Dec 16, 2015

ATA 2015: The Japanese-English Interpreter's Panel

ATA 56th Annual Conference Session J-8
Saturday, Nov 07, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Session Summary by
Tyler Miller

There were many things to take away from the entertaining and informative Japanese/English Interpreters Panel at the Miami ATA conference.  The four presenters, Ms. Izumi Suzuki, Mr. Hiro Tsuchiya, Mr. James Patrick, and Mr. Paul Koehler each provided different perspectives on not only on the ever-changing world of Japanese/English interpretation but also the nebulous role that an interpreter can sometimes play in that world. Each presenter brought their differing views on some of the challenges faced by interpreters as well. 

Every person came into Japanese/English interpretation from different avenues.  As a relatively new interpreter living in a small town in Kentucky where the only experience I have had with other interpreters has been with those with whom I work, it was enlightening to learn how each presenter came into their current roles.  From Mr. Koehler and Mr. Patrick who worked in journalism and Japanese government offices respectively, to Ms. Suzuki, who changed careers from being a professional ballet dancer, and Mr. Tsuchiya, who learned to interpret on the job and now runs a full-service Japanese support company, each person worked in different fields and received different types of training on their way to becoming the successful interpreters they are today.

To the several questions related to changing technology and its effect on Japanese/English interpretation, Ms. Suzuki talked about how the availability of information on the internet has allowed interpreters to come to each job with better background information. However, the growing prevalence of remote interpretation has caused frustration for many interpreters. Mr. Tsuchiya most definitely agreed on this particular point. Nonetheless Mr. Patrick did argue that if remote interpretation is done correctly, it can seem just like you are interpreting from a booth.  Additionally, all of the panelists seemed to agree on the fact that videoconferencing and tele-interpretation programs will continue to gain wider use.

When asked about the role of the interpreter in meetings, there were differing opinions on how much  the interpreter should help resolve confrontation.  Mr. Patrick stated that sometimes conflict can be good if it drives the conversation toward a positive end. The interpreter’s role is thus to let that conflict exist (unless it was poor interpretation that caused the conflict). Ms. Suzuki also stated that the role of the interpreter as it relates to this question differs dramatically based on the situation.  For example, one should not attempt to assuage confrontation in a court room as a lawyer may being to instigate just that. Mr. Tsuchiya, coming at the question from the point of view of an interpreter and company consultant, argued that the interpreter’s job in some situations is to ensure that the meeting is effective and productive.  The variety of comments seemed to speak to the question of in the limited time allotted).

After speaking about tips such as shadowing and note taking for making the transition to interpretation, each presenter spoke about what they would have liked to have known earlier in their interpreting careers. Mr. Koehler wished that he had more confidence in his interpretation.  Mr. Patrick stated that he should have forgiven himself more for the mistakes he has made. Ms. Izumi wished that she had realized earlier the importance of conveying the meaning or feeling behind words rather than the words themselves. She also argued for the importance of the arts in developing the ability to convey the heart behind the words.  Mr. Tsuchiya finally stated that the purpose of the interpreter is to relay the meaning people want to express rather than the words they use to express that.
In the end, just as each person came into interpretation on different paths originating from different backgrounds, they offered different advice to those walking similar paths.  For that, the other attendees and I are grateful.

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