Sunday, January 29, 2012

Expanding the Abilities of Bilingual Youngsters

Recently, Lionel Dersot posted a whole collection of interesting videos on his Liaison Interpreter website. To access them, click on the Liaison Interpreter in Japan link in the right-hand column of this page and scroll back a few posts.

One of them waxes enthusiastic about a programme that describes itself as Liaison Interpreting. And so it is, sort of (see Term below), but a particular kind of liaison interpreting that is usually called community interpreting or public service interpreting; or, since it involves immigrants in the United States, language brokering. But let’s ignore the misnomer and consider what it does.

The organisation behind the video and the programme is Cross Cultural Communication Institute (CCCI) of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. CCCI is very serious about standards and the training for them: see their website referenced below. It gives courses and issues diplomas. The interpreters it turns out therefore qualify as Expert Interpreters.

What interests us particularly here is where they recruit their budding interpreters. They say (my emphasis):
"We have taken a futuristic approach to building a bilingual workforce by consulting and providing trainings to middle and high schools. At the high school level, we have developed highly acclaimed programs that encourage young ones to view their bilingualism as a tool in the ever changing and evolving marketplace. In order to meet the linguistic needs of an increasingly diverse population, we supply organizations with the trainings and tools necessary to educate and assess their bilingual workforce.

"CCCS, Inc. created the Cross Cultural Communication Institute (CCCI) in order to meet the needs of interpreters. CCCI was the first accredited post secondary school for interpreters in New Hampshire and is in the process of applying for the same status in Massachusetts. We offer trainings, workshops, and presentations geared towards students at the Middle School, High School, and College levels. We can also offer customized trainings for healthcare professional institutions."
The age range can therefore be summed up as adolescents and young adults. The credits on the video indicate that the ones shown are mostly students from MIT. The video is full of their enthusiasm (see photo).

The emphasis in the recruitment material is on job satisfaction and not remuneration:
"Have you ever wondered what it is like to work as an interpreter? Many bilingual individuals find this work to be truly rewarding... The majority of us at one time or another has had difficulty communicating with someone else due to a language barrier. An interpreter bridges that gap, and, as a result, many times the other parties are very grateful and appreciative of your services. If you choose to become an interpreter you are choosing a career that is very challenging and always changing. Many interpreters state that every day is different and that they are always learning and perfecting their skills. Lastly, if you are fully bilingual you probably already interpret on occasions for family and friends, so why not receive the training so that you can take the next step."
From an educational viewpoint, this work is part of a movement to encourage and apply what are seen as special gifts of bilingual children:
"For immigrant youth still learning English or for others who are fully bilingual, their lack of English fluency is often seen only as a deficit: their bilingualism seldom encouraged... LIPS helps bilingual youth catalyze the use of their unique skills to promote their own development while also supporting the engagement of immigrant families in the civic life of the city."
This is a view that has been promoted for a long time by Claudia Angelelli of San Diego State University and is backed up by a comprehensive paper with a curriculum outline that she published recently (see References).

Liaison interpreters (LI). They facilitate communication (hence they liaise) between individuals or small groups and normally work in the consecutive or whispering mode. They translate in both directions between the two languages. They often move around with their clients and even go on journeys with them; hence one of the synonyms for LI is escort interpreters. There are specialities within LI, notably business interpreters (who, like Lionel, interpret for businessmen) and diplomatic interpreters (as members of diplomatic missions). It can be very intensive work. I once met French President Mitterand’s liaison interpreter in Canada, and he told me he was worn out from being on call from eight in the morning till past midnight.

References and Links
Cross Cultural Communication Institute. Click this link.

Liaison Interpreter Program of Somerville. Click this link.

Claudia V. Angelelli. Expanding the abilities of bilingual youngsters: can translation and interpreting help? In M. J. Blasco Mayor and M. A. Jimenez Ivars (eds.), Interpreting Naturally, Berne, Peter Lang, 2011, pp. 103-122.

LIPS interpreters at the Immigrant Health Fair and Flu Clinic. Source: Welcome Project.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Natural Translation Makes It Into Student Handbook

First a word to those of you who've sent me 'Get Well' messages. I'm much better now, thank you. And just as well, because there's so much to write about. To start with, the following.

This blog has frequently bemoaned the way 'mainstream' translation studies as taught in the universities have blissfully ignored Natural Translation and for that matter Native Translation. It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise to find that a new publication from Benjamins of Amsterdam, Handbook of Translation Studies (HTS) Volume 2, includes a short chapter about NT. It's by Prof. Rachele Antonini of the University of Bologna, Italy (see photo), who's also the enterprising lead organiser of the First International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation this coming May.

Credit must likewise go to the editors of the volume, Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer, for opening it up to a wider perspective.

Furthermore, recognising that the price of academic publications these days puts them beyond the reach of most individual buyers – academic publishers depend on sales to libraries and other institutions – Benjamins are making a special offer in connection with HTS. Students, but only students, can 'rent' both volumes of HTS for one year online for a subscription of 30 euros. To take advantage, get in touch with Isja Conen,

Rachele Antonini. Natural translator and interpreter. In Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer (eds.), Handbook of Translation Studies Volume 2, Amsterdam, Benjamins, 2011, pp. 102-104.

First International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation, May 2011. Click link here

For the Benjamins offer, click this link.

Rachele Antonini.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Non-Expert Court Interpreting: the Reality

From time to time somebody asks me when I think non-Professional translators (by which they mean non-Expert in my terminology) should not be used. (I was asked it on the Translation Advisor blog last year.) I usually start by answering: When the translation may have legal implications or consequences. It's not just a question of quality. A translation by an Advanced Native Translator may be just as good per se. It's also a matter of authority. If the translation is ever used as evidence or called into question in legal proceedings, then it won't be necessary to go through some procedure to establish the translator's ability if that has already been tested and sanctioned by some recognised body. One obvious area where the translating should carry such authority is court interpreting. But notice I say "should carry" . The observable reality is that the precept can't always be followed. There are many reasons, but one of the most common is that adequately qualified interpreters aren't available at the right place at the right time, and this is often due to the languages involved. Another reason which arises these days is that the interpreters have been trained in the traditional mode for court interpreting, which is consecutive interpreting, but the powers-that-be have decided to import modern technology and switch to simultaneous interpreting.

Several previous posts on this blog have commented on the linguistic aspect and problems of the Shafia murder prosecution in Canada. (To find them, enter shafia in the Search box on the right.) That trial is reaching it climax at present and is widely reported in the Canadian media (see References). Whatever the outcome, it's likely to go down in the annals of famous Canadian murder mysteries. However, there's been nothing new linguistically. On the other hand, other Canadian reports tell of one of the most frustrating and expensive things that can occur when the interpreting goes wrong: a mistrial.
"Words matter, and how.

A physical assault is not the same as a sexual assault. Touching between legs is not the same as touching the genital area. And a couple of weeks is definitely not two days.

But a Hindi interpreter mistranslated those phrases exactly that way in a sexual assault case in Brampton, Ontario, triggering a mistrial and sending ripples through the Greater Toronto Area legal community.

Superior Court Justice Casey Hill [see photo] declared a mistrial in a case against Vishnu Dutt Sharma, an Indian citizen on a work permit in Canada, because the interpreter’s Hindi interpretation of the proceedings was poor and substandard, according to court documents.

'In this case, the non-English-speaker was prejudiced by a denial of full linguistic presence at his trial on April 27, 2011, on account of pervasive departure from the guaranteed standard of interpretation to which he was constitutionally entitled, and in particular during the very details of the complainant’s factual allegations of sexual assault,' Hill said.

...audiotapes from cross-examination were sent to an expert in the United States, who, in a scathing report, said the interpreter 'did not interpret verbatim, summarized most of the proceedings and was not able to interpret everything that was said on the record.'

Umesh Passi, a member of the New York State Bar, said the interpreter spoke 'perfect Hindi but could not keep up with the speed required for simultaneous interpretation.'

Prashant Rai, Dutt’s lawyer, is fluent in Hindi and says that helped bring the problem to the forefront. The court may not have become aware of the inaccuracies otherwise, he added. 'She spoke well in Hindi… I don’t know what happened while interpreting,” Rai said."
Perhaps, at least in the examples quoted above, the non-Expert interpreter was inhibited by cultural taboos from using the literal translations.

For what it's worth, the interpreter in question was accredited and paid as a professional by the Ontario Ministry of Justice. Why? Probably because, in the words of Pat Band, a director with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Toronto, "The situation with interpreters is a crisis. There aren’t enough accredited interpreters and the standards (of interpreting) are almost impossible to tell.” In short, whether we approve of it or not, a great deal of court interpreting is still done by non-Experts. One of my correspondents even wonders whether "we have ended up the wrong way round in that demand for, nay a feeling of entitlement to, quality interpreting has outstripped our ability to provide the necessary training and support strategies to achieve it."

Paul Schliesmann. Sun News Shafia trial update-Friday. Video. Kingston Whig-Standard, January 14, 2012.

Raveena Aulakh. Mistakes by Hindi interpreter leads to mistrial in Brampton sex assault case., January 5, 2012

Justice Casey Hill of Brampton Superior Court. Source: Toronto News.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Postscript to 2011

Like a postscript to last year’s quadricentenary of the King James Bible and what I said last time about the importance of religious translation, comes this news from Norway – astonishing enough for The Guardian Unlimited to feature it on its front page (the emphasis is mine).
"The first Norwegian translation of the Bible for 30 years topped the country's book charts almost every week between its publication in October and the end of the year, selling almost 80,000 copies so far and hugely exceeding expectations. Its launch in the autumn saw Harry Potter-style overnight queues, with bookshops selling out on the first day as Norwegians rushed to get their hands on the new edition.
"'We only printed 25,000 to start with and thought it would last six to nine months, but it was launched mid-October and by the end of the year it had sold 79,000 copies – it's just incredible,' said Stine Smemo Strachan, who worked on the project for the Norwegian Bible Society. 'It has only been knocked off the number one spot once.'
"A 'literary' version with no chapters or verse divisions which 'reads like a novel', has also been published and has 'sold incredibly well', said the publisher."
The sales figures have to be seen in relation to the size of Norway's population, which totals less than five million.
"According to official data, 80% of Norway's population of belongs to the Church of Norway, but not all the new edition's purchasers are thought to be buying it for strictly religious religions. 'It certainly can't just be actively religious Christians who are buying it because it just wouldn't make these numbers,' said Smemo Strachan.
"Nor are last summer's murders in Utøya and Oslo viewed as a reason for the record-breaking sales. 'It's hard to tell: obviously it has had a great impact on the country and people here,' said Strachan. 'But the success is being attributed to the fact that its publication is seen as a cultural event, and to its readability.'"
Why a new translation? For reasons that are common in modern Bible translation: changes in the target language, in this case Norwegian, that make the existing translations seem old-fashioned and stilted – though that hasn't harmed the King James Bible much; and the new knowledge about ancient Palestine that has been brought to light by the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Obviously this blog can't examine the translation itself, but it can, as is its wont, take a look at the translators. Like most Bible translations, this one was the product of teamwork. There were three "full-time translators." We take this to mean Professional Expert Translators. They were probably needed in order to coordinate the work. In addition, there were "thirty consultant translators, priests and academics, who translated the Greek and Hebrew." These must have been well-acquainted with previous translations and were therefore either non-professional Expert or Advanced Native Translators. So far, a conventional make-up of a major Bible translation project. But then comes something new:
"a team of 12 literary authors including Knausgård and playwright Jon Fosse then smoothing out that text. 'Obviously it was very important to get the right translation but they also wanted it to be readable, to make sure it was good literary language,' said Smemo Strachan. 'None of these authors are religious - they are all just very good literary writers who thought it would be an interesting project to be involved in.'"
So out of a team of 45 (just slightly fewer than for the King James Bible), there were only three Professional Expert Translators; and of the rest, 12 had a function that is found often in translating but is rarely mentioned, that of the monolingual target-language style editor. As we see in this case, its importance is far from marginal if a translation is to succeed with the public.

Last but not least, the publisher. This translation wasn’t sponsored by a King or a Papal authority but by a bible society, the Norwegian Bible Society. They had enough profits on hand from the sales of the previous translation to finance this one. Most of the bible translations in Protestant countries are produced by bible societies. Bible societies are institutions that go back to the Bourgeois Revolution in early 19th-century Western society: the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded 1804, the American Bible Society in 1816, and so on. They’re among the most enduring and productive of all translation publishers.

Alison Flood. Bible becomes 2011 bestseller in Norway. Guardian Unlimited, 3 January 2012.

Bibel 2011. [The Bible in the two main Norwegian language variants, Bokmål and Nynorsk]. Hans-Olav Mørk, Head Translator. Oslo: Norwegian Bible Society, October 2011.

Stein Mydske. Bible 2011 launched in Norway., October 2011.

Norwegian Bible, Standard Edition, 2011. Source: Fonts in Use, This source is a very interesting article showing the great care that was taken over the selection of type fonts, another factor in marketing success because good typography gives an instant feeling of high quality.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


That’s HAPPY NEW YEAR! in Valencian.

A Very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to Everyone, and especially to my 108 supportive Followers (there were 78 of you this time last year).

This year the blog will continue to proclaim, as it did on January 1, 2011, that:

Irrespective of language, place, time, type, training, age, circumstances and language proficiency; insofar as bilingualism is universal, so too

************* TRANSLATING IS UNIVERSAL *************

But a bout with the Demon ‘Flu leaves me too weak to write more for the moment.

Image: AMPA de l'IES Domènec Perramont