Para esta semana tan corta de clase que tenemos, hay que trabajar muy duro sobe el papel que tiene un traductor o un interprete, y para esto hay que hacer la diferencia de trabajo profesional. Es por esto, que les envio un documento para que lo lean y comentemos estas lecturas. También, necesito que la impriman y la lleven consigo a clase, para trabajar con ella. ¡A leer se ha dicho!
Basic Aptitudes and Qualifications
Before I attempt to describe the “Magic” aptitudes that a successful translator or interpreter must possess, a definition of both fields seems in order. This should also automatically clarify who should NOT try to enter these professions.
Translation is the transposition of a text written in a source language into a target language. The translated version must be absolutely accurate in meaning, contain all nuances of the original, and must be written in clear, elegant language that can be easily understood by the reader. Needless to say, punctuation, spelling, and grammar must be flawless. In addition, translators have at their disposal dictionaries and reference material in both languages.
Interpretation is the oral transposition of an orally delivered message at a conference or meeting from a source language into a target language, performed in the presence of the participants. This function can be performed simultaneously (at the same time as the speech is given) or consecutively (after the speaker has finished a part or the totality of the speech). At times, the interpreter has to go from the written medium (text) to the oral medium (interpretation). This is called sight translation.
The important distinction is that the product of the translator is meant to be read, whereas that of the interpreter is meant to be listened to.
It immediately becomes apparent from those definitions that translators have to be able to hold their own with the authors of the texts that they are asked to translate, and that interpreters need to be intellectually equal to the speakers whom they have to interpret.
This absolutely rules out any attempt to train these professionals at any level but the graduate level. This is particularly true for interpreters. No participant in any important meeting would trust a twenty-year-old to catch all the important details in speech.
Aptitudes for students
Scholastic transcripts can be very helpful in determining a student’s aptitude for translation. Good grades in advanced composition and essay writing are a particularly good indication of aptitude. One might justifiably ask why a translator needs all these exceptional qualities to produce a translation of a highly technical nature. My answer to this question is that writing and stylistic exercises are exercises in intellectual self-discipline and flexibility – two extremely important aptitudes in a translator.
Although they never express their own ideas in their work, future translators must be exceptionally creative in their native language in order to be able to convey the message contained in the original text in the most accurate and understandable, yet elegant, way possible.
It would be fair to say that only students who receive straight A’s in their native language courses can aspire to the degree of perfection needed by a translator.
As a professional translator are very rarely experts in the subject matter of the text they are asked to translate, the ability to absorb new ideas and processes and then explain them in the target language is of the utmost importance.
Translators must also be able to convey complicated ideas accurately. Good training in their own language, which should always be the language into which they translate, is an absolute prerequisite. Technical writing courses as well as classes in editing and proofreading will be of great help to the future translator.
Although technical experts who also translate will initially have a distinct advantage over general translators, who need training to become technical translators, the former will remain translators in their own field of expertise only, whereas the latter will be able to deal with any material that ends up on their desk. Moreover, most technical experts rarely possess outstanding writing skills.
Experience has shown that graduates in translation can easily be trained to become technical translators. Many of them finish their careers in corporate managerial positions, which underscores their extraordinary flexibility.
Finally, it is often argued that it is better to have a technical background for technical translation; however, there are not many engineers or technicians who would be interested in doing full-time translations as long as language personnel in the corporate world continue to receive the low salaries that they are paid today.
Aptitudes for Instructors
Teachers of translation must possess the same basic aptitudes as the students. This statement might seem like a truism, but it must be made nonetheless, as there are far too many instructors of translation who (1) have never had one of their own translations evaluated by a professional or (2) have never even produced a translation of any significance.
Translation is no accurate science that can be acquired in one step. It has to be practiced daily in order to improve one’s skills and to build up the kind of experience that is needed to teach the field. Each translation adds to one’s preparedness to deal with the next one.
Knowledge of the source and target language and literature, not to mention a familiarity with linguistics, qualifies one to teach translation. Only the very experienced translator can instruct students how to avoid pitfalls and how to transpose a message written in one language to the genius of another language in such a way that readers of the translation are led to believe that they are actually reading a text drafted in their own language.
Aptitudes for Students
As mentioned earlier, conference interpreters have to have the same level of intelligence as the person they are called upon to interpret. This does not imply, however, that all people possessing a high degree of intelligence and language fluency can become conference interpreters. What, then, are the aptitudes that distinguish the students with good potential from all others?
Perhaps this is the appropriate time to consider aptitude test for future conference interpreters. I have administered aptitude tests at the University of Geneva, Switzerland; The United Nations European Office; NATO; the European Communities; and Georgetown University. Although the test used by these different institutions vary in their modalities of application and specific content, all attempt to test the following:
- Ability to abstract and paraphrase
- Reaction time
- Poise and presentation
- Understanding of and fluency in the foreign languages.
These aptitudes are normally tested in the following manner:
1. Candidates are asked to talk in their foreign languages about their studies, living experiences abroad, and general intellectual interests. This test gives a fairly good picture of the candidates’ way of thinking and of presenting their own ideas. The evaluation criteria are voice, presentation, accent, logical sequence of ideas, general attitude, and general knowledge.
2. The second part often consists of an exercise in abstracting and paraphrasing. A short exposé, compromising a section with dense information and one that is rather wordy but does not contain many concrete ideas, is either read and improvised in one of the students’ foreign languages by one of the examiners (there are usually two).
The candidates are then asked to repeat orally in their native language as much information as they have been able to retain. The exposé is usually no longer than three or four minutes. Candidates are discourage from taking any notes (with the exception of numbers and proper names), as thus us also a memory test.
3. The third and last part usually consists of a sight translation from both foreign language into the native language. The emphasis here is on the understanding and rendering of a somewhat higher language level. Evaluated are speed, accuracy, and technique of dealing with unexpected difficulties (it is important that candidates be given absolutely no time to look at the text beforehand).
Most tests in consecutive interpretation are conducted with improvised exposes, including witty and humorous ones, which are particularly suited for testing the general interpreting skills of candidates. Incidentally, these tests are never terminology tests, but general skills tests.
This kind of aptitude test has cut down the failure rate at final exams or successive tests during the training period to quite acceptable proportions. Students who do not exhibit the requisite aptitudes are either not allowed to enter the program or are encouraged to improve their language skills before taking the test a second time. Usually, they can take these tests only twice.
Aptitudes for Instructors
It can be said at this point quite emphatically that interpretation should be taught only by professional interpreters. As in the case of translators, someone who does not have the skills and aptitudes to interpret cannot teach interpretation effectively. Moreover, instructors have to keep up these skills through constant practice and must keep abreast of professional developments and innovations or changes.
It is quite inconceivable for anyone to teach interpretation without being able to demonstrate the skills, just as it would be unimaginable for a choreographer to teach dance without having experienced all the movements. It would be professionally and morally dishonest to students to try and communicate to them extremely difficult art of interpretation without having been extensively exposed to the practice.
While translation can sometimes be integrated into the mainstream of programs for language majors as an additional means for acquiring and perfecting language skills – but not to prepare professional translators, except in the literary field – interpretation needs its own well structured curriculum composed of many complex elements.
The occasional “exercises in consecutive or simultaneous interpretation” for language majors, of which we see too many at present, are, in my opinion, complete nonsense. They are useless at best, and counterproductive and unethical at worst. The attempt to increase the enrollment in foreign language classes by offering courses in pseudo-interpretation is a sin against the whole profession!