Academic journal article British and American Studies

The Interpreter's Do's and Don'ts

Academic journal article British and American Studies

The Interpreter's Do's and Don'ts

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Communication among people existed since the beginning of mankind. At the outset, there was the sign and only then the word that helped people communicate with each other. Due to the socio-economic and technological progress that appeared once the communities evolved, people started to move around, to discover and conquer new territories, to get into contact with peoples that spoke different languages and had different cultures. That was the moment when the need for a person who knew both languages and cultures, and could facilitate communication became obvious. Such a person was named an interpreter, that is a person able to convert "an oral message into another oral message" (Seleskovitch, 1989: 2), from the source language into the target language.

Although interpreters have been used as mediators of communication since ancient times, it was only in the 20th century that they were officially accepted as professionals whose knowledge was of paramount importance for the furtherance of communication in multi-lingual settings. The professional status was strengthened by the emergence of professional associations which aimed at helping interpreters cope with the problems they encountered in their professional life. Such associations drew up codes of ethics and of conduct which regulated the interpreters' professional activity (Phelan 2001, Pöchhacker 2016), and which are taken into consideration in the present article in order to highlight the interpreter's most relevant professional do's and don'ts.

2. The emergence of a profession

The exact moment when the first interpreters were used is hard to track mainly because of the oral character of the interpreter's professional activity. The existence of a hieroglyphic in Ancient Egypt that signified "interpreter" is the first recorded evidence pointing to the origins of the profession. In ancient Middle and Far East, interpreters were used not only for their ability to further verbal and nonverbal communication, but also for their trade, transport and administrative connections which would support business relations. In ancient Rome and Greece, slaves and prisoners were coerced to learn Latin or Greek in order to facilitate communication between the conquered peoples, and the Romans or the Greeks. Later on, in the Middle Ages, Latin was the official language used both by scientists and writers to promote their work, and by the Catholic church and royal courts to establish diplomatic relations. In 16th century Spain, laws regulating the interpreting practices in the empire were in force; this fact proves the important role played by the interpreters and acknowledged by society (see Phelan 2001, Pöchhacker 2016, Takeda and Baigorri-Jalón, 2016, Thieme et al. 1956, http://lrc.wfu.edu/ community_interpreting/pages/history.htm, http://linkterpreting.uvigo.es/que-es-lainterpretacion/historia/?lang=en).

In the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, French was the official language of diplomacy and culture. During the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, English as well as French were officially used for negotiations. The working mode was the following: the speaker delivered a speech either in French or in English, and the interpreter conveyed the message into the other official language. At that stage, consecutive interpreting was mainly used, i.e. the interpreter listened to the spoken discourse in the source language, took notes and then rendered the speech into the target language. In 1927, the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, took place, and that was the first time when, besides English and French, other languages were officially used during the conference. That was the moment when simultaneous interpreting was resorted to for the first time. By simultaneous interpreting one understands that a message is conveyed from a source language into a target language almost simultaneously, usually with the help of some technical equipment. …

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