noun \ˈa-kyə-rə-sē, ˈa-k(ə-)rə-\
By Juan Morales, Exec. Director, Language Associates
Accuracy in interpreting…you would think it’s pretty straight foreword. Not so fast. Interpreting means translating the spoken language “word by word” , verbatim or in context. For example, the colloquialism in English “Is he pulling your leg” would make absolutely no sense at all in Spanish if translated word by word into “¿te está tirando la pierna?”. The correct verbatim translation of this is “te está tomando el pelo?” which literally translates into English as “is he (she) pulling you hair?” To be accurate the interpreter must have an excellent understanding of the lexicon of both languages, including colloquialisms.
Another component of accuracy is experience. The more experience an interpreter has, the more likely it is that he would have encountered any one particular situation and the better the interpreter would be at recalling the vocabulary. This is particularly true of judicial interpreting, where the judge may be using the same old judicial vocabulary during, let’s say, a change of plea hearing, but in different order and, obviously, with different facts interspersed with the judicial terms, as pertain to the particular case. The interpreter must concentrate on the facts of the case and put himself/herself in “automatic mode” with the judicial vocabulary.
Yet another component of accuracy is the interpreter’s ability to concentrate and block out distractions. If someone walks into the courtroom during the hearing, can the interpreter avoid losing his train-of-thought? An easily distracted person does not make a good interpreter.
Accuracy is extremely important not only in the judicial area but also in the medical community. When working with a “non-English” speaking person it can mean the difference between life and death. Be cautious to choose your interpreter with experience, good concentration skills as well as an understanding of the different colloquialisms of the languages.
About the author:
Juan Morales is the Executive Director of LANGUAGE ASSOCIATES INC., Oklahoma’s oldest and largest provider of multi-lingual interpreters. In November of 2006 Mr. Morales was appointed by Chief Justice Watt of the Oklahoma Supreme Court as a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners of Certified Courtroom Interpreters.
Mr. Morales is a Federally Certified Court Interpreter, the highest level of court interpreter certification available in the United States. (In order to become federally certified, one must pass a written examination of which the passing rate is generally 19%, sponsored nation-wide every two years by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Subsequently, one must pass an oral examination of which the passing rate is only 4%.)
A native of Panama, Juan Morales studied Advanced Spanish Grammar and Literature in Spain. He holds a Diploma in English Studies, Davies’s School of Languages at Cambridge, England, a Bachelor of Science degree and post-graduate studies at Oklahoma State University. Mr. Morales is the author of a Spanish textbook for beginners, Spanish and You. He has also been certified as an F.B.I. Contract Language Specialist, after successfully completing 5 examination levels.
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