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Highlights from the 2016 symposium on humanitarian interpreting

By Marc Orlando 

Most practitioners today realise that the work of interpreters in the 21st century is characterised by a need to adapt to many different contexts and modalities of work.

One of these is the humanitarian context: in conflict zones, in disaster zones, in refugee camps or in terrorism trials for example, interpreters have to cope with specific demands and realities.

Working in high-risk settings and stressful environments can pose numerous challenges to the interpreters involved in the field. How do interpreters respond to them? How are they prepared to face them? What policies are put in place to help and protect them?

Because training for professional interpreters and interpreter users in this area is very limited, and in an attempt to bridge this gap, Monash University organised a symposium on humanitarian interpreting and interpreter training in April 2016.

The two-day symposium looked at the challenges and the opportunities in the provision and use of interpreters, as well as adequate training solutions for such contexts of work.

The symposium was attended by more than 120 participants each day: practitioners, trainers and researchers, but also end-users, policy makers, representatives of NGOs, and stakeholders from the full spectrum of industries were represented.

The invited speakers were all experts in distinct but complementary fields which are fundamental to this important area of the professional work of interpreters which is now attracting greater attention and visibility.

Conference speaker, and former AIIC President, Linda Fitchett said, "I was really impressed by the quality of presentations and discussion at this symposium. I took away as a lasting impression that the interpreters present, those using and even those mediating their services want to improve on the quality of service, to professionalise and therefore to invest in training".

"Suffice it to say that Australia seems to be extremely well organised in the multilingual area of humanitarian action. How many other countries can boast such a plethora of services?”

“All of these bodies deal in some way with the problems of multicultural communication, recognising the need for and using interpreters in their daily work with migrants, refugees and many less-favoured groups not proficient in English in administrative, social and legal settings".

"I wish them and training institutes like Monash every success. I hope this kind of symposium will be repeated elsewhere – hopefully in Europe, where court and humanitarian interpretation needs help and encouragement through dialogue like this".

Other symposium speakers included:

  • Maya Hess (Red T)
  • Professor Sandra Hale (UNSW and AUSIT president)
  • Abeselom Nega (SSAC)
  • Mark Painting (NAATI)
  • Gulnara Abbasova (FECCA)
  • Dr Jim Hlavac (Monash)
  • Trevor Neroy (TIS)
  • Charlie Powles (Refugee Legal)
  • Anita Bogdanovski (DHS)
  • Susan Burdon-Smith (VCAT)
  • Professor Sharon Pickering (Monash)
  • Adolfo Gentile
  • Lt-Colonel Andrew Baker (ADF)
  • Julie Judd (ASLIA)
  • Cecilia Lopez (Foundation House)

Videos of all presentations are available here. You can also click here to learn about the petition urging the UN to protect translators and interpreters worldwide.

The symposium was co-sponsored by Oncall Interpreters and Translators. For any questions about the symposium please contact Dr Marc Orlando at Marc.Orlando@monash.edu.

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Translating culture: an English to Persian example

By Yavar Dehghani

As a translator, I know that it can be difficult to find equivalent words for a specific word or phrase in the target language. This difficulty can become overwhelming when a word or phrase in the source language has no cultural equivalent in the target language.

In my professional experience, the best solution for dealing with this type of problem is to explain the context where the word or phrase is used rather than translating them. My preferred method to do this is to use document footnotes.

Below are some brief examples that illustrate this difference and some strategies to overcome the problem. These examples use English and Persian as either the source language or target language.

Title and names:

In Persian, when addressing people, you also include their occupation along with their title and name in this order: title/occupation/name. For example, Mr Dr Ahmadi or Mrs Engineer Bakhshi.

When you translate this to English, you would delete the title and explain why in the footnote.

Courtesy phrases:

The Persian language contains a number of idioms to express appreciation and gratitude - dattetun dard nakone (your hand may not be sore) and qorbanet beram (I sacrifice for you).

When translating these into English, you should try and choose the closest the most appropriate English version depending on the context – eg. thank you or sorry for the trouble.  

Alcoholic drinks:

As alcoholic drinks are forbidden in Iran, there are very few words to describe where you would purchase one and what the drinks are called.

The following words and phrases have no equivalent in Persian and should be explained as you see below:

  • Beer garden: an area outside a pub where people can sit at tables and drink.
  • On the rocks: a drink where your alcohol of choice is poured over ice and served.
  • Cocktail: a mixed drink that contains both alcohol and non-alcoholic mixers.
  • A sour: usually this is a whiskey drink, but can be made with other types of liquor also. In addition to the alcohol of choice, a sour also contains sugar and lime juice or lemon juice to give it bitterness.

Life and death:

In Persian culture, what happens to a person after death is extremely important. This is why there are number of formal words for death including - marg, ertehal, rehlat, dargozasht, fot etc.

Each of these words are used to express a particular degree of respect and formality. When translating these words into English, you would have to explain the degree of respect intended.

To conclude, careful word selection and some extra contextual explanations can go a long way in making sure your translations can be easily understood by your audience or clients.

Happy translating!

Dr Yavar Dehghani is a self-published author, linguist and lecturer in Iranian languages including Persian (Farsi & Dari), Pashto, and Turkic languages including Azari and Turkish.

He obtained his first NAATI accreditation in 2002. Click here to learn about his other works.

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ALERT: NAATI adds new EOI testing languages

In early July 2016, NAATI introduced a new Expression of Interest (EOI) process in order to facilitate accreditation testing in certain languages.

As a result of industry feedback, we are considering adding four new test languages to this process. These languages include: 

  1. Chaldean
  2. Kurdish (Kurmanji)
  3. Kurdish (Sorani)
  4. Kurdish, Southern (Feyli)

Potential tests for these languages would be held at the Paraprofessional Interpreter level.

By submitting an EOI, you are indicating to NAATI that, should a test be made available in your language, you intend to sit that test.

In some languages, testing may only be offered once every 12-24 months depending on demand for that particular language.

Should NAATI decide to offer a test in you preferred language, you will receive at least three months’ notice at which time you will be contacted to submit an application form.

Click here to learn more about the application process. Or you can click here to submit an EOI form. 

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PD opportunities through the JTA

One of NAATI's strategic goals is to provide a internationally renowned certification system. As part of that, NAATI connects and work with other certification bodies and industry organizations in other countries. Recently, we've been working with the Japanese Translation Association.

The JTA was founded in 1986 with the goal of researching and developing translation skills, training translators, and conducting examinations and certifications related to translation. The association to improve the reputation of the translation industry. A significant part of their work includes holding a range of professional development (PD) seminars for practitioners. 

The JTA has extended an invitation to all NAATI accredited practitioners to attend (via live stream) some of their upcoming PD seminars. They include:

1. Writing Skills for Technical Translation: Ways to Create Easy to Understand Translations

Have you ever heard the statement, 'The original text makes sense, but this translation sure doesn’t?' Translation isn’t about merely understanding the original text. Translation is converting the original text into another language in a way that readers find easy to understand. In this seminar, you will learn ways of translating into Japanese in a way that makes sense, and be able to implement these approaches when translating.

Topics covered: 

  • Factors and background which explain why people want translators to use simple expressions
  • Being conscious of paragraph structure when reading
  • Order of presenting information that takes into account the principles of cognitive psychology
  • Tense and voice viewed from the reader’s perspective

Seminar date and time: Friday, 26 August 2016, 6pm to 8pm (Japan time)

Click here to learn more. 

2. How to Start up a Global Company: Becoming a Successful Global Translator

20 years have passed since the advent of the commercial internet and translation is one industry that can benefit the most from taking advantage of this amazing tool. By learning the basic skills for working in the global translation market, you can continue to work in translation now matter what country you choose to live in the future. In this seminar, the instructor will use provide specific examples in introducing ways of working in the global translation market.

Topics covered:

  • Differences in the Japanese and global translation market systems
  • Necessary skills for working in the global translation market
  • Tips for finding work in the global translation market and how to market your translation skills
  • How to distinguish between different translation companies and clients - avoiding risks in the global market
  • Solutions for problems that can occur in the translation business

Seminar date and time: Tuesday, 30 August 2016, 6pm to 8pm (Japan time)

Click here to learn more. 

All of JTA’s seminars are held at classrooms in Kichijo-ji, Japan or online. Zoom software is used to facilitate the online seminars, making it possible for practitioners to participate online from the comfort of your own home. JTA does provide instructions on how to use the Zoom system.

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