Saturday, December 19, 2015

Um… Uh…

Preparing my paper for the NPIT conference in May forces me to look again at some of the things I've written. For instance, at what distinguishes the Expert Interpreter from the Natural or Native Interpreter.

Like all things natural, Natural Translation, as has been said before on this blog, has its pathology. So does natural speaking; and since one half of interpreting is speaking, the pathology of speaking tends to carry over into interpreting. See for example what has appeared here before about the interpreter's voice (enter voice in the Search box on the right).

There is a lady who calls her self Impromptu Guru (see Reference and Image) and who advertises on the internet. Her headline goes like this:

How to Eliminate the 'Ums' and 'Uhs' from Your Speeches.

and she calls them "cringe-worthy".

Linguists call them filler words, though they aren't really words. Filler sounds would be better. Their absence may be superficial but it's one of the symptomatic differences that distinguish the polished Expert Interpreter. I used to be in a team sometimes with such an interpreter who happened to be a French Canadian nun and worked only for NGOs. French Canadian nuns (and probably other nuns) are notable for their clear enunciation. One day somebody in our audience said to me, "It's a real pleasure to listen to your colleague. She speaks so firmly, never stumbles, never backtracks, never says er or um." And she was equally so in English and French. I felt envious and it made me conscious of my own tendency to do so, which is typical of native English speakers especially from the UK. We might call it 'the English disease'.

We must take Natural Interpreters as we find them, but it follows that the Expert Interpreter should be a good speaker; and this is especially true in consecutive interpreting, where the output is rephrased and is conditioned by the interpreter's own speech habits and there is more opportunity to aim for quality. It's also something to be considered when selecting candidates for training and during the training itself.

Jill Schiefelbein. How to eliminate 'ums' and 'uhs' from your speeches. Entrepreneur Network, 9 December 2015.


NPIT3, Winterthur (near Zurich), 5-7 May 2016
International forum for Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation, the latest paradigm in translation studies.


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