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Interpreting (or interpretation) is an activity that consists of facilitating oral or sign language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between two or more speakers who are not speaking (or signing) the same language.

Note that the words interpreting and interpretation can both be used to refer to this practice, the word interpreting is commonly used in the profession and in the field of translation studies in an attempt to avoid other meanings of the word interpretation.

The term interpreter refers to the practitioner who translates orally for parties conversing in different languages or utilizing sign language. Interpreters should convey not only elements of meaning, but also the intention and feelings of the original speaker. In fact, the end result is an intermediate stage of communication which aims to allow listeners of the target language to experience the message in a way that is as close as possible to the experience of those who understand the original.

Interpreting vs. translationEdit

Although the terms translation and interpretation are used interchangeably in everyday speech, they vary in meaning. Both refer to the transfer of meaning between two languages. However, "translation" refers to a transfer from text to text — usually written, but may be recorded speech or sign — with time and access to resources such as dictionaries. There is a very high standard of accuracy for translation. Interpreting, on the other hand, usually takes place "on the spot" with the clients present, and deals with utterances (although the source language may be a text).

A common misconception by the general public is that they must deliver a "word-by-word" or "verbatim" interpretation of what is said in the source language in order to be accurate. This misconception is usually held by speakers of a single language, and occasionally by lay self-described "bilingual" persons. The truth, however, is that if one were to attempt a "word-by-word" translation of a sentence, without regard for the listener's understanding, the end result would usually be unintelligible. A case in point is a Spanish phrase like "Está de viaje", which rendered "verbatim" in English could "translate" as "Is of voyage" (a phrase that makes no sense in English), when it really means (depending on context): "He/she/you is/are traveling," or "He/She/You is/are out of town."

Types of interpretingEdit

There are different approaches to interpreting that refelect the needs of the situation

Main article: Different models of interpretation

Conference interpretingEdit

Conference interpreting is interpreting in a conference environment. Conference interpreting may be simultaneous or consecutive although the advent of multi-lingual meetings has seen a massive drop in the use of consecutive over the last 20 years.

Conference interpreting is roughly but not exactly split into two types of market: the institutional market and the private market. International institutions (EU, UN, EPO, etc), holding multilingual meetings, often favour interpreting from a number of foreign languages into the interpreters' mother tongue. Local private markets tend to hold bilingual meetings (the local language plus one other) and the interpreters work both into and out of their mother tongue. The markets are by no means mutually exclusive. International Association of Conference Interpreters AIIC is the only worldwide association for conference interpreters. Founded in 1953, it brings together more than 2600 professional conference interpreters in over 80 countries. The website is

Legal/court interpretingEdit

Legal interpreting, or court or judicial interpreting, takes place in courts of justice or administrative tribunals and wherever a legal proceeding is held (such as a conference room for a deposition or the location of a sworn statement). Legal interpreting can take the form of consecutive interpreting of witnesses' statements, for example, or simultaneous interpreting of the entire proceedings by electronic means for one or more of the people in attendance.

Depending on the regulations and standards adhered to per state and venue, court interpreters usually work alone when providing consecutive interpreting services, or as a team when simultaneous interpreting is required. In addition to mastery of the source and target languages, an excellent knowledge of law and court procedure is required of court interpreters.

Often they are required to have formal authorisation from the State to work in the courts — and are then called sworn interpreters.

Focus Group (Marketing) interpretingEdit

In focus group interpreting, an interpreter sits in a sound proof booth or in an observer's room with the clients. There is usually a one-way mirror between the interpreter and the focus group participants, wherein the interpreter can observe the participants, but they only see their own reflection. The interpreter hears the conversation in the original language through headphones and simultaneously interprets into the target language for the clients. Since there are usually anywhere between 2 to 12 (or more) participants in any given focus group, experienced interpreters will not only interpret the phrases and meanings but will also mimic intonation, speech patterns, tone, laughs, and emotions.

Escort interpretingEdit

In escort interpreting, an interpreter accompanies a person or a delegation on a tour, on a visit, or to a meeting or interview. An interpreter in this role is called an escort interpreter or an escorting interpreter. This is liaison interpreting.

Public Service interpretingEdit

Also called community interpreting, this type of interpreting takes place in the following fields : legal, health and local government services, social services, housing, environmental health, and education welfare. In community interpreting, there appear factors which are determinant and affect production, such as emotional content, hostile or polarized surroundings, created stress, the power relationship between the participants, and the degree of responsibility of the interpreter — in many cases more than extreme; even the life of the other person depending, in many cases, on the interpreter's work.

Medical interpretingEdit

A subset of public service interpreting, medical interpreting consists of communication between a medical caregiver and a patient and/or family members, facilitated by one qualified to provide such a service. The interpreter must have a strong knowledge of medicine, common procedures, the patient interview and exam process, and the day-to-day workings of the hospital or clinic, in order to be able to serve both the patient and the caregiver. Medical interpreters often act as cultural liaisons for those who are not familiar with, or particularly comfortable in, a hospital setting.

Sign language interpretingEdit

When hearing person speaks, an interpreter will render the meaning of the speaker into the sign language used by the deaf party. When a deaf person signs, an interpreter will render the meaning expressed in the signs into the spoken language of the hearing party. This may be performed either as simultaneous or consecutive interpreting. Skilled sign language interpreters will position themselves in a room or space that allows them both to be seen by deaf participants and heard by hearing participants clearly and to see and hear participants clearly. In some circumstances, an interpreter may interpret from one sign language into an alternate sign language.

Deaf people also work as interpreters. They team with hearing counterparts to provide interpretation for deaf individuals who may not share the standard sign language used in that country. They also relay information from one form of language to another - for example, when a person is signing visually, the deaf interpreter could be hired to copy those signs into a deaf-blind person's hand plus include visual information.

Where interpreters workEdit

The majority of professional full-time conference interpreters work for international organisations like the United Nations, the European Union, or the African Union.

The world's largest employer of interpreters is currently the European Commission, which employs hundreds of staff and freelance interpreters working into the official languages of the European Union. The European Union's other institutions (the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice) have smaller interpreting services.

The United Nations employs interpreters at almost all its sites throughout the world. Because it has only six official languages, however, it is a smaller employer than the European Union.

Interpreters may also work as freelance operators in their local, regional and national communities, or may take on contract work under an interpreting business or service. They would typically take on work as described above.

Bibliography Edit

  • Jones, Roderick: Conference Interpreting Explained. 1998, ISBN 1-900650-57-6
  • Seleskovitch, Danica: L'interprète dans les conférences internationales. 1968, Cahiers Champollion
  • Taylor-Bouladon, Valerie: Conference Interpreting — Principles and Practice. 2000, ISBN 1-86333-195-6 (out of print)

External links Edit

See also Edit

de:Dolmetscher es:Interpretación eo:Interpretado (tradukado) fr:Interprétation (traduction) ko:통역사nl:Tolk (beroep)no:Tolk nn:Tolk sl:Tolmačenje sv:Tolk zh:口譯

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