Those unfamiliar with interpreting are often surprised by how widely it can be applied. Interpreters are useful in nearly every situation where two parties speak different languages.
Interpreting can be employed in situations involving large groups or in settings of just two individuals — and it can be applied to informal conversations, high-profile events and everything in between.
Like any profession, interpreting can be branched into different specialties based on certain demanding situations that require specialized knowledge, experience or personality traits.
A few such examples of how interpreting can be applied are listed below:
Legal and court proceedings are very tricky situations. The high stress of a courtroom, combined with the rigid nature of the law, make strong demands on a court interpreter’s abilities.
Ideally, court interpreters are trained to hold themselves apart. They must separate their personal feelings from the subject at hand and give only precise interpreting. Only by doing so can the court be confident that they are getting accurate, unfiltered accounts that they can consider and act upon.
Companies that do business overseas are always in contact with people who may not share the same language. Business interpreters not only facilitate communication between two companies, but they also serve to help the executives save face.
After all, what high-powered CFO wants to look foolish and stumble over an unfamiliar language, or be embarrassed by machine interpreting mistakes during a business negotiation?
There’s no more important time to have a clear channel of communication than when someone’s health and well-being is at stake. Whether it is in an emergency or during a routine consultation, medical interpreters provide a valuable service by allowing the patients to get a clear idea of their medical situation and the options available to them.
The doctors benefit as well, because they now have well-informed patients who are able to express their desires for and concerns with any procedure or treatment.
Interpreting for Children
Anyone who has spoken to a child more than once will know that children are very sensitive conversation partners, especially in stressful situations. Combine this with a strong language barrier, and the situation can become unmanageable.
Interpreters familiar with the challenges of interpreting for children are indispensable in these situations and can help calm the child down by allowing the child to communicate the source of their distress.
How Not to Apply Interpreting
Interpreting has unwritten rules with regards to professional conduct and policies. Chief among them is not putting words in the speaker’s mouth.
Though it appears straightforward, this seems to be the rule most commonly broken. There are high-profile examples of this in the media, where the interpreter felt compelled to add their own voice to the speaker’s and therefore altered the intended message.
While not a one-size-fits-all tool, interpreting can be a great help in many situations that involve a language barrier of some sort. The right interpreter could make or break a business deal, convey crucial testimony or help a family in distress.