The key role of interpreters in major international events

interpreters in Italy

Interview with Maria Carla Bellucci, former President of ASSOINTERPRETI – the Italian Association of Conference Interpreters.
In the year of EXPO Milan, interpreters will be of the utmost importance.

How is the Association getting ready for EXPO 2015?
In the last few years, there have been plenty of conferences and seminaries on EXPO 2015’s key themes. Our interpreters have already had the opportunity of grasping terminology and contents, but we never stop training and developing. In January, Assointerpreti and AIIC (the International Association of Conference Interpreters) organised a seminar on the economic, social and cultural aspects of nutrition in the 3rd millennium. Thanks to the participation of experts, we were able to divulge highly useful terminology resources.
Organisationally speaking, Assointerpreti’s Lombardy Regional Group offers a dedicated phone line (+39 349 1422140) and email address for any quote inquiries, and to help identifying the most qualified interpreter for each event. This way, we can quickly and efficiently meet any linguistic need.


Have you been contacted by EXPO, considering you are a Ministry of Economic Development-recognised association, according to Law no. 4/2013
For the time being, we have not been contacted by EXPO, despite being in the MISE list of Professional Associations that guarantee excellence of service.

Expo 2015

What differentiates your association from others?
Assointerpreti guarantees quality and professionalism. Founded in 1974, it has an established tradition of excellence and commitment to professional ethics. Our Members have had solid training in any discipline, and can therefore guarantee an accurate and incisive service.


How are interpreters trained? What are the different types of interpreting?
Usually, interpreters graduate with a degree in Translation and Interpreting, that ensures a sound cultural and practical education. However, there are cases of graduates from different disciplines who decide to pursue other career paths and eventually become translators.
Essentially, there are 3 different types of interpreting. Simultaneous interpretation takes place simultaneously with the speaker’s speech, with the interpreter translating in real time from a soundproof booth. Consecutive interpretation begins right after the speaker has finished talking, with the interpreter listening and taking notes, and then repeating the speech. In whispered translation (chuchotage), the interpreter translates the speech directly to the client, whispering it in their ear.
Every interpreter then specialises in certain areas and tries to work only within those fields, as to guarantee first-rate performances. In any case, training and studying contents and terminology before each conference is crucial, despite it often taking longer than the event itself.

Traduzione simultanea
Simultaneous interpretation.

How many professional interpreters are there in Italy?
The conference interpreters registered with professional associations are about 400. However, there are also interpreters who work independently, so it’s hard to get an estimation.

How many working languages do interpreters usually have?
While working for privates, interpreters translate from and to one foreign language (e.g. Italian to English and viceversa). On the other hand, when working for International Organisations such as the European Union, interpreters translate from 3 or more foreign languages to their mother tongue exclusively.


Is it true that a good interpreter has to be a real cultural mediator, not simply a translator?
Yes, that is essential. To completely ‘own’ a foreign language, conference interpreters have to have an in-depth knowledge of the culture, history and characteristics of the countries where that language is spoken.
Staying in those countries for extended periods of time is vital, considering how often speakers express themselves through a series of non-verbal codes (e.g. gestures, facial expressions, tone, use of pauses, etc.) that vary according to cultures, and that professional interpreters have to be able to grasp.
In addition to that, interpreters have to communicate in a way that follows a certain country’s style. For instance, when translating to English, rethorical speeches should be re-elaborated and simplified (but without omitting important details), using shorter and logical sentences.


What are the rising languages?
It’s hard to make a prediction in a world that’s constantly changing and evolving, where English is becoming a widely spoken language. I would say Chinese, Russian and Arabic, despite the recent geopolitical developments.
However, it should be said that, for an Italian native speaker, learning one of these languages requires a significant investment in time and energy, as well as economic.

La centralità dell'interprete nei grandi eventi internazionali
Foto: ICPonline e Assointerpreti

What kind of advice would you give to a company that needs to hire an interpreter?
Always choose highly qualified specialists. The price difference will be worth it, as a job well done will benefit in terms of image, communication effectiveness, success of the event, and return on investment.
And help interpreters provide the highest quality of translation by providing notes, documents, and transcripts ahead of the event.

And what wouldn’t you recommend doing?
Never hire interpreters and translators by following criteria other than quality and experience, as it seems to have unfortunately already been the case with a few pitiful translations published on EXPO’s official website, which have amused and filled professionals with indignation. Not a great visiting card, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, accurate and effective translations are not always appreciated in Italy – but they are abroad. The success of EXPO 2015 will also depend on foreigners’ judgement, and ultimately on the effectiveness of communication.