Local politics is already perplexing and stressful. Imagine if there’s language barrier mixed into the fray. It’s likely to encounter various opportunities for aggravation and issues blown out of proportion. Fortunately, thanks to proficient interpreters, misunderstandings associated with the erroneous conveyance of messages uttered in different languages are largely avoided.
Political interpreting enables communication among world leaders and politicians in what appears to be a simple and straightforward manner. However, interpreting is not as easy as it looks. It covers many aspects and political interpreters need to be abreast with current affairs to the point that they become more knowledgeable than the people they work for.
1. Political interpreting covers numerous situations
When talking about political interpreting, most would easily associate it with politicians or world leaders. It’s not just about interpreters connecting politicians with constituents or other politicians who speak different languages. Various instances where political interpreting is needed include the following:
- Diplomatic settings such as the United Nations and its long list of agencies, the World Trade Organization (WTO), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union (EU).
- Parliamentary sessions such as what the European Parliament is regularly holding
- Meetings of global leaders at overseas venues
- Official state visits of foreign leaders
- Town hall meetings, conversations, or discussions of leaders with fellow citizens who speak different languages including new immigrants
- Live or prerecorded broadcasts of political events
- International speeches, press conferences, and other events that have effects beyond national borders
There are many other examples of events or activities that can be considered political, which are more proficiently handled by interpreters who have the background knowledge and experience in dealing with political affairs. If it’s something that has anything to do with governments, international relations, and local and international political power dynamics, it’s only logical for a political interpreter to be called in.
2. It’s easier to interpret for politicians
In an interview with BBC, Daniel Pashley, an interpreter for the European Parliament specializing in four European languages to English, said that it is easier to interpret for politicians. The reason: politicians are not difficult to understand and are rather predictable. Pashley notes how most political figure are disinclined to using colloquialisms; their words are generally simpler as compared to what is being used in soap operas or even compared to conversations of people on the street.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how most politicians are trained to talk in ways that more effectively affect people. It does not make sense for them to do their speeches with words ordinary people don’t often use. They tend to stick to expressions and rhetoric almost everyone is already familiar with to become more relatable and to capture their audience. Some may use slang and even words many would consider inappropriate, but these are things most interpreters are already acquainted with.
Moreover, politicians are highly public figures. Hence, it’s easy to find information including videos about them that are useful in figuring out their personalities. This helps many interpreters in assessing if a statement made by a personality is serious, meant to offend, or simply made in jest. This high availability of information also exposes interpreters to the words commonly used by a political figure.
3. Political interpreters don’t only work during the meetings or events where they do the actual interpreting for their clients or employers.
The job of interpreters in the political field does not start and end in the actual event they are using their mouths to interpret the words uttered by the persons assigned to them. They are not like many news readers who can get by just reading everything that is flashed on a teleprompter. There are things they need to do before they do the actual interpreting task.
At the height of the European Parliament (EP) interpreters’ strike last year, Roberto Aquino, who spoke on behalf of the EP staff interpreters, highlighted the common misconception that interpreters (for the EP) only work when they are in the booth, when they are listening to the speaker they are tasked to interpret and translating verbally the things they say. After all, interpreters also do their jobs as they prepare themselves for the actual interpreting task. They need to go over documents and continuously improve themselves to be well-equipped for their tasks. Aquino highlighted the idea that the misconception is similar to thinking that European Parliament members only work when they are at meetings.
4. A good translator is not necessarily a good political interpreter.
Being an excellent translator does not always translate to being a good interpreter – a political interpreter at that. Many may think that an LSP with incredibly credentialed translators can also serve as a good source for interpreters. The skills and experiences of interpreters and translators are not the same. As such, if you are looking for political interpreting services, you need to carefully examine the actual experiences of the interpreters available. It’s not right to automatically think that a language service provider with experienced political translators can already provide competent political interpreters.
The reason for this disparity lies in the way translators and interpreters work. Translators can take their time to come up with the perfect translations possible. Interpreters, on the other hand, need to do translations quickly, on the spot. They have no time to think about their options. Translators are not used to working at such a fast pace. This is not to say that their proficiency in the languages they specialize in is inferior compared to those of interpreters. However, they are simply not accustomed for the kind of pressure interpreters have to regularly deal with.
5. Interpreters need to continue learning.
It’s vital for people who interpret for politicians or public officials in the international arena to be up-to-date with the latest political developments as well as the new terms or expressions used in politics. That’s why they always need to read the news and occasionally go over some humor articles and comedy shows, comic strips, and satire that tackle political topics.
Being knowledgeable with the latest happenings affecting their clients or employers allows them to more quickly generate the most precise verbal translations. Otherwise, they might get confused by the terms or expressions used by political figures. They may end up taking a joke seriously and erroneously. Many government officials attempt to relate to younger crowds by trying to use “millennial” words. How would interpreters translate these terms if they are unfamiliar with them?
Additionally, it’s not uncommon for mayors, presidents, senators, envoys, or officials of international political organizations to infuse a variety of topics in their speeches. These could be religious texts, scientific findings, quotes from historical personalities, movie scenes, or literary references. An interpreter who knows nothing about these will have a hard time conveying the correct message, especially if they are used as a metaphor in relation to something important being discussed.
On the other hand, humor is a particularly challenging aspect of political translation. Many political figures love to drop jokes and punchlines to stir crowds. Being unaware of how to interpret these witticisms will surely lead to disappointment. Worse, the inappropriate interpretation may make the audience laugh at the speaker instead of getting amused by the joke. Even worse than worse, the mistake can create serious misunderstanding that harms the reputation or credibility of the speaker.
6. Interpreters help keep politics transparent.
Interpreters are not only vital in enabling understanding among government officials or political personalities who speak different languages. They also help establish transparency by allowing everyone who hears the political exchanges to understand what is being discussed. Imagine if the president of the United States knows Chinese and engages in a banter with the Chinese president about trade? How will Americans react?
Most will likely have a delayed (appropriate) reaction as they belatedly find out what the conversation was about. It would be good if the verbal exchange was caught on camera; what if it wasn’t? Interpreters make it possible for onlookers to understand political discussions, especially if these have serious repercussions.
Political interpreting is not significantly different from other forms of interpreting. It also requires accuracy, preciseness when it comes to context, quick thinking, and adequate knowledge of the topics being discussed by the assigned speakers. The job of political interpreters is also not limited to using their mouths. They also need to ceaselessly hone their skills and be updated with the latest developments in politics. They play an important role that does not only benefit the personalities they interpret for, but also the public affected by the actions of government and political figures.
Focus on Your Politics, Allow Us to Deal with the Language Differences
We understand how politics is a complex affair. What people see politicians do in public is already stressful enough; what happens behind the scenes can be significantly worse. That’s why when it comes to politics where there is language barrier involved, you can rely on Day Translations, Inc. to provide the most dependable interpreting services for whatever situation, from event coverages to meetings and parliamentary sessions. It’s admirable for politicians and world leaders to learn new languages so they no longer require interpreters. However, not everyone can do the same and have more important things to attend do.
For the most precise language services, make us your top LSP to contact. You can reach us by telephone by dialing the number 1-800-969-6853. You can also send us email at Contact us. Our lines are open 24/7, 365 days a year.