The role of the interpreter and the job of communicating in more than one language

All of us have seen interpreters in action at a public event. But do you really know the challenges these professionals face every day? We will tell you in this post. 

Interpreters are a fundamental part of any oral communication in which the participants do not speak the same language. Private meetings, government acts, conferences, lectures, classes, medical consultations, court hearings… This globalized world is increasingly often bringing people from different cultures together, they interact in order to reach an objective. Interpretation, whether it is in person or virtual, is the key to success in these communications.

An interpreter is a professional translator

In order to work as an interpreter, you have to be fluent in more than one language, but that is only the beginning. An interpreter is, above all, a linguist who deeply studies the languages with which they work, the elements of which they consist, the ways in which they relate to each other, and the rules that govern them. But, in addition, an interpreter is a translator who masters the specific techniques and methodologies of the profession in order to convey meaning from one language to another. 

Whenever you are translating from one language to another, you have to make adjustments. The journey of a phrase’s meaning between languages is not transparent or automatic, because the languages, like the cultures from which they are part of, have different characteristics and rules that only on very rare occasions allow for perfect equivalency. In interpretation, these discrepancies arise at the same time the speaker starts their discourse, and the interpreter must make adjustments in real time. This is a process that still continues to surprise neuroscientists. This is because a professional interpreter’s work entails a complex cognitive effort that involves simultaneously listening in the source language, analysis, and comprehension of the speaker’s intention, short-term memory, and discursive production in the target language. All in a matter of seconds. 

An interpreter is a specialist 

To linguistic and translation competencies can also be added others that we might call “extralinguistic” because their mastery does not depend specifically on one’s knowledge of languages. Nonetheless, they are equally necessary for the performance of this job. We are referring to the specific knowledge owned by the speaker and that is present in the conversations in which the interpreter participates as well as the technologies that they use to perform their work.

All of these conversations have a topic and a context. In order to do their job better, interpreters specialize in domains and industries. This allows them to focus on mastering particular terminology providing a more sophisticated service. Likewise, they train to perform in different environments and forms of professional practice. Some of their specializations can be in the medical industry and health sciences, education, business meetings, government acts, and the legal field, among others. An interpretation’s quality depends, to a large extent, on the interpreter’s experience with the domain and their prior study of the material subject to interpretation. 

Interpreters also specialize in the different resources and technologies with which they practice their profession. All of them have mastered linguistic resources like term bases and glossaries. Conference and event interpreters also know the details of their work on stage and before the camera, while remote interpreters know how to skillfully use specialized software and different video conferencing platforms. 

An interpreter is an intercultural mediator

When a person speaks, it is not only to transmit a message: it is to share a way of looking at the world. Each speaker brings their culture with them wherever they go; and their values, traditions, customs, and tastes are reflected in their language. While working as a bridge between two languages, interpreters also act as links between two ways of seeing the world. For this reason, we say that an interpreter is an intercultural mediator. In order to do a good job, it is not enough to know the languages involved, it is also essential to be aware and sensitive to the cultures of which the languages are a part. 

As language is one of the most important components of culture, often two communities that do not share a language are also dissimilar in a lot of other aspects of daily life included in the culture. The challenge of the interpreter as an intercultural mediator is twofold: they have to make adjustments in the discourse so that communication is possible while also preserving the richness provided by the differences. Their role consists of laying down a bridge that smooths without minimizing any possible friction between the worldview of the person speaking and that of the one listening, facilitating mutual comprehension.

An interpreter is a strategic partner

Due to their linguistic knowledge, their ability to transfer meaning in specialized fields, and their skills as mediators between cultures, working with a team of interpreters brings strategic value for any organization.

Communicating on the global scene combines the challenge of creating messages and experiences that identify and differentiate the organization, are culturally relevant for each of their audiences and are organically and consistently integrated on all of its channels.

Attaining this requires the assistance of experts in languages that ensure quality, efficiency, and a focus on personalized solutions. Fortunately, the language industry has accessible alternatives for all projects. An experienced linguistic services provider has the flexibility to place at the disposal of each organization the interpretation team most adequate to reach its expectations and that of its audiences and add value at each step of the process. 

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