Recently I read online an article denouncing an expert interpreter's performance. The article is a tragedy. It lays out for all to see the poor journalists complete misunderstanding of the exercise. She fell into the trop of thinking that interpreting is spoken translation. She takes a translation, and a poor one at that, of what the interpreter rendered in the target language and compares it with a transcript of the source language.
In this excerpt from the 1978 English version of Danica Seleskovitch's book Interpreting in International Conferences, Seleskovitch examines closely the process of interpretation and precisely the objection raised by the journalist. She says, "Looking it over on paper, I can imagine the traditional objections like 'That's not what he said." This is precisely what the journalist did.
To take an interpretation, which is a once-off fleeting expression aimed at producing the same style whle imparting the information, feeling and intention of the speaker, the same way it would be perceived by the source-language listener. But to convert speech to text and anchor it on the page and compare that fixed result with a transcript of the spoken language of the original is of course useful. But it only gives a highly partial and distorted view of what actually happened. And to judge the interpreter on that basis is wrong.
That is not what he said.
"That is not what he said"
Perhaps a translator could come up with a better rendition