Interpreting Michelle OBAMA

MAKING OF:

“Quiero pensar que ésta no es mi mejor simultánea :-). En este caso el reto era enfrentarse a un discurso desconocido, interpretándolo sin texto y sin preparación alguna: es decir, una situación bastante habitual en la vida real de un intérprete. Si el orador habla con espontaneidad y a un ritmo natural, es perfectamente factible. Michelle Obama no habla excesivamente rápido, pero en realidad su discurso está preparado, es más denso que una alocución espontánea, no presenta ninguna de las repeticiones y redundancias que caracterizan al discurso hablado. Hay partes donde me ha costado bastante seguirlo y he tenido que simplificar el original, intentando mantener el mensaje esencial. Una dificultad adicional para mí ha sido que no estoy acostumbrada a este tipo de discursos: tengo, después de 25 años de trabajo, todo tipo de automatismos para conceptos como exacciones arancelarias o límites de residuos, pero es la primera vez que tengo que contar la historia de una cita romántica :-).

¡Me ha parecido dificilísimo!”

Marta IGARTUA es intérprete permanente de la DG INTERPRETACIÓN, SCIC, COMISIÓN EUROPEA.

[Esta interpretación simultánea es totalmente real: realizada sin preparación previa ni guión escrito]

MIC 2013: Visita a la Comisión Europea y Tribunal de Justicia de la UE

CRÓNICA DE UN VIAJE:

Hace unas semanas los estudiantes del MIC emprendimos un viaje de cuatro días al centro neurálgico de la interpretación en Europa (y, por qué no decirlo, de las cervezas y el chocolate). Hicimos la maleta meticulosamente, con cuidado de no olvidar la grabadora, la libreta, los cascos o el disfraz de intérprete. Sin embargo, nada ni nadie podía prepararnos para lo que nos esperaba en aquel lugar.

El lunes a primera hora de la mañana cruzamos el control de seguridad del edificio Albert Borschette para pasar una jornada en la Comisión Europea conociendo a distintas funcionarias del SCIC y practicando la interpretación consecutiva. Sorprende la cantidad de altos cargos ocupados por mujeres, aunque en un ámbito como la interpretación lo contrario sorprendería incluso más. Para rematar el día, cuatro valientes voluntarios se sometieron a un simulacro de examen de acceso a la UE con un tribunal de lujo en el que estaban las jefas de las cabinas española, alemana y una intérprete de cabina inglesa del equipo de formadores del SCIC. Incluso los meros espectadores estábamos como flanes, pero dejaron claro cuál es el nivel del MIC de La Laguna. Lo más destacable del día fueron las caras que se nos quedaron al echarle un vistazo a la documentación que nos dieron para la reunión del Consejo de la UE que interpretaríamos al día siguiente en cabina muda.

Para bien o para mal, no pudimos asistir a ninguna reunión con tintes más políticos así que el martes y el miércoles los pasamos viviendo en nuestras propias carnes lo que es estar en cabina durante una reunión técnica, rebuscando entre los documentos el párrafo exacto que estaban leyendo los delegados y quedándonos fascinados con el trabajo de los intérpretes de esas reuniones. La verdad es que por mucho que se diga de las reuniones de pesca y de la gallineta nórdica, no podemos subestimar la dificultad de una reunión sobre la armonización de los niveles de ruido de los vehículos. Tuvimos la suerte de conocer a Paco, intérprete del SCIC que hizo de guía turístico por el edificio Berlaymont y nos llevó a tomar una cerveza con varios intérpretes que nos contaron de primera mano cómo es formar parte del SCIC.

El miércoles por la tarde, tras un día de cabina muda en el Consejo de la UE, en el tren hacia Luxemburgo pudimos disfrutar de un rato de descanso, muchas risas y alguna que otra sorpresa.

Finalmente, el jueves pasamos el día en el Tribunal de Justicia de la UE, donde tuvimos la oportunidad no sólo de presenciar una vista oral, sino también de ser testigos de las prestaciones de los intérpretes que trabajaron solamente para que los estudiantes del MIC pudiésemos escucharlos. Comprobamos que, a pesar de ser la misma profesión, el trabajo que realizan los intérpretes de la Comisión Europea, o del Consejo Europeo, y los del Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea es completamente diferente.

El viaje fue una oportunidad para conocer el funcionamiento de diferentes instituciones europeas desde dentro, para escuchar de boca de sus intérpretes cómo es la profesión, para tener nuevas perspectivas, ver la interpretación desde un punto de vista distinto y para darnos un empujón de cara a las semanas de formación que nos quedan. Y por qué no, para disfrutar de las tormentas de nieve que tanto escasean en Tenerife.

Los alumnos del MIC queremos dar las gracias a los intérpretes del SCIC y del TJUE por su paciencia y aguante, y, a Lourdes, Marlene y Julia, por organizar y coordinar este viaje”.

Nuria Campoy, alumna del MIC, promoción 2012-13.

A consecutive demo: los locávoros

THE MAKING OF:

Gemma and I are both interpreters and we were asked to do a speech and consecutive for you to show you just one example of how an interpreter’s consecutive notes are used to convey a message in a lively way, so that the interpreter is taking real ownership of the speaker’s message. As we did not have much time for filming, Lourdes suggested we met beforehand and ran through the speech together to see if there might be any potential stumbling blocks for my notes, as that was the focus of her video this time. So this was not a real test situation (as I was not hearing it totally for the first time) but I had NOT taken notes from it the first time so the film shows me actually taking notes from a speech having heard the story once before. The speech was not read. It was a story that Gemma was telling and she did not necessarily say exactly what she had said when I heard it the first time earlier that day. So it was very close to being a real consecutive situation but not quite!

In a way that is more like a meeting as you would be aware of the subject and vocabulary beforehand and would be conveying arguments which are less unpredictable than in a test or an open competition. The speech was not that difficult and only lasted about five minutes, I think. In a test one might be asked to do a speech of seven or eight minutes and that is perfectly possible when one has been trained to do it.  As conference interpreters we mostly do simultaneous interpretation so consecutive is sadly not such a frequent occurrence but I believe it is the best possible way of learning to be a good interpreter because your powers of analysis and understanding have to come to the fore. You cannot allow yourself to get hung up over one word or the way to say something. The great advantage is that you have the time to listen to the whole speech before you render it in your mother tongue so you are in almost the same position as the speaker and can really try to put across the whole message. That is why I think consecutive interpretation is actually a great deal more satisfying to do even though it never stops being a bit nerve-wracking ! Adrenalin is never a bad thing though and I really recommend all student interpreters not to be scared of consecutive and even to try to enjoy it!”

Anne and Gema are both staff interpreters at the SCIC, DG INTERPRETATION, European Commmission.

European Commissioner Vassiliou, about languages and interpretation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is an important moment for languages in Europe. As we continue our celebration of the European Day of Languages, we have one eye on the past and one on the future.

Ten years ago, in Barcelona, European Union leaders set out an ambitious vision of language-learning and its contribution to every child’s education. The aim was clear: to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age.

Today, it is only natural that we should try to take stock. How useful was the Barcelona target? How much progress have we made so far? Where do we go next? These are some of the questions we will be discussing today and tomorrow.

But before we talk about what needs to be done, I think we should pause to reflect on where we all stand today. To be more precise, I believe this is an opportune moment to consider the place of languages within the European Union. To put it bluntly, do languages still matter, and why?

I would offer a simple response: the day when Europe ceases to speak its many languages is the day that Europe – as an idea, as a project – ceases to exist.

In spite of a profound economic crisis, which has rocked the European Union to its very foundations, our fundamental objective remains the same: to work together for a better society while fully respecting our differences. We continue to believe that freedom, equality, solidarity and diversity can be reconciled in a common endeavour.

Language is essential to this mission. If we no longer take the trouble to learn our neighbours’ language, then we are less likely to understand their concerns, and even less likely to lend a helping hand. Experience tells us that we are more willing to make sacrifices for those that we know and trust. Today as much as ever, culture and language remain potent factors of our sense of community.

I believe the role of language goes even deeper than this: it is about our relationship with our fellow human beings and how we empathise with them. Today, science helps us to understand the workings of the human mind, and one phenomenon is especially interesting for any discussion of language-learning: the act of imitation.

I think many of us would recognise how imitation helps us to learn a new language. Is it not both pleasurable and curious to see how we try, quite instinctively, to imitate the sound of the other’s voice – the accent, the intonation, the style. Imitation is one of the most vital human skills, and the new sciences of the brain are helping us to understand just how important it is.

The scientist and former teacher of English, Iain McGilchrist, has developed this idea. McGilchrist says:

“Human imitation is not slavish. It is not a mechanical process – dead, perfect, finished – but one that introduces variety and uniqueness. The enormous strength of the human capacity for imitation is that our brains let us escape from the confines of our own experience and enter directly into the experience of another being.

This is the way in which we bridge the gap, share in what another person feels and does, and what it is like to be that person.”

I believe that these ideas have major implications for the debate on language-learning and its place in European society. Science is beginning to tell us new things about our mind and how it manages important social functions such as language and our relations with other people.

To put it very simply, if we begin to lose interest in learning other people’s languages – and if we no longer try to imitate our neighbours in this very natural and healthy way – then we no longer enter into their world, and do not empathise with their thoughts and feelings. This, I believe, is the most profound and urgent reason why Europe, perhaps more than ever before, must encourage its people to learn new languages. It continues our historic mission to bring peace to our peoples.

Having briefly looked into the workings of the human mind, let us now return to the global stage and the workings of international relations. When we debate the importance of learning new languages, we are speaking about the European Union’s place in the world. And it is here that I find much of my optimism.

I believe that if this twenty-first century is to be marked by further economic and technological integration, the continued expansion of our communication networks, and greater mobility among our peoples, then the European Union may be better equipped to prosper in this new world than many people believe.

Europe has a long history of managing its own diversity, including its cultural and linguistic variety. Of course, this has not been one long success story. Far from it. The European Union was, at its birth, the response to a catastrophic failure to resolve conflict. Still today we cannot ignore the spread of populist and sometimes xenophobic sentiment in our national politics.

But I believe we can and will overcome these tensions precisely because our diversity has become such a central part of who we are. It’s part of our DNA. So much of our political debate, both national and European, grapples with the question of how we reconcile liberty, equality and solidarity in a multicultural society. This is a permanent conversation across Europe, which has already existed for many years and will continue for many more, and it defines who we are.

The European Union today is home to 23 official languages – Croatia will take it to 24 next year – and around 60 minority and regional languages, not to mention well over 100 migrant languages. Some will always be spoken more widely than others, but we value all of them equally. Each and every language embodies a unique cultural identity, and none should be sacrificed on the altar of efficiency.

At this point, I would like to pay tribute to the translation and interpreting services of the European Commission and Parliament, whose Director Generals are here with us today. No other organisation in the world functions in as many languages as we do, and we should be proud of the excellent service that we provide to our citizens day in day out, often under the most trying circumstances.

Our commitment to cultural and linguistic diversity belongs to the unique political model that the European Union has offered to the world over the last half-century. Europe’s openness both among its own nations and towards the rest of the world, I believe, constitutes the core of our ‘soft power’ for the years to come.

Of course, I am not naïve. I recognise that today’s economic crisis has raised serious questions about the future of European integration. I accept that our sense of solidarity is being stretched to its limits, and that many people question the benefits of a globalising economy. But in spite of these worries, I am convinced that Europe’s unique historic response to the question of diversity prepares us well for the knowledge-based society that has arrived.

At this point, I would challenge the idea, as others have done recently, that the rise of English as the global lingua franca is inevitable and without limits. Certainly, for many years to come, the dominance of English in global affairs seems set to continue. But history tells us something about the uncertainty that accompanies such trends.

In the words of the eminent linguist, Nicholas Ostler:

“None of us live long enough to see the course of development of a global language, although we may witness some of the salient events in one, such as the revival of Hebrew in Israel, the abolition of Russian from schools in the Baltic, or the growth of competence in English in Japanese students.

This inevitably gives the impression that these relatively sudden changes are where the action lies. By contrast, we are led to believe that a development that has taken centuries, such as the rise of English, is ultimate and unstoppable. These impressions are deceptive.”

Next to the question of Europe’s place in the world comes that of our economic future. Beyond today’s urgent task of solving the eurozone crisis, we must also address the deeper imbalances between our economies, and think carefully about the sort of economy we want to build. And this brings us to the question of education.

The European Commission estimates that, by 2020, around 15 million new jobs in Europe will require high-level skills. In 2020, about one third of all jobs will demand such skills. This is how the knowledge-based society translates into real needs and political choices.

The question facing the European Union is simple and stark: will we invest sufficiently in the modernisation of our education systems so that we can empower all our young people, irrespective of their social background and financial means, to develop their full potential as human beings?

Education now occupies a central place in the European Union’s economic policy-making. Many of you will be familiar with ‘Europe 2020’, our road-map out of the crisis and onto the path of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Among its five headline targets, ‘Europe 2020’ calls on Member States to expand tertiary education to 40 per cent of young people, and reduce the number of early school leavers to below 10 per cent.

Now, every year, the European Commission recommends policies to all of the Member States, advising them how to address the most urgent challenges to their economy, including through education and training.

Let me be clear. This new promotion of education within European policy-making is momentous. For it is precisely as a central pillar of education for the knowledge-based society that we want to position the learning of new languages.

This explains why the European Union’s future programme for education and training, ‘Erasmus for All’, includes language-learning and linguistic diversity as one of its six objectives. And I am happy to announce that in their negotiations on ‘Erasmus for All’, both the European Parliament and the Member States fully support this new, enhanced status for languages.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You will have the opportunity over the next two days to discuss ‘Erasmus for All’ in more detail, and I will only say a few words about the programme now.

Above all, we plan to finance three types of activity, and each of these will promote language-learning and linguistic diversity.

First, mobility. Since its creation 25 years ago, the ‘Erasmus’ programme has allowed more than two million young Europeans to study abroad. With a new budget that Member States are negotiating this autumn, we hope to expand this opportunity so that a much wider group of people can study, train or work abroad.

‘Erasmus for All’ therefore creates an historic opportunity to boost language-learning across the European Union. By 2020, as many as 900,000 people every year could be enjoying an EU-funded exchange, as pupils, teachers, students, trainees, youth workers or volunteers. Our ambition is to integrate language-learning into every mobility experience for all sectors of education. If we can achieve this, then we would dramatically increase the number of people of all ages who are exposed to new languages.

The second pillar of ‘Erasmus for All’ will support cooperation and partnerships between organisations. Our goal is innovation. Transnational projects encourage openness and excellence, and facilitate the exchange of good practice between institutions.

We will continue to support pan-European networks for language-learning and linguistic diversity. It is here that we must explore how languages interact with numerous other policy objectives in education. From early childhood education and care to ICT, language-learning should play a central role.

The third pillar of ‘Erasmus for All’ will support policy reform. One of the great strengths of European policy-making is our ability to learn from one another. The EU cannot interfere in national education and language policies – the Treaty forbids it – but we can help to identify policies that work. We can guide Member States and propose new ideas to them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have concluded with a more practical vision of languages within the European Union. Our new approach to education and training, embodied in ‘Erasmus for All’, responds to the urgent needs of European society and the desperate situation of Europe’s youth.

But let me be clear about one thing. Our attention to the economic role of languages in no way undermines our commitment to linguistic diversity as an objective in its own right. On the contrary.

Today, the European Union’s duty to protect and promote diversity is enshrined more securely than ever before. Our Charter of Fundamental Rights forbids any discrimination based on language, and declares that the Union must respect linguistic diversity.

It is our responsibility to ensure that our pride in these values is matched by an equal commitment to their realisation in daily life. I can assure you that the European Commission stands ready to do precisely that, and, in ‘Erasmus for All’, we will have a powerful tool.

Ten years after Barcelona, this is a moment to measure progress and draw lessons, and at the same time look to the future and imagine new opportunities. I believe we can do so with a sense of purpose and optimism.

This year saw the first-ever European Survey of Language Competences as well as a major poll of public opinion – the Eurobarometer. These two surveys have created a vast and comprehensive body of research, which will help us to design a new European benchmark on language-learning. The Commission plans to launch the benchmark in the near future.

The Eurobarometer and the Survey of Language Competences tell a fascinating story, and you will have the chance to explore them in more detail tomorrow.

The most important message that I took away from the research is that we all have a lot of work to do if Europe is to become more multilingual, but the general public recognises the importance of the task.

At the start of my presentation, I asked the question of whether language`s still matter. In the eyes of our citizens, languages have never been as important as they are today. The European Commission could not agree more.

Thank you“.

Commissioner Vassiliou, 27 September 2012
Limassol, Cyprus.