Sunday, May 23, 2010

interpreting tip: body language and um's and ah's

Another useful reminder from the ATA Chronicle article in the December issue on the pitfalls of long consecutive mode in the courtroom, by Janis Palma.

" When a witness uses body language to complete a verbal message, the consecutive interpretation has to be delivered within a timeframe that allows the target language listeners to put the words and gestures together in a way that makes sense. We cannot emulate those gestures and incorporate them into our verbal rendition. Interpreting “He went like this and then I felt something here and as we were struggling I felt him hit me over here, so I went like that and hit him back, but then he threw a punch and I ended up on the ground" interpreting after the witness is done gesturing, without matching those gestures to his words, will be a senseless exercise that will surely leave the target-language listeners wondering what it all meant."

Generally my sense is that movement interpreters with little training tend to do consecutive that is TOO short to make sense, but here is a case where shorter consec is important. Janis also says that in long consecutive it is nearly impossible for the interpreter to deliver all the right pauses, inflections, hesitations, incomplete sentences, false starts, and repetitions. I have heard interpreters attempt it, plummeting into this mechanical read-back of copious notes, with absolutely counterproductive results because the listener is missing out on all the nuances, even
when he is getting all the words. "

Of course sometimes repetitions and hedges are meaningful, sometimes not - and we can be more flexible about this in a community speaking event than in the courtroom.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

mesa de trabajo

working group (or sometimes comité is more appropriate if it is an ongoing group)
NOT worktable or, as I recently heard it rendered, workshop.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

falsos positivos (I promise to quit obsessing about this term)

I couldn't resist posting about this one more time because I really liked the rendition in this article:
"the body count scandal". It seems to me that this one gives readers/listeners not familiar with Colombia much more of a clue of what it might all be about. This obviously won't work when your speaker refers to a so-called "false positive", but if they're talking about the scandal as a whole, I vote for this version.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


One of the things we can do to improve translations for social change is to educate our movements on how to write (and edit) documents so that they are more easily and clearly translatable. To this end I want to share here some great suggestions for this from technical writer Fiona Hannington:

"Writing for ESL and writing for translatability makes for good technical writing, regardless of whether we have ESL readers (we do) or expect the docs to be translated (maybe one day).
In particular:
  • Use simple sentence constructions of subject-verb-object.
  • Use the active voice. The passive voice, although appropriate sometimes, can introduce ambiguity (who or what is the actor?).
  • Use pronouns clearly so that the antecedent is obvious.
  • Avoid turning verbs into nouns (nominalization).
  • Avoid phrasal and modal verbs. Phrasal verbs have two or more words. Choose a one-word verb that says the same thing. Modal verbs express the mood of the main verb ("should," "could," "can," "would," "might," and "may"). Use these when there is no other way to make these subtle distinctions. Certainly avoid using both phrasal and modal verbs together.
  • Avoid noun strings (more than one adjective).
  • Use positive language: avoid negative constructions.
  • Choose one term for a concept and use it consistently.
  • Do not omit articles and prepositions when they help to clarify the meaning.
  • Avoid wordiness: keep sentence length under 20 words.
To maintain synchronization [nominalization] between the two controller cards, the operating system occasionally performs an automatic reload of [nominalization] the standby controller card. To facilitate the automatic reload [repetitive; nominalization] of an controller card, the auto-boot? variable must be set [passive] to true.
To synchronize the two controller cards, the operating system occasionally reloads the standby controller card automatically. To enable this process, set the auto-boot? variable to true."

Fantastic. Thanks Fiona!