English or English to Japanese? What other job responsibilities does the interpreter have?
      I have found that most companies are impressed when you seem like you know about your field. If they don’t know the difference between translation and interpretation, or simul and consec, it gives your the opportunity to educate them and look smart doing it.

      Good luck!

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