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... you may remember this affair from two years ago,_the_impact_of_one_word-824-en.html

I was recently re-reading this press release and the following paragraph jumped out at me

"At international meetings, in an effort to ensure the accuracy of translations, conference interpreters are therefore provided with copies of major speeches before they are pronounced, but this also gives time to their authorities to check the content and if necessary give instructions on what to translate and how."

My instinctive reaction was to go look for the passage I felt sure we had in our texts - as in so many other similar texts - about not accepting such instructions from anybody, only to be forced to realise that we didn't.

So... do you feel we should have such a precept - of course excepting terminology :-) - which, although stating the obvious (as we see it) might be helpful in situations such as the one described?

asked 28 Mar '14, 16:22

msr's gravatar image


edited 04 Apr '14, 17:58

gives time to their authorities to check the content and if necessary give instructions on what to translate and how.

We are the experts, we convey a message rather than words, we are neutral, just delivering content and not creating any, etc. So far, so good.

But I'm having a hard time imagining how we could word an interdiction of interference from our clients but for terminology - where does terminology start and stop? What if terminology is politically meaningful and relevant? As it would be saying Droits de l'homme (men's rights) for Human rights, instead of the new Droits humains which is gender neutral. Or let's imagine a naming dispute between a country that has a region called Placedonia and a state that also wants to be called Placedonia. Terminology? Politics? Who gets to decide?

If such a thing would exist without a proper definition of what is ok and what isn't, it could create more problems than it would address:

It would also mean that if my institutional employer insists on saying Présidence hellénique, I could just decide that Présidence grecque sounds fine too to me, and not give a hoot about what the people in the Council would like to hear in their headphones. There's politics involved here too. Just as I also could decide not follow my current instructions telling me NOT to translate Open Days, but keep the English words. Is it terminology, marketing strategy or politics? Do I have to accept not to tell my audience (with some people in their mid-fifties who do not understand any English) what the sound oʊpən deɪ means?

So, where would we draw the line? Wording of an additional clause in our contracts would have to be neutral yet specific enough to allow to determine whether the interpreter did a professional mistake or not.

For me, it boils down to who is paying the bill and whose and what kind of instructions we accept. If I don't want to give the profession a bad name and undermine our reliability, I won't accept censorship (and, here I'll quote you, quoting Justice Potter Stewart: I know it when I see it). And I'll lose the client. Thus saving our reputation.

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answered 08 Apr '14, 13:16

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 08 Apr '14, 14:31

Thank you very much for your reaction, Gaspar :-)... the matter is indeed far from obvious, hence - I presume - its absence from our tenets so far ... and my question, hoping for contributions such as yours.

(09 Apr '14, 05:20) msr
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question asked: 28 Mar '14, 16:22

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last updated: 09 Apr '14, 05:20 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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