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.
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