Takeaway: People can understand interpreter problems without knowing the language.
A while ago, we received some feedback from a client that we just finished interpreting for.
“Thanks for doing such a good job!”
Really, we wondered? How could someone who doesn’t speak both languages ‘feel’ that the interpreter did a “good job”?
The client continued: “I felt that when I emphasized something - that you did the same when you were interpreting.”
This idea got us started thinking about how that famous line – that 90% of all communication is non-verbal, meaning that you should be able to understand a whole lot of what someone says without even knowing the language. It seemed like for us as interpreters, that this would be very important to deeply understand, so we took this idea and ran with it.
The result has become a collaborative effort between us, an interpreting company, and an academic friend at a university... Michael Grez of Intran Solutions, along with Dr. Kazuki Hata of Tokyo City University, recently presented their findings at the recent American Association of Applied Linguistics conference in Portland, called Repair in Interpreted Monologue.
The findings show that people who use interpreters can understand - not only that their interpreter is experiencing problems - but also can understand how the interpreter is trying to fix that problem. All without knowing the language.
This is particularly important for anyone who uses interpreters, because it’s absolutely necessary that communications can flow freely between people, and not be bothered by wondering whether or not the interpreter is doing their job well enough. Because, as soon as they’re wondering about the interpreter, they’re not focused on what they need to be focused on – the client, getting the sale, getting to Yes, or whatever.
So, we think that there is a lot more room in the interpreting industry for teams like this– where the rubber of academia can meet the road of interpreting practice. We’ll keep you posted on other collaborative efforts as we find them.
Until then… Have you ever heard of practicing interpreters and academics joining forces? If so, we would love to hear from you.
This article is co-written by Michael Grez and Tian Huang, co-owners of Intran Solutions, provider of interpreting and translation services between Chinese and English, based in Washington, D.C. Special thanks to Kazuki Hata!
Image provided by the United States Navy.