Functionally, an interpreter is a person who converts a source language to a target language. The interpreter's function is conveying every semantic element (tone and register) and every intention and feeling of the message that the source-language speaker is directing to the target-language listeners.
A very common, layman's misconception of interpretation is that it is rendered verbatim, that is, as a word-for-word syntactic translation of an utterance. That is impractical, because a literal, verbatim interpretation of a source-language message would be unintelligible to the target-language listener. For example, the Spanish phrase: Está de viaje, rendered verbatim to English translates as: Is of voyage (senseless in English), yet its faithful, true, and accurate denotational and connotational interpretations in context are: ‘He/She/You is/are travelling’ or ‘He/She/You is/are out of town’. That is, the overall meaning, tone, and style in the target language are what matter, rather than the source-language syntax.
Interpretation is also held to a different standard of accuracy than translation. Translators have time to consider and revise each word and sentence before delivering their product to the client. While interpreters try to achieve total accuracy at all times, details of the original (source) speech can be omitted from the interpretation into the target language, especially if the source speaker talks very quickly, or recites long lists of figures without a pause.
The trained professional simultaneous interpreter however never omits original source language, rather they learn to provide the same information in the target language using for example in Spanish the ability to shorten rendered interpretation by the use of gender specific usage and reflexive pronouns also not used in English, and many other techniques.
With regards to "trying to achieve total accuracy, and omitting if speaker is speaking too quickly" this is totally unacceptable in court interpreting, where not only is accuracy a principal cannon for interpreters, but mandatory when the "glossing over, omitting or editing" of any one word can totally mislead the tryors of fact. The most important factor for this level of accuracy is the use of a team of 2 or more interpreters during a lengthy process, with one actively interpreting and the second monitoring for greater accuracy.
Speakers at interpreted meetings can ensure better communication of their message into other languages by slowing their delivery slightly and by adding a pause of one or two seconds at the end of each paragraph.
Consecutive interpretation is rendered as 'short CI' and 'long CI'. In short CI, the interpreter relies on memory; each message segment being brief enough to memorise. In long CI, the interpreter takes notes of the message to aid rendering long passages. These informal divisions are established with the client before the interpretation is effected, depending upon the subject, its complexity, and the purpose of the interpretation.
On occasion, document sight translation is required of the interpreter, usually in consecutive interpretation work. Sight translation combines interpretation and translation; the interpreter must read aloud the source-language document to the target-language as if it were written in the target language. Sight translation occurs usually, but not exclusively, in judicial and medical work.
Relay interpretation occurs when several languages are the target-language. A source-language interpreter renders the message to a language common to every interpreter, who then renders the message to his or her specific target-language. For example, a Japanese source message first is rendered to English to a group of interpreters, then it is rendered to Arabic, French, and Russian, the other target-languages.
In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter speaks after the source-language speaker has finished speaking. The speech is divided into segments, and CI interpreter sits or stands beside the source-language speaker, listening and taking notes as the speaker progresses through the message. When the speaker pauses or finishes speaking, the interpreter then renders the entire message in the target language.
Consecutively-interpreted speeches, or segments of them, tend to be short. Fifty years ago, the CI interpreter would render speeches of 20 or 30 minutes, today, 10 or 15 minutes is considered long, particularly since audiences don't like to sit through 20 minutes of speech they cannot understand.
Often, the source-language speaker is unaware that he or she may speak at length before the CI interpretation is rendered, and might stop after each sentence to await its target-language rendering. Sometimes, the inexperienced or poorly trained interpreter asks the speaker to pause after each sentence; sentence-by-sentence interpreting requires less memorisation, yet its disadvantage is in the interpreter's not having heard the entire speech or its gist, and the overall message is harder to render both because of lack of context and because of interrupted delivery (e.g., imagine a joke told in bits and pieces, with breaks for translation in between). This method is often used in rendering speeches, depositions, recorded statements, court witness testimony, and medical and job interviews, but it is always best to complete a whole idea before it is translated.
Full (i.e., unbroken) consecutive interpreting allows for the source-language message's full meaning to be understood before the interpreter renders it to the target language. This affords a truer, accurate, and accessible interpretation than does simultaneous interpretation.
Conference interpretation is divided between two markets: the institutional and private. International institutions (EU, UN, EPO, et cetera), holding multi-lingual meetings, often favour interpreting several foreign languages to the interpreters' mother tongues. Local private markets tend to bi-lingual meetings (the local language plus another) and the interpreters work both into and out of their mother tongues; the markets are not mutually exclusive. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) is the only world-wide association of conference interpreters. Founded in 1953, it assembles more than 2,800 professional conference interpreters in more than 90 countries.
Legal, court, or judicial interpreting, occurs in courts of justice, administrative tribunals, and wherever a legal proceeding is held (i.e. a conference room for a deposition or the locale for taking a sworn statement). Legal interpreting can be the consecutive interpretation of witnesses' testimony for example, or the simultaneous interpretation of entire proceedings, by electronic means, for one person, or all of the people attending.
The right to a competent interpreter for anyone who does not understand the language of the court(especially for the accused in a criminal trial)is usually considered a fundamental rule of justice. Therefore, this right is often guaranteed in national constitutions, declarations of rights, fundamental laws establishing the justice system or by precedents set by the highest courts.
Depending upon the regulations and standards adhered to per state and venue, court interpreters usually work alone when interpreting consecutively, or as a team, when interpreting simultaneously. In addition to practical mastery of the source and target languages, thorough knowledge of law and legal and court procedures is required of court interpreters. They often are required to have formal authorisation from the State to work in the Courts — and then are called sworn interpreters. In many jurisdictions, the interpretation is considered an essential part of the evidence. Incompetent interpretation, or simply failure to swear in the interpreter, can lead to a mistrial.
When a hearing person speaks, an interpreter will render the speaker's meaning into the sign language used by the deaf party. When a deaf person signs, an interpreter will render the meaning expressed in the signs into the spoken language for the hearing party, which is sometimes referred to as voice interpreting or voicing. This may be performed either as simultaneous or consecutive interpreting. Skilled sign language interpreters will position themselves in a room or space that allows them both to be seen by deaf participants and heard by hearing participants clearly and to see and hear participants clearly. In some circumstances, an interpreter may interpret from one sign language into an alternate sign language.
Deaf people also work as interpreters. They team with hearing counterparts to provide interpretation for deaf individuals who may not share the standard sign language used in that country. In other cases the hearing interpreted sign may be too pidgin to be understood clearly, and the Deaf interpreter might interpret it into a more clear translation. They also relay information from one form of language to another — for example, when a person is signing visually, the deaf interpreter could be hired to copy those signs into a deaf-blind person's hand plus include visual information.
Media interpreting has gained more visibility and presence especially after the Gulf War. Television channels have begun to hire staff simultaneous interpreters. The interpreter renders the press conferences, telephone beepers, interviews and similar live coverage for the viewers. It is more stressful than other types of interpreting as the interpreter has to deal with a wide range of technical problems coupled with the control room's hassle and wrangling during live coverage.
The world's largest employer of interpreters is currently the European Commission, which employs hundreds of staff and freelance interpreters working into the official languages of the European Union. The European Union's other institutions (the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice) have smaller interpreting services.
The United Nations employs interpreters at almost all its sites throughout the world. Because it has only six official languages, however, it is a smaller employer than the European Union.
Interpreters may also work as freelance operators in their local, regional and national communities, or may take on contract work under an interpreting business or service. They would typically take on work as described above.
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