¡Gracias a la alumna Florencia Figueroa Vale y a la sta. Hong por su generosa contribución a la cátedra!
Active AIIC Member since 2013
Freelance Interpreter http://www.koreaninterpretationllc.com/
A: English, Korean
1. Which are, from your perspective, the biggest challenges derived from interpreting between such different cultures? Have you found yourself “educating” your clients about cultural differences before an interpretation?
I would think the biggest challenge is keeping up with the cultural evolution or changes. I grew up in both Korea and the U.S. moving every few years. But currently I reside in the U.S. and have done so for the past 20 years. Culture always evolves, and because I am living in the U.S., I am up to date on the evolution or changes in U.S. culture, but tend to be less so for those of Korea. So for me personally, I have to make the extra effort to keep up with the changes in Korean culture by either physically visiting or staying connected through the media. That takes effort. Once the understanding is there, I think the challenges no longer remain challenges. There always seems to be a way to explain and interpret the differences. As for the education, I only "educate" when the clients request it of me.
2. Do you think that Korean and English linguistic differences make interpretation harder? What about the diversity of English-speaking countries?
Yes, to both. One good example would be difference in the order of the sentence for English and Korean. For English, the order is subject, verb, object; whereas for Korean, it is subject, object, verb. So, for instance, when interpreting simultaneously from Korean to English, the interpreter needs to say the subject and must to certain a extent anticipate the verb and sometimes even say it in the target language which is English, before the speaker finishes his or her sentence. Otherwise, when the sentence becomes too long, some of the content can be lost. What this means is that there has to be a fairly good understanding of the content and that there is less room for parroting (interpreting literally and very close to the original) when compared to interpreting from one Romance language to another Romance language. As for diversity, yes, it makes it harder. Diversity of the English speaking countries means, diversity of accents and diversity of specific cultures influencing the English that is spoken, among other things. That definitely means more challenges. Simply think of how an Indian would say and use the English language when compared to someone from Australia would: different accents, vocabulary, culture, etc.
3. Can you share some of your strategies to provide a successful interpretation? (for example, what to do when coming across a word you don’t know?; taking down notes; doing research on the client/audience/world knowledge references that might come up)
It's all about the preparation. The more you know about the subject matter and the jargon, the better your output. Oftentimes, the client shares very little information with the interpreter. The best way is to go online and research the client and the topic of discussion in both languages. Also knowing who is attending and the purpose of the meeting helps. It gives the interpreter a big picture to work with.
4. Generally speaking, do you think that people consider interpretation to be fundamental for a successful message exchange or do you think most people think that as long as you know the target language you can do the job yourself?
I think there used to be more of the latter, but it has slowly started to change. People definitely think the interpretation is fundamental after they experience a bad interpreter.
5. What do you think makes an interpreter, a great interpreter and, do you have any advice for novice interpreters that you wish someone had given to you when you just started working?
An interpreter is someone who becomes the speaker and says exactly what the speaker wants to say and how the speaker wants to say it. The best interpreter becomes invisible. As the saying goes, a great interpreter is someone who makes the speaker think as if the interpreter wasn't even there. Having said that, I personally think that, as with all other professions, in order to be great at what one does, one has to love the job and have a solid sense of ethics. As for advice, I got all the advice I needed. I had excellent mentors. But I think I could have used much more humility. I could always use more humility.