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Challenges Faced by Consecutive Spanish Interpreters

Why Spanish Interpreters Are Really Multi-Lingual, Especially When Speakers Use Spanglish

One of the ultimate objectives of Spanish language training is to teach students to speak, read and write accurate and impeccable Spanish with the hope that some day, they may become sufficiently proficient in the language to use it professionally. Great efforts have been made to maintain standard Spanish and some of the career paths students of Spanish have aspired to are translation, interpreting, document review, voice-over recording, writing, teaching, et al. 

In this article, we will discuss the challenges some Spanish interpreters face in their daily work. There are two main types of interpreting: (1) simultaneous and (2) consecutive. In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter renders the speaker’s words from one language into another while the speaker is still speaking. In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter waits for the speaker to stop speaking and then renders the speaker’s words from one language into another. Consecutive interpreters can interpret at court hearings, depositions, jailhouse visits, interviews, business meetings, medical appointments, independent medical evaluations, during telephone conferences or exchanges between a small number of persons. 

Since speakers can go uninterrupted for a significant amount of time before a break is finally given for interpreters to render all that has been said into another language, consecutive interpreters are faced with the task of remembering extraneous amounts of speech. They have to rely upon their short-term memories and note-taking skills. In order to recall what speakers have said that needs to be rendered into another language, consecutive interpreters have to develop an elaborate, personal system of symbols to represent everything that is said in interpreting assignments. To a certain extent, the note-taking system developed by the interpreter is like a language in itself. 

In addition to relying upon their short-term memories and note-taking skills, consecutive interpreters have to be familiar with the respective terminology and subject material being discussed, along with the various regionalisms used in different Spanish-speaking countries, so constant vocabulary building is essential for interpreters’ success since during each assignment, they will have to interpret for Spanish speakers from different regions. 

three ring venn diagram
Spanglish is a blend of Spanish and English used at varying extents


As if they do not already have to think on their feet, finding the appropriate symbols to represent everything that is said and then rendering the verbal translation at the appropriate time, interpreters also stand the risk of being baffled when a defendant, deponent, claimant, participant, patient or other speaker says something that they have never heard before in Spanish. It can take the interpreter some time to regain his or her composure and he or she may request a moment to check a dictionary. At some point, the speaker may even clarify the intended meaning of what was said or the interpreter may eventually figure it out. Whatever the case, when such clarification is provided, the interpreter can be taken aback at the realization that the speaker has just spoken Spanglish![i] Spanglish is a blend of Spanish and English that can be used at varying degrees. Users of Spanglish simply do not pay any attention to the efforts being made to keep Spanish, or English for that matter, standard. To the contrary, they have a mind of their own and develop this new way of speaking for their own convenience. Spanglish vocabularies have seen tremendous development and are no longer just a matter of a few words..[ii] 

Hence, Spanish interpreters must either decide to study Spanglish and stay up-to-date with the growing vocabulary or run the risk of being rendered speechless in interpreting assignments. Following are a few Spanish words, their Spanglish counterparts and English meanings:

Spanish Spanglish English
sótano beisman basement
paseando jangeando going out or hanging out
goteando liquiando leaking
alfombra carpeta carpet
éxito suceso success
almuerzo lunche lunch
ayudar asistir to assist
asistir atender attend
empujar puchar to push
estacionar parquear to park

Spanglish is constantly evolving; it is neither organized nor consistent. Perhaps, the only way in which Spanglish may be comparable with Spanish is that different Spanglish expressions are used by different speakers in different regions.[iii] It would appear as if the responsibility for Spanglish interpreting has automatically fallen to Spanish interpreters and embracing this responsibility is not always easy. As Spanglish continues to evolve, the translation and interpreting industry may have to rethink this arrangement and more specialized Spanglish linguists may have to arise to embrace the task of interpreting Spanglish as distinct from Spanish and English. 

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanglish 

[ii] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1438900 

[iii] http://factoidz.com/the-spanglish-language/