Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tips for Working with Interpreters in Political Settings

1) Interpreters work in two different ways: simultaneously and consecutively. Simultaneous interpreters will interpret while you speak; consecutive interpreters interpret in pieces as you go. Each interpreter has his own preference. If you are working with a simultaneous interpreter, please speak slowly so he’s not too far behind you. If you are working with a consecutive interpreter, please do not say more than 2-3 sentences at a time so the interpreter can relay all of your information.

2) Be aware that EVERYTHING you say will be interpreted, even if it's just your asking the debate organizer for more water.

3) It is not uncommon for an interpreter to interrupt. It is his job to convey everything you say accurately and completely. This may include stopping you if he needs to interpret what you have already said, asking you to slow down if you are going too fast, or stopping you to seek clarification when needed.

4) Don't be surprised if your interpreter has questions about seemingly simple vocabulary words. What's only one word in your language could be one of many words in the other language, depending on the context. In French, for example, the English word meeting could be a "tête-à-tête," a "rendez-vous," a "conference," or even a "meeting,” depending on how many people attend and how formal the meeting is or isn’t.

5) If you’ve studied the other language and the interpreter uses a different word than you would, don’t be alarmed. Many languages have multiple dialects. Spanish, for example, has 19 major dialectal forms. The interpreter may simply be using a different Spanish.

6) Allow for extra time and ask the debate organizer ahead of time if the interpreter’s time will be deducted from your own. Everything you say will have to be said twice (once by you and once by the interpreter). In addition, some languages simply take more words to express a point than others do. Spanish, for example, uses 33% more words to say something than English.

7) Look at the limited-English proficient person instead of looking at the interpreter.

8) Keep it in the first and second persons. Instead of telling the interpreter "Ask him which issue is most important to him," say "Which issue is most important to you?"

9) Be as precise as you can with your comments. Anything in your syntax that is unclear (i.e., dangling modifiers, unidentified pronouns like "it," double negatives), may be interpreted incorrectly. Along these lines, shorter sentences are best.

10) Please understand that the interpreter does not take sides. The interpreter is ethically prohibited from having an opinion on your candidacy, the race at large, or the issues involved. This means he is neither for or against you, or for or against your opponent. He is ethically bound to be impartial and to acknowledge his role boundary as an interpreter and nothing more.

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