Thursday, May 2, 2013

Words, Words, Words

I am a lover of words, and language. Even though I have ended up working in the financial sector (my high school math teacher will draw up a formula within minutes how long it will take me to calculate my company into the ground, if she knew...), I am a translator at heart. Right after high school, I went to college and studied to be a translator and interpreter. Unfortunately, I have never really worked in this field. One of my friends is my best client, even though I have never taken a single dime from her (I'd never accept money from one of my best friends, but babysitting is fair!).

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me" - I wouldn't sign that. Everyone who has ever been a victim to mental abuse or bullying will tell you, that words can be a very vicious weapon. When it comes to being a translator or interpreter, you become a gateway, not only between two languages, but sometimes also between two cultures, however slight their differences may seem. In general, the realm of the translator is the written word, while the interpreter's world is the spoken word. Are there any other avid watchers of the "Game of Thrones" series? If so, you might be just watching season three, which has a wonderful example of an interpreter: the slave girl Missandei interprets for her master, the slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz, to sell Unsullied to the Targaryan princess Danaerys. The slaver doesn't even try to hide his disdain for Danaerys, while Missandei relays his message in a respectful manner, not knowing that Danaerys understands the slaver's every word. Professionally, her interpreting would have been quite a far stretch, even though both as a translator as well as an interpreter, I have tremendous power. Under each and every one of my translations, I certify that I have translated the original document true and to my best ability, and I have alwas done so. However, there is something beyond simple words, there is the tone, which we can steer sometimes from one end of a sprectrum to the other. Sometimes I wondered whether there have been wars started or prevented by interpreters, what their input was in the rise and fall of corporations, but since most of these negotiations happen behind closed doors, we might never know.

To end my little trip into the land of language, I'd like to share with you a little professional joke. This is said to have happened during a business conference in Japan, where a US business man appeared for a panel. As most Americans might do, he started the speech with a little joke. Since this would have been fairly inappropriate in Japanese business culture, the interpreter, instead of relaying the American's joke, he simply told the audience that he speaker is starting with a little joke, which is not funny at all, but the correct response would be to laugh at his sign. The audience cracked up when given the cue and the panel became quite a success.


This was day 2 of the "Blog every day in May" challenge!

No comments:

Post a Comment