Translating Error? The lead paragraph in “Beyond Word-for-Word Interpreting” (November 2017) contains utterly embarrassing content: “Just say what I’m saying, word for word!” It’s common for interpreters to hear this from clinicians. But this statement can have different meanings. The most obvious meaning would be to simply repeat, in the same language, ... Inbox
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Inbox  |   January 01, 2018
Translating Error?
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Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Inbox
Inbox   |   January 01, 2018
Translating Error?
The ASHA Leader, January 2018, Vol. 23, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.IN2.23012018.6
The ASHA Leader, January 2018, Vol. 23, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.IN2.23012018.6
The lead paragraph in “Beyond Word-for-Word Interpreting” (November 2017) contains utterly embarrassing content:
“Just say what I’m saying, word for word!” It’s common for interpreters to hear this from clinicians. But this statement can have different meanings.
The most obvious meaning would be to simply repeat, in the same language, every word spoken in precisely the same order. As applied in Spanish, for example, “I am Phil,” might be said, “Yo estoy Felipe.” But that’s likely not what is being requested.
It’s more likely that the clinician aims to have the message content conveyed effectively in the target language. For example, in Spanish, “I am Phil” might be the more conversationally appropriate “Soy Felipe.”
Spanish has two different verbs to express “to be” where English has only one—and no translator would ever say, “Yo estoy Felipe.” Using such a banal and incorrect example for an article on improving translating services just makes us look dumb. Speech-language pathologists are expected to have basic cross-linguistic awareness, and I assumed ASHA would expect this from their authors.
Clearly whoever wrote this article has spent no time looking for real examples of how clinicians and translators might have communication breakdowns.
I would be embarrassed to have a colleague from another profession read that article. Please hold yourself to a higher standard in the future.
Catherine Hambly, Fort Worth, Texas
Author’s Response
Thank you for your response, and rest assured that there was no intention to diminish anyone, clinicians and interpreters alike.
In this introductory article, the example cited (“Yo estoy Felipe”) was an intentional one, aimed at illustrating how the expectation of applying English structure and word order to other languages is inappropriate, ineffective and inadvisable. I then followed up with the more appropriate “Soy Felipe,” in which the verb tense contains an embedded pronoun. When considering the context of the article as a whole, the example was intended to provide a small glimpse at how much nuance can be found in a seemingly simple greeting. As an interpreter, I frequently receive this “word-for-word” request. My argument was that if a simple sentence like this can have more complex differences among languages, it is all the more essential to recognize that clinical practice is rife with them.
Your point regarding the different forms of “to be” in Spanish supports my argument that an interpreter (or a translator, should we happen to be working with written text) is an essential resource for this very reason. Interpreters help us understand important differences between languages and cultures. When clinicians request word-for-word interpretation, the underlying intent is to have the interpreter deliver it in the same structure (English word order) using the vocabulary of the target language. I am advocating for equivalency of meaning in both languages with appropriate syntax, semantics and pragmatics, and my article makes that very clear.
Phillip Guillory, Albuquerque, New Mexico
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FROM THIS ISSUE
January 2018
Volume 23, Issue 1