Specialists in oral translation services

Thursday, March 21, 2019

El taxi, los intérpretes y la uberización de la economía

By Pilar García Crecente, AIB

La lectura de este artículo (Taxistas contra el imperio Uber: ¿Es esto la lucha de clases?) me ha llevado a reflexionar sobre el imparable deterioro de las relaciones laborales que se está produciendo en toda la sociedad y que suele justificarse ya por la crisis económica y la necesidad de recortes, ya por la automatización o el avance tecnológico.

Esta frase del autor del artículo, Carlos Sánchez, resulta para mí especialmente significativa, porque estoy convencida de que es el ahorro de costes lo que impulsa la implantación de ciertas soluciones tecnológicas aunque vayan a mermar la calidad del servicio final y desde luego las condiciones laborales de los profesionales: Un nuevo capitalismo en el que, paradójicamente, el empresario busca no tener obreros a su cargo, sino que los externaliza, los saca de balance, para ahorrar costes evitando cualquier vínculo laboral.

El mundo laboral está viviendo una profunda transformación tecnológica y nuestra profesión no es ajena a ese cambio; precisamente Félix nos brindó una panorámica exhaustiva sobre la interpretación simultánea remota en su artículo hace muy poco.

No hay duda de que el avance tecnológico es ineludible e imparable, así que nada más lejos de mi intención que denostar el sacro advenimiento de la tecnología a nuestra actividad profesional; pero hay que implicarse y participar del proceso. Ya nos lo decía hace bastantes años Laura Tremosa, ingeniera, activista y feminista, en su libro La mujer ante el desafío tecnológico: Se vislumbra, pues, un cambio progresivo de la organización del trabajo que podrá ser para bien o para mal. De todos modos una cosa es segura: si no intervenimos de forma decidida, es difícil creer que vaya a ser para bien en lo que respecta a las mujeres.

De hecho estamos participando, y la AIIC ha elaborado un excelente documento con directrices para la interpretación remota cuya lectura recomiendo.

Todas estas posibilidades tecnológicas transforman las relaciones laborales y abundan en el distanciamiento entre el cliente final y el profesional, pero hay una entre ellas que a mí me incomoda especialmente porque encarna el ahorro de costes como fin en sí mismo y acarrea la peor atomización del trabajo desbaratando por completo el trabajo en equipo, aislando al intérprete y materializando su figura como el último eslabón de la cadena. Me refiero a las plataformas mediante las que se descarga un software en el portátil para ponerse a interpretar desde casa (sinónimo de oficina del intérprete).

Los intérpretes somos profesionales autónomos que prestamos nuestros servicios a todo aquel que los necesite y siempre nos ha resultado difícil agruparnos, sindicarnos o defender juntos como colectivo nuestros derechos; por no existir ni siquiera tenemos en España un colegio profesional que nos represente. AIB es única en Barcelona y la AIIC es la única asociación que vela por nuestros intereses en todo el mundo.

Bregamos para conseguir la confianza de nuestros clientes, para acceder a la documentación de la reunión y estudiar para hacer un buen trabajo, redactamos contratos para prestar el servicio, acuerdos de confidencialidad, cumplimos con la protección de datos y sus mil exigencias, pagamos seguros de responsabilidad civil por si cometemos un error, realizamos cursos de riesgos laborales y los acreditamos.... y cada vez más y más requisitos legales.

Y ahora resulta que podemos trabajar sin movernos de casa, con nuestro ordenador, un software y la wifi doméstica ¡yupi!

¿Y si falla la wifi o el portátil, quién asume las consecuencias? ¿Y si no se oye bien? ¿Quién nos contrata? ¿Nos protege ese contrato? ¿Si hay algún problema, en qué jurisdicción se va a dirimir? ¿La confidencialidad de los datos también es responsabilidad nuestra? ¿Y si nos hackean el ordenador o la wifi? ¿Y la sobrecarga cognitiva, y los riesgos laborales...? ¿Y si cometemos un error porque el sonido es malo? ¿Quién asume qué responsabilidad? ¿Cómo nos protegemos?

Esta uberización, que está afectando a múltiples ámbitos profesionales, que individualiza las relaciones laborales, que nos distancia del lugar donde se presta el servicio y nos separa de los colegas, fragmenta el equipo de intérpretes tal como lo conocemos hasta ahora. Esto nos obliga, en mi opinión, a auto protegernos y a participar activamente en los procesos colectivos que intentan modular las repercusiones laborales de esta transformación de la economía.  

¡Que no se cumpla la antigua máxima de divide y vencerás!

* http://www.mujeresenred.net/spip.php?article991
** AIIC Taskforce on Distance Interpreting. "AIIC Guidelines for Distance Interpreting (Version 1.0)".aiic.net January 11, 2019. Accessed March 17, 2019. <http://aiic.net/p/8734>.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Cazador de Palabras

By Hugo Pooley, AIB

Over the years I have had the great good fortune to be regularly sent to all the major countries of Latin America.  As often as possible I have taken the opportunity to stay over and travel in various fascinating regions.  While there, like an entomologist with a butterfly net I have endeavoured to collect interesting local linguistic specimens.  A selection of my curiouser finds may perhaps be of interest to those visiting this page.

This divertimento is written in English but will only be of interest to readers with a substantial knowledge of European Spanish.  Explanations would, as with any kind of joke, otherwise be so tedious as to deprive them of the fun.

Sometimes it is just a matter – for those accustomed to Old World Spanish – of unsuspected meaning shifts, of usages not being what they seem.  Little surprises like dique for a reservoir; reflector for a flashlight; dársena for a lay-by; plantel for a school; lastimosamente for unfortunately; or allanamiento as a judicially ordered search of premises.  Of course, the same phenomenon occurs when a Brit finds reticulation used for irrigation in Australia, or encounters pants for trousers and fanny for arse in the US.

Geographical labels are necessarily approximate, so items listed for one country or region often turn out to be used in the same way in other places too.

Trigger warning: I don’t apologise for the substantial proportion of items referring to prurient matters.  Up there with drunkenness, the human genital organs, for example, are the semantic field with the highest numbers of synonyms in both Spanish and English –  providing evidence, if any were needed, that this area occupies a disproportionate amount of space in the collective lexical imagination.

Indeed, back in the Paleolithic era, when dictionaries were books, and these were made of paper, I was once in a bookshop with the author of what had for many years been the best Spanish / English bilingual dictionary in the world, on the day that the first serious competitor for his creature was published.  When the eminent academic took it off the shelf, his perusal, like any self-respecting schoolboy's, took him straight to the entry for “the F word”, followed by a series of other scabrous terms for which he had invented the classification of three asterisks, thus *** – i.e. taboo. ROFLMFAO!

Here then are some of my little finds.

ARGENTINA

bromatología – not the science of humour, but food health; in the context, for example, of roadside checks on food carried in vehicles

costanera – bypass, doesn’t have to be near water; elsewhere (e.g. Chile, Panama) it is often a road or leisure area by a river

joda – joke, fooling around; party

remise – don't be misled by your French, hehe: hire car (with driver)

ripio – nothing to do with doggerel: earth, as in a dirt track

piche, tatú, mulita, peludo & quirquincho: these wonderful, resonant, words all refer to different species of …armadillo!

CHILE

Starting with two archetypal chilenismos

al tiro – straight away

¿Cachay? – Do you understand? / You know? / Geddit?

dividendo – regular mortgage repayment

lapicero – “pencil” or “pencil case”, you are thinking.  Pues ni una cosa ni la otra; here, as in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Peru, this is a ballpoint pen!  Known elsewhere as bolígrafo, birome, esfero, plumero, esferógrafo, pluma, puntabola, lápiz pasta…

COLOMBIA     

guanábana, agraz, granadilla, guayaba, lechosa, zapote, lulo, agraz, pitaya, curuba, uchuva, feijoa, borojo, corozo – How lovely are these fruity words, all harvested locally?

comparendo – In theory this is a summons or subpoena, which seems to make sense; but in practice it only ever seems to refer to a notice of a fine, like a traffic ticket!

man – male person.  Not vocative; e.g. Estoy esperando a mi man

prepago – discard your Castilian ideas. This noun can be masculine or feminine; but always refers to …an escort, as in, a prostitute (one can see why: ¿será que hoy no se fía? 😉)

regalar – also not what you would think if you learned the Spanish of Spain: to lend, or let the other use – ¿Me regalaría un esferógrafo?

tinto – black coffee

tractomula – articulated truck

vaina – essentially, a thing.  Sometimes a good thing, others a bad one.  Thank the heavens for context, eh?

CUBA

patarranas – (swimmer's) flippers

ECUADOR

pelado – young kid, friend

polla – again, forget your smutty Castilian preconceptions: a crib, as beloved by students the world over – una chuleta, vamos

MEXICO

madre – interestingly, here this is a taboo word, because of its association with all the colourful insults involving lewd insinuations about the dubious morality of the interlocutor's mother: ¡tu madre!, conchatumadre…
The English terms “SOB”, “motherf***er” are of course equivalent.  However, it must be hard for a pure native English speaker to comprehend how deeply ingrained this taboo is in the common Hispanic imagination.  Sometimes it almost seems one cannot even mention the other's poor progenitor, or if one does, the circumlocution su señora madre is used; I even heard this euphemism on TV news instead: la mamá del acusado!

me vale verga – every bit as rude as it sounds: I don't give a f***

PANAMA

un push – a “love hotel”.  Referenced as such three times in John le Carré's novel “The Tailor of Panama”.  But why is it called this?

PARAGUAY

gatillar – commonly used in the same way as the English “to trigger, unleash”: Esta legislación gatillaría una ola de desempleo

Friday, January 25, 2019

A HANDS-ON TASTE OF R.S.I. (REMOTE SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETING): A brief personal view

By Felix Ordeig, AIB

As conference interpreters we should always be keeping an eye open for the latest technological developments which may have a bearing on our working environment and the manner in which we deliver our professional services.

Technological innovations have disrupted many sectors of our economy—travel, tourism, the hotel industry, the world of entertainment and art and culture (think of music, tv and film) and others, with considerable potential for social conflict (as I write there is a very acrimonious taxi strike affecting many Spanish cities, and bringing some of them to a virtual standstill, as a protest—legitimate or not—against lightly regulated competition from web-based chauffeur-driven private vehicles for hire, which are seen by traditional cab drivers as an existential threat). In this context the chances are that rapid technological change will also lead to some deep transformations in our profession.

The practice of conference interpreting—in simultaneous mode, and that is what I shall be referring to in this post—by and large has not really changed that much in the last few decades, whether it be in international institutions or in the private market. We either work in fixed booths, or in mobile equipment, with sound proofing, using more or less sophisticated consoles with headsets and microphones from which we carry out our work. There are ISO standards for all this equipment, compliance with which provides a guarantee that we are able to deliver the service that we have undertaken to provide. We are usually in the same physical meeting room as our audience, and we should be able to clearly see and listen to the participants, and we will normally be in that booth with at least one or on occasions two colleagues, who are there to share the workload and assist us when necessary—and who will remain attentive to the proceedings. The equipment may be better or worse, and the same of course applies to the quality of sound and vision, though we require, expect and demand the highest standards in both, and to that extent rely on qualified technical support staff (usually very close to our booths, to ensure a quick response in case of glitches) to deliver the quality that our clients pay for and expect. We also require dispatch of documents prior to the event, and the circulation of room papers or e-documents provided during the course of the meeting: to that end a presential liaison with meeting staff is very important.

There are exceptions, of course: we often have to work in another room at the same venue, either because physically it is impossible to set up booths in the meeting room, or because the end-client finds them aesthetically unpleasing—and on those occasions we will be working with screens displaying the speakers and also their presentations. But we will usually be “wired” and not far removed from the meeting room. Or else during our presential meeting we may be called upon, almost always with prior notice, to interpret a remote presentation via Skype or live video; but we will still be in our booths and responsibility for technical crashes will not be ours. There are also circumstances where portable headsets and microphones will be used (Infoport or “bidule” systems), practical for small roving groups of participants visiting a factory, a shopping mall or some other kind of facility—but not suitable at all as a cut-price substitute for soundproofed booths.

From my personal point of view one of the defining concepts of conference interpreting is team work, which is fundamental—more on that later. In fact working on one’s own in simultaneous mode is frowned upon, and should only be contemplated in specific circumstances, such as a very short event (certainly not exceeding one hour).

Nonetheless, as I have said, change is on the horizon—or is here already. Conference interpreting, unlike our sister profession, translation, has up to now not really had to face big changes, as I have just pointed out.

But now Distance Interpreting may well revolutionize the way we work—with some positive and also negative knock-on effects, potentially with considerable consequences for our professional lives.

Distance or Remote technologies are not new—as I have said above we have often been in situations where there was no direct view of participants. They have been used for some time in community interpreting, in the health field above all and also in law courts and police stations, and in many cases interpreters in these fields have found systems imposed on them without having much of a say in how they developed. 

I am only a Conference interpreter (and a bit long in the tooth at that!) not a technical expert in remote or distance systems, nor am I familiarized with the specific terminology, and I am certain that many younger—or even not-so-young—colleagues will know a lot more than I do. In this respect the terms Distance or Remote interpreting would appear to me to be synonymous (but if any reader comes up with a clear and sensible distinction which doesn’t just split hairs I’ll be happy)—and for the sake of clarity from now on I shall refer to Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI).

What is RSI? Well, I’ll take a brief definition off-the-shelf as provided by Rob Davidson, not an interpreter but a UK-based businessman in the Conference sector who has cooperated with our interpreters’ main global professional association in recent years:

“…a technology based system whereby rather than being located in the same room as speakers and delegates, the interpreters are “remote” –operating from a distant site, which can be in the same venue or in another location altogether, in another country, from a hub or even in the interpreters “own office”. He adds: “Over the past few years, a number of commercial enterprises have launched onto the market RSI communication Platforms which provide this alternative to conference interpreters operating from booths located directly in the same room”.

Maybe because of my lack of knowledge, or also because I always jump at the chance to catch up and socialize with friends and colleagues in the profession whose company I enjoy, but with whom there aren’t always many chances to get together—alas, something typical in our line of work—I decided to attend a seminar/workshop on RSI organized by the international professional association I am a member of (AIIC), and to which many practitioners belong. Participants—about 170 of us, mainly from Europe but also with colleagues from the Americas and MENA (Middle East and North Africa)—had the valuable opportunity not only to listen to presentations from commercial RSI platform suppliers and representatives from the Conference and Convention industry, but also to try out for ourselves the equipment and services advertised by the platforms, in a situation which was as realistic as possible (unfortunately limited in time, due to the unexpectedly large numbers of interpreters who by registering had expressed interest in taking part in this test). The workshop organizers had also ensured enough time was allotted at a later stage for colleagues to be able to freely and critically talk about their experience and discuss possible strategies on how to build business relationships with RSI platform providers while at the same time protecting our interests and professional working conditions, toughly won over many years hard bargaining and negotiating with both institutional and private clients.

Now, this post is a personal view, and in no way should it be seen as an attempt to provide minutes or official proceedings, so that is my disclaimer upfront. I had a chance to try out four platform suppliers, though for very short periods.

First a general consideration: There is no “wiring”—success depends very much on the reliability of a powerful internet connection, which is increasingly a viable proposition, and in most cases the sound quality was excellent (though the quality of the visual input did vary quite a bit). Much has changed for the better in the last decade or so: I remember thirteen years ago attending a sales pitch by a fly-by-night operator attempting to interest agencies and interpreters in a primitive RSI system—when a live demonstration was attempted both the sound and internet connection crashed and failed utterly.

I would distinguish between: 1) platforms who provide “hubs” in a given location, from where interpreters will work as at present in a booth, side by side with your colleague providing interpretation to participants in an event which could well be hundreds of kilometres or more away. There would be screens showing both the speaker and the presentations. In some cases even a “classical” console is provided; in this instance there would not be much difference from current practice. There would be technical support on site, so responsibility for possible crashes would or outages would not be laid at the interpreter’s door. In the majority of cases a console is replaced by an “interpreter interface”, normally a laptop: the platforms’ software allows for volume controls, mute, and some other functions. It takes some getting used to, but in life there are always Steep Learning Curves which crop up now and then, and we interpreters are supposed to have flexible mindsets and an ability to adapt to quickly changing circumstances, right?

Model 2) is very different and the one which in my view raises many challenges: the “Dispersal” model as defined by one speaker. It involves RSI with two interpreters in different locations (it doesn’t really matter whether they are one or five hundred miles from each other). The laptop will crucially include a switch-over request, which must be accepted by the remote colleague and a chat function to communicate with remote technical assistance, plus presumably someone from the distant meeting venue to provide presentations as the event progresses. In my view, for the system to function well the interpreter—working from his/her home or an office—would need a second laptop to be able to access documentation and glossaries, as the “interface workstation” would display views of the speaker. The main issue for me and many other colleagues is “cognitive overload”—one would have to simultaneously be interpreting as well as managing the chat function at the same time, which no doubt would add enormous levels of stress to our work. Furthermore, smooth functioning of relay in a multi-language scenario could turn into a nightmare if not carefully catered for.

During the ensuing discussion the main issues which were raised involved questions concerning the considerable risks, reputational and otherwise—such as liability in case of power cuts, poor signal quality, etc.—and therefore the need for robust contractual terms, covering necessary training and certification, liability, remuneration and including questions of copyright protection in instances where interpretation was webcast or recorded. In that respect the specific need for disclaimers was raised. There was much unease at the possibility of losing control and negotiating leverage, and the key principle of interpreting as team work being diluted.

On the upside, I would recognize that if the system works properly it could generate more work for interpreters, as there would be considerable savings for organizers, and events which are currently managed without interpreting because it is seen as too expensive a proposition might use our services, which would be positive as it would also raise awareness of the benefits of multilingualism. On the other hand the savings in costs could be exaggerated for organizers, given the expenditure outlay in using these systems. Furthermore, if interpreters are to work from home, and guarantee a professional service, and avoid the image of “working from their kitchen or in their pyjamas” they would probably have to invest in setting up their own “workstation”, properly sound-proofed and with back up internet connections, which wouldn’t come cheap. 

The tentative conclusions were that RSI is here to stay, but that currently there are many technical issues to be ironed out, and there is a lot of room for considerable improvement in the functioning of RSI platforms to minimize risks (in particular, compliance with frequency responses and latency is a problem) It is essential for interpreters and their associations to enter into a critical dialogue with platforms and providers (quite a few founded or staffed by trained interpreters, by the way) and ensure that our interests are represented and defended, and that we help define future practice to our benefit whilst ensuring that users of our professional services can obtain the same high standards of quality they are used to in an RSI context. Conference Interpreting is a “knowledge based industry” and the main threat we face, that we must understand and combat is “commoditization”, a ghastly word (not mine, I hasten to add, but widely used in discussions).

I shall wind up on two points: firstly by saying that happily in our profession there is a body of expertise, from people who have used these systems, and are fully aware of the potential opportunities they offer…and of the drawbacks, plus others who are very proficient in technical matters and have done a lot of work in helping to define new ISO standards in this field, and finally colleagues who have carried out academic research in the field. Furthermore, in this respect AIIC has very recently published the first version of the “Guidelines on Distance Interpreting”. 

Secondly by making a brief reference to the elephant in the room, though it is not the subject of this post: AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the world of Conference Interpreting; the jury is still out. It could well be a threat to our profession, but even though developments in AI are moving at a quicker pace than many envisaged, it is still a long way off as an effective replacement. 

Useful references

Much has been written on the subject. Here—apart from the “Guidelines” from AIIC—are two documents which were mentioned during the event.

AIIC Guidelines on Distance Interpreting

Platform Abundance 

New technologies for interpreters: An unstoppable wave

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!