Monthly Archives: April 2012

Medical Interpreters Cut Risks

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We’ve reported before on the dangers of cutting back on interpreters in both courtrooms and hospitals and now it looks like there is some data to back up our logic.  A recent study out of the University of Texas says that mistakes are twice as likely to be made when there is no professional interpreter present.  Of errors made about twenty percent of them can have potential health risks to patients.

Two things jumped out from the Reuters article on it.  One was that “translator” and “interpreter” was used pretty much interchangeably.  Check out last week’s post on that confusion.  And two, that the researchers said that an “ad hoc” interpreter, like a friend or family member, can be just as risky as having no interpreter.  Which gives credence to the idea that we’ve argued before: that being bilingual does not make you a proper interpreter.

The main issue still to be resolved here is who should pay for interpreter costs, as we saw in the UK, people are reluctant to take on these costs. This reluctance may result from the pervasive idea that interpreters and translators are a great way to cut costs, which I think is caused by a lack of understanding of what exactly linguists do.

Check out the article here:


The Difference Between Interpretation and Translation

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The full name of our company is AZ World Translation and Interpretation Incorporated.  Translation and Interpretation, this indicates that there is a certain difference between the two.  Ask any linguists (which we will take to mean language communication professionals as there is a whole other discussion we could have about what a linguist is) what translation is, and they would probably say something along the lines of: the changing of one language text into another language text so as to establish the same meaning in both.  The key word in that definition is text; translation is written, or nowadays typed.

Interpretation on the other hand, is the facilitating of oral, or sign language, communication between two parties who lack a common language.  Here the key word is oral; interpretation is oral.

While in the industry the two are never confused, in the mainstream the terms are often confused.  The most glaring example is during a news report, when a non-English speaker will be being interviewed and someone is concurrently interpreting what they say, while the lower third will read “Voice of Translator.”  Translators can’t have a voice, that’s a contradiction.

This distinction has garnered more attention recently as the US Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments over whether or not “interpretation” can be interpreted as “translation,” pun intended.  The matter has arisen due to a court case involving a Japanese citizen who fell through the deck of a hotel on Saipan, an island in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  The man sued the hotel for negligence, but lost the case, as such he was responsible for paying the hotel’s “interpreter” fees, which amounted to about $5,517.20, of which $5,257.20 was for document translation.  The Japanese man has appealed the case and it wound up at the Supreme Court because of a conflict between precedencies set by two lower courts.

While the court probably won’t rule until July, it seems that the court will likely agree with what most linguists think, interpretation and translation are different, and one does not imply the other.

AZ World offers both translation and interpretation services, to request a quote or get in contact with us please click here.

Translating Idiomatic Language

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I was reading through Cicero’s “On the Nature of the Gods,” an ancient Roman text on philosophy and came across an interesting passage; “Epicurus’ researches were too penetrating, and his explanations too subtle, to be grasped by any Tom, Dick, or Harry…”  The use of this phrase “Tom, Dick, or Harry” certainly caught my eye.  I find it hard to believe that Cicero ever really used that phrase.  I think it is however a great example of the complexities of translation.  We’ve talked before about translating classical texts, and the nuances that accompany that sort of translation.

Translation is of course not a simple exercise of “find and replace.”  Otherwise Google Translate would work perfectly and lead to absolutely no embarrassments.  This “Tom, Dick, or Harry” phrase is a great example of it.  While Cicero was writing in Latin, he may have still been familiar with the following Greek phrase: “κάθε καρυδιάς καρύδι.”  Translated literally this means, “every walnut tree nut.”  But it is used in the same way as “Tom, Dick, or Harry.”  Google translate won’t detect that, our translators will.

Phrases like “Tom, Dick, or Harry” complicate things, but a solid translator can handle these issues.  A proper translation helps me understand Cicero, so I won’t be pondering what Cicero meant when he said “Epicurus’ researches were too penetrating, and his explanations too subtle, to be grasped by every walnut tree nut…”  Instead the translator, P.G. Walsh, uses “Tom, Dick, or Harry” and the reader instantly understands.

The audience for your translations is just like the audience for a book, and they want to easily understand your documents, on their terms.  A talented translator from AZ World can make that happen, request a quote today!

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Interpretation Problems in UK Courts

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A month or so ago we wrote about new cuts to court interpreting and translating in the UK.  In that post we mentioned how dangerous this can be.  Well it appears that what we warned of has come to be.  A senior magistrate, Peter Beeke, is speaking out against the cuts.

Beeke reports that major delays due to no interpreters being available are occurring more frequently, when before they would be very rare.  Some trials have even been cancelled due to the lack of interpreters.

In addition to delays in the courtroom, Beeke claims that people have been kept in jail longer than proper because the idea of conditional bail could not be adequately explained to them.

While Applied Language Solutions is saying that these issues are “transitional,” it is hard to see how they can be resolved quickly without simply reinstating the original compensation to translators and interpreters.  It seems that the main issue is that people just aren’t as willing to work for ALS, and understandably so considering how much less they are being paid.

ALS is playing with fire here.  Delays are one thing, but out and out cancellation of trials is plain and simple obstruction of justice.  This is an easily solved problem and until it’s fixed, the UK government is not holding up their end of the legal bargain.