Language support serves meaning first

We used an immigration lawyer to start the paperwork six months before we arrived. Worried whether Canada would let us land the lawyer calmed us by saying something like “… you can speak the language.” It was a moment of introspection.

Seeing how many people face communication barriers, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada publishes an Interpreter Handbook. The code of conduct advises practitioners to take all reasonable care to accurately interpret or translate what is stated in the source language, having regard to meaning first and then to style.

Persons performing oral or written translation must express exactly what has been said. No paraphrasing, no embellishment, no omission, no explanation, no opinion.

If a speaker says he was “struck” an appropriate equivalent term would be “hit”– but not “assaulted”. If a speaker says “I will appeal…”, the interpreter repeats “I will appeal …”, not “my client will appeal..” and not “she will appeal …”. Getting the meaning right takes care, skill and diligence.

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