Accuracy: The Importance of Professional Linguists

Under Blog | Posted by Richard Ochab

We were recently reminded, again, of the importance of having trained, professional translators and interpreters in our global community.  These professionals help people to better understand each other and can help to facilitate the communication of important and even life-saving  information.

Hurricane Irma recently hit the State of Florida with strong winds and heavy rains.  As Irma was approaching landfall, a county department of emergency management in Florida held a preparedness press conference that included a life guard who was on staff with the county to serve as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.  The life guard has a deaf sibling, and sign language is spoken at his home.

Unfortunately, while the staff employee had an understanding of ASL, he was not a professional interpreter, and his interpretation was not accurate.  Several professional, ASL interpreters in the area posted their own vlogs to interpret the news conference for the local community.

In this case, we absolutely appreciate the effort of the county to provide an ASL interpreter in such an emergency, and realize the situation’s urgency.  Yet, accuracy was lost.  It serves as an example of how emergency preparedness plans should include contingencies for interpretation services and the translation of needed information.

The importance of using professional translators to ensure accuracy can also be spotlighted in world politics and history.

A recent article in The Atlantic, “How Mistranslation Could Threaten the Iran Deal,” spotlights several instances how mistranslations in the speeches or comments by world leaders impacted foreign policies and world history, including the recent nuclear deal with Iran, the World War II Potsdam Conference, and the arms race during the Cold War.

We are often asked why a bilingual person can’t be used as a translator or interpreter.  The fact is that while they may be able to speak more than one language, they might lack the needed education, training, and experience to provide professional and accurate language services. Just like knowing how to cook does not make you a chef, knowing another language does not make you a professional interpreter or translator.

The most important service we provide our clients is the accuracy of our language services.  It gives our clients peace of mind, and that value is generated by the professional skills of the accomplished  translators and interpreters we provide.

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