David Lauman

In Your Shoes: Interpreter Clarifications

In In your shoes on September 3, 2012 at 9:47 PM

By David L. Lauman, M.A. Translation and Interpretation

20/20 Translations

When I work as an interpreter, I help English and Spanish speakers communicate with each other in real time.  I help make this interlingual communication happen by accurately conveying what the English speaker(s) says into Spanish and what the Spanish speaker(s) says from Spanish into English.

While interpreting, I am usually able to “fade” into the background and allow the speakers of both languages to concentrate on what they want to say to each other.  However, there are times when a party does not say something clearly or loudly enough. It also might be that something has been said too quickly.  If I suspect that I have not understood a spoken message in its entirety, I ask my client for permission to seek clarification. This way, I ensure that my rendition of what was originally said is correct.

For example, being sure that a Spanish-speaking party to a lawsuit says “I was not at the scene of the accident” ensures that I include the “not” in my interpretation into English. However, if at first I am unsure whether I heard her say “not”, I would rather enquire, because omitting “not” could drastically change the outcome of the case!

An interpreter who prudently seeks clarification is not less competent; quite the contrary. If I were the client who needed an interpreter to understand what the foreign language speaker were saying, I would prefer that the interpreter make sure that he also followed everything that has been said.  If the interpreter doesn’t comprehend something garbled from the lips of the foreign language speaker (which, of course, I wouldn’t understand in the slightest), then how on earth can the interpreter clearly convey that statement into my language?

Of course, the interpreter must use careful judgment and not request clarification every other sentence.

Whenever I provide interpreting services, I constantly keep in mind how important mutual intelligibility is to all parties involved in an interlingual communication encounter.  If I were in your shoes, the least I would expect would be that my interpreter allow me to make myself understood while making it possible for me to fully understand everything said in the foreign language.   That is the peace of mind that all clients deserve.

© David L. Lauman, 2012.  All rights reserved.

Don’t let the language barrier get in the way of effective spoken communication with Spanish speakers here in the USA or on the opposite side of the globe.  You are invited to visit 20/20 Translations and contact David Lauman at david(at)2020translations.com for further inquiries.

Reference: Lauman, D. “In Your Shoes, Part One”.  April 6, 2012. Interpretips blog.  Accessed on September 3, 2012.

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