Interpreter Training in Columbus

Interpreter Training in Columbus

IMAG0056The Japan Association of Translators is running a great seminar called The Japanese Automotive T&I Seminar. This is a continuation of the Honda seminar that I had blogged about a few years ago. It is going to have two very experienced instructors.

If anyone out there is in my area and interested, you should definitely join us on September 1, 2016.

See details below:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-japanese-automotive-ti-seminar-beyond-the-words–tickets-26413062180

 

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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!


 

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.

 

Study All the Things: How a Translator Studies Japanese in the U.S.

Study All the Things: How a Translator Studies Japanese in the U.S.

study-all-the-thingsSo, let’s start with a disclaimer. I live in the mid-west in the United States of America; far removed from the country of Japan or even the Japanese communities of California and New York. While I work at a Japanese company and have exposure to the language every day, that is not enough to keep up translator level language skills. I need to expose myself to a lot more language. In a sense, I have to create my own immersion environment. So, here is how I do it. I am going to share with you the resources I use and the way they help with my translation and interpretation skills and practice.

Reading of the Paper Variety

booksOnce a year, I manage to get to a Japanese book store, either in Portland, OR, where my family is from, or in Japan when I’m on business trips. While there, I buy up a bunch of books to read for the year. Some of them turn out to be boring, some interesting, but I try to give them at least 2 or 3 chapters before giving up. I try not to force my way through books that I dislike, because I will just give up reading all together. I also get a good mix of fiction, non-fiction, technical, magazines, and manga.

The fiction helps me make my interpreting more natural. I usually read novels that are based in everyday life so that I can reuse the phrases I learn in my interpretation. On the other hand, the non-fiction seems to help with my writing. Self-help type books are usually written in a very clear and easy to understand manner. I can reuse a lot of the grammar and structures in my Japanese translations. The magazines help me to stay in touch with current issues in Japan. I love Nikkei Woman! After falling in love with it on my last trip to Kinokuniya in Portland, I have been having it ordered monthly from Japan through our parent company.

On that note: If you work for a Japanese company, it is likely that packages come in from Japan every month for your 駐在員. If you have a good relationship with them, you may be able to request a book or two and get free shipping 🙂 Try not to go overboard; one or two a month max. If that is not you, try a forwarding service like Tenso or White Rabbit Express.  Kinokuniya also has a lot of books in stock in the US and if they don’t have it, they will order it for you Japan, though they mark up quite a lot to cover the import and shipping costs.

Reading of the Digital Variety

I try to keep up with a couple different online publications:

Reading Techniques

bb6fe80bWhen I’m reading anything, digital or otherwise, I have two basic rules:

  1. Read the document to the end. If it is a novel, that means finishing the chapter as it would be hard to read the whole thing in one sitting. But with a news article I try very hard not to stop in the middle. It is important to finish the idea and get a grasp of the entire discourse.
  2. Only look up a word when: A) it has occurred more than once in a document and/or B) it is crucial to understanding the content of the document. If you look up every word you don’t know, you will go crazy.

Then when I find those words that I don’t know in a dictionary, I do one of three things:

  1. Acknowledge the definition and keep reading. Some words do not need to be remembered or written down. You will actually acquire them better if you just keep reading and let the word take form in the context of the document instead of trying to tie it down and memorize it with an English definition.
  2. Jot it down in a note book and keep going. Generally I do this for phrases that I want to remember and use later, especially those that would be nearly impossible to find in a dictionary; for example, slang terms.
  3. Jot it down on a sticky note to be actively studied.

As much as it might surprise you, number three is the one I do the least. Only when I encounter a word that I have been looking for and wanted to use in daily interactions, will I actually make an effort to study it. Usually, I do number one more than anything: figure out what it means and move on. You will get farther in the actual reading that way.

Listening

For this one, I am mainly going to give you a list of resources, as I don’t ‘study’ listening per se.

  • NHK News – At least once a week. Good for professional phrasing in your interpreting and background knowledge about what is going on in Japan.
  • KORL 97.1 – Japanese pop music radio station in Hawaii streamed through the iheartradio app.
  • TuneIn Radio app – Japanese radio live, great for listening to natural, unscripted conversations.

Watching

terebi

I distinguish this from listening because, while the skill is primarily auditory, the visual component makes it easier to understand what is being said. With youtube, it is actually relatively easy to get a quick shot of Japanese tv any time. I like to chose videos that wil help with my translation but, honestly, sometimes you just have to have fun with the language.

  • FNN News Youtube Channel – Short videos, good for interpreting practice.
  • 小紫真由美 話し方・プレゼンの専門家 – Videos by a former announcer on how to speak clearly and comprehensibly in Japanese.
  • Japanese Commercial Channel – This almost has no redeeming value, but it is fun.
  • Fuji, TBS, and NHK – Keeping up with what’s on tv even when you don’t have time to watch all the shows.
  • NHK高校講座 – A delightful website that streams several tv shows aimed at high-schoolers that cover the various topics they are studying in school. The content is simple, but the vocabulary you can pick up is very useful. They also have subjects like 日本史 and 国語表現 that those of us who were raised in the US didn’t get to take.

Then, of course, I will sit down and watch a full drama from time to time, but I can’t put links to those here.

If you have any resources to share or questions about studying in a Japanese void, feel free to leave me a comment.

Boosting L1 Skills for Translating and Interpreting

Boosting L1 Skills for Translating and Interpreting

This is based on「日本語力強化大作戦」『通訳翻訳ジャーナル』2013年1月号 (WINTER)

Preface

This article posits that, at least in the world of translation, there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” language. What is most important is that the language used in the translation is appropriate for the field, target audience, medium, etc.

Industrial Translation

Unlike literary translation, industrial translation texts need to be clear and logical, and adhere closely to the original. The translation must also make sense to the reader. In order to achieve that, you must understand the particular document’s field, content, and intended audience. If the document is meant for internal use, you can use more terminology, company-specific words, and abbreviations. However, if the intended audience is outside the company, it may be more important give a non-literal, meaning based, translation to make the content more comprehensible.

Often, translation in this field comes down to “literal and comprehensible” or “non-literal but easy to understand.” The best translators, according to the article, can do both. They are able to keep a literal, one to one correlation between the English and Japanese while creating an easy to read, natural sounding text. Good translators are often bold when it comes to the structure of the sentence, but are very cautious with the terminology.

Improving Target Language Skills for Industrial Translation

Phrasing and terminology are key in this field. The best way improve your L1 proficiency in this area is to read a lot of articles from that field, collect example sentences, build your TM, and then imitate those examples in your translation. We often think of doing this in our L2, borrowing sentences that we have heard before, but less so when writing in our L1. Yet it is very important for this type of translation. Additionally, terminology and phrasing can vary by company so it’s important to know what terms are used in the company you are translating for. Press releases and messages from the CEO will help you understand the tone and phrasing used by that company.

Interpreting

Interpreting requires equal proficiency in both languages. However, in interpreting, it is crucial that you understand what is being said. If you can take a complex discourse spoken in your L1 and change it into simple comprehensible L2 discourse, that is good. However, if you don’t understand the content, even though it is in your native language, you will not produce a good L2 interpretation. So it’s important to have good skills in phrasing and a wide knowledge base. A good interpreter will be able to take what is said by the speaker, scrape away the unnecessary words and 口癖, and produce a simple, natural, beautiful sentence in an instant.

In interpreting, TPO must always be considered, especially for Japanese. “Would you like to get dinner?” for example, would be interpreted very differently between two coworkers and between a subordinate and the president of the company. It would also be different if they were in a bar vs. in an office. Appropriate language for every TPO, both in the L1 and L2, must be mastered.

Improving Native Language Skills for Interpretation

Since natural phrasing is so important in interpretation, you should always be looking out for interesting phrases and writing them down as they come up. Also, it’s important to look up any words you come across in your native language that you don’t understand. This will help you broaden your knowledge base. In addition, it can be good to shadow the news in your native language to get used to formal discourse.

Interpreters must never forget to keep reading. Everything. The more you read, the more your knowledge base and vocabulary grow. Interpreters should read not only newspapers or magazines, but also novels, because they are a great source of spoken dialogue.

Not every word you don’t know is a word you don’t know

Not every word you don’t know is a word you don’t know

Have you ever had this experience? You see or hear a word in your native language and think that you don’t know how to say it in your target language. But then when you look it up, you find a word that you actually knew. This happens to me a lot. The main problem is that we are looking for one-to-one equivalents and ignoring the general meaning, which we understand because it is are native language.

Here is an example. I recently looked up the word “orientation” (in terms of “the orientation of the part in the fixture”). I thought that it must be a word I didn’t know. But when I looked it up, I found 方向. Of course I know that word, but I never equated “orientation” with “direction” which was the English definition that I assigned to 方向 when I first learned it. The problem is that we don’t think about the overall meanings of the words we hear or read. If I had thought about it, I would have realized that the “orientation” of the part is pretty much how it is put in the fixture: right side up, left side in first, vertically, surface down, etc. It’s more or less the same thing.

Image

There is actually a book about this called 同時通訳が頭の中で一瞬でやっている英訳術リプロセシング. I have only just started reading it but it seems like her main thesis is that interpreting is really just taking what you hear and instantly changing it to reflect a meaning that you can then convey clearly in your target language. Unfortunately, after that thesis the book devolves into a series of common business phrases and their “appropriate” translations. But still, the main point is fairly solid. If you are trying to 直訳 everything, you are going to get some funny sentences. The same holds for words. We need to grasp the meaning of what is being said and translate that rather than paying attention to the words the person is using.

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.