Specialists in oral translation services

Friday, December 28, 2018

News: The Good, the Bad and the Fake

By Maria Pearce, AIB

We all know that knowledge of the subject, context and “general knowledge” are of utmost importance to our work as interpreters.

In his last post, Fernando González wrote about the differences between low context and high-context languages, and the additional difficulties posed by the latter. So, inevitably, as interpreters, we spend a lot of our time gathering information: apart from preparing specifically for our next job, we are unfortunately forced to keep abreast with what is going on in the world.

And I say unfortunately because, for the most part, the stories we read are bad news: natural disasters, terrorist attacks, refugees drowning in the seas, trade wars... We seem to live immersed in a world of fear and uncertainty. Good news, on the other hand is hard to come by, and sometimes I wonder whether anything good ever happens.

Why is there such a flood of bad news? Apparently, bad news sells much better than good news; years ago I read an article which stated "...peoples' interest in news is much more intense when there is a perceived threat to their way of life. They care much less about what happens around them when they enjoy relative peace and/or relative prosperity."

People like reading bad news and, with positive articles being few and far between, I end up wondering whether the world actually is such a terrible place. This supposedly is the effect of precisely reading so many bad news stories. According to Steven Pinker, cognitive psychologist and linguist, "Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is." So the more negative inputs we receive from the world around us, the greater our feeling of gloom.

Nowadays, news is produced at breakneck speed, and comes from all kinds of sources: traditional media, social media, in fact any person in the world with access to a device can take on the role of a reporter. With an estimated 2.5 billion smart phones users for 2019, there are 2.5 billion ways of seeing and interpreting the world. News no longer spreads top-down, but rather reaches us from all angles, from friends and not-really-friends via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, just to name a few. We are swept away by a complete information whirlwind.

On top of the overwhelming flow of news, now we find that it may involve real, objective news, but also very subjective interpretations or even deliberately fake news or simply hoaxes.

It can be very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Propaganda has always been around, as have lobbies in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but, in the past, if you had a critical eye and an analytical mind, you could for the most part, at least get a glimpse of the truth behind it. You could analyse, search for the sources, get the information straight from the horse’s mouth; a photograph would serve as evidence of an event. Nowadays you even have fake videos of real people which are notoriously difficult to detect. Just watch this fascinating 7-minute Ted Talk by Supasorn Suwajanakorn to realise what we’re up against.

Fake news comes in all sorts of disguises: people in far-away countries manipulating information in their own interests, paid posts on social media posing as news, or simply fake news writers who churn out loads of junk, which earns them a fortune from page views. What to believe? Who to believe?

How can we read all the news we need to read without being engulfed by a lack of faith in the human race? The key is to take a step back. Do not take things at face value, double check, there are many tools out there to help you, and above all, trust your common sense.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or simply BE happy!

http://www.aifoundation.com/responsibility : Reality Defender, a project to detect fake media.
https://play.cadenaser.com/audio/cadenaser_hoyporhoy_20181217_090000_100000/# : A radio interview (in Spanish) by Pepa Bueno. Carmela Ríos, journalist, explains how political parties use paid posts on social media, passing them off as news, and how we can detect them (minutes 31:15-40:00).    

Monday, November 26, 2018

El contexto y la falta que nos hace

Por Fernando González, AIB

A lo largo de mi dilatada experiencia como intérprete intentando desentrañar y descifrar el arcano significado de mensajes abstrusos, me he preguntado a menudo dónde reside la dificultad a la hora de interpretar.

En función de a qué colega le pregunte uno, la respuesta varía, pero impepinablemente se mencionan los siguientes factores:
  • La velocidad del orador
  • El (mal) acento/pronunciación
  • Los discursos muy técnicos y especializados 
  • Las malas condiciones acústicas
  • El cansancio acumulado (del intérprete)
Tras mucha cavilación he llegado a la conclusión de que además de los mencionados factores —o quizás por encima de todos ellos— el contexto (o su ausencia) es fuente de gran dificultad a la hora de comprender a un orador.

El concepto de alto y bajo contexto lo introdujo el antropólogo Edward T. Hall en su libro "Beyond Culture" y se refiere a la manera en que se comunican las diferentes culturas. En culturas de alto contexto, la comunicación es mayoritariamente implícita. Es decir, el contexto y las relaciones son más importantes que las mismas palabras. Pocas palabras, por ende, son suficientes. En culturas de bajo contexto, por el contrario, el mensaje se comunica casi enteramente por medio de palabras, que, por consiguiente, tienen que ser explícitas. Alto y bajo contexto deben considerarse como un continuo, como se refleja en el siguiente diagrama:
Para entender cómo ocurre esto, hay que entender cómo se procesa la comunicación. Hall lo explica así:

"There is information transferred in and out which I will call 'A'. Plus there is information that is stored in the system that we will call 'B'. It takes these two to make meaning. It takes both the information that is transferred in and out and the stored information, the information in the context, to make meaning".

Así pues, la información interna que usamos para interpretar y entender las cosas se denomina B, mientras que el mensaje en sí se denomina A. Las culturas de alto contexto se basan en las tradiciones, unas relaciones personales muy profundas y una jerarquía asentada. Tienen, pues, mucho más B.

Las culturas de bajo contexto no cuentan con la misma profundidad de tradiciones y las relaciones son más someras, más a corto plazo y requieren, por consiguiente, mucho más A.

Dicho de otro modo: la información principal en culturas de alto contexto se encuentra o bien en el contexto físico o bien es interiorizado por la persona. Una comunicación de bajo contexto es justo lo contrario: lo principal de la información se encuentra en el código explícito.

Otro aspecto relacionado es la percepción del tiempo. Las culturas de alto contexto tienen por lo general una percepción policrónica del tiempo mientras que las culturas de bajo contexto tienen una percepción monocrónica.

La gente monocrónica ve el tiempo como tangible y secuencial: puede almacenarse, gastarse, etc. Sus citas son muy precisas y las cumplen a rajatabla y se centran en una tarea a la vez. La gente policrónica ven el tiempo como fluido. La puntualidad y el orden no son tan importantes y las citas son menos estrictas u más bien indicativas. Por otra parte los policrónicos trabajan con múltiples tareas al mismo tiempo. Cambiando de una a la otra tarea.

La moraleja de todo lo expuesto es muy importante: una persona de una cultura de bajo contexto podría comportarse en un modo que una cultura de alto contexto podría considerar ignorante, maleducado o torpe. Por ejemplo, haciendo muchas preguntas (insinuando que no entiende el significado sin las preguntas), actuando de un modo poco contemporizador, sin encajar en la dinámica de grupo, incapaz de realizar más de una tarea al mismo tiempo.

Por el contrario, una persona de alto contexto podría pasar por chapucera, poco comunicativa, impuntual e incapaz de cumplir lo planificado, incluso incompetente por la incapacidad de trabajar solo.

Se estima que el 70% del mundo es de alto contexto. Ejemplos de países  de alto contexto son: Japón, China y casi todos los países árabes. Ejemplos de culturas de bajo contexto son los países escandinavos, Alemania y los EEUU.

A modo de ejemplo, me hago eco de una anécdota que me relató mi hijo sobre su trabajo como "Financial Risk Manager" KPMG, unas de las mayores empresas consultoras del mundo. A menudo los equipos de trabajo están compuestos por personas de varias nacionalidades. En una ocasión oyó a un colega británico despotricar de los colegas franceses por su poca formalidad, impuntualidad y falta de preparación. Cuál no sería su sorpresa cuando al poco tiempo un colega indio se despachó a gusto con los mismos colegas franceses acusándoles de cuadriculados, excesivamente formales e incapaces de improvisar soluciones. ¿Tenía razón el colega británico o el indio? Probablemente ambos, cada uno desde el punto de vista de su propia cultura.

Pero volvamos al tema que nos ocupa: la dificultad añadida a la hora de interpretar cuando el mensaje es de alto contexto. Esta suele ser la pesadilla del intérprete free-lance que es contratado por el Parlamento Europeo con una relativa frecuencia pero no la suficiente como para captar todas las insinuaciones, indirectas, alusiones y ambigüedades que se pueden llegar a oír en una reunión. Así, si uno oye decir a un diputado: "The plan is dead, Donald said it". Lo más probable es que nos limitemos a traducir literalmente por: "El plan ha muerto, lo ha dicho Donald". Aunque en el momento de pronunciar las palabras, nos asalte la duda de si ese Donald es Trump o Tusk (tras rápidamente descartar al pato Donald) y si el plan es el de construir un muro entre EEUU y México o algún otro plan loco de los de Trump o es el plan Chequers de Theresa May.

Un ejemplo más chocarrero y prosaico lo escuché hace poco, por boca de un funcionario de la administración española que estaba siendo auditado por un equipo de la CE. En respuesta a una pregunta bastante directa del auditor alemán, tipo: "¿Qué itinerario nos aconsejan ustedes habida cuenta de la distancia y las explotaciones a inspeccionar?" el funcionario español respondió: "Si eso… usted verá" y se quedó tan pancho. No se me ocurre una frase más "high context" que esa: ni un ápice de información contenida en las palabras pronunciadas, pero sí un mundo de información imaginable en la socarronería mezclada con una pizca de frustración de la frasecita de marras.

Precisamente por esa falta de contexto al que a menudo nos enfrentamos, yo —si me dan a elegir— prefiero aquellos mensajes en que toda  —absolutamente toda— la información está en las palabras pronunciadas. Pondré, a modo de conclusión, una frase real escuchada en un trabajo reciente:

"Chemical management of Phthorimaea operculella is challenging because of the cryptic behavior of larvae and pupae and because this insect has developed resistance to many traditional organophosphate, carbamate, and pyrethroid insecticides".

Ahí yacen, expuestas, despojadas de trampa y cartón, las palabras que uno necesita para transmitir el mensaje al idioma de destino. Ninguna indirecta ni insinuación ni ambigüedad, más que la mera descripción entomológica de unos fehacientes hechos científicos. Ahí es nada.

Lecturas recomendadas:

Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books, 1977, p. 91-131

Sorrels, K., (1998) "On The Past and Future of Intercultural Relations Study, Gifts of Wisdom: An Interview with Dr. Edward T. Hall", accessed 10 February 2013 from: http://people.umass.edu/~leda/comm494r/The%20Edge%20Interview%20Hall.htm

Tung, R. (1995), International Organizational Behaviour, Luthans Virtual OB McGraw-Hill, pp 487-518

Enlaces de interés:

https://youtu.be/qKViQSnW-UA
https://study.com/academy/lesson/high-context-culture-definition-examples-quiz.html
http://cascadebusnews.com/business-tips/networking/154-high-context-a-low-context-cultures

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Three new takes on professional networking

By Michelle Hof, AIB
Image credit: WordClouds.com

There are many different opportunities for professional networking in the conference interpreting community. Networking can be formal (at regional meetings, industry conferences, CPD events) or informal (coffee before a meeting, lunch with colleagues between shifts in the booth). These days, of course, much of it takes place online, where countless Facebook groups, Twitter and Instagram feeds, and online forums exist where interpreters can cultivate professional contacts.

Today, I want to share with you three interpreter networking events that stand out from the rest due to their innovative formats. Each of these examples originated from a specific language community (the German-speaking world in the first two cases, and Russian-speaking interpreters in the third), but perhaps we can use them as inspiration for events elsewhere in the world — maybe even here in Barcelona, the home of AIB!

Interpreters for Interpreters

The first networking event I will present is also the longest-running of the three. Called Interpreters for Interpreters ("Dolmetscher für Dolmetscher" in the original German), it is currently in its ninth edition. DfD, as its organisers call it, is exactly what its name implies: a peer training event organised by and for colleagues. Over one intensive day of sessions, colleagues present a series of themes before a room of their peers. The innovative aspect about DfD, as I see it, is how it is able to combine peer training and networking of the sort you might see at a major industry conference with the friendly, more intimate atmosphere typical of small-group CPD courses.

The event's target group is broad and the atmosphere is welcoming. As the DfD's English program (downloadable at the bottom of this link) puts it: "The event is open  to AIIC Interpreters as well as Pre-Candidates and Candidates, colleagues from the VKD and other Interpreters' Associations and also graduates from interpreting courses at all universities or training centres. Students may apply as Workshop Assistants. The presentations about different aspects of conference interpretation are offered by our colleagues on a voluntary basis."

The next DfD is being held in Stuttgart on 16 November and while I imagine it is fully booked out by now, there is sure to be another one soon for those who may wish to check it out (interpretation is provided into English where required, so no need to worry if you don't speak German!). You can find out more on AIIC Germany's events page or follow AIIC Germany (@AIICDolmetscher) on Twitter for the latest news.

Interpreters with Interpreters

The second event is similar to the first, but also very different in an important way. Interpreter BarCamps are also small-scale peer training and networking event, but this time, instead of planning and advertising the agenda in advance, the organisers follow the innovative barcamp or "unconference" format, where all participants come ready to present and the decision is taken spontaneously at the event as to who will get a turn to talk. This approach makes for an open, interactive and exciting event where anything can happen.

The first interpreter barcamps were organised by German-speaking colleagues in 2016 and have been held semi-regularly since. You can find out about past events on their homepage and follow updates about their next event (planned for March 2019 in Hamburg) on their Twitter feed (@dolbarcamp).

The German barcamps have already served as inspiration for a similar interpreter networking event held recently in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You will find all the information about that barcamp at this link.

Interpreters versus Interpreters

The third innovative networking format that I want to share today is not a peer training event but a competition. Yes, you read that right - COSINES Pi is an interpreting contest organised by and for Russian interpreters. When I first heard about it, it reminded me of the translation slams that I had seen at other industry events, where two translators offer up their works to a live audience for comment and critique. So I guess you could almost call COSINES Pi an "interpreting slam".

At COSINES Pi, interpreters go head-to-head on stage to produce simultaneous and consecutive interpretations for a live audience and before a jury of their peers. The interpreter who is considered by the jury to have produced the best interpretation is then declared the winner. I am told that the format has proved a huge success amongst Russian interpreters, filling auditoriums to bursting and generating buzz throughout the professional community. To find out more about the first two COSINES Pi events and get news about the upcoming third edition, you can consult their website (in English), follow them on Instagram, or check out their YouTube channel (mostly in Russian).

¿Para cuándo en España?

So these are three innovative networking formats that I have observed in the global interpreting community of late. If you know of any innovative events that are happening in your area, I would love to hear about them in the comments section. Also, it would be great to see events such as these happening a bit closer to home, for instance here in Spain, so that more colleagues can benefit from these forms of learning and sharing. If anyone wants to volunteer to help organise a peer training event, a barcamp, or even (gulp!) a contest, please reach out — maybe we can make it happen!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Start with a smile!

By Edwina Mumbrú, AIB

Summer recess has come to an end, the cumulative stress we felt in June seems to have faded and I think we all look now at our profession with kinder eyes. We have more energy to study for the demanding assignments that will inevitably come along, and more strength to take the bull by the horns and give it our all — which is how I sometimes visualize our work, corrida-like — especially EP plenaries.

Apart from catching up with "old" friends, one of the things that I look forward to most are those delightful, humorous incidents that occur in or around the booth which lighten the heaviest days. Of course, rekindling amusing episodes is also a wonderful way to ensure we kick things off with a smile.

Knowing we can all be prone to taking ourselves a bit too seriously, I can really recommend Benoît Cliquet's wonderful Clic collection of sketches to bring out our lighter side. In addition to "guaranteed smile creation", the collection also has the benefit that all proceeds of the sale of the book go to the AIIC Solidarity Fund.
If moving images are more your style, there are also some short vintage videos that never fail to raise a smile and remind us there are many ways to get a message across albeit the wrong one. My favourites include these two:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcJVqj0Tjb4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5bg1No_RSE

And let's not forget the anecdotes, those unexpected moments that brighten our lives and our memories. They change over time, of course — we add a sentence or two and naturally overindulge in the telling — but it's these stories (the ones we can tell, as Cristina rightly points out in AIB's August post) that allow us to unwind after a tense interpreting day.

I am not referring to mistranslations that — apocryphal or not — non-interpreters appear to like so much, but more the sharing of comical situations that randomly occur.

If my memory doesn't fail me (a clear possibility as Guiomar points out in her post about interpreters' memory), I can share a few recent incidents, while inviting you all to relay your own additions in our comments section!

Inadvertent open microphones are clearly accidents-in-waiting. Recently, I was told of two interpreters who were commenting on the "fashion-ability or not" of the neckties on view, when suddenly, one delegate stood up and said: "Hey, before you get to mine, please switch off the mic!"

Sometimes, it"s not the external technical elements but the psychological ones that play tricks on us and bring in unwanted connections. A good example of this comes from a friend who was going through a difficult divorce process. To her dismay, she heard herself say during a financial conference: "el matrimonio está agotado" instead of "el patrimonio está agotado."

Similarly, travel, new environments and sheer exhaustion can surprise us. On a mission in Bolivia, knocked sideways by altitude sickness, I thought I had totally lost it when I couldn't understand a single word the local speaker was uttering. He went on and on and my notes were just bigger and bigger question marks to hide my panic attack… until I realized… he was speaking in Quechua!

The effect of environments can take different forms. Not so long ago, one of our members — who shall remain nameless — had to perform a tricky consecutive in the kitchen of a world-renowned restaurant whilst a camera crew filmed the illustrious chef alone in front of his culinary creation; the only solution was for our intrepid colleague to get down on her knees in order to take notes and hide behind the kitchen table. I would love to see the out-takes!

But it's not just the impersonal that can create havoc; it's the personal as well. At a conference on soybean crops, a well-meaning colleague wrote down "coffee? tea?" to simply ask her stressed boothmate if he'd care for a drink during what was a very strenuous simultaneous session. Without missing a beat, and with a big, thankful grin for the words he thought he had missed, he aired to the massive audience: "products such as coffee or tea".  Good thing she didn't write down "WC" to indicate a trip to the loo!

Humour, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but let us never underestimate the power of having fun.
Bonne rentrée!

Monday, August 20, 2018

El intérprete… ¿invisible?

Por Cristina Amils, AIB


Hace un par de meses, topé con el blog de interpretación Translation Times y un artículo titulado “The Invisible Interpreter: We Haven’t Seen Her”. En este artículo, sus autoras (Judy y Dagmar Jenner) afirman no haber visto nunca a un/a intérprete invisible, a pesar de que muchos a menudo se refieren a nuestra profesión como una profesión invisible. Subrayan el papel crucial que desempeñan los intérpretes en ámbitos tan variados como conferencias internacionales, reuniones de negocios, juzgados, hospitales, zonas de guerra, cárceles, escuelas, etc. Al final del artículo nos emplazan a todos a dirigir el foco hacia los intérpretes, a reconocerles, apoyarles y darles visibilidad.

Este artículo y los hechos acaecidos en nuestra profesión últimamente me han dado que pensar y me han llevado a preguntarme si realmente los intérpretes somos invisibles, si es algo bueno o malo, si es inherente a nuestro trabajo y si hay algún motivo que justifique intentar cambiar esta situación. Reconozco que me resulta difícil encontrar una respuesta a todas estas preguntas.

La profesión del intérprete lleva consigo toda una serie de obligaciones y compromisos que podrían explicar parte de esta invisibilidad. Pongamos, por ejemplo, la obligación a la confidencialidad. Los intérpretes presenciamos conversaciones y situaciones que a menudo tienen lugar a puerta cerrada y que no están destinadas a oídos ajenos. Formamos parte del equipo de trabajo o de la delegación, pero en realidad es como si no estuviéramos. Excepto cuando alguien que no tiene acceso a la reunión de repente se acuerda de nosotros y nos saca de la penumbra. Estoy pensando en periodistas que alguna vez han probado suerte colocándose a la salida de la sala para interceptar y sacar información a algún colega… O bien, más recientemente, el partido de los Demócratas en EEUU que consideró que era una cuestión de seguridad nacional hacer comparecer a la intérprete ante el Congreso para saber exactamente de qué habían hablado los presidentes Trump y Putin en su tête à tête. Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, la figura del intérprete cobró visibilidad en los medios de comunicación y durante los últimos días de julio ganamos más popularidad que en decenas de años. Afortunadamente la cosa quedó en nada y la Asociación Internacional de Intérpretes de Conferencia (AIIC) dejó bien claro en su comunicado que el principio de la confidencialidad del intérprete debe ser inquebrantable y que estos no deben ser llamados a declarar.

Durante estos últimos meses, también hemos oído hablar de la intérprete que trabajó en la reunión entre Donald Trump y Kim Jong Un. Parece que tiene entretenidos a los medios de comunicación en Estados Unidos últimamente, tal como refleja este artículo de abc News.

También en el corazón de Europa los intérpretes hemos dado de qué hablar. Las protestas y huelgas de los intérpretes del Parlamento Europeo este verano han llamado la atención a la prensa. Los micrófonos se apagaron y se empezaron a oír las voces de los intérpretes fuera de las cabinas. Algunos de los clientes principales de los intérpretes, los eurodiputados, contribuyeron a dar visibilidad a las protestas que se organizaron a raíz del anunciado cambio en las condiciones de trabajo en el PE.

Podríamos decir que la poción mágica que nos hace invisibles ante la opinión pública ha perdido fuerza este verano…

De todos modos, el trabajo en cabina, en interpretación simultánea, es un trabajo entre bambalinas y cada vez lo será más con la interpretación a distancia. Dejaremos de estar presentes en la sala de reuniones y ya solo se oirán nuestras voces. Bueno, de hecho esto tampoco será una gran novedad porque hace ya años que algunos clientes prefieren sacar las cabinas de la sala principal, sobre todo en las presentaciones de productos varios. Reconozco que nuestros pequeños habitáculos no siempre resultan muy estéticos ;-)

Sin embargo, creo que la invisibilidad cuenta con una excepción importante en nuestro trabajo, que no siempre valoramos en su justa medida. Cuando trabajamos en consecutiva o en enlace, somos muy visibles, mucho más de lo que nos gustaría a veces. Ahí se nos concede el derecho a convertirnos en personas de carne y hueso, a las que hay que escuchar y a las que hay que dirigirse para hacerse entender. Personas que salen de las cabinas y se “materializan” para abrirse paso a codazos entre los agentes de seguridad que custodian a algún personaje ilustre. Ahí es cuando no nos queda más remedio que dar la cara e intentar seguir demostrando que somos actores neutrales, profesionales que desempeñamos nuestro trabajo lo mejor que podemos. Tenemos que dejar claro a las dos partes que no defendemos ni atacamos a nadie y que las palabras que salen de nuestra boca en realidad no son nuestras. Ahí es cuando nos gustaría volver a ser invisibles… Pero ya se sabe que en la vida no se puede tener todo y considero que nos viene muy bien el contacto humano de vez en cuando. Nos ayuda a todos, clientes e intérpretes, a situarnos en la realidad y a conocernos un poquito más. Al fin y al cabo, no somos autómatas, sino que somos personas que hacen posible la comunicación entre lenguas y culturas distintas. Y realmente no somos invisibles.

Para muestra, un botón. Os dejo con un pequeño video muy instructivo sobre qué hacemos en nuestra profesión, concretamente en interpretación simultánea, gentileza de Ewandro Magalhaes en TED-Ed


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Test-taking – a few dos and don'ts

By Catherine Sherry, AIB


Interpreting is a pretty test-tastic occupation, and most of us have at least one tale of woe that we can hopefully laugh about later. From the test that started rather impossibly with ‘Today I’d like to talk about maiden flights and swansongs’ to the poor candidate who misconstrued ‘Let us consider euthanasia’ as being all about ‘youth in Asia’, the pitfalls are many and the stakes can be high.

Having been on both sides of the glass in recent years, I’d like to offer a few humble tips to give it your best shot:

Pre-test

1. Prepare. Interpreting is all about thorough preparation well in advance. If you’re doing your initial training, you need to have the final assessment in mind from day one. Get to work immediately on any areas where your trainers feel you need to improve. For accreditation as staff or freelance to institutions like the UN and EU, listen extensively to their webcasts and mine their websites taking notes on their structure, bodies and agencies, history, names of important figures, current agendas, and more. Being over-prepared isn’t a thing in interpreting.

2. Practise. This is physically and mentally tiring so it has to be well planned to be worthwhile. Practising in front of someone who can give you feedback is ideal, whether a colleague or just a friend who you explain the aim of the exercise to. Both audiences allow you to work on performance nerves, and non-interpreters can tell you what they thought about your target language and if you sounded convincing, for instance. If you’re alone, video your interpretation and watch it back, but don’t be too hard on yourself! Either way, if you’ve identified any problems, interpreting the same speech again is a good way to fix them and build your confidence. Check out Michelle Hof’s excellent AIB blog piece on where to find practise speeches online.

3. Healthy body, healthy mind! Working towards a test can cause high levels of stress and anxiety. Mitigate the potentially damaging effects by eating well and making time for whatever type of physical exercise you enjoy.

T-day

4. De-clutter your mind. You’ve come this far; all that remains now is to stay calm! Trying to squeeze in more practice on the day won’t make you a better interpreter but may well make you more nervous. Instead, go for a walk, do some breathing exercises, read aloud to warm your voice up, and focus on the fact that you are prepared. It’s essential to keep those debilitating nerves in check. As Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

5. Be professional. The best way to tackle a test is by treating it as a real interpreting assignment. Don’t think about the examiners –you certainly don’t have mental space to spare on what they may be thinking or noting down– but rather picture a real person simply really needing to understand what the speaker is saying. Shift your attention from you and your performance to just getting the job done. Demonstrating sound coping skills is also crucial. Minor omissions, mistakes and slips of the tongue can all be overcome if you stay absolutely focused on the next segment of speech and keep on going.

May the force be with you! And if doesn’t work out this time, draw on the experience and congratulate yourself on giving it a go. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

When In Doubt, Belt It Out

By Mary Fons, AIB

Photo: https://pixabay.com/en/choir-group-sing-singers-783664/

When a politician says “nucular” for nuclear, people will judge him for it but may decide that perfect pronunciation is not the main issue at stake. For an interpreter it’s more of a faux pas — more easily forgiven the more “exotic” (i.e., scarce on the market) the interpreter’s language combination, but still a sign of something amiss.

Pronunciation issues get interesting when you add a few extra ingredients. For instance, when speaking English names in Spanish, you have to adjust for Spanish pronunciation. The Fab Four lose their schwa and become “los BEE­tehls”, and the Rolling Stones become “los ROH­leengs”, with a trilled r sound, of course, and an i that sounds like “ee”; stick to English pronunciation and you risk sounding precious or pretentious. Conversely, Spanish-sounding renditions of Spanish place-­names could make them hard to recognize to the monolingual English speaker (for instance, “KAH­deeth” instead of “kuh­DEEZ”for Cádiz). On the other hand, sometimes there’s just no getting them right (it took me a long time to learn that “loss FEE­liss” was the correct English pronunciation of Los Feliz, but apparently local English speakers now tend to say “Los feh­LEES”). Let’s just say my interpreting glossaries include plenty of pronunciation reminders.

Language learning is contributing to shifting standards as learners strive to get closer to the original, though they often far short of the mark (here’s a sample of less-­than-­ideal guidance for Spanish speakers who want to sing in English:
http://pronunciaciondecancionesingles.blogspot.com/2016/02/hello-adele.html 
And the interpreter needs to be aware of the shifts. Even if you’re not part of the music scene, when interpreting into Iberian Spanish you’d better know “DJ” is not spelled out in Spanish “DEH KHO­ta” (with the Spanish guttural kh sound), but pronounced “dee­YAY” or “dee­JAY” (with a French-­style j sound), and even occasionally “DEE­jay”.

Then there’s singing. Interpreters are not usually required to sing in the booth, although a colleague told me that she used to sing “The Internationale” in Spanish when interpreting for the Socialist International (and this was most emphatically not a case of shared ideology!).

Occasionally, us polyglots who sing with others are required to help out with “correct” pronunciation of the languages we speak well. There are typos to watch out for and fix, but sometimes nonstandard phrasing will throw you for a loop (when rehearsing Enya’s “May It Be”, we overcorrected “May it be you journey on to light the day” to “May it be your journey on to light the day”). We also need to deal with dialects and their myriad nuances. After trying to fake Received Pronunciation in order to provide a suitable model for John Dowland’s “Say, Love, if ever thou did’st find”, I had lots of fun insisting that my fellow singers stick to Spanish (or, at most, Catalan) vowels and consonants when belting out “I like to live in America". Someday, we may manage to persuade Barcelona gospel choirs that, if a chariot’s a-­comin’, “good news” should be neither “neeOOZE” nor, worse, “NEEEooz”. And then you have special pronunciation just for singing: listen to any German singing lieder after learning spoken German, and you will notice trills that depart from standard speech. Singing and listening to songs really is a great way to rehearse vocabulary, syntax and pronunciation when you’re learning a language, but these are pitfalls to beware of.

In these meandering thoughts about pronunciation issues encountered as an interpreter, I come at last to Latin. Here’s some very basic guidance: http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/mc/latinpro.pdf. Latin phrases and words come up in science and in singing, in legal contexts and in lay talk — and the correct pronunciation varies according to the context. If you’re singing in Latin, there’s a very good chance you should go for the Ecclesiastical or Italianate pronunciation: most of the repertoire is church music composed for Catholic ears. But some might disagree:
http://www.linguism.co.uk/language/latin-for-choirs. May I note how hard it is for someone who speaks English, Catalan, English, French and Italian to avoid voicing the s sound in paradiso and dolorosa? For once, the Spanish monolinguals get it right.

When dealing with the scientific names of species, I find that trying to sound out the words phonetically (as if such a thing existed in English!) is my best shot at saying it the way native English-­speaking scientists would say it. But legal Latin in English is my biggest challenge, and I’m always looking for good guidance there. I will close with some excellent advice I found online:
In a way, it might be more correct to pronounce legal Latin according to [either classical or ecclesiastical] rules, and some lawyers do so. But it is more common and therefore correct to speak technical legal French and Latin words, especially the latter, as if they were English, e.g. “fiery fayshes” for fieri facias. Current pronunciation by lawyers should be followed, and Black's Law Dictionary shows what that is. When in doubt, speak boldly.