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Even If I Open Pandora's Box
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Even If I Open Pandora's Box..

By Marianne Pripps-Huertas, Secretary of BACI (Bay Area Association of Court Interpreters), NCTA and ATA member

I've often asked myself why I'm so bothered by the apparent apathy that I perceive occurs between translators and interpreters. In my mind, those two professions are inextricably linked. At NCTA general meetings interpreters and translators mingle freely, but when issues pertaining to either one are on the table, the other generally does not attend or pay attention. Yet many of us are practicing both professions more and more, and the increase in NCTA membership reflects this fact. Even ATA is establishing an interpreting division. Why, then, is it that I feel this "separation?" Is this chasm good or is it counterproductive to our interests as an industry? Is it just me...?

For those of us who practice both, it is difficult to explain. I know that it is harder or even impossible for some to produce good language on the fly. I also know that it is harder for others to think, create and write good language on paper (or hard disk, rather). But I believe it goes beyond the cognitive skills required to do the job. Is it then that we are so individualistic that we don't want to bother with the other's quest to produce meaning?

I currently spend most of my available time in court for various reasons. Do I do it because it's "easier," more structured, and I'm assured a steady paycheck (however pitiful that paycheck may be)? Perhaps. Easier is a matter of opinion. I definitely can say that it's more structured than getting up and going to your home office, if you have one, and forcing yourself to work on the document until noon or whatever. When you're in court, you know what your assignments are and where they're located. You do them, go home, and crash due to temporary brain dysfunction. When I'm in front of my computer, however, I cannot stop thinking of a better and more concise way of rendering whatever I have before me. I even partake of my meals in front of the document, sharing those moments that should be pleasurable with terminology for asbestos-removal training. It is like a drug fix. If I haven't engaged in translation more, it may have to do with the lurking fear and anxiety of wanting to do a top job managing several projects at once. (I suspect that most, if not all of us, are just as exacting and perfectionist.)

I prefer translation, frankly. I like having all my dictionaries and resource books open at the same time, moving about in the room pottering and pondering. That does not, however, prevent me from understanding what my fellow interpreters experience day in and day out. In many ways it's the same frustrations manifested in different forms. I intensely dislike having to vie with a quasi-Spanish speaking attorney when he tries to manipulate the process by using me as a scapegoat. That's essentially the same as having to patiently explain to a client why using American colloquialisms in his prized brochure won't fly in Ecuador or that Castillian grammar is no different from Latin American.

We are at a crucial juncture. Our professions are starting to be recognized in the outside world. It is time that we present a united front for the dignity and respectability of our chosen field. This requires that we listen to what the other's needs and crises are. It requires that we cooperate with each other in whatever ways we can to foster growth, our own and the profession's. It also requires that we be informed of what critical issues the other is facing and whether those issues may ultimately affect everyone. Even if I open Pandora's box, I wish to establish a dialogue between us because, like siblings, we were born from the same stock and the outcome of our work will reflect upon our family.


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