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Many people often think that their bilingual friend, relative, or colleague is the right choice when they need an interpreter for the company, for a conference or a business meeting with a potential client, or any other occasion where in order to communicate with the counterpart, on-the-spot translation is inevitable.
Your Arabic colleague who studied in the UK, is nearly a native speaker so he will be able to translate your presentation, workshop or negotiation, right?
Not really or, at least, not as good as you think.
He may be skilled and good in informal conversation or even at translating your emails and docs, but chances are he will get lost in translation conveying what you meant to say wrongly or missing parts altogether. This is because being an interpreter is not just being fluent in two languages, but much more than that.
While being bilingual certainly is a quality that all interpreters must have, being a professional linguist implies much more.
1 Bilingual VS Interpreter
First of all, is your colleague/friend/cousin really bilingual?
Being fluent in another language and feeling confident to use it to communicate in official occasions is not that common.
The skills perception may be different from the reality: language proficiency levels aren’t always easy to define and assess and language skills are rapidly deteriorating if the foreign language is not used regularly.
Last but not least, knowing a language for everyday use doesn’t automatically imply being able to translate specific lexicon and terminology related to technical or sectoral aspects.
2 The Role of the Interpreter
Interpreters are language experts who can translate speech from one language to another in real time. The language service they provide must be accurate, impartial, and fluent.
In order to fulfill this demanding task, interpreters must, of course, be fluent in two or more languages, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Good interpreters also possess the following qualities:
Good Working Memory
Interpreters have to retain great amounts of information before delivering it to the target language, making sure to carry across every bit of the speech uttered by the original speaker.
Working between languages also means to deal with cultural differences. Carrying meaning across one language to another is not a mechanical task, as the message must be adapted according to the context and the sensibility of the hearer. Moreover, interpreters read body language and understand every nuance of a sentence that the average bilingual might fail to notice.
According to the occasion, interpreters use different working techniques to provide their language services: simultaneous interpreting for long conferences and workshops, consecutive interpreting for shorter conferences and presentations, or business interpreting for one-on-one interviews and small group meetings.
During their work, interpreters achieve the greatest accuracy by retaining information thanks to specialized note-taking techniques.
In order to be considered trustworthy by both parties, interpreters must keep a professional behavior while performing their task. For example, they should avoid speaking to one party without informing the other of what is going on, avoid taking parts when conveying their messages, and make sure the translation is neutral and not biased. This is of the utmost importance especially in court interpreting, during litigations and also during business negotiations.
Simultaneous Interpreting is a really demanding task – the interpreter needs to listen and talk at the same time, being careful not to miss relevant info from the speaker and making sure to convey the message to the audience at best. Do you think this is not that hard? Give it a try – just start the news channel on your tv and try to translate aloud what you hear in another language: not that easy, uh?
All of the above qualities would be useless without the ability to employ them in a fraction of a second. Interpreters sustain incredible amounts of pressure and are able to take swift decisions, guaranteeing the natural flow of the translation.
Professional interpreters spend a great deal of time in preparation for the event. They will study the content they are given and do additional research to better understand the subject and context and be ready to face any challenge they might encounter during their task. They prepare glossaries and study the domain-specific lexicon to be used.
Being fluent and able to handle informal talks, doesn’t guarantee you will be as good in translating when the subject is more specific and sectoral terminology is needed – be it technical, medical, financial, ect.
3 Becoming an Interpreter
While bilinguals generally acquire their language skill by being raised in a multicultural environment, professional interpreters always have formal training, such as a specialized university degree or a postgraduate diploma.
4 Interpreting Gone Wrong
Choosing an interpreter is not a decision to be taken lightly. This profession is often operating in high-stakes, challenging situations, such as medical emergencies, court trials, or important business meetings. The slightest mistake could cost time, money, and in the most extreme cases, it could entail disastrous consequences for one or both parties. It is thus important to rely on trusted language service providers which will assign your task to the best-suited linguist for the job.
5 Interpreters at Langpros
Langpros collaborates only with the best trained interpreters in the GCC and beyond. Our language services range from simultaneous interpreting with rental equipment installed by our technicians, to consecutive and business interpreting. Contact our team to find the best solution to suit your needs and get a free quote!