Interpreter Training Tapes

Interpreter Training Tapes

I found a wonderful resource of old interpreting tapes on Youtube. They are probably from the 70s and a little slow paced, but they have great practice exercises (starting around 2b). Also, you will get to hear Nishiyama Sen-sensei around 30a, so that is exciting. If you don’t know that name, you really should. He is basically the father of J<>E simultaneous interpreting.

Enjoy!


 

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Interpreting Essentials: Confidentiality

Interpreting Essentials: Confidentiality

I want to start a series on the essential skills involved in interpreting. While I would love to start with something nice and easy, I am choosing to open the series with the most essential skill: maintaining confidentiality.

Much has been written on this topic from the AIIC (conference), NAJIT (judiciary), NCIHC (healthcare), among others. If you take the time to go through these standards, you will see that interpreters are held to the same level of confidentiality as doctors and lawyers. So, we are going to take a different approach here. We are going to discuss how to handle confidentiality when you work in close quarters; in-house.

Let’s take this common example. You are interpreting at a meeting with American and Japanese staff. Things are going smoothly, when one of the Japanese associates says something inflammatory, immediately followed by 「さっきは訳さないで」(don’t translate that). Even if you are working simultaneously, you likely hadn’t caught up to the inflammatory statement yet. So, what do you do now?

This happens all too often, especially when the in-house interpreter is someone who the Japanese staff trust and rely on often. So, first, congratulate yourself that the staff member was willing to say that in front of you. But then what?

Think of it from the Americans’ perspective for a minute. They just heard something. Don’t know what, but it sounded pretty angry. They want to know what was said. They are relying on you to provide that. But then switch perspectives. The Japanese person let his tongue slip because he thought no one (who might be offended by the comment) could hear him. He is trusting you to keep it secret.

So the first thing you must do is:

Manage the Flow of Discourse

waterbending_poses_by_moptop4000

 

You are in control of what happens now. Both parties are looking at your panicked face waiting for your next word. So the best policy is to let the room know what is going on. You can either do that by saying, “The speaker would like the last statement not to be translated” (not my fault guys), “The interpreter would like a minute to clarify” (I can smooth this over), or “Kindly disregard the previous outburst” (he’s just venting guys, don’t worry about it).

But how do you decide which to do?

Who are you accountable to?

accountableYou are being paid to translate one language into the other. Both parties are trusting you to conduct your work fairly. They trust that what you are saying accurately reflects the speaker’s intended meaning. If you lose that trust on either side, you are no longer reliable; regardless of how good your language skills may be. Confidentiality is the most important skill for an interpreter.

But you are first and foremost accountable to your own conscience.

If something is said that is unlawful, unethical, or otherwise morally grey and the speaker is asking you not to divulge that information to the other party, that is line you should never cross. Both parties must know that you are reliable but also an ethical human being. If you are ever in the situation where you are asked to give a false statement, interpret something that you know to be illegal, or cover up someones indiscretion, you should immediately recuse yourself from the meeting. You do not have to keep interpreting when you are not morally comfortable with the situation*.

*Note: This is not true of generally uncomfortable situations such as when someone is cursing a lot, talking about a traumatic experience, or yelling at someone. These are all uncomfortable, but you have the responsibility to portray them faithfully and not try to downplay anything that is being said.

Second, you are accountable to your company. They hired you and they expect you to work for them. So if the meeting was between your company and another company, you should keep what was said to yourself.

What I do

interpreter-4589When I am faced with this situation, I like to handle it this way. Usually I am working simultaneously so I am close to the offending comment. I pause and then say, “Don’t translate that last part,” just as the person said it. This way the Americans know that something was said and can chose to push back or leave it be. If I cannot do this, I will say “The interpreter has omitted the last statement at the request of the speaker.” This usually makes the Americans perk up and want to know what was said. But then you are back to interpreting, not intervening.

But the most important thing you can do is:

Training

Being in-house, you have the unique ability to haul other associates off into a room and say don’t you ever put me in that situation again. Okay, maybe not that forcefully, but the offending party does need to know that what they did is not acceptable behavior. Anything said in the room will be translated in the room. So if they want to vent in their language, they should stop the meeting, ask for a minute, and then they can say whatever they would like. Little quips when they think no one is listening would be inappropriate in any business setting, even when two languages aren’t involved.

So remember, in the moment it will be tough, but you have the opportunity to clear it up later and help stop it in the future. Above all, please remember to maintain the trust of both parties equally. Once you break on parties’ trust, you are no longer considered reliable, and that’s what confidentiality is all about.

 

Practice along with me

Practice along with me

I put together a practice schedule to help me polish the basic skill set that goes into translation and interpretation. I will put the schedule up here and then post occasional progress updates. Feel free to practice along with me and post any resources you found particularly helpful.

Objectives

Interpretation

  1. Improve memory and recall skills.
  2. Improve concept understanding and retention.
  3. Improve number recollection.

Translation

  1. Phrase more flexibly.
  2. Improve Japanese writing style.

General

  1. Increase vocabulary.
  2. Increase grammar knowledge.

Practice Tasks

  Task Applicable Objective
1 10 digit number memorization I-3
2 Number interpretation I-3
3 Word chaining I-1
4 Phrase memorization I-1, T-1, G-1, G-2
5 Quick word interpreting I-1, G-1
6 Shadowing I-2, T-1, G-1, G-2
7 Consecutive practice I-1, I-2
8 Translation editing T-2, G-1, G-2
 

Explanation of Tasks

1.      10 digit number memorization

Listen to a recording of ten unrelated numbers. Repeat as the recording plays. Then, play the recording again and wait until the first two numbers have been said to start repeating. This way, you are hearing numbers and saying different numbers.

Example:

Recording: “1, 5, 33, 47, 118…”

You:             “……….1, 5, 33, 47, 118…”

2.      Number interpretation

Listen to a recording of random numbers (over 6 digits) and interpret them into the opposite language.

3.      Word chaining

Memorize a series of random words by forming a story in your head as you hear them.

4.      Phrase memorization

Memorize sentences from JLPT N1 vocabulary book. Repeat the previous one before starting to memorize the next.

5.      Quick word interpreting

Prepare a list of 10 words in Japanese and English. Look at each word in the Japanese column and say the English version. Repeat with opposite language. Time target of 10 seconds to interpret the whole list (ie: no time to think about it).

6.      Shadowing

Listen to a speech and repeat the speaker’s words as he is speaking without changing or missing any words. This is done in the language of the presenter (ex: listen to Japanese and repeat in Japanese).

7.      Consecutive practice

Listen to a 5 minute speech and take notes. Interpret after speech has concluded. Record your interpretation. Re-watch speech and check for errors.

8.      Translation editing

Take an old translation and remove any confidential content (company names, etc.) Post on lang-8 to solicit corrections. Compile revised version in translation notebook.

Japanese to English Speech Interpreting Practice

Japanese to English Speech Interpreting Practice

In Andrew Gillies’ book, Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book, one of the first pieces of advice he gives is to work into your strongest language when practicing. For me, that means I should practice interpreting Japanese into English, not the other way around (which I have always found to be easier).

With that in mind, I have been looking for material that is suitable for practicing interpretation. Gillies goes on to explain that such material should have a narrative and be of a reasonable length without being overly technical (at least in the beginning). He adds that news broadcasts are about the worst thing you could chose because they change topics approximately every 90 seconds. Since that is almost all I listen to, I went in search of some real speeches in Japanese.

I was able to find this site which has the script from several speeches made by Prime Minister Abe, along with their English translation. A few even have the video of the speech, which makes them ideal for practicing.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/enzetsu/e_souri.html

So far, this is the best resource I have come up with. If anyone finds others, please share them.

Downtime: What to do when you have nothing to do

Downtime: What to do when you have nothing to do

Lately I have had a lot of downtime at work. So, I decided to write a blog post about effective use of time, rather than using my time effectively 🙂

Step 1: Organize and Review

If you have been taking notes while you are translating or interpreting, or if you have been saving a document to look over in detail, now is the time to do that. I like to organize the vocab I look up into lists by theme (HR words, Manufacturing words, Financial words, etc) and that is rather time consuming. It can be a great thing to do if you have nothing else to do. Take the time to organize what you have done so far. Put your files in order. Take the words you looked up on the last translation and review them. Put them into a flash card program. Go over old translations.

Step 2: Practice

If you don’t have any work to do, you can always make work for yourself. Go get an NHK article and start translating. Put the translation up on lang-8 and see what people think. Practicing will grow your vocabulary and give you more words to add to your glossary. If you are a straight interpreter, try pasting an article into google translate. It has a read-to-me function that you can use to help you practice interpreting. (Note, I am not telling you to use the translation google provides. Use the read-to-me function on the original, not the translation. We all know how bad GT is.) If you work in close quarters with other people just stick your headphones in and interpret in your head. It may look silly but its actually pretty good practice.

Step 3: Professional Development

See what other things are out there that might help you be a better translator. Research translation classes, online classes in your field, articles related to your field. There might not be something you can do right then but you might be able to suggest something at your next personnel review. Most companies love it when their employees take the initiative in professional development.

Step 4: Familiarize yourself with the Building/Products

If you work in a factory, this is a great time to go out on the floor and watch the processes, see how things work. Take notes and try to look up how to say things that you don’t know. (You may see things you’ve never thought to mention in conversation: beams, rafters, ventilation, etc.) You can also take this time to shadow someone, if anyone is willing. You don’t have to get involved you can just watch them do what they do and take notes. Try to translate out what you saw in a diary entry kind of thing. If you don’t work in a factory, find some parts laying around or some drawings and familiarize yourself with those.

Step 5: Taking stock and self evaluation

Let’s take some time to look at where you are and where you want to be. Look at how much progress you’ve made in your job. List your accomplishments to date. Include things like “I went to this seminar” or “I translated this thing that was out of my specialty.” Then take time to list out some goals. What are your weak points? What would you like to be able to do? What steps do you need to take to get there? This will help you know how to better use your downtime when you have it.

Step 6: Read

Reading is always good for our profession. Open up any random Japanese news site and start reading. It can be taxing when you just got done translating 10 pages and all you want to do is zone out, but reading is one of those things that we have to be able to do. It is how we grow our vocabulary. Reading is essential for translators.

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.

Planning for the future

Planning for the future

I have been a translator and interpreter for two years and four months. I started working as a bilingual office administrator with only a JLPT N2 as qualification. Two years and one job change later, I am ready to pass, no, decimate the N1 this December. But other than that, I will still be without qualifications.

I understand that translation is one of those things that comes with experience. The more you do it, the more you learn, the better you get. But there are people out there who have done it much longer than I have. Surely I could learn a lot from them. The problem is…I can’t find them.

Here is what I have learned about T&I education that is related to Japanese:

Schools in Japan:

There are several T&I schools in Japan. These are small specialized schools that crank out interpreters at record pace. I cannot say much about the impressions that businesses may have about interpreters trained at these schools. But, it does seem that the most popular one is Simul Academy.  Another thing about these 専門学校 is that they are often broken down by type of T&I. Basically, that breaks down to: subtitling, conference interpreting, tour guide interpreting, and general or technical interpreting and translation. There are some other categories, like pharma translation, that have become huge lately, but the main areas are those listed above. You can use the TsuHon if you are interested in finding more schools in Japan.

Schools in the US and other countries:

There are a few schools that are known for interpreter training. The most famous one is the Monterey Institute. It is famous for training the world’s best interpreters. However, like most other programs in the US and abroad, this school only offers master’s degrees. There are many programs throughout the US that offer short program training in Spanish interpreting, as that is our second most widely spoken language here, but you will be hard pressed to find one that trains in Japanese.

Correspondence courses:

Much to my surprise, these are few and far between as well. Babel University offers a correspondence masters degree but it is very hard to get any information from them and I am not sure they are a reliable school. DHC offers online and correspondence classes but no comprehensive program. ALC has a correspondence program but doesn’t offer any support. And so on and so on.

Basically, if you are a Japanese translator and interpreter in the US, you do not have a lot of options. But that brings us to the next question: How much training do you really need for a profession that you already have?

When I attended iJET a few years ago, I asked a question to the general assembly about freelancers. I prefaced it with a comment about how I was new and hadn’t even completed N1. The response I got was a general scoff. Not because I hadn’t done it but because most of the scoffers didn’t think much of the test. Most of them, like me, had fallen into this profession because they could speak a fair amount of Japanese and someone needed a translator at that moment. Where as most of the Japanese translators I know went through schooling and spent hours to get a certain level of TOEIC just so businesses (and other Japanese) would take them seriously. I suppose I have always adopted the later attitude toward my profession rather than the former. I have always said, “Just because I am an American doesn’t excuse me from meeting Japanese expectations.” If an employer would expect X out of a Japanese employee, I don’t want them to ever say “Oh, well its ok that she doesn’t have that qualification, she’s an American.” It may be naive to throw away the gaijin card, I just hate preferential treatment.

Anyway, I don’t know how I will go about getting some kind of qualification, but as this is the beginning of my third year, I figure its about time to start. I don’t think I have any readers out there, but if there are, I would appreciate any advice you have.