Today I have a guest blogger, Victoria or Tolken. Victoria works as a community interpreter and this is actually my tranlation of her fabulous blogpost in Swedish on how she is percieved as an interpreter. She has kindly let me translate it at publish it here, any strange English expressions are 100 % mine. If you want to read the original it’s here.
I have not worked as an interpreter that long, but despite this I have several times been asked by the interpreter user (clerk or other official) “And what do you do for a living?”
Well, what do I do for I living? What do you mean for a living? I work as an interpreter!?
Now, I have my research paper to write (it is currently not going very well), I have the Law course I take for interpreters and translators, and I also take a unit in Lusophone African culture and reality. So I guess I have other things to do. But what bothers me tremendously is that people believe that in addition to interpretation, I have to have another job, as if interpreting did not qualify as a full-time profession? When I say that I am also studying, people ask what I will become? Teacher, perhaps?
I wonder how some people think, is interpreting not a real profession?
– No, I clarify, I am a trained interpreter, and it is my job.
– But where did you learn Portuguese, then?
– Well, my father is from Portugal so …
– Oh, so you were born with it.
– Well, there are quite a few terms that you have to study in order to become an interpreter.
– Oh, is it? But language is so much fun. Very much so. Indeed. So nice to be able to speak several languages. What did you say you do for a living?
So being an interpreter is not a real job? It’s a make-belive job that anyone can have. Well, if you know more than one language, that is. And if you were “born” with two languages it’s even better, then you know everything, don’t you? Personally, I remember how my dad always used to talked about things like “enter into foce”, “temporary asylum accommodation”, “tarsus”, “fenced pasture”, “percutaneous coronary intervention”, “the Administrative Procedure Act” and similar words, when I was a little girl. The languages just came flying at me, of course it was completely effortless. Is that what people think?
And then it is sooo much fun with language, but it is of course nothing you can have as a job. As a real job, that is. Well at least not spoken languages.
Yes, the spoken language, the language form we use the most, perhaps the most underrated form of language. It is still a bit surprising that people think like this. That an interpreted conversation would not require preparation and knowledge for the interpreter. It takes a lot more to interpret than you can imagine, and not even all interpreters have mastered it or even understand what it takes. Of course, it requires preparation to interpret a conversation. Especially in the form of realia knowledge, if you do not know the topic it is almost impossible to deliver a good interpretation.
You have to understand what you interpret otherwise the risk is very high that you do misinterpretations. Add to that the whole issue of terminology. Very few, if any, functions as some sort of living dictionaries. We are humans, we forget. It is your responsibility to bring accurate dictionaries and definitions of terms and concepts. This is a task you are constantly engaged in. You should also know most of these words by heart and that requires a lot of training and a good memory.
In addition to the linguistic part, the interpreter should also know how to behave in social contexts, in interaction with other people. You becomee a kind of actor of reality. Simply put, the interpreter must master certain skills in order to be successful. To be a professional interpreter is not a make-believe profession.
It is strange that there are people in Sweden today who do not think that interpreting is a real professional. However, it seems to be quite allright to be a coach of all different kinds. Life coach, fitness coach, mental coach, job coach, school coach, nutrition coach and whatever more definitions there are available. But interpreting is not considered a real profession.
I guess I have to get a real job soon. Maybe language coach?