The Linguist

The Linguist 54,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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30 The Linguist FEBRUARY/MARCH OPINION & COMMENT Email with your views Know your responsibilities I do see why Jonathan Downie ('In My Opinion, TL53,6) enjoyed the type of interpreting he saw in the German church, where the interpreter added their own verbal and non-verbal contributions – so different from his own tradition of conference interpreting. The nearest I came to that was admiring the superbly disciplined sign language interpreter at a Shakespeare play. I looked at this concept of roles in the public service interpreting context with other stakeholders, and came to these conclusions: 1 Outcomes improve where interpreters and public service personnel (PSPs) are properly trained to work with each other. Following interdisciplinary training role-plays, critiques and reflections it was clear that interpreters should retain their impartial role, without adding or omitting anything. PSPs should understand their role in the interlingual, cross-cultural exchange and not expect interpreters, without the necessary qualifications, to do their job for them. Interpreters felt they had enough to do in fast-moving complex exchanges, without having to take on other responsibilities. PSPs have to be responsible for what they say and other-language speakers for what they say. Apart from anything else, the implications for the interpreters' legal indemnity insurance becomes tricky if it is unclear who said what to whom. 2 The recent ruckus over the government's outsourcing of legal interpreting illustrated that, while interpreters may remain 'invisible' during assignments, they need not be so outside assignments in order to achieve professional visibility. For some, that included demonstrating in pink rabbit costumes, in reference to the contractors' alleged acceptance of a spoof application for work from a rabbit called Jago. They have had real support from lawyers. 3 'Value' can have different meanings. In my view, it is ignorance of language skills on the part of the general public that results in interpreters not being given the respect – and often the fees – they deserve. The opinions of monolingual PSPs change after they receive interdisciplinary training, or are taken ill abroad. 4 There are times when interpreters may be better informed than the person in authority they are interpreting for. One can but admire their professional courtesy in not showing it. However, some interpreters do successfully go on to train as barristers, bilingual business people and so forth. They may still interpret occasionally but are careful to separate the two roles. So, in answer to Jonathan's interesting question, there can be partnerships in this context but based on each discipline knowing, and keeping to, their own roles and doing their own jobs well. He is right about the need to invest and to see interpreters not as a problem but as a solution. Ann Corsellis FCIL Invisible signs? To the best of my knowledge, I am the only fully registered BSL/English interpreter member of the CIOL and, as such, I was disheartened to read, in the Editor's letter, that a sign language interpreter had 'failed' to remain invisible after 'his "performance" went viral on YouTube' (TL53,6). I understand the dilemma of the 'invisible interpreter' but, given that BSL (British Sign Language) is not a spoken and heard language, it is unlikely that any concept of invisibility can be achieved. BSL, recognised in the UK as a language in 2003, is not simply a pantomime of gesture and hand movements, but has complex grammar and syntax, time lines and tenses, and incorporates linguistic conventions such as NMF (non-manual features) and negation, all of which are integral parts of its structure. I wonder if Miranda Moore would have made similar comments or observations had the interpretation been into Xhosa with its inherent tonal changes and click consonants? Or into German or Arabic with the appropriately associated 'guttural' sounds, all of which are very different from the spoken English norm? To conclude, I would heartily recommend researching BSL to any fellow linguist as a way of 'seeing' language and linguistics through a very different lens. Linda Watson-Thomson MCIL Editor replies: It is unusual and, I thought, noteworthy for the work of any interpreter to gain such attention, except in cases of supposed incompetence. The quality of the interpreter's work was not in question here, and I thought readers would be interested to see a spotlight turned on the profession. © SHUTTERSTOCK

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