Effective Japanese – English Interpreting

People I know label me as a researcher with great language skills.But my unique and best skill that stands out above others is simultaneous interpreting, going from Japanese into English.Recently I had the opportunity to interpret for an event to learn about Japanese culture, with about 55 Japanese and 25 foreign guests.I was responsible for simultaneously interpreting the speech given by 3 different Japanese presenter into English, with each speech lasting about 20 minutes.It wasn’t easy, because ikebana (flower art), haiku (short poem) nor Wagashi (Japanese sweets) are not the topic that I am very familiar with.But I loved all the speeches, and I did my best to interpret the speeches to share my love.

After the session, I was much surprised to be thanked by a few of the foreign guests and a few of the English speaking Japanese who were listening to my interpreting.They were marveling at how I was able to keep up with the contents that was mostly ad lib, and how I was able to change tone.

I never thought much about how I interpret, but in case someone was thinking of becoming an interpreter, or trying to improve their interpreting skill, here is to share what I think that helps in becoming an effective Japanese – English interpreter.Maybe this would help with other languages too.

1.Read lots of books, articles, pamphlets and brochures in English and Japanese in topics you are interested.No need to read the same thing in two languages.Just read in whichever language you feel like at that time.The key here is the readings must in topics that interests you.More passionate you feel the better, as you would read more and enjoy what you read.

2.Watch lots of interesting TV shows, movies, internet video clips in English and Japanese.Again, same as reading, no need to watch the same thing in two languages.You are building your vocabulary list and natural way of saying things in informal situation in 1 and 2.

3.Attend seminars and take courses that interests you in either language.You will learn to natural way to speak and write in formal tone.

4.Go to places that interests you, travel to places and check out things that interests you.Even with business travel, if you would seek out things that interests you, you learn and enjoy so much.

5.At work or at community, volunteer to do things that interests you or things that seems important.Always volunteer to be a guide to both domestic and foreign guests.You will learn that some people are annoyed, amazed and comforted by things that you find ordinary, and through this experience you will begin to be able to know how much extra or how little explanations are needed to be integrated into  what you say when you interpret.

6.Live according to what you believe in.Tell jokes.Most of the time, people won’t laugh, but it’s good to be used to failing.Believe me, you will fail over and over again.But when you are interpreting for new materials, more you do, more you fail.It’s just how learning happens.

7.By doing 1 through 6, You will learn the overall view about all thing sorts of things in life in general, and this is so important in understanding when someone is saying something in one language so that you can explain to someone with different way of thinking, with different culture.

8.I read somewhere that Haruki Murakami writes with simple vocabularies, being considerate that his books might be translated into another language.When interpreting, understand the worldview the speaker has and interpret using simple words that you know to convey the heart of what the speaker is saying.Most of the time, the listener will much appreciate understanding what the speaker’s world view.Technical words and accuracy in vocabulary are great if these words come naturally to you, but even in medical and technical interpreting, do your best to interpret the side stories, analogies and metaphors, while covering the basics of the speech.

9.Very important last bit is acting.Like actor or actress acting.Becoming the person you are interpreting.That means no monotonous tone.You would be bored to tears listening to a monotonous lecture.Know that a monotonous interpreting tone produces that effect.If the speaker is bubbly, mimic the bubbly tone.If the speaker is fast paced, telling dry jokes, mimic that the best you can.In this way, you will be able to interpret even the speaker’s personality.

10.If you would continue doing this for months, then years, your life will be enriched and so do your language ability in both English and Japanese.Remember, interpreting, especially simultaneous interpreting, is a form of sports.More you do it, you can be faster, more efficiently and more endurance like a long distance runner.

If you are an interpreter, or someone who has other profession who is recognized as a good interpreter, I hope you will keep doing it. Good interpreter can do so much in creating good will between cultures.  Good luck with your continuing interpreting work!

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