Libor Nenutil interprets English and French courses. He is a professional interpreter with several years of experience. Moreover, he is a trainer within the group of interpreters at the adaptation-integration courses ‘Welcome to the Czech Republic’.
The adaptation-integration courses last four 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 accurate terminology, requires a lot of concentration.
The participants are rarely native speakers, making the interpretation 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 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 particular 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 particular. 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 encourage them to 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. A language is a working tool. The participants at the course are an incarnation of the Francophonie – they come from various (mostly African) countries. Everybody speaks differently. Linguistically it is fascinating and very challenging at the same time.
You have also shared 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 their role, 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, go through the glossary of terms and 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 excellent because the people can get official information. I like the idea that everybody starts their new life in Czechia at the same starting line – they have all they need to know and can avoid troubles.