Letter from the Editor
- Last updated:
Two aspects of interpretation fascinate me, if indeed fascination is the right word for an impulse to examine and re-examine: professionalization and craft. The former demands attention because I work in a community of practitioners that seems to want more of it, though we may not always agree on why or how; the latter because I have admired craft since childhood and having once thought that I had turned away from it, I have since come to see that the practice of interpreting revolves around it.
Professionalization has everything to do with how an occupation is organised, a great deal to do with the collective views and acts of a body of practitioners, and precious little to do with how one dresses and otherwise presents oneself (often referred to in seminars offering tips on professionalism). Professions are self-organised, regulated from within - think of a shared service ideal and norms of conduct designed to uphold it, a body of knowledge and established training practices, a certain amount of control over entry. We have progressed, but by all accounts we have more to do. And it remains to be seen if we can when the world around us is not as amenable to the professions as it once was.
A consideration of craft takes us back to what we do day by day, the elements that can make our labor a source of satisfaction and enjoyment. What we do: not just in the meeting room, but before we arrive and after we leave. Performance is just the tip of the iceberg; underlying it is a critical mass of skills and knowledge, a wherewithal, a bit of this and that - invisible and enabling. We've all heard the comment: "I just don't know how you do it!" Uttered with a tone of admiration, it may tempt us to don the garb of the magician and further mystify what we do. Magicians might seem as maddeningly medieval as craftsmen until you consider that they have been reinvented as spin doctors and image consultants!
It is often said that good work renders interpreters invisible. That may be a disadvantage in a globalized culture that rewards appearance and posturing more than substance. Nonetheless, I am not one of those that fear the imminent demise of our profession. For the foreseeable future we will be able to continue to enjoy perfecting and practicing our craft, but we must also recognise that the world has changed around us. The time is ripe for a fresh look at who we are, our roles, how we can contribute to a larger community, and how we can and should act collectively. We need not fear crossing forbidden frontiers - many of them have already ceased to exist.
We begin this issue with another look at interpreters working in settings very different than the conference hall or boardroom. First Ellen Moerman shares some thoughts that have grown out of professional and personal experience. "Interpreters in war zones are just one group of interpreters under fire. What about those who work between a minority community and its host country?" For more, go to Interpreters under fire.
What about training on this front? In Interpreting in zones of crisis and war Barbara Moser-Mercer and Grégoire Bali introduce a new project that tailors new technologies and online learning to the urgent needs of people about to begin work in these difficult situations.
Next we shift gears and languages as Martine Bonadona, part of the team that puts together the stage de langue et culture françaises in Paris, gives us a short course in "le français tel qu'on le parle" : Aux larmes, citoyens.
This issue's book review examines Jacquy Neff's German as a conference language in the European Union. Thanks go out to reviewer Ursula Gross-Dinter and other colleagues in Germany who have helped us publish this article in German, French and English.
Let's say you are momentarily alone and desperately want to communicate with a colleague in the neighboring booth. Notes held up to the window just won't work. What to do? Phil Hill has some advice: Say it in Terpreting.
Take a quick tour of translation/interpretation as a profession, the conundrum of interpreting in situations/zones of conflict, craft in a commercialized world, and censorship run rampant. Don't hesitate - sites may soon be blocked or links deactivated. Go directly to Language in the News.
Please note: the articles published in Communicate! reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.
Articles published in this section reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.