Jelena Stojkovic-Ring, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Conference and Language Services Section, Conference Interpretation Unit
Interpreters working at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have the right and duty to ensure accuracy of their output. Users of simultaneous interpretation in legal settings often believe that ‘accurate’ interpretation is a literal, word-for-word translation.
On the other hand, the practitioners for the most part believe that the purpose of the simultaneous interpretation is to faithfully transfer the message the speaker is trying to convey. For all intents and purposes, those who use the interpretation should have the same understanding of the speaker as those who listen to the original text.
The purpose of this presentation is to highlight situations in which the interpreters are forced to stick to the word-for-word strategy (to comply with the users’ perception of accuracy, particularly in low-context vs. high-context messages) at the expense of the sense, and to contrast them with situations where the interpreters judge it is ‘safe’ to do the opposite; situations where the interpreters have produced ‘accurate’ output but know it to be incomplete because it lacks cultural context (easily included in translation through translator’s notes etc.); situations where the linguistic means at the interpreters’ disposal cannot convey a full picture of the speaker (body language may be visible to all, but register or tone of voice are accessible only to those who speak the language).
This presentation will look at the means used by interpreters to bring the users’ attention to all those elements.
The presentation will analyze a number of situations in various trials before the ICTY, collected through a survey of interpreters. The analysis leads the authors to conclude that ‘accuracy’ (construed as word-for-word rendition) should not be set as the overarching objective of simultaneous interpreting in legal settings. Requiring interpreters to ‘convey the message faithfully’ would legitimize the current practice and lead to less confusion.