Libor Nenutil interprets English and French courses. He is a professional interpreter with several years of experience. Furthermore, he is a blogger and a trainer within the group of interpreters at the adaptation-integration courses ‘Welcome to the Czech Republic’.
The adaptation-integration courses for migrants last 8 hours and they are full of legal and social information. What is in your opinion the specificity of interpreting these courses?
Some topics, the residence legislation in particular, are very demanding content-wise. Every word matters.
If the participants don’t understand something correctly, there can be serious consequences – the validity of their residence permit may not be extended or their residence can be terminated. Words like ‘visa’, ‘residence permit’ and ‘permanent residence’ are crucial. If they are confused, there can be fatal consequences for the immigrants. People often don’t differentiate between these terms, so it is necessary to constantly check whether the lecturers and the participants understand each other. The role of the interpreter – to precisely put the message into the other language – is the key here. The interpreter is not just a “translation robot”. Rendering the message correctly, with the accurate terminology, requires a lot of concentration.
The participants are rarely native speakers, which makes the interpreting even more difficult. Another thing is that we never know what education they’ve had and what socio-cultural environment they come from. There can be a diverse mixture of people at the workshop. That is why it is necessary to convey the message well and to be make sure everybody understands everything. Neither the lecturer, nor the interpreter can expect the participants to know the subject matter.
So the lecturer and the interpreter need to work with the intercultural overlap, is that right?
Yes, because people may understand a certain thing differently than we do here in our socio-cultural context. The best is not to expect anything. Assuming that something is clear is the worst. This is very often not the case.
What makes interpreting the French courses interesting for you?
French courses are very specific. There are often not many people, even though there are quite a lot of French-speaking migrants in Czechia. However, it is not easy to aim at them with promotional activities and to encourage them come.
These people often live in communities of fellow-countrymen, where they share information that is not always correct and try to get things done. Another particularity is the fact that each participant means a different French. The language is a working tool. The participants at the course are an incarnation of the Francophonie – they come from different (mostly African) countries. Everybody speaks differently. Linguistically it is fascinating and very challenging at the same time.
Today you were also sharing experience from your practice. What would you say is the most important thing?
Not to answer any questions of the participants. The lecturers are there to do that. The interpreter needs to know what their role is, where it starts and especially where it stops. And, of course, not to offer any kind of services.
Second, preparation. Most of the work interpreters do can’t be seen. We need to get ready for each assignment, to go through the glossary of terms and to study other materials.
And my last tip is to keep a cool head and not to stress out. The atmosphere at the workshop is always nice. The interpreter is an essential part of the communication. And they need to be able to “translate” this warm mood, too.
Do you think the course is useful?
I think I could answer better if I were a foreigner. Anyway, I believe that just the fact the course exists is great because the people can get official information at no cost. Anybody can attend. I like the idea that everybody starts their new life in Czechia at the same starting line – they have all the information and can avoid difficulties.