The Role of Interpreting in Difficult International Negotiations

This month we are publishing Essays on Conference Interpreting by James Nolan. In this post the author explains the role of interpreting in difficult international negotiations.

Commonalities and Groups

Negotiating difficulty stems from adversarial positions between two countries or from distances between them in the global geopolitical arena that make it hard to bridge the communication gap.

Although bilateral treaties still serve their purpose, diplomatic relations are increasingly multilateral, channeled in multiple languages through contacts in diverse forums, encompassing far-reaching global issues and broad areas of common ground. In conferences dealing with many areas of knowledge, trade, science, industry or culture, diverse nations often adopt similar public positions and countries align themselves in categories according to geographical and economic realities, regional affinities or shared negotiating postures.

Countries may form coalitions based on similar interests, shared cultural and linguistic origins, similar circumstances, shared perspectives on common problems, or strategic alliances. Even on vital national security interests and problems as daunting as global climate change or pandemics, consensus positions are often possible and compromise solutions often temper sovereignty. The contents of public statements made in debate at global conferences cut across cultural, political, geographic and linguistic lines, and deliberations focused on existential threats, such as climate change, have revealed a vast area of common ground which, by its urgency, eclipses many individual differences in national negotiating postures, as failure to address such threats could imply futility for all other issues and efforts.

The interpreter’s role differs significantly when interpreting in a bilingual setting, be it in a bilateral encounter or legal dispute, or when interpreting into two target languages. In a one-on-one conversation the parties may be sharing the same stage but pursuing divergent aims that shape the public postures they adopt and their expectations of how interpreters should perform. The interpreter is occupationally vulnerable to counter-pressures from his two clients. No matter what he does, one party is apt to be displeased. Accordingly, in many bilateral encounters each party provides its own interpreter, placing each interpreter in a less ambivalent position and reducing role strain.

Identifying with the Principal

When making a speech or argument to an international audience, speakers customarily address the chairperson or presiding officer of the conference, invoking general principles that set the scene and strengthen the argument, and the speech generally embodies a point of view that is in some measure regional or global. For the interpreter, giving a convincing rendition of this type of speech means adopting an impartial attitude while also knowing how to identify with the principal sufficiently to make the interpretation performance effective in terms of advocacy.

James Nolan

j.nolan@aiic.net

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English for Diplomatic Purposes edited by Patricia Friedrich. 

Exciting New Multilingual Matters Titles for 2020

We can’t believe the first month of 2020 is almost over! It seems like only yesterday we were decorating the office and singing along to our Christmas playlist. However, if January has seemed like a very long month to you, we have plenty of exciting new titles coming up to fend off the winter blues. Here’s a selection of what we’ve got in store for you this spring…

Global TESOL for the 21st Century by Heath Rose, Mona Syrbe, Anuchaya Montakantiwong and Natsuno Funada

This book explores the impact of the spread of English on language teaching and learning. It provides a framework for change in the way English is taught to better reflect global realities and to embrace current research. The book is essential reading for postgraduate researchers, teachers and teacher trainers in TESOL.

Speaking Spanish in the US by Janet M. Fuller and Jennifer Leeman

This book introduces readers to basic concepts of sociolinguistics with a focus on Spanish in the US. The coverage goes beyond linguistics to examine the history and politics of Spanish in the US, the relationship of language to Latinx identities, and how language ideologies and policies reflect and shape societal views of Spanish and its speakers.

Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton and Martha Young-Scholten

This book aims to empower teachers working with adult migrants who have had little or no prior formal schooling, and give them the information and skills that they need to reach the highest possible levels of literacy in their new languages.

Essays on Conference Interpreting by James Nolan

This book, drawing on the author’s 30-year career, seeks to define what constitutes good interpreting and how to develop the skills and abilities that are conducive to it. It places interpretation in its historical context and examines the uses and limitations of modern technology for interpreting.

 

The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education edited by Joel Austin Windle, Dánie de Jesus and Lesley Bartlett

This book contributes new perspectives from the Global South on the ways in which linguistic and discursive boundaries shape inequalities in educational contexts, ranging from Amazonian missions to Mongolian universities, using critical ethnographic and sociolinguistic analyses.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Language Teaching edited by Christina Gkonou, Jean-Marc Dewaele and Jim King

This book focuses on the emotional complexity of language teaching and how the diverse emotions that teachers experience are shaped and function. The book covers a range of emotion-related topics on both positive and negative emotions, including emotional labour, burnout, emotion regulation, resilience, emotional intelligence and wellbeing.

 

Seen something you like? All these titles are available to pre-order on our website and you can get 50% off this month when you enter the code JANSALE at the checkout!

New edition of Interpretation by James Nolan

With the second edition of Interpretation: Techniques and Exercises published this week, we asked the book’s author James Nolan to tell us a little about the different places where the book is used and what new material is included in the new edition.

Glendon College, Toronto

The first edition of Interpretation: Techniques and Exercises has been adopted by many interpreter training programs offered by institutions, universities and interpreters’ associations, including seminars and workshops for conference interpreters, court interpreters, military interpreters and community interpreters. Recently, the book gained recognition as one of the main authoritative works in the field by being cited in an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/supreme_court_preview/briefs/10-1472_petitioner_amcu_professors.authcheckdam.pdf

Multicultural Community Services, Washington D.C.

Using the book’s syllabus and exercises in a series of professional-level training events has provided me with fertile ground for creating innovative teaching scenarios. Last year, in a seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand, we were able to develop video-based interpreting exercises and role-plays using several languages, including sign language. This year, at a training course in Washington D.C., I used the book for the first time in a seminar for community interpreters grouping several different language combinations, adapting the exercises to their needs.

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

In the second edition I have made several improvements and brought the book up to date. First, I incorporated a number of suggestions I had gleaned from readers, students and book reviewers that I felt would make the book more useful. I edited a number of exercises to make them useable with additional language combinations, and included a section of additional exercises to help develop short-term memory and to practice reformulation strategies. Last but not least, I included in the bibliography a section of internet links providing quick access to audio or video speeches for listening and interpretation practice. This last feature will make the book better suited for use with the distance-learning interpretation courses that have recently been making their appearance, and may contribute to making those courses more effective. I will be teaching one such course myself this fall for Glendon College and I hope the experience will suggest further improvements that can be made to the book.