Frequently Asked Questions
1) What do interpreters do? Interpreters facilitate spoken communication between people who speak different languages by converting speech or sign language into the nearest possible equivalent into the target language.
2) What do translators do? Translators convert text from one language into the nearest possible equivalent into the target language. Both translators and interpreters strive to conserve as much of the original meaning, tone, intent, and register as possible.
3) What is different about court interpreting compared to other types of interpreting? In the New England Law Review (Winter, 1996). Charles M. Grabau and Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons state that "the proper role of the interpreter is to place the non-English-speaker, as closely as is linguistically possible, in the same situation as the English speaker in a legal setting." This involves rendering at times technical, extreme, or highly charged colloquial language as well as formal "legalese".
4) I speak a second language. Could I become a translator or interpreter? Possibly, but the rest of the short answer is: having the use of two hands does not a pianist make. Many bilingual people simply do not have the innate abilities and meticulousness to be a good translator or interpreter. Either way, acquiring a level of fluency and general knowledge of the culture of your working languages will require years of effort and immersion.
5)Why do we need human translators if there is machine translation? We have all seen the often amusing results of machine translation, where a computer program renders word-for-word "translations" in a target language. When machines run into phrases such as “putting on the dog”, they simply cannot render a cultural equivalent. For thinking, there is nothing like a brain!
6)What is the difference between machine translation and CAT? CAT or Computer-Assisted Translation is done by human translators, whose translated phrases or words are remembered by the program, which TYPES them again. This is different from machine translation, which generates “translations” by using a database of "exact" matches. In other words, CAT tools remember what a human has already translated as a cultural or grammatical equivalent, and it remembers previous usage. In essence, machine translation generates, CAT tools remember and type, in order to save the translator time.
7) Could I become a court interpreter? Well, interpretation in general initially requires native fluency in the interpreter's working languages, as well as meticulousness, great mental stamina, flexibility, and extensive vocabulary and general knowledge and the ability to work under some pressure. Court interpreters also need knowledge of the justice system and its terminology, as well as of the ethics of interpretation in a legal setting and the ability to work under even more pressure. If you see yourself described in the first sentence above, and you acquire the adequate knowledge, you may have the makings to be a good court interpreter.