Language in the news

The speaker’s role in multilingual communication, news from the EU, recent research, and interpreters as fictional characters are on the roll call.

It's about communication

This issue has abundant information on booths and the importance of external conditions to quality interpretation. As some of our authors have mentioned, the way someone speaks must also be added to the mix

"Whether you are chairing or participating in a multilingual meeting, it is useful to think about how your message gets across through interpretation. The interpreters are there to help the meeting proceed as if everyone were speaking the same language." Thus begins an admirable attempt to make speakers aware of the various elements linking them to interpreters: "Tips for Speakers: How to speak in multilingual conferences," elaborated by the DG for Interpretation of the European Commission.

But has this campaign made an impact? Two of our colleagues in Brussels, Claude Durant and José Ignacio Iturri, carried out an initial follow up study and reported their findings in SCICNEWS.

You can read more about this in Spanish, some of it from AIIC members who were interviewed. Cinco Días quotes the DG: "Nuestra experiencia indica que la capacidad de comunicación de los participantes tiene una importancia clave en las reuniones multilingües.

Europa in 20+ languages

The EU keeps adding languages. If you're curious to hear what the current official languages sound like, visit this sampler page on the EUROPA website. From there you might want to continue on to EUROPA's all-purpose language portal.

Irish will be the next to join the list. "But attempts to recruit interpreters after the Irish Government's successful campaign to have the country's language recognised formally are floundering badly," reports the Times Online. These feelings are echoed by The Irish Post.

And back on the equipment front

Before we leave the EU, you might want to check out the Headphone Survey. Yes, this is the very headset that Phil Smith referred to in his column!

On the Research and Development Front

"Imagine mouthing a phrase in English, only for the words to come out in Spanish. That is the promise of a device that will make anyone appear bilingual, by translating unvoiced words into synthetic speech in another language." Thus begins a New Scientist article on sub-vocal speech recognition.

The same research is reported in Spanish by the Madrid daily ABC. "¿Podrían cerrar de la noche a la mañana todas las escuelas de idiomas? ¿Se va a inventar algo que permita comunicarse en cualquier lengua, sin necesidad de pasarse media vida aprendiéndola?"

We're all familiar with online translation programs - and their limitations. "Google translation is coherent not," is the title of a review on ZDNet, which goes on to say that "Google translation plays the role not of interpreter but comic. Google's playing the role of a kind of Borat making fun of how little we want to understand others. Calling this ‘translation' is like believing Borat is a serious journalist."

Microsoft is working on an online translator that would work in real time within a chat/messenger system. It's being developed in India and indiatimes reports.

Something Borrowed or the Joy of Foreign Words

English has long imported words - think of a breakfast of café latte and a croissant. But should we perhaps start using gigi rongak or bakku-shan? BBC News takes a look at The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

Books: The Interpreter as Character

Interpreters seem to be proliferating on the screen and in novels. Could it be that we serve to symbolize something - beyond the realities of our actual work - in a world in which borders have less meaning even while they still are at the root of many a conflict? I predict that we'll soon see a doctoral thesis on the subject from a literature or interpreting studies student.

Two well-known authors have joined the fray. The narrator of Mario Vargas Llosa's new novel, Travesuras de la Niña Mala, becomes an interpreter, albeit a fictional one: "An interpreter, a colleague half-jokes, is a man who exists merely to transmit the thoughts and words of others, a being who ‘only is when he is not'." Read more in this Time Literary Supplement review.

John Le Carré's new book, The Mission Song, also gives its protagonist a career in our noble profession. The New York Times' review of the book remarks that: "He's an outsider by birth: his father was an Irish Catholic missionary, his mother a Congolese village woman. His job in London as a top-flight interpreter... has amplified two qualities shared by many of the author's heroes: a longing to be ‘all things to all men' and an ‘inextinguishable  need to belong'."

Fiction and nothing but? Within the realm of plausibility? More or less believable than Nicole Kidman? If you've read either book, give us you opinion.

Videos: The reality of interpreting into 7 languages?

Colleagues have been busy lately applying the plausibility/verisimilitude test to a YouTube video making the rounds. What do you think it merits on a scale of 1 to 10? Check out Catherine Tate - Translator for a 7-tongued laugh.

Recommended citation format:
Luigi LUCCARELLI. "Language in the news". December 4, 2006. Accessed April 8, 2020. <>.

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