Interpreting occupies an interesting space in society. Even though interpreting as a profession pre-dates writing, most people never interact with an interpreter. Ordinarily, it takes a fake ASL interpreter getting exposed as an impostor or some other embarrassing shenanigan to cause interpreting to enter the zeitgeist. That is until a 5-foot-nothing Japanese sprite named Marie Kondo began sparking joy and her interpreter Marie Iida began sparking an interest in quality language services. So in honor of National Interpreter Appreciation Day, let’s learn about interpreting shall we?

The Interpretive Dance

So first, I need to admit something: I made up National Interpreter Appreciation Day for the premise of this article. However as it turns out, it is a thing. And shockingly I was only off by a week, as it is to be commemorated on the first Wednesday of May. However, traditionally it is reserved for paying respect to sign language interpreters. So I’m officially appointing May as National Spoken Language Interpreter Appreciation Month. And to christen the occasion let’s take at one of the highest-profile spoken language interpreters working now, Marie Iida, in action:

In this clip we learn quite a bit about interpreting. We see Iida interpreting in both of the primary modes of interpreting: simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. You can hear her performing simultaneous interpreting, speaking a Japanese rendition of what Stephen is asking, as he is still speaking. This has a couple of advantages:

  1. It allows Kondo to begin responding soon after the question is finished, avoiding an awkward delay
  2. It allows Stephen to express one fluid thought, rather than stopping to allow Iida to translate portions of speech
  3. As Iida is able to whisper her translation to the non-English speaker, it can be less obtrusive, depending on the circumstances.

However, in back and forth conversations, such as interviews, it is not possible to interpret everything simultaneously. So notice as she seamlessly transitions from one mode to another as she begins interpreting Kondo’s responses and so-on.

Transitioning Between Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpreting

You’ll notice that as Iida is listening and preparing to interpret she is scribbling in her notepad, allowing her to remember the content of the message. So consecutive interpreting requires the ability to take notes and process information quickly. Simultaneous interpreting also requires mental processing but also the ability to listen and speak at the same time. So they both have their advantages and drawbacks.

Also note that Stephen refers to Iida as a “translator”. It’s a very common mix-up, but let’s review the differences. An interpreter speaks (or signs). A translator writes. So, your lawyer might hire a translator to make a Spanish language version of your pre-nuptial agreement, but you will need an interpreter at your inevitable divorce proceedings.

Positioning and Room Management

Another important aspect of interpreting we see illustrated is positioning and room management. Iida is sitting in such a way that she can easily whisper to Kondo when need be while also able to make eye contact with Stephen. At times an interpreter needs to subtly and politely indicate that it’s time to shut up. Maintaining eye-contact and remaining close enough to initiate physical contact are important ways to do that.

Learning about the interpreting profession is important not just for those who are interested in doing it for a living. It’s also important for all medical, legal and business professionals who may end up using such services. In the next article celebrating National Spoken Language Interpreter Appreciation Month, we’ll discuss some of the principles of interpreting and some common questions interpreters often get asked, including “How can I make the best use of interpreter services?”.

In the meantime, if you have any inquiries as to whether or not professional interpreting services may be right for your business you can request a complimentary quote. Or, you can schedule with a professional interpreter from Access Interpreting today.