A recent article in the New York Times talks about the work psychologists are doing to describe how we value art. One finding is that people value art they know is created by humans over the same thought to be created by robots. It seems we are beginning to empirically understand what philosophers have thought for ages – that art acts as a common thread between people, despite their differences in space, time, culture, etc.
(We’ll connect this idea to the interpreting industry shortly)
A research group from Boston College concluded that there’s a human quality that remains in art. Perhaps this reasons why you can get a print of a famous piece of artwork for $30, but the same in its original form for $30,000.
My partner and I were recently discussing this same type of thing during a trip to beautiful Glenwood Springs, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Much of what you find in the art galleries along the touristy section of town is made by local artists. Original works are presented here, with typical prices ranging anywhere from $800-$2500. Below these pieces, you’ll often find prints of the originals offered from $25-$45.
We were shocked at the difference in price, and during the long drive home (we live in Arlington, Virginia), we began to wonder if these same type of pricing dynamics might exist in our market – as interpreters.
The difference in pricing between interpreters can be just as wide. This is often explained away simply by referring to commonly held notions about what makes interpreting ‘good’.
Traditionally, ‘good’ means that the interpreter is highly qualified in providing accurate and complete renditions of the original speech, for example.
But are not prints also accurate and complete depictions of original pieces of art? There must be some additional element beyond the traditional view.
We believe that interpreting prices depends greatly on the human element. Just as the human element in art facilitates an interaction between people across space and time, the same for interpreting facilitates an interaction between people across linguistic and cultural borders.
Getting to what the ‘human element’ is seems to be the tricky part. To get there would require throwing lots of linguisticky terminology. Things like: The interpreting professional is required to display a certain type of interactional competence in order to facilitate a co-construction of meaning in action between participants.
Rather than unpack that here, let’s just say that...
The way we see including the human element is to see interpreting through a bifocal lens: the traditional way (the renditioning of original speech), but also as facilitating interaction between people.
This post is written by Tian Huang and Michael Grez of Intran Solutions LLC. We provide conference-level interpreting services between Mandarin and English. Based in Washington. Clients serviced worldwide.
The image can be located here.