The Role of the Interpreter/Translator as a Cultural Mediator
Most dictionaries define an interpreter as someone who makes it possible for two or more people to communicate when these individuals speak different languages. However, a language cannot exist independent of culture. As such, is it possible that the interpreter also has a role as a cultural mediator, in other words, someone who explains cultural differences with the goal of improving communication, generating fewer misunderstandings, and obtaining better or fairer results for those they serve (while still remaining impartial)? And if we assume that an interpreter is supposed to give cultural explanations, when and how should this be done? My intuition, upon undertaking this topic of study, is that in some cases, cultural explanations may prove indispensable to allow for smoother communication between two parties, even though everything I had heard and studied prior had indicated quite the contrary.
To adequately present the concept of cultural mediation in interpretation, I find it necessary to pinpoint the professional and ethical responsibilities of the interpreter/translator in the context of legal interpretation, medical interpretation, international relations, marketing and localization, and to define the word “culture” and how culture can be acquired. Is it actually feasible to completely understand and master two cultures and two languages in order to best fulfill the role of cultural mediator and interpreter? There is also a short but lively segment dedicated to jokes and insults, many of which cannot be fully appreciated or understood outside of their cultural context. Most of the examples given are based on Spanish and Romanian which are my working languages, but this workshop is open to and beneficial to interpreters of all languages and input is welcome from all participants, as this is an interactive presentation.