Before I became part of the language services industry, I really didn't even know it existed. I speak English and never came up against a language barrier. Everyone around me spoke my language and even regional dialects are easy to comprehend. Although I wasn't angry that others didn't speak English, I figured if they wanted to, they could adapt. What an eye-opener it was when I actually learned about the difficulties of those that didn't speak English well or at all.
Communicating in another language on a vacation, or during French class, or for amusement, was never life threatening or complex. It was simply fun to know a few sentences, order a meal or two, or ask, “¿Dónde está el baño?” But in real life, those that cannot speak or understand the language are totally left out in the cold, confused and helpless. Yes, they can learn to speak English, but while they do, or don't, they still need to be able to converse in situations like health care, legal, 911, banking, or even retail. That's where language services offer solutions that are irreplaceable. Though the phone or video, or even onsite, any company, organization, or agency can quickly access an interpreter to participate in a three-way conversation where all parties can understand what the other is saying. Not just the words, but meaning-for-meaning. This builds trust and loyalty, improves productivity, and boosts customer service.
Man vs. Machine
Of course we all hear about GoogleTranslate and other machine translation abilities. That's really cool and the possibilities are growing. But if I am in the emergency room and I need to explain why I am there, I want to depend on someone who understands my language and can interpret accurately what I am trying to convey. I wouldn't want appendix surgery when I am complaining about a sore ab from exercise. I think abs get sore from exercise, but that's a different story.
The Whole Picture, Not a Snapshot
I watched this great video about the value of professional interpreting and it inspired me. It explained what interpreting really is. The complexity of language, the nuance of dialect, the soul of the conversation, cannot be machine translated. That's really what makes language unique. The adjectives, adverbs, and idioms describe the situation, the feeling, not just bare facts. I can say the the meal looks good. But if I said, the steaming pasta was smothered in a sweet, cheesy, cream sauce, topped with blackened salmon and pungent chopped chives, you can picture it, maybe even taste it. That's what interpreting is all about, the ability to share the whole story from one language into another. This short video helps us to understand that words are special ingredients in a language that give it unique flavor and the added value professional interpreters bring to the table.
All around the world people are sharing thoughts, having conversations, and communicating in hundreds of lively, flavorful, rich languages. Language barriers exist, not just at the U.N., but everywhere, every day. I can say I am proud to help, even in just a very small way, offer a service that helps bridge the roadblock to understanding. And, sadly, now I am hungry.