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Interpreting Basics - Interpreting 101: What Is Interpreting, Anyway?

Updated on October 24, 2012
Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA
Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA | Source

So, What Is Interpreting or Interpretation, Exactly?

Not to be confused with historical interpretation, such as the people at Plimoth Plantation (in Massachusetts) or Colonial Williamsburg (in Virginia) who act and speak as though they are colonists, living and working in those historical time periods, language interpreting or interpretation is the act of rendering speech from one language into another (orally or by signing). This includes rendering the same level of discourse (register), grammatical and semantic expression (tone), cultural nuances, emotion and feeling as those of the original utterance.

American Sign Language Interpreter
American Sign Language Interpreter | Source

That means that if someone bounces into the room (or onto a stage, etc.), happily screaming, "Wazzup?!" the interpreter, while not physically bouncing or screaming his-/herself, must use his voice and linguistic knowledge to convey the same (or, for many languages, equivalent) expression, including the bouncy, happy, exclamatory feeling, in the target language. It wouldn't do, for example, for an interpreter simply to say, "Hello" in the target language because "Hello" does not convey the same level of language (extremely familiar, cool, hip, "street"). If someone else comes in and says, "Einstein's Theory of Relativity became the foundation for the field of quantum mechanics" or "The Earth has been proven to be 6,000 years old," the interpreter must also be able to render those statements, without simplifying, adding, subtracting (or correcting the content).

© 2012 Everymom/Language Development Company

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