Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Understanding the Importance of Interpreters Through 'Game of Thrones'


Understanding the Importance of Interpreters Through 'Game of Thrones'
You may or may not have been following the on-going saga that is the outsourcing of court interpreters in the UK to one single agency. In short, it hasn't gone very well. In fact, the agency ended up paying a fine earlier this year as a result.
Recently, within a professional capacity, I have been trying to explain to people why it's so important to have qualified, experienced and court-savvy linguists working in our justice system. Anything less in my eyes is just dangerous. However, many people don't get it because they don't see the true value in an interpreter's role.
So how could I explain it in a way that people really understand the importance of what interpreters do, and actually how challenging it is? Yes, you guessed it Game of Thrones. Come on, you know you love a bit of GoT.
It's all too easy to think of interpreting as merely changing words from one language to another; how is that difficult, right if you know both languages? Well imagine trying to translate the House Stark moto 'Winter is coming.' Without the background knowledge about what it means and where it has come from you would essentially be stating the obvious - that the cold season is coming like it does every year.
But the phrase isn't about the changing seasons. You need to understand the nuances and context behind it to truly translate the meaning.
Missandei is an example of a professional, experienced interpreter. Intelligent, quick-thinking, accurate and diplomatic as well as possessing the ability to get the job done. Had someone who just happens to speak the languages been translating, chances are it would have all gone a bit Pete Tong.
And this, in short, is what we potentially see happening in our legal system. Second-rate interpreters attending trials who are unable to deal with the situation, the language(s), the cross-questioning and the pressure. If I were in court, I would want a Missandei interpreting for me. Wouldn't you?

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