Why the word for interpreters is "posé(e)"...

Post date: Dec 01, 2011 4:40:45 PM

Delivery - in simple terms, how one speaks - is absolutely vital for interpreters. Clear, level delivery, with appropriate control of pitch, tone and volume, gives clients confidence that meaning is being rendered efficiently and effectively, and that the interpreter is in control of the subject. It also allows all those present to hear clearly, with minimum risk of content being lost due to noise or other interference.

Having "une voix bien posée" (a steady voice) is the key. Here are a few suggestions for ensuring effective delivery when working as a consecutive (liaison) interpreter:

- try and keep your voice level, reasonably devoid of emotion (but not robotic!), and at a decent volume for the entire audience to hear, taking account of the environment.

- try to speak at an even pace, so that everybody can follow your words easily, particularly non-native speakers of the target language

- it is OK to change your pitch slightly to reflect emotions such as anger on the part of your client, but in a consecutive interpreting situation (where all parties are physically present), their emotion should be reasonably clear from their facial expression, voice tone and body language, so you should generally only need to convey their words, with perhaps a minor change in your inflection to support the meaning

- you may also need to vary your tone, pitch and volume to take account of other factors such as interference, environment, client positioning, and meaning, but you should only do this where appropriate

- avoid smiling, laughing or giggling when speaking - many interpreters do this when they are not confident of the content they are providing, and it is often a telltale sign that the message is not being clearly rendered

- don't speak too quietly - the client will assume you are not confident

- don't "tail off" - a decline in volume and a descending pitch at the end of a segment again reflects a lack of confidence in what you are saying, and means that content at the end of a segment (often key to the overall meaning) can be lost

- don't end over-emphatically either (i.e. on a verbal flourish, or with an increase in volume) - this is a common characteristic in interpreters attempting (often subconsciously) to cover up for a lack of confidence or understanding

- don't add your view, however briefly (by interjecting "obviously" or "clearly", for example)

- try not to intervene in the discussion unless it is genuinely necessary. This is related to delivery in that an interpreter who is not confident will often tail off, and then enter the discussion as an interlocutor, rather than an interpreter, to seek or provide explanation

- make sure you interpret in manageable chunks - if you are interpreting an excessively long segment, your delivery is more likely to be rushed, and there is a greater risk of poor delivery (i.e. tailing off) if your confidence fades towards the end

- don't be over-sensitive - if there is interference (generally in the form of noise), adjust your delivery accordingly, or stop and wait for the noise or other interference to subside before continuing. The interference may not be the fault of your clients, and the interpreter who huffs and puffs will confuse and bemuse the client (however unfair this may seem). So deal with interference professionally and calmly, and maintain a steady delivery throughout wherever possible.

I can feel another post on the subject of interference coming on...