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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- A good command of the languages involved
- 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.
- Acute hearing
- Good articulation
- 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.)
- A good memory – Essential with CI because you simply can’t write everything down.
- Quick and accurate responses
9 Interpreting Errors
- Omission – Leaving out a word that the speaker used.
- Addition – Adding a word that the speaker didn’t use.
- Substitution – Exchanging one word for another, and thereby changing the meaning.
- Conceptual Error – Literal word for word translation that doesn’t mean the same thing in the target language.
- Lexical Error – Wrong word
- Grammar/Syntax Error – Wrong grammar
- 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))
- Register – Not matching the speaker’s level of formality
- 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,
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.