The Linguist

The Linguist 57,3 – June/July 2018

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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12 The Linguist Vol/57 No/3 2018 FEATURES Interpreters in conflict zones face extreme dangers. Erik Hertog considers the responsibilities of their employers while others know very little about how to meet the challenges of interpreting in conflict. In order to provide their military interpreters with the necessary competences, Ministries of Defence ought to study the available knowledge on military interpreting in pre-op, operational and post-op situations. The understanding should sink in that training, quality monitoring, integrated codes of conduct and ethics will not only vastly improve the efficiency of an operation but also help to secure the safety of everyone involved. Guidelines, operation manuals and training formats should be disseminated so that concrete and reliable best practices can be accessed internationally – perhaps, ideally, on a virtual learning platform for EU and NATO members. This expertise must materialise into a binding commitment to provide training before deployment, as well as constant mentoring during operations. CONTRACTED INTERPRETERS In many cases, organisations and institutions prefer to outsource the recruitment of interpreters for a particular operation or region to outside contractors. These interpreters could be hired in the country of the WAR TALK T he horrific incidents described in the news items opposite highlight the dangers faced by linguists working in conflict zones. Military operations, aid relief and humanitarian interventions, justice missions and media coverage in foreign territory will continue, and therefore the need for people to bridge communication across languages in war/conflict zones will remain. 'Interpreter', 'linguist', 'language assistant', 'translator', 'cultural mediator', 'terp', 'taxi driver' and 'fixer' are all names used to refer to people in the field who essentially carry out the job of an interpreter. It is unclear whether this terminological confusion in contracts, reports, news items, films and books abounds because of ignorance on the part of organisations and contractors about the precise professional competences of these people, or because some organisations want to deny them access to a recognised profession ('interpreter') that has established national and international professional arrangements and support mechanisms. Such terms may also be used deliberately to make it possible to impose wider tasks on the 'linguists' that would otherwise compromise their professional roles and problematise ethical concepts such as confidentiality and impartiality. Clear, transparent terminology would be useful to define and identify the different roles and responsibilities of these language intermediaries in conflict zones. We shall, from here on, refer to them as 'interpreters', and look at the three different groups that need to be distinguished. MILITARY INTERPRETERS Military interpreters are employed and deployed by their respective Ministries of Defence, according to their own statutes and regulations. No doubt these include safety and security arrangements during and post- operations. These interpreters are part of the military team, accountable to their fellow- soldiers and military hierarchy in the carrying out of their duties, and they usually operate in military uniform. Among EU and NATO member states, there is a vastly uneven expertise with regard to interpreting, and in particular military interpreting in conflict zones, despite the availability of authoritative information on the subject. 1 In some countries, there is a great deal of expertise, because of greater awareness, more experience in the field etc, © SHUTTERSTOCK

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