Tuesday, December 18, 2012

vivir bien vs. el buen vivir

living well vs living the good life (or living the high life if you want the distinction to be super clear)
This is a distinction frequently made by movements in Latin America.  Today I saw it oddly translated here, in an article that says,
"Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, called for a new age to begin December 21, 2012. Speaking at the United Nations in September, Morales said the date signals an end to individualism and capitalism and a turn toward the collective good. That's a common theme for Morales, who often speaks of 'vivir bien,' a phrase that can be translated as living well. 'Vivir bien' is often defined by the Andean nation's leaders as pursuing the collective good in balance with the Earth, and contrasted with 'living better,' which is seeking to amass wealth at the expense of the planet or other people 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

the most basic thing you need to know before interpreting

At this year's vigil to close the School of the Americas I helped to coordinate a fantastic team of professional interpreters who donated their services.  There were also several groups who preferred to have their own staff organizers interpret for folks, so I again had the chance to listen to activists interpret consecutive into English who have been thrown into interpreting with no training.  I totally get that groups want to control the message, and feel like their staff will have better rapport with the speaker, but I was reminded of two serious mistakes that untrained interpreters commonly make.

The first mistake comes off to me as a lack of respect for the speaker's voice.  These activists added things to what the speaker had said. Perhaps because they knew the details and thought it would make a more compelling story, or in one case the interpreter tried to express that he was speaking in his own voice as he added a campaign ask, but he didn't know third person rule.  Now really, it's not usually appropriate for the interpreter to add anything, even in this way, but if he HAD to, he could have said "the interpreter would like to add that ... (eg. this information is available in English at the website x)".  If the interpreter needs to ask for a repetition this should also be requested in third person (eg, the interpreter requests a repetition).

This leads me to the second common mistake I saw, which is slipping into third person for NOT that reason.  Most activists thrown into interpreting seem to know you're not supposed to say "he said, she said" - but still strangely fall back into it from time to time - particularly in the Q & A.  The reason this is like nails on the chalkboard to me is that it weakens the speaker's voice dramatically. 

Please, if you ever hear folks making these mistakes in social justice settings, take a minute to remind them that the best way to respect the speaker and amplify their voice is to not add to, omit from, or otherwise change the message of the speaker, and to use the first person unless they are referring to themselves, in which case to use "the interpreter".

(photo is of me interpreting on stage at the vigil for Martin Almada - thanks to my mom for making us fantastic red interpreter vests that made us easy to identify!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

intro shpiel about how the interpreting will work in social justice contexts

Here is a sample shpiel I made up for use this year at the workshops held as part of the vigil to close the School of the Americas.  This is for a workshop with simultaneous into English and consecutive into Spanish.  We did pull off a few two way simultaneous workshops (which require more headsets), and used a different shpiel for those.  After the vigil I was left feeling like this shpiel was particularly important for workshops where there was a lot of Q & A.  For short workshops with less Q and A and time constraints you could get away with just emphasizing the hand signals to the speaker beforehand. 

Intro shpiel 
(be sure your compa is interpreting simultaneously into Spanish as you give this)

Hi my name is _____, my compa _______ and I will be interpreting for this meeting. We will be doing interpreting simultaneously into Spanish, with headsets, and consecutively into English, out loud.  We are providing interpreting as much for those of you who are limited Spanish speakers as for those of you who are limited English speakers.  We are committed to making all of our spaces at the vigil more and more bilingual, because our movement stretches across the Americas.  The more bilingual our movement is, the stronger we are and the more meaningful our solidarity can be.

A successful bilingual environment depends on all of us, not just the interpreters.  You can help by keeping a few things in mind. We will do our best to interpret everything that is said without adding, deleting, or changing the message.  So we can interpret accurately it is important that everyone speaks loudly and at a moderate pace.  Please watch the interpreters; if we can’t hear you, this means speak up (both hands palm up, move hands up several times).  If you are speaking in English, and going too fast, this means slow down (both hands palms down, moving down towards the floor).  If we would like to ask you to pause for a few minutes we will make this hand movement (a time out T).  In that case please wait until we have finished and nod at you before continuing to speak.  If the interpreter is making hand signals and the speaker is not seeing them, please everyone help out by repeating the hand signal.  

When you are in discussion it essential that only one person speaks at a time and that everyone ensures that we leave a pause between speakers.  Simultaneous interpreting is always a few words behind, so please make sure that the interpreter has finished before the next person begins speaking, so that those listening to the simultaneous interpreting can fully participate.  When we interpret consecutively into English please look at speak directly to each other, as if the interpreter were not in the room.  

Any questions?
Thank you!