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I'm interested in getting views on whether people see interpreting as a technical (in the broadest sense of the word) field.

To phrase the question in another way - when you hear/read the word interpreting does an image of "technical" come into your mind? Is the image of certain kinds/modes of interpreting different than others? Has your view changed over time? Do you think others (clients, friends, etc.) see it as technical?

I hope to hear from a range of people - students through veteran interpreter and even any non-interpreters who might see this question.

asked 04 Apr '13, 12:55

Luigi's gravatar image


edited 04 Apr '13, 12:56

Not to me, a student. When I think of interpreting the first word that comes to mind is "humanity." I don't even like reading about the theories of interpreting because to me it's like trying to dissect the technique of a beautiful painting, which only takes away the magic of the art.

Interpreting is a magical discipline. That's enough for me.

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answered 04 Apr '13, 13:40

TheInterpretator's gravatar image



I agree with the "magical discipline" part. I would say that interpreters are essentially language shamans. Of course, we're not always treated that way by administrations, nor do we often tend to think of ourselves that way. On a bad day, one might feel like nothing more than an old-style switchboard operator. "So-and-so has the floor." But I think ideally and essentially we're more akin to the former than the latter.

(05 Apr '13, 06:03) Jonathan

:-) my original - and totally ignorant ! - notion of CI involved "pressing buttons" ;-) ... actually, exactly which buttons was my major concern when told over the phone, late one fine Sunday that my first assignment would be a week-long EN booth for an Occupational Health conference, starting on the morrow...!

Today, only marginally less ignorant in that regard - but with a vastly more accurate notion of the extent of my ignorance, I still enjoy all of the buttons :-) but I continue to believe that CI is more of an art than a science, certainly more "humanity" than technical, despite the boffin-like utterances preparation allows us to spout - although I DO recommend reading about "the theories" ;-).

As to how others see it... I'm afraid that most such others "suffer" us as they do other providers of services increasingly perceived to be menial, ie the sooner we leave their "plane of consciousness" the better, with the notable exception of either enlightened or humble users - both are not mutually exclusive: I always think fondly back to an educational three weeks interpreting for unionists into PT out of SP & IT - which to my jaded self hardly "felt" like interpreting - only to be surprised by the rapt attention with which I was listened to and kind appreciation shown!

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answered 04 Apr '13, 16:55

msr's gravatar image


It's interesting to see how different people from different cultures view interpreting differently.

I agree with Jonathan - we are language shamans (what a nice turn of phrase!). But there is also a technical aspect to it. When I explain interpreting to non-interpreters I tend to compare it to a sport in that you have to 'use it or lose it' - a good deal of interpreting is technique, pure and simple, and practise makes perfect. But it's also an art form, obviously, and it always feels good when that's acknowledged!

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answered 05 Apr '13, 06:46

Louise's gravatar image


Ce serait très édifiant de lire ce que les utilisateurs pensent de notre métier.

Comme la plupart d’entre vous, j’ai tendance à oublier que notre profession est (aussi) technique. La semaine dernière encore, des délégués français nous ont félicités et se sont émerveillés qu’on puisse * traduire tout en écoutant*. Je suis toujours perplexe face à ce genre de compliments. C’est comme si on félicitait un pilote d’avion d’avoir réussi à décoller dans des conditions météorologiques parfaitement normales…

Nos délégués ont tout de même ajouté qu’ils étaient surpris (sic) qu’on connaisse même leur jargon technique. Visiblement, ils ne s’y attendaient pas. Ils n’étaient pas conscients que pour traduire correctement leur «interfolded napkins dispenser» par «distributeur de serviettes enchevêtrées» et pas n’importe quoi d’autre, j’avais dû visiter une bonne douzaine de sites de filiales de la multinationale en question, établir un glossaire, le vérifier avec les collègues (et un délégué, en arrivant), utiliser ce que je sais dans le domaince des finances pour la partie Budget, ce que je connais des réseaux sociaux ou du marketing pour la partie Ventes et finalement faire feu de tout bois pour qu’ils ne se rendent pas compte que j’étais totalement profane dans leur domaine.

Alors, des techniciens ?? Des prestidigitateurs, plutôt. Mais avec un énorme travail en amont dont personne ne soupçonne l’existence…

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answered 27 Apr '13, 08:39

Danielle's gravatar image


It is technical in the sense that it is a practical skill based on a tradition, system of education and certain conventions. There is a technique to ride a bycicle and a technique to do simul. Thy are vastly different but the principle is the same.

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answered 11 Sep '13, 01:19

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

To me, yes. Since I started to work as an escort interpreter, I noticed the process as obtaining terminology, thinking & emotions of a speaker and to process it/ produce the final products/target language. In the beginning when I was acquainted with CI, I had taken it as a mechanical process(no offence to any interpreter peer, just to speak frankly). I had thought to become a CI is a process to install a certain mental mechanism into our brain, just as to make a new operating system in computer. After it is installed successfully, the computer can run and we can start to work. Maybe this is a stupid idea, and ignore the human aspect of our profession, but I believe there is some truth in it, though not completely. That's why there is research concerning the psychological pattern.

Thanks. :-)

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answered 05 Apr '13, 05:32

Paris%20Si%20de%20Chine's gravatar image

Paris Si de ...

edited 05 Apr '13, 05:33

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question asked: 04 Apr '13, 12:55

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