Political Interpreting: Speaking Someone Else's Opinion

Imagine you’re in a debate about a controversial topic and one wrong word could make or break any advancement towards your goal. But what if you didn’t have a say in what words were coming out of your mouth? As a matter of fact your opinion on this subject is of no importance at all…

Interpreters' lives are often prefaced with being impartial about whatever is being spoken about – but this is especially true for interpreters of anything in the political sphere. Political interpreting, like international UN interpreters for political summits, provides a direct link in imperative discussions and cross-cultural communication on political topics affecting the entire world. Without it, many of the world’s greatest leaders would not be able to work together. But this also means interacting with some controversial information. So what is expected of someone working as an interpreter in cases like this?

Politics - conference1. Interpreters MUST be impartial about the agenda of whomever they are interpreting for -
they could be saying something completely contrary to their own beliefs, but it’s a matter of ethics. They are there to facilitate dialogue, not actively participate in the discussion.

2. Interpreters can’t let awkward interpretations break their focus – sure they may interpret what that politician said in a way less commonly used by people, but their laughing will certainly be more distracting than the word mishap.

3. Interpreters need to stay calm - have you ever been so enthralled in a discussion you’re watching that you can feel your own emotions rising? Imagine how they’d get if you were simultaneously conveying what one side of that debate is yelling! Debates are common in politics, and there is a lot of talking over one another and a lot of emotion. Keeping a clear head is necessary to ensure accurate conveying of information.

Political interpreting is by no means a stress free job, but it’s highly rewarding as you play a central role in affecting change and you interact with fascinating people from all walks of life. Your political views aside, you will, if nothing else, 100% be making a difference in facilitating dialogue – something the world (especially politics) desperately needs.

Want to start your journey on being a conductor of change? Check out our Community & Business Interpreter Training Program, and learn what it takes to speak for others in the public and corporate spheres!



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