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10 Things Only Interpreters Would Understand

10 Things Only Interpreters Would Understand

Interpreting is a most unusual, important, and misunderstood career. Providing a bridge for the language barriers that people find themselves at in our highly connected world is an important and valuable position, not to mention a job that requires hard work and years of training and practice.

In honour of the hard-working language translators and linguistic delegates of the world, here are ten things, situations, and problems that only interpreters would understand.

1. Speaking The Wrong Language At The Wrong Time

It happens all the time when you’re an interpreter — you’re in the middle of speaking to someone in one language, when you suddenly blurt out the right word, but in the wrong language, leading to confusion on all fronts. The problem with being such a major or minor polyglot, even if you only interpret one language, is that your brain is full of the same item or adjective, but with several different meanings attached to them, making it difficult at times, not to say the wrong one at the wrong time.

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2. Having To Deal With Multiple Accents and Dialects At The Same Time

The job of an interpreter seems like an easy one — just listen to the language in which you happen to be versed and immediately translate into the other language. However, many people tend to forget about accents and dialects. There isn’t just a single way of speaking for every language, or even from every country. Everything varies from location to location, so it can be a supreme struggle to deal with people who are speaking in unusual dialects and accents, even if you’re fluent in the actual language that they are speaking in. There are a million different regional accents and dialects to deal with at any given time — so save a prayer for your poor, potentially frazzled interpreter.

3. Having To Translate ‘Everything’ Your Client Says

One of the least pleasant things an interpreter has to do, is translate everything that their clients are saying, and we’re not just talking about the nice stuff. You might find yourself scrambling to find a much nicer way of saying that pointed insult, or smoothing away additional barbs, all at the drop of a hat. You’re not just an interpreter — you’re a peacekeeper, too.

4. You Have A Go-To Party Trick

Admittedly, one of the highlights of being an interpreter is that you get to impress virtually everyone at party tricks. The vast majority of people (in the Western world) only know one language and the fact that you can speak another, maybe even more than two or three languages fluently, and get paid for it, is mind-blowing to many. Admittedly, this can also lead to some jealousy amongs party guests, but the joy is that you can say what you like, and chances are they won’t understand what you just called them.

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5. Sitting Through World Cinema With Friends

World cinema can be a wonderful experience, but sitting through it with someone when you’re an interpreter can be an extremely tiresome exercise, not because you don’t like the film: inaccurate subtitles can cause you to comment and disrupt the film for those around you, or the person you’re with might comment on some un-translated moment and badger you into translating it for him or her at the moment when you’re trying to get lost in the movie.

6. Forgetting The Right Word At The Wrong Time

When your entire career centres around getting the right words out at the exact right time, you are often scrambling to accurately translate the right words, phrases, and idioms in order to keep up with the fast pace of everyone else in the room. However, there are times when you’re at work at eight o’clock, and your brain is still in bed at ten; times when you simply forget the word, or the sentence, or even the language that you’re speaking. Luckily, you normally pick it up moments later, but the look of wide-eyed panic is something you can see in everyone’s reflection, and something you endeavour not to see again anytime soon.

7. Keeping Your Accents Correct Is A Struggle

When you’re busy juggling a ton of different languages, keeping the right accents for the right tongues, can be a struggle for even the most seasoned interpreter. Sometimes the two languages are diverse and distinct, allowing for a minimal amount of crossover; however, when you have two very similar languages, keeping the accents appropriate and separate, so as to sidestep any accidental mocking, can be a hard task indeed.

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8. Telling Jokes In A Different Language Is Awful

When it comes to telling jokes, apart from having a great ending to one, the key rule is to tell it in the language it was originally told in. Jokes and humour vary from country to country, region to region, and even village to village. Very few jokes are universal, and so, as interpreters will no doubt be aware, telling one country’s joke to someone who doesn’t speak the language can be a bit of a damp squib. You’re left with blank expressions, and the joke falls flat, which is never any fun.

9. Idioms Do Not Work In Other Languages

Here’s the thing about idioms — they’re fantastic, but only when they’re spoken in their native language to another person who speaks that language. When an interpreter has to translate them, this isn’t just a simple comparison job where you instinctually discover the corresponding idiom, nor is it appropriate to literally describe the idiom word-for-word which can lead to confusion and possible insults. Please, if you need a translator, try to veer away from the idioms.

10. People Think Your Job Is ‘Easy’

When you tell people that you’re an interpreter, they might actually consider that you’ve worked relentlessly hard to get where you’ve had to be. You’ve had to spend years learning a language, maybe two at the same time if you’ve really got the ability and time to; you might have visited the language’s country of origin a dozen or so times, or lived there. But people forget that their own language is honed after decades of daily, frequent use and practice. They might think it’s oh-so-easy to become an interpreter, but it’s not; and you should never let anyone disrespect or belittle your career because they think that you’re walking a Google Translate.

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Featured photo credit: interpreters via pri.org

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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