Friday, September 13, 2019

NPIT5 at Amsterdam

The call for papers has been out for some time for the Fifth International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation. It's the most important international conference for the Followers of this blog. It will take place at the University of Amsterdam Department of Communication Science, 24-26 June 2020. The deadline for submissions is 15 October, 2019. The official website is at

It inspires confidence to see that Rachele Antonini of Bologna-Forli is on the Advisory Board, because it was she who launched the epoch-making first NPIT conference back in 2012, That we are now at the fifth conference in the series means NPIT studies are almost mainstream at last.

The following list of suggested topics gives some idea of the scope of NPIT:
Adult/child language and cultural brokering
Community translation and interpreting
Family interpreting
Natural/native translation/interpreting
Non-professional church/religious interpreting and/or translation
Non-professional media interpreting and/or translation (fansubbing, fandubbing, fanfiction, news, talk-shows, the web, etc.)
Non-professional sign language interpreting
Stakeholder perspectives on non-professional interpreters and translators
Training of non-professional interpreters and translators
Non-professional interpreting and/or translation in the field of war/conflicts, NGOs, asylum seeking, health care, community and social care, legal and police.

The conference announcement rightly sums it all up this way:
Pushing definitional and theoretical boundaries of interpreting and translation, it is a dynamic and still under-researched field that does not necessarily conforms to norms guiding professional multilingual communicative practices, though in many settings and contexts non-professional interpreting and translation is, in fact, more common in bridging diverse cultural and linguistic worlds, than professional interpreting and translation.

Rachele Antonini et al. (eds.) Non-professional Interpreting and Translation: State of the art and future of an emerging field of research.
(Benjamins Translation Library 129). Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2017. 425p..

Friday, July 19, 2019

Affective Translating

It’s widely assumed that the main function of language, its raison d’être, is to express and communicate our thoughts. That may be, but it also has other functions, conscious or unconscious.

There are, for example, what philosophers and linguists call illocutionary speech acts. An illocutionary speech act is an utterance that not only presents information but performs an action as well. For example, “The Board will meet twice a year” gives predictive information, but “The Board shall meet twice a year” lays down a by-law. Such acts are usually intentional and Expert Translators should be able to detect them.

Another function of language, the one that concerns us here, is that of affective or emotlve language.
“A cross-linguistic analysis indicates that languages dedicate phonological, morpho-syntactic and discourse features to intensify and specify attitudes, moods, feelings and dispositions.”
To these features we must add another that is equally important: the choice of vocabulary.

It follows that affective translation is the translation of such language, Expert Translators may perform it deliberately, but even Natural Translators may do so intuitively. And a corollary is that affective translation maintains the emotional effect of the source, often by using similar devices.

This function is particularly important in literary translation, because authors exploit it intentionally. It’s foremost in poetry.

One such poem has already been treated on this blog, though for a different reason. It’s Ezra Pound’s Cathay, which consists of translations from Chinese. To retrieve the post, enter cathay in the Search box on the right. One reason for the popularity of Pound’s translations lies in his mastery of affective English.

Some church interpreting is of this type. For an example, enter buea in the Search box on the right.

Let’s take as another example Edgar Alan Poe’s famous poem The Raven. Fortunately for our purpose, there’s a French translation of it, also famous, by his near contemporary Stéphane Mallarmé. It’s particularly interesting because Poe was a very conscious exponent of affective devices and he explained it himself in his essary The Philosophy of Composition. He went so far as to say that writing a poem was a methodical process.

Among the qualities Poe sought after were tone, which in The Raven is melancholy; and refrain or keynote. The refrain is his raven’s Nevermore, for which he chose a single word. The word had to have a certain character. It had to be sonorous and – since it was repeated at the end of almost every stanza  – be “susceptible of protracted emphasis.” Determining the long o as the "most sonorous vowel," Poe thought about what would connect with the most "producible consonant" to reach the desired result.

And so on. For a complete analysis, consult the Lippmann paper listed below.

Now let’s turn to the Mallarmé. The most striking thing about it is that Mallarmé did a prose translation. Prose translations have their uses – I used  Rosetti’s prose translation of Dante’s Inferno to understand the Italian – but they immediately sacrifice the affective devices of metre (i.e.regular rhythm), and rhyme, which were quasi-universal in poetry until the early twentieth century. So Mallarmé had to compensate for this loss. He did it in two ways. One was by choice of vocabulary:
“The opening lines of "Le Corbeau" provide a stylistic sampling of how Mallarmé used French to make The Raven even spookier. The familiar “midnight dreary” we associate with Poe’s version becomes the more funereal and morbid “minuit lugubre” in French. The nervous narrator’s book collection, described by Poe as “quaint and curious,” is transformed by Mallarmé into “curieux et bizarre,” infusing the lines with an even stranger, more unsettling tone.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,/ Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—/ While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,/ As of some one gently rapping—rapping at my chamber door./ "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door/ Only this and nothing more."
 Une fois, par un minuit lugubre, tandis que je m'appesantissais, faible et fatigué, sur maint curieux et bizarre volume de savoir oublié— tandis que je dodelinais la tête, somnolant presque: soudain se fit un heurt, comme de quelqu'un frappant doucement, frappant à la porte de ma chambre—cela seul et rien de plus."

The other way was by the more surprisng device of accompanying his prose with etchings by his friend Édouard Monet. Translatologists may class this as intersemiotic translation. Monet’s image of the bird has become definitive.

To be continued.

Elinor Ochs and Bambi B. Schhieffelin. Language has a heart. Text: Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, vol. 9, No. 1, 1989, pp.7-25. Click [HERE] or go to

Edgar Alan Poe. The Raven, Evening Mirror, 1845.

Babette Lippmann. EdgarAlan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”: an analysis of his work. Grin, 2005. Click [HERE] or go to

Edgar Alan Poe. Le Corbeau. French translation by Stéphane Mallarmé, illustrated by Édouard Monet. Paris: R. Lesclide, 1875, in an edition of 240 signed copies.

Jared Spears. How Poe’s French translator made The Raven even spookier. Mental Floss, 2016. Click [HERE] or go to

Monday, May 27, 2019

Now that I am 90

Last Saturday, 25 May, was my ninetieth birthday. A good moment for reflection. I want to thank publicly and profoundly all the many people who’ve helped and encouraged me to get this far. I’ve been undeservedly lucky.

To start with, of course, my parents, who bequeathed to me their genes and made sacrifices to get me a sound education. More recently my wife, who has looked after me duiing these recent years of illness, And in between them a long succesion of relatives, friends, colleagues, clients, students and Followers, too many to list in a blog post.

Looking back over my career, I think I made a few minor contributions to translatology (itself a term I introduced into English in the early 70s), and one major discovery. The latter is Natural Translation, which I formulated in 1973 as the translating done in everyday circumstances by bilinguals who’ve had no training for it. It was extended in 1976 to the hypothesis that the human ability to translate is inborn; and later to a developmental model to bridge the gap between natural translators and expert ones. (For more, enter essential definitions in the Search box on the right or click [HERE].) Acceptance of the concept has advanced only slowly in the last 40 years, but some aspects of it are now almost mainstream. Language brokering studies, starting from the USA in the 90s, opened people’s eyes to the vast amount of translating done by children. The NPIT (non-professional translation) conferences and publications of the last decade have helped brush away the cobweb of misunderstanding in the old saying that “because you are bilingual, it doesn’t mean you can translate” (or interpret, for that matter).All around us, NGOs, manga and computer game publishers, Wikipedia and others depend on crowdsourcing their translations. Of course there’s a tradeoff. Mass production and amateurism can rarely matched skilled craftmanship, but it’s a price to pay to get the translations done. (The same can be said for machine translation, the branch of translatology in which I started my career.)

So without more ado I wish you all as long a life as mine and a long career with many discoveries.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Indigenous Interpreters

Indigenous:: originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native,  eg "the indigenous peoples of Siberia."
Synonyms: native, aboriginal, local.

We’ve had two examples recently of indigenous interpreters on this blog. First the contemporary example of the Nicaraguan Akateko and Q’anjob’al speaker Carmelina, who calls herself a native interpreter (a synonym); and then the historical example of the Aborigene BungareeScroll down a few pages to find those posts. Bungaree was the first ‘Australian’ English interpreter, but he wasn’t the first Australasian one. That distinction surely belongs to Tupaia, who had originally been recruited some thirty years ealier by the British naval officer and explorer Samuel Wallis (1728-1795) and then passed on to James Cook’s expedition. Tupaia was born in the Society Islands near Tahiti. He was a very different character from Bungaree. The latter was a ‘rough diamond’, whereas Tupaia was highly educated and respected in his own culture and became a leading priest for his people. Bungaree was popular with Flinders’ sailors, whereas Cook’s crew found Tupaia too haughty. But both of them contributed qualities that made them invaluable to their European employers beyond their language skills, as often happens with indigenous interpreters. Bungaree saved lives by his courage. In the case of Tupaia,
He was also taught [by his people] how to be a star navigator. His memorized knowledge included island lists, including their size, reef and harbor locations, whether they were inhabited, and if so, the name of the chief and any food produced there. More importantly, his memory would include the bearing of each island, the time to get there, and the succession of stars and islands to follow to get there."
 His employment by Cook was, however, not all plain sailing:
“Tupaia joined [Cook’s ship] Endeavour in July 1769 when it passed his home island of Ra'iatea in the outward voyage from Plymouth. He was welcomed aboard at the insistence of Sir Joseph Banks, the Cook expedition's official botanist, on the basis of his evident skill as a navigator and mapmaker: when asked for details of the region Tupaia drew a chart showing all 130 islands within a 2,000 miles (3,200 km) radius and was able to name 74 of them. Banks welcomed the Raiatean's interest in travelling with Endeavour to England where he could be presented as an anthropological curiosity. Australian academic Vanessa Smith has speculated that Banks also envisaged conversation, amusement and possibly a genuine friendship from Tupaia's company during the voyage. As Cook at first refused to allow Tupaia to join the expedition for financial reasons, Banks agreed to be responsible for the Raiatean's welfare and upkeep while on board."
Tupaia was also an artist (see Image), and ten watercolours of his survive as well as the map he drew for CookThough he wasn’t a Maori speaker, his Polynesian language was sufficiently close for him to be able to communicate with the Maori when Cook reached New Zealand, and eventually to become highly respected by them.

On the opposite side of the globe, a few years later, there was the famous case of Sacagawea (aka Sakakawea or Sacajawea), who was pressed into service as interpreter for the Lewis and Clark transcontinental expedition of 1804-1806. She earned her fame on several counts. First because she was that rarity: an interpreter who has made it into popular history and legend. She did it by her skills, bravery and hardiness; secondly because she was a woman;  and thirdly, but not least, because she was a Native American whose aid was invaluable to the nascent United States. There was a post about her on this blog that you can retrieve by entering sacagawea in the Search box on the right.

Later in the nineteenth century, indigenous interpreters became institutionalised by government pay in the American west. Thus we read in Dee Brown’s  tragic book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee:
“Most Indian leaders spoke freely and candidly in councils with white officials, and as they became more sophisticated in such matters during the 1870’s and 1880’s, they demanded the right to choose their own interpreters and recorders... Millions of their words are preserved in official records. Even when the meetings were in remote parts of the West, someone usually was available to write down the speeches, and because of the slowness of the [consecutive] translation process, much of what was said could be recorded in longhand. Interpreters quite often were half-bloods who knew spoken languages but seldom could read or write. Like most oral peoples they and the Indians depended upon imagery to express their thoughts, so that the English translations were filled with graphic similes and metaphors of the natural world. If an eloquent Indian had a poor interpreter, his words might be transformed to flat prose, but a good interpreter could make a poor speaker sound poetic.”

Tupaia, Bungaree and Carmina represent three phases in imdigenous interpreting: respectively the exploratory, the colonial and today’s migratory. I myself took part in some training for colonial indigenous Indian and Inuit interpreters in the Northwest Territories of Canada; but for the most part indigenous interpreters don’t receive training. One reason is the difficulty of finding teachers who know their languages. It’s basically the uncommonness of their languages that makes them indispensable.

Tupaia (navigator). Wikipedia, 2019.

Samuel Wallis. Wikipedia, 2019.

Dee Brown. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. 1970.


A Maori man and Joseph Banks exchanging a crayfish for a piece of cloth, drawing by Tupaia, c.1769. Source: Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Eighteen TED Translators

Back in 2011 there was a post on this blog about the volunteers who translate articles for Wikipedia and about the research being done on them by Julie McDonough Dolmaya of York University in Toronto. To retrieve it, enter julie in the Search box on the right. Now there's another ‘knowledge distribution’ organization that depends on crowedsourcing its translations. It’s TED. “TED Conferences LLC (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization that posts talks online for free distribution under the slogan ‘ideas worth spreading.’”  There’s a link between the two groups in that the level of discourse in their texts is roughly the same; that is to say, serious and often scientific without being extremely academic. It requires expert translators who can satisfy critical editors and readers.

Interesting translator information is available about the 2019 TED Conference, which was held in Vancouver this month (see Source below). It’s unusual for organizations to provide so much data about their translators but TED obviously believes in their importance. It musters 33,527 translators, who together have done 145,577 translations into 116 languages. Imagine what this would cost if TED had to pay for it! TED doesn’t say, however, whether it also uses machine translation.

The translators
According to TED itself, “TED Translators are a global community of volunteers who subtitle TED Talks.” They should be fluently bilingual in both source and target languages. They should be especially fluent in the transcription language (i.e., the language in which the talks are transcribed for written distribution in the original language). They. should be knowledgeable about subtitling best practices. They have available a free online subtitling tool called Amara to subtitle talks and collaborate with other volunteers. Note that a translator training or qualification is not a requirement; although, as we shall see, many of them do have one.

For TED2019 there were supposed to be 18 translators, though I’m ashamed to say three of them were refused Canadian visas.. Let’s divide them into two groups.

a)  Professional Expert
Karin Valles (Mexico). A professional freelance translator. Born and raised in Ensenada, Mexico. Her passion for languages led her to study translation at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), where she developed a keen interest in multimedia translation. 

Carolina Aguirre (Brazil).  Translator and subtitler. Lives in São Paulo. Has had an intense interest in languages – particularly English – from an early age, but it wasn’t until she discovered TED and TED Translators that she realized her passion for translating and subtitling too. This discovery also inspired her to switch her profession from law to full-time translation, and she says she’s much more satisfied by her current work. 

Tatiana Lebedeva (Russia). Born in Ekaterinburg. Now lives in Prague, where she studies English literature and linguistics, teaches English as a foreign language and works as a freelance translator.

Moe Shoji (Japan). PhD student. Originally from Japan but has lived in Sheffield, England, for the last seven years while studyng for her PhD in theatre and performance studies. Has an MA in the same field, in addition to degrees in both French and English literature. Teaches Japanese. Says that translating is “very much intertwined with my PhD studies – so much so that my first submitted thesis contains this acknowledgment: ‘I would also like to say thanks to TED Translators, which has been a productive procrastination for me to engage with whenever I find myself in a writing cul-de-sac.’” Thus her prolific output as a TED Translator. Aside from studying and translating, she is an aspiring literary translator.

Silvia Allone (Italy). Sales manager and translator.  Lives in Milan. Has an MA in foreign languages and literatures (English and French) from the University of Milan. Currently a sales manager for several Italian and multinational companies, and also works as a freelance translator. About her experience with TED Translators, she says, “TED Translators has made me realize how amazing and rewarding it is to help spread powerful and inspiring ideas to people all across the world who don’t speak a second language – particularly since I strongly believe that communication brings people together more than anything else.”

Masoud Motamedifar (Iran). Translator and coordinator from Bam. MA in both translation studies and business management, and currently works as a translator and an office coordinator at a holding company in Iran. His passion for learning and sharing insightful knowledge and content is what led him to join TED Translators. “I wholeheartedly believe that translating and spreading powerful ideas as far and wide as possible can effect substantive change in the world”. Enjoys traveling and immersing himself in different cultures.

b)  NPIT translators
Seongje Hwang (South Korea). Software engineer. After studying computer engineering at university, he began his career as a financial technology developer and, propelled by his fascination with cutting-edge technologies, utilized TED Talks to school himself on such advancements. He also cultivated a deep interest in TED Talks which address sociocultural issues. He joined the TED Translator community in order to share far and wide the talks that inspire him, as well as to discover talks that animate his fellow translators.

Talia Breuer (Iarael). Born and raised in Haifa. Currently manages a team at a startup enterprise that’s working to implement a sharing economy in the country.

Bianca-Ionidia Mirea. PhD student. Originally from Romania, she has spent much of the last decade living, studying and working in various parts of the world, including China, India and the UK. She credits her time in these three countries especially for introducing her to an array of new ways of thinking and living.  She recently completed her MA in human resources management from Leeds University Business School, and she's about to begin pursuing her PhD in the study of the emergence of new forms of work in the digital economy.

Ly Nguyên (Vietnam). Born and raised in Vietnam. Currently finishing her studies in architecture at Hanoi Architectural University. In addition to her fascination for the aesthetics of words in both the design and calligraphy mediums, she “loves languages and translation.”

Jinchuan Ge (China). From eastern China. Now a student in economics and commerce at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He’s been both a TED Translator and involved with various TED and TEDx conferences for more than five years. Has also studied abroad in the USA at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

Urjoshi Sinha (India). Currently a PhD student in computer science and a graduate teaching assistant at Iowa State University. Her research is in software engineering. She cites her dedication to minimizing impediments to the free dissemination of knowledge as one of the key factors that inspired her to join TED Translators.

Frank Zegarra (Peru). Electronics engineer. Born and raised in Lima. Holds a degree in oil and gas engineering Is currently a process safety manager for pipeline transportation for an oil and gas company. His TED Translators epiphany occurred after he watched his first TED Talk, Pranav Mistry’s The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology: “It was then when I realized how amazing it is to have free access to such stimulating information, as well as the importance of transmitting these ideas to as large of an audience as possible, regardless of borders, customs or beliefs,” he says. “And so I began volunteering with TED Translators.”

Tanja Daib (Germany). PhD student in computer science. Schooled in her home country, Relocated to Argentina for a year to teach German, then moved to Edinburgh for a BA in cognitive science. Now lives in London, where she’s studying for her PhD. JJoined TED Translators in 2012 to “help make TED content more widely accessible, and to have a productive way of procrastinating.”

Jules Daunay (France). Technology developer. Born and raised in Brittany, currently resides in Paris and works as a technology developer for a startup enterprise focused on creating innovative open-source development tools. Has also lived in Moscow, where he attended Moscow State University. In addition, earned master’s degrees in Paris from both Sciences Po and the Sorbonne. His passion for technology is matched by his deep interest in other cultures, and he attributes this combination to his decision to join TED Translators. “I love being part of a global community in which I can introduce extraordinary new ideas to French speakers around the world.”

Sameeha Atout (Palestine). From Nablus, BSc in medical analysis, and currently works as an embryologist. She plans to pursue a degree in the field of genetics research. A staunch believer in Mahatma Gandhi’s maxim “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and she credits these words for her decision to join TED Translators. “I always try to take any opportunity I can to change our world for the better,” Sameeha says. “When I discovered TED Translators, I realized I’d found an excellent way to put Gandhi’s words into action: I could help spread important ideas and knowledge across languages and borders, while at the same time increasing the amount Arabic content available online.”

Saba Rezaie (Iran). BSc in physics from the University of Tehran, Lives in New York.  She initially moved to New York to earn her master’s degrees in both economics and business administration; afterward, She began her current job as a data analyst at a financial institution. As a bilingual speaker and a fervent believer in education and the free exchange of knowledge, she’s found a natural home at TED Translators.

Grigor Janikyan (Armenia). Youth activist. Born and raised in Armenia. BA in management from the French University in Armenia. In 2015 he founded United Youth Union, an Armenia-based “non-profit organization committed to youth development and empowerment.”

The most striking feature of these translators is their enthusiasm and idealism; they have a missionary zeal. In this respect they are comparable to the church interpreters who have been mentioned many times on this blog, though they serve a differenct god, Minerva. Also remarkable is their level of education; they almost all have university degrees, which explains why they possess the cognitive competence to deal with TED translations. They come from very widespread and varied countries and cultures, but.most of them have travelled widely and that has probably diminished the mental differences.

On the face of it, there is no significant difference between the competence and output of the Expert and the NPIT translators, though that's a question which calls for further research.

Meet the TED translators attending TED 2019.  Click [HERE] or go to   

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The First ‘Australian’ Interpreter

This post is offered as a contribution to the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL).

                                                                               Resultado de imagen de bungaree

When you go researching with Google, the links may lead you far from where you expect. Thus it was my interest in cats that led me to the first documented Australian Aborigine interpreter. And in between the two came the link to Capt. Matthew Flinders of the British Royal Navy. He was the first mariner to circumnavigate Australia, map its coastline, identify it as a continent and call it Australia. That was in 1801-1803. A few weeks ago his early-nineteenth-century grave was discovered in an excavation under – of all places! – Euston railway station in London; but that’s another story. My feline starting point was that on his epic voyage he took with him his ship’s faithful cat Trim, named after a character in the popular eighteenth-century novel Tristram Shandy. Flinders became so admiring of Trim that he wrote a heartfelt and elegant tribute to him, which I warmly commend to all cat lovers (see Sources below).

And then a subsequent link led me from Flinders to another of his faitful companions, his Aborigine interpreter Bungaree. When Europeans discovered Australia in the eightenth century they were broght into contact with peoples whose cultures were perhaps the oldest surviving human civilisations. It’s proof – if proof were needed – of the universality and variety of human language that “in the late 18th century, there were more than 250 distinct Aboriginal social groupings and a similar number of languages or varieties.”

In that fertile environment we can be sure that there must have been some interpreting from early times among the languages. However, Bungaree is the first documented Abriginal/English interpreter. There's an excellent article about him in Wikipedia and I can do no better than to quote extensively from it, with due thanks to its anonymous author(s).
 “Bungaree, or Boongaree (1775 – 24 November 1830) was an Aboriginal Australian from the Kuringgai people of the Broken Bay area north of Sydney, who was known as an explorer, entertainer, and Aboriginal community leader. He is also significant in that he was the first person to be recorded in print as an Australian, and thus the first Australian to circumnavigate the continent...
Having moved to the growing settlement of Sydney in the 1790s, Bungaree established himself as a well-known identity, as one able to move between his own people and the newcomers. He joined the crew of the HMS Reliance on a trip to Norfolk Island in 1798, during which he impressed the then midshipman Matthew Flinders. In 1798 he accompanied Flinders on the sloop Norfolk on a coastal survey as an interpreter, guide and negotiator with local indigenous groups. Despite the lack the of a common language, the indigenous people persistently sought Bungaree out to speak to instead of Flinders. And his mediation skills were greatly appreciated by the Europeans with whom he shared the ship. In 1799, to reach an agreement with local people in one particular situation, Bungaree gave them a spear and a spear thrower as gifts, showing them how to use them. It is referred to by Bronwen Douglas as a ‘cross-cultural act, signifying a reciprocal rather than a hierarchical relationship and challenging the reified notion of ‘cross-cultural’ as contact between opposed, homogenized ‘cultures’, adding that ‘the Moreton Bay people probably took Bungaree for the leader of the expedition and the white men for his followers.’
He was recruited by Flinders on his circumnavigation of Australia between 1801 and 1803 in the Investigator... Flinders noted that Bungaree was ‘a worthy and brave fellow’ who, on multiple occasions, saved the expedition. Bungaree was the only indigenous Australian on the ship - and as such, played a vital diplomatic role as they made their way around the coast, overcoming not inconsiderable language barriers in places. According to historian Keith Vincent, Bungaree chose the role as a go-between, and was often able to mollify indigenous people who were about to attack the sailors, by taking off his clothes and speaking to people, despite being in territory unknown to himself. Flinders later wrote in his memoirs of Bungaree's ‘good disposition and open and manly conduct’ and his kindness to the ship's cat,Trim...
“However Bungaree's important role in the exploration of Australia appears to have been almost forgotten. There are statues to Flinders and even the cat Trim, but as at January 2019, not a single statue to Bungaree recognising his achievement”
Such is the lack of appreciation of the vital roles, both linguistic and extralinguistic, played by interpreters. Perhaps too there is some racism in this neglect of Bungaree. Yet it hasn’t always been so: there’s an island, located off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, called Boongaree Island.
“Bungaree continued his association with exploratory voyages when he accompanied Captain Phillip Parker King to north-western Australia in 1817 in the Mermaid, amongst other things giving advice on which plants were safe to eat. “
[Parker] named the island after him, Meanwhile,
“In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie dubbed Bungaree "Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe" and presented him with 15 acres (61,000 m2) of land on George’s Head  as well as a breastplate inscribed 'BOONGAREE - Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe.'
“Bungaree spent the rest of his life ceremonially welcoming visitors to Australia, educating people about Aboriginal culture (especially boomerang throwing), and soliciting tribute, especially from ships visiting Sidney. He was also influential within his own community, taking part in corroborees, trading in fish and helping to keep the peace.”
At the risk of belabouring the point, I must point out that in the absence of any interpreter training, tradition or accreditation in eighteenth-century Australia, Bungaree could only have been a Natural Interpreter. But his employ by the colonial administration and the Royal Navy made him a Professional.

Unesco. 2019, Interational Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL 2019). Click [HERE] or go to

Australian Aboriginal languages. Wikipedia, 2019.

Matthew Flinders. Trim: the story of a brave, seafaring cat who, in the company of Matthew Flinders, circumnavigated the globe in the years 1799-1804. Collins, 1977. Flinders wrote it in 1809 during his captivity on Ile de France (Mauritius) but it lay overlooked among his papers for more than a century.

Bungaree. Wikipedia, 2019.

Boongaree Island. Wikipedia, 2018.

Augustus Earle, Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales, with Fort Macquarie, Sydney Harbour, in background, (1826): oil on canvas; 68.5 x 50.5 cm. National Library of Australia.
By the end of his life, he had become a familiar sight in colonial Sydney, dressed in a succession of military and naval uniforms that had been given to him. His distinctive outfits and notoriety within colonial society, as well as his gift for humour and mimicry, especially his impressions of past and present governors, made him a popular subject for portrait painters,”

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Upcoming Conferences on Professional and Non-Professional Interpreting

A bit belatedly – for we are already at the end of March – a conference has been announced for early October on the topic that occupied our first two posts this year, namely the centenary of professional conference interpreting. (To retrieve those posts, enter centenary in the Search box on the right.)

Title: 100 Years of Conference Interpreting
Theme: Looking Back and Looking Forward
Dates: 3-4 October 2019
Organiser. University of Geneva
Place: Headquarters of the International Labour Organization, Geneva.
Deadline for abstracts: 15 April
Registration: from 1 May
Attendee fee: 100-150 Swiss Francs
Website: click [HERE] or go to There's a video on that site.

It’s fitting that the venue is Geneva, where so much of the early development of the profession took place at and around the League of Nations between the two World Wars and the prestigious training school was established in  1941. It’s appropriate too that one of the keynote speakers is to be Jesús Baigorri, formerly of the United Nations and the University of Salamanca, who is the leading historian of that period.

At the opposite end of the spectrum of professionalism comes NPIT5.

Full Title: 5th International Conference on
Non-Professional Interpreting and Translating 
: Bridging diverse worlds: expandig roles and contexts of non-professional interpreters and translators 
Dates: 24-26 June 2020
Place: University of Amsterdam, Department of Communication Science
Deadline for submission of individual papers, posters and panels:  15 September 2019
Address for submissions:
Cair and contact person: Barbara Schouten
Website: click [HERE] or go to

Long-time Followers of this blog may recall our posts on the earlier conferences in this series, which which was founded by Rachele Antonini and her team at the University of Bologna in 2012.To retrieve them, enter NPIT in the Search box. I’m glad to see Rachele is on the Advisory Board for this one.

By reaching a fifth edition, this conference comes one step further to bringing NPIT into the mainstream of translation studies. Thesis students, take note.

Source: CenTraS-Inter Translation News

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Case History of a Guatemalan 'Native' Interpreter

Followers of this blog will know that our model of translator competence is a developmental one, starting from the untrained Natural Translation on which it remains dependent. To remind you, here is a diagram of the model reproduced from a post of 2010.

It is interesting to follow this progression in the life of a Nicaraguan interpreter, Carmelina C. (Our added emphasis in the quotations.)
"I was born in Aldea Coya, a village about 30 minutes (by car) from San Miguel Acatan, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.  I am a Maya Akateka [English Akatek] woman…  I speak Akateko and Q’anjob’al fluently, and some Chuj. My family came to the United States when I was just six years old, searching for freedom from the war in Guatemala."
Akatek and Q'anjob'al are closely related but are recognised by linguists as distinct languages. Chuj is also related but has a marked tendency to borrow Spanish words. Since the family emigrated when Carmelina was only six, she was fluently bilingual from infancy, and even trilingual in a third language. The linguistic load doesn't appear to have done her any harm; on the contrary her mastery of several languages was to prove very advantageous. (Incidentally we may reflect how her family's flight shows that the conditions which have led to the present caravans at the US border are far from recent.)
"I learned English in school and taught myself Spanish at the age of nine. As I was growing up, we moved to different states across the U.S. because my mother was a migrant worker.  This is how I was exposed to the different languages spoken by my people from Guatemala. " 
She doesn't say that she was taught English at school, so maybe she taught herself English as she did Spanish or she just picked it up. Notice that she learned Spanish in the US, which is an indication of how prevalent and influential Spanish has become there.

Now we come to the beginning of her translating.
"I began interpreting at a very young age because my mother needed me to interpret for her.  I remember interpreting and negotiating her work contracts when I was just eight or nine years old.  Even as a teenager I did a lot of interpreting for our family friends."
This was a typical experience for a Child Language Broker. Her mention of "negotiating her work contracts"  illustrates how the brokering involves more than merely translating.
"In 2002, I was actually interpreting for a family friend when I was discovered by Berlitz (a global leadership training and language education company).  I was tested, certified and then given the opportunity to do immigration court interpreting as a contractor.  I have been interpreting professionally since 2002."
So by 2002 Carmelina's practical experience had taken her to the level of Advanced Native Translator, still uncertiified. It's no accident that she was spotted, recruited and professionalised by the Berlitz organisation. In 1970 I myself was given my first job as interpreter by Berlitz – Berlitz Montreal; and Berlitz has a busy office where I now live in Valencia, Spain. Berlitz is famous for language teaching, but few people realise how important it has been in the private sector translation and interpreting market. The Wikipedia article on the Berlitz Corporation doesn't even mention it.
"I was inspired to become a [professional] Interpreter by the needs of those around me.  No matter where I was, there was always someone that needed my help, especially because the languages I speak are rare and there are very few Interpreters."
Carmelina points here to the enduring problem of finding interpreters for what UNESCO calls "languages of limited diffusion." In this age of mass travel and migration, the diasporas of these rare languages are widely spread. And as we know in Canada, each wave of hardship or repression in one part of the globe produces a new and unexpected language demand in another.
"I am proud to bring a strong sense of cultural awareness to every session I interpret for.  It is extremely important to be knowledgeable and up-to-date about the diversity that exists between each community of Mayan languages. I travel to Guatemala when I can in order to maintain my fluency and continue learning first-hand about my Mayan culture."
Recognition for the strong link between language and culture and the impact of this on interpreting. Also of the way languages are constantly changing.
"And because I was raised here in the United States, I am able to assist the English speaker that is trying to communicate with the Limited English Proficient individual."
This is an interesting example of the services an interpreter can provide besides translating. Yet interpreter training programs tend to ignore them.
"I recommend you start by providing volunteer interpreting services; It will help you get the experience you need to interpret professionally."
Students naturally want to earn money as soon as they graduate. But most of them need experience more tHan they need money, because only by experience – if possible, daily experience – can they reach true Expert level.

Interpreter spotlight - Carmelina C. Language Services Associates, 2013.

Term note
Native interpreter is a term Carmelina applies to herself. She means one drawn from a Central Amercan indigenous people, but it could be used for indigenous communities anywhere. Nor is it confined to community interpreting. In the Canadian north, for instance, there are Inuk parliamentary native interpreters for their language Inuktituk in the provincial and territorial legislatures.