Letter from the Editor
I have always thought that if I can see something in my mind's eye, I'll be able to describe it. Or in another sense, if I can see what a speaker is saying, I'll be able to interpret it. My orientation is acutely visual, although I will say that certain places have imprinted an olfactory rather than a visual image. But I haven't yet found a use for smell in my interpreting practice while I have for visualization.
I recently found myself in the United States driving through a small town and listening to Science Friday on National Public Radio. I continued to watch the road, but the mental eye hovers on the ready for images. The subject was cacao production and the problems arising from three fungi: black pod, frosty pod and witch's broom. The images roll in on those words, and though you can't be sure, you sure feel like the pictures you see are verisimilar.
The host asks his expert if we might suffer a shortage of chocolate as a result and the response is: "... you are not going to have the absence of chocolate on supermarket shelves." In a burst of darkness my sight buds short circuit; how can you see something that isn't there? How can you "have an absence" when in effect absence is not having?
Of course I suffer from the work-related ailment of literalism; I would really love it if people were to say exactly what they mean, in sharp focus so that I can see it clearly. That would make my life - and work - much easier. But it is not about to happen anytime soon, and I suspect that such a uniform focus might deprive the images of depth and complexity.
I do, however, find this tendency to visualize helpful in my work, especially when I am called upon to do consecutive. An image that stays in my mind for a few minutes does not require extensive notes: I look at it and describe it. The process is much the same as telling a story you know well: you run the reel and use words to help others see the screen.
"To see" is "to grasp something mentally" (Miriam-Webster). And so many expressions evoke sight and understanding: see the light, seeing is believing, see the big picture, can't see the wood for the trees, etc. But perhaps I wander from the path and risk mixing apples with oranges - one of which is red or light green and smooth, while the other is orange and bumpy (can't you just see that?)
I've discussed visualization with other interpreters and I know that not everyone has the same orientation. I have suggested to students that they use visualization as a memory device; it works for some but not for others. I'm told that people have different dominant mental tendencies, but I can't quite grasp that. I would love to put my eyes into these others' minds to see how they think!
Our first article invites us to revisit a moment in history. In Wroclaw, les interprètes évanouis, Picasso et l'officier d'occupation, Wadi Keiser reminisces about the First World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace, his third large congress as a conference interpreter, which took place in Wroclaw (Poland) in the summer of 1949. This was a time of profound change for the profession - the fast spread of simultaneous interpretation after the enormous media coverage of the Nuremberg Trials - and of far-reaching political upheaval in Europe where the iron curtain went down on the countries of Eastern Europe.
Our next article came out of a booth-side chat that Phil Smith had with colleagues and developed into an interactive column that we hope to feature in future issues. "There are a few turns of phrase we come across time and time again that we puzzle over for a while and then shelve until next time." Q&A: Elusive Idioms invites you to think about a few, see what they evoke, comment, and send in your own.
We follow this with two pieces from Canada. Gaston Jordan sends us an interview with Susan Ouriou, writer, translator and interpreter - and a perceptive observer of language. And Conference Interpretation Markets in Canada will provide you with insight into our profession in that vast bilingual country.
"Do you lose things? Is it your fault?" Phil Smith has no answers, but he paints a spirited picture in A Sense of Loss. Speaking off mic of course!
Language in the News rounds out this issue with its usual site-seeing tour to language and news hotspots.
Enjoy the trip and stay in touch.
Articles published in this section reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.