The Language of Success: Interpreter's School Is Thriving

By Kirk, Trisha | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 30, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Language of Success: Interpreter's School Is Thriving


Kirk, Trisha, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Harry Obst is usually on time to class - unless, like today, he gets tied up at the White House.

The director and sole instructor of the School of Interpretation at Inlingua Language Service Centers in Rosslyn has been called in to interpret on a conference call between President Clinton and a German official. His usual job, though, is training people to be interpreters.

Interpreters are in high demand because hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken in the area. The job can pay very well: A courtroom interpreter can make more than $250 a day and a conference interpreter can get $650 a day, Mr. Obst said.

"It's a matter of supply and demand. It's that simple."

Mr. Obst, who immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1957, speaks six languages in addition to his native German. He has interpreted for every president since Lyndon Johnson.

His background in interpreting and translating (interpreting written documents) led him to establish Inlingua's interpreting school in 1997. Other language schools offer similar training, but Mr. Obst says Inlingua is one of the few that requires a student to be fluent in a language before enrolling.

The privately owned school is unique in the area since similar programs at Georgetown University and George Mason University were discontinued.

The interpreting school is "language neutral," focusing not on interpreting a specific language, but on general techniques used to interpret any language.

"[This way] we can spend all our time making them good interpreters," Mr. Obst said. "Eighty percent of all interpreting work in the U.S. is done by totally untrained interpreters."

In small classes, students are taught memory retention, visualization skills and a type of shorthand notation using symbols based on word meaning, not sound.

"[The] interpreter is a meaning hunter . . . [he] works like a detective," Mr. Obst said.

Mr. Obst's classes incorporate readings in ethics, economics, etiquette and courtroom procedure to give students a background for the environments they may be interpreting in.

Classes run eight hours a day, five days a week, in three-week terms and take up most of Mr. Obst's time. He has retired from daily interpreting but still fills in at the State Department or White House about once a month.

"It's very hard to turn down the president," he said.

Mr. Obst says there are more foreigners than Americans in most of his classes these days. His current session includes students from Uruguay and Outer Mongolia.

Inlingua is a Swiss-based network of language centers with more than 270 privately owned offices around the world, including some 30 in the United States. In addition to the School of Interpretation, Inlingua runs immersion language programs, mostly for Defense Department employees.

"About 80 percent of our students have to take Defense Department tests [for language efficiency]," said Ed Nef, who purchased the Rosslyn Inlingua center in 1986 and also owns Inlingua's center in Odenton, Md.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Language of Success: Interpreter's School Is Thriving
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?