There are many challenges for a company interpreter, including the inability to hear the speaker, understanding cultural touch-points, and the stress of always acting composed and neutral, no matter how tense or heated a meeting or conference gets. One of the most significant challenges when providing conference interpreting services, though, is interpreting jokes, humor and sarcasm.
Company Interpreter & Corporate Humor
In a corporate environment, a company interpreter must be quick to adapt and improvise in order to deliver the joke. Because humor is used as a way to establish a good rapport with a client, an interpreter for business must be able to convey this key component of conversation. If the interpreter is providing conference interpreting within an international setting, they may face the uncomfortable possibility of being the middle-man between a culturally-insensitive joke and an important client. In this sense, there are many factors to consider when interpreting humor.
The first factor is understanding the joke. Because they are spontaneous, jokes are built on a structure that starts with representing the set-up of the joke, then detecting an incongruity, and finally, appreciating it and resolving the incongruity. This can be very nuanced and complicated to interpret. Similarly, translating sarcasm is another challenge. It’s especially challenging because it’s necessary to capture the relationship between tone of voice, body language and expressions. The fact is, humor is based on more than words. It is effective because both body and mind are involved in the delivery. Of course, this makes it all the more challenging to provide interpretation or translation services. The last factor to consider is that the type of humor will have a significant impact for the company interpreter. Jokes as a rule, but then even specific kinds of humor, are not something everyone can execute naturally. However, it is a skill that can improve with practice.
Good Timing Does Not Always Translate
Finally, in addition to overcoming the translation barrier, the simultaneous interpreter must also factor in the aspect of timing. Essentially, it is important for a company interpreter to be tactful because what are culturally acceptable jokes in one country may not be universal! Furthermore, the interpreter must be attentive to the purpose of humor. Oftentimes, unexpected jokes or an absurdity can be an essential part of the speaker’s message in an attempt to connect with the listeners.
About Language Connections:
Language Connections is a language service provider. We specialize in technical, medical and legal translation, simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, website and software localization, and corporate language programsand interpreter training. We provide certified, professional translation in 100+ languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, German, and French. With over 20 years of experience, we have expertise in all major industries including the life sciences, patent and immigration law, international business, global education, and advanced technology. We offer cost-efficient interpreting and conference solutions that will meet your multilingual needs for all types of international events – business meetings, conferences, lectures or presentations.
Language Connections Inc.
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