Saturday, October 21, 2006

Speaking of Cheapness…

I don’t usually write about interpretation, but this article relates to my last post, about publishers not being willing to spend the money for quality work.

For those who can’t read Swedish, I can summarize the article as follows: Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi gave a speech at the
Göteborg book fair last month. She speaks Farsi, so an interpreter was needed to translate her words to Swedish. Time and money were not spent on finding a proper interpreter for her, so someone who speaks Dari and Pashto was hired instead. This interpreter could not manage the Farsi, and apparently made something of a mess of the speech. She was finally replaced by another interpreter. However, this one was Norwegian. So the people in the audience then had to try to understand the Norwegian, when they ought to have had a good Farsi-Swedish interpreter from the beginning.

Clearly, this kind of thing should not happen at all, but the fact that it happened to a Nobel Prize laureate at a major literary event speaks volumes, to use an apt phrase, about how people don’t recognize the importance of interpretation and translation and aren’t educated enough about what is required in order to do the job well. The book fair organizers probably waited until the last minute to even think about finding an interpreter and then didn’t realize that there are a variety of Middle Eastern languages and that an interpreter of Dari may be able to understand Farsi competently but is not qualified enough to interpret between it and Swedish.

So we translators and interpreters need to find more ways of
educating our customers. Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

This exact same thing just happened to me this past weekend! (Hi, I'm a fellow Mawrtyr and a friend and I stop by your blog on occasion.)

A local event expecting thousands of attendees had a famous Japanese guest coming whom they had invited months ago and was a very big deal. His agent told them he needed an interpreter...and yet I, a translator (though I suppose like most people they didn't know the difference), was tapped 48 hours before the start time because they hadn't lined up anyone!

B.J. Epstein said...

Thank you for your comment, Sarah! (And I'm always glad to hear from Mawrters!)
So how did it go? Was it difficult for you to switch over to being an interpreter? I suspect it went better for you than it did in Sweden!

Best wishes,