Among the top high-pressure positions for a language professional is being a government interpreting services provider. The pressure mainly comes because a government interpreter’s work is a crucial part of cross-cultural discussions. Essentially, they are a combination of a corporate interpreter, a business interpreter and an international translator. Not only does a government interpreter have to be fluent in various languages, but they must constantly study new policy topics or other information related to the issue at hand—including such high stakes items as nuclear weapons, military strategy, and diplomatic relations.
Government interpreter memoirs
Throughout history there have been some celebrated works written by government interpreters such as: Memoirs of an Interpreter by A.H. Birse, an interpreter during Churchill’s talks with Stalin. Another noted title is Translating History: 30 Years on the Front Lines of Diplomacy with a Top Russian Interpreter by Igor Korchilov, Mikhail Gorbachev’s interpreter. “You Say Okjeryok, I Say Deterrent” was written by Tong Kim, who was an interpreter for Albright’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000. According to Tong Kim, he spent days preparing for the meeting by reading books on nuclear bombs. Later on, he noticed they did not appreciate his South Korean accent, so he began perfecting his North Korean accent in order to build trust. Like these, there are many more incidents that have gone on record directly from interpreters who were there to witness and participate. This was the case of Stephanie Reigersberg, who led the interpreting division at the State Department and specialized in Spanish. In 1983, she was assigned to interpret for vice president George H. W. Bush. The assignment required her to accompany the vice president to a top-secret meeting with Salvadorian president Alvaro Magaña in the midst of the country’s civil war. As she recounts, the vice president basically cussed them out. It was only after they left that she realized just how shocking it must have been for Magaña and his men to have a women interpreter use that kind of language.
Government interpreters in Literary Works of Fiction
In fiction, there are countless novels in which the storyline centers around a main character working as a government interpreter. Similarly, there are stories in which characters depend on a government interpreter to survive in a foreign country. Such is the case of novels like Shogun, written by James Clavell. Set in 1600, the main character, John Blackthorne, is the first English pilot to reach Japan. Throughout the novel, there are various interpreters from Japanese to English and Portuguese to Japanese, as there is also an intense Portuguese presence in Japan. The story illustrates the importance of language skills. More importantly, it highlights the importance of trust and loyalty towards an interpreter given that they clearly have insight that not even the highest-ranking order can access.
On the other hand, “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” (part of the 56 Sherlock Holmes stories) centers around a Greek interpreter Melas. Melas was called as an interpreter for business, only to find out later he is being forced to interpret for a kidnapper and his captive. In this case, the interpreter uses his linguistic advantage to gather more information on the captive. He uses this info to save him, showcasing the interpreter’s vital role as a lifeline for another character.
About Language Connections:
Language Connections is one of the top language service companies in the US. Over the last 30 years, we’ve focused on providing the best business translation services, interpreting services, as well as interpreter training and customized language training programs. In addition to top-tier corporate language training, we offer certified corporate interpreters and professional business translation services in 200+ languages. Our network includes linguists with backgrounds in all major industries. They’re ready to meet your needs, whether they’re for technical translation services, legal translation, government translation services, international development translation services, education translation services, life sciences translation, or something else. Reach out to us today for a free quote on our cost-efficient and timely translation services, interpreters, or other linguistic services.
Language Connections Inc.
2001 Beacon Street, Suite 105,
Boston, MA 02135