Copyright Martin Esposito - All rights reserved
I increasingly feel we are obsessed with outcome-based behaviours. The bottom line. All things, in one word only, teleological. So what's the problem now, you may ask? Well, let us imagine we come across a wad of banknotes as we walk to work. Nothing wrong with a little unexpected bonus, of course. But we wouldn't leave our job in order to comb the streets to increase the chance of that happening again...or would we? Put more subtly, do those rare occasions in which our conference is cancelled but we get paid anyway entice us to hope this may happen again? And is it right? Could praying for easy speakers who also supply a text become a habit? I just cannot imagine a colleague as un-cool as one who actually feels sorry the challenge is taken away by these little advantages yet I believe care needs to be exercised. Well, no matter right now, I'm going to change the subject. Only slightly. I used "teleological" at a job once, and was reprimanded by a colleague: these guys are just regular folks, he said, they don't understand what you are on about. Our job is to transmit a clear message. Sure. But that was the message - in fact the very word - in the source language. The speaker had decided rightly or wrongly to use it, either because she thought the audience would get it, or because she actually wanted to come across as sophisticated, superior, intellectual, obscure, whatever... So now I'm entitled to decide how clever listeners are, and how articulate the speaker is. And to shine a light on what in my...interpretation...was not meant to be bright. Again, I get worried. And this time it's not one of my conservative policies against acronyms or company-speak (read back for that, there's plenty of it). Just to be transparent: if Mr Speaker wants me to take him down a notch, or to sound like an Italian who knows English so well he has forgotten his Italian, or for me to interpret backwards like a subliminal message from a Stones' record, I'm at your service. I'll do most things it says in my contract, and more. But this is different. It's a bit like those enlightened travellers who choose a cheap and cheerful hotel, and then feel the need to enhance it and prove they have seen better by complaining about most of the experience. The vulgar equalization of it all, just because you cannot judge a restaurant from the outside by its livery, or worse because you can't keep up with a register hitherto unknown is to be frowned upon, and probably dangerous in a continent such as Europe where too many people speak too many languages badly. We should serve, I agree, but as mentioned elsewhere, with proficiency. Perhaps said register could become a direction of study - probably a more fruitful one than spending time oversimplifying already simple messages which, quite simply, don't want to be simplified - yes? Sorry. I meant: what is behind words must be part of the message, and that is what we have to deal with. The unspoken interpretation is often neglected, always underrated. Not what she said, but what would she say if she knew the language like I should? Am I entitled to make this interpretation? Well, at least as much as the one my colleague advocated above. Am I going to be worthy of a Speaker's steel? Or just hiding and hoping for that free stash of cash? Not game. It's a pirate's life for me...
About this blog
A sideways glance at conference interpreting, living bilingual and balancing the composite identity. The poetics of a craft and a repository of past thoughts. (Some links may no longer be active).