When the foreign language speaker and the interpreter don’t use the same terminology.
November 19, 2012 § 13 Comments
Although this is not new, it seems to me that technological advances and globalization have generated a more hybrid sui-generis type of terminology that is practically used and applied all over the world. We had always seen certain terms and expressions cross-over to languages other than their original, but it was not as pervasive as it is now.
In the last few months I have interpreted conferences on many topics where the translation of a word or term we find in the dictionary has nothing to do with the ones used by the native speakers I am interpreting for. In fact, the word in the dictionary is not even known to them. Of course, the overwhelming majority of these cases have to do with the English language and scientific terminology, but not all.
When confronted by this real-life situation the interpreter needs to decide how to interpret a word, a term and a concept. I have seen some of my colleagues go with the dictionary and use the term in the books, others have chosen the foreign language better-known term. This is not a mere academic distinction as the interpreter is faced with a very serious question for all linguists: Do you select the correct term in the foreign language and educate the listener when he does not recognize the term in his native language, or you adopt the English term and use it just like the foreign language speakers do? To me this fork on the road is a no-brainer; I always go with the expedient efficient live language, so I use the English or anglicized term that those listening to my rendition understand, even if it is not in the dictionary. I believe that our role as interpreters is to allow foreign language speakers to receive information as if it were provided in their native language. This way they can concentrate on the substance of the presentation, proposal, or lecture instead of having to divide their attention between their real scientific job and learning new vocabulary in their native language. I know some colleagues disagree. They think that as interpreters our first loyalty is to the word. They also believe that it is important to point out the real words in a foreign language so that language is preserved for the future. I don’t find this latter approach useful to the listener who is counting on me to “hear” what he is being told in another language. Please share your comments and let us know what you think about this issue.