Any business that deals with customers, clients or suppliers outside of its home region will be faced with problems of interpretation. Despite the growing importance of English, even English-speaking businesses will need the services of interpreters in order to fully take advantage of the opportunities of globalization. Still, it may be unclear just what an interpreter does and why interpretation services are often crucial for today’s businesses.
Fundamentally, an interpreter is someone who is proficient in multiple languages and able to translate between these languages in order to facilitate communication between others, who lack common language. Interpreters are fluent in the languages of both speakers and can move easily between either language. Any time a person facilitates communication is this way, from a stranger helping a traveller abroad to a bilingual child assisting her immigrant parents, we can say that they are “acting as an interpreter.”
Professional interpreters, however, are not merely fluent in two or more languages but also trained in the practice of interpreting. Training varies according to the type of interpretation and the setting in which the interpreter will work. Simultaneous interpretation involves the interpreter translating through an audio system as fast as they can while the speaker is speaking. Consecutive interpretation, by contrast, involve waiting for the speaker to stop speaking before translation begins. Interpreters may work as escorts for traveling dignitaries or as language-facilitators during business or political meetings, and they may use simultaneous or consecutive interpretation as needed in any of these settings. Interpreters in different styles work in business, politics, courtrooms, hospitals and as personal assistants.
The importance of skilled interpreters is only growing with the increasing pace of globalization and the proliferation of international trade. Immigration and the spread of the internet play a role as well, bringing more and more speakers of different languages into contact with each other. Governmental contexts often require the services of an interpreter when immigrants and travellers need to interact with the authorities of their host country. The medical profession also needs interpreters in a globalized world, since doctors may increasingly treat patients who cannot describe their symptoms in the doctors’ language. Even sports teams need interpreters: today players are traded across international boundaries, and interpreters can help coaches and staff communicate with a player from abroad.
It is in business and industry, however, that the need for professional interpretation is the most acute. Globalization means the opening of new markets where few people speak English. The internet means access to these foreign-language markets is only a few clicks away, but without translation and interpretation these customers are inaccessible. Increased trade also offers access to technologies developed abroad, from software to industrial techniques. Communicating with developers, engineers, designers and technicians may call for the services of an interpreter in order to ensure the proper incorporation of these new methods. The best experts in crucial areas may or may not speak English, depending on their training and background. An interpreter allows a business to call on the best talents in any field, regardless of language barriers.
There is no denying the crucial and growing role of English in international communication. English is the closest thing to a universal language today, but developing countries are entering the world stage and producing more and more key experts, technicians, and business-people who work in languages other than English. Obviously, businesses cannot hope for employees who are fluent in every language important in their particular industry. It is the highly-trained professional interpreters such as those at Word Perfect who can fill this role and facilitate communication in any field and between any two languages.