Published 2010-03-17

IAPTI Presented Sergio Viaggio in London

The event, a lecture by Sergio Viaggio, took place at Friends House, Central London.
The meeting sparked  great interest, with some 70 people vying for the  50 seats available.
Those attending the talk were an interesting mix of community, legal, medical and conference interpreters, as well as translators from a variety of countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, to name but a few).

Introduction of IAPTI
An introduction regarding the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters was followed by a Q&A session. Attendees enquired about IAPTI certification requirements for acceptance of new members, the annual membership fee, whether the association is planning to have a telephone line to provide member support, what kind of events IAPTI will organize, and whether it will provide legal advice or an insurance service.

At this point, Sergio Viaggio emphasized the networking aspect of IAPTI, underscoring the fact that it is the only international association that brings together both interpreters and translators.

We are not paid to understand… or to speak: We are paid to be understood (Sergio Viaggio)
Viaggio made the point that before translating, we need a theory of translation and a sub-theory of what a good translation is. The problem with most translation theories is that they are intuitive, and as a result "acritical." The speaker proved this by asking attendees what theory they based their work on, and whether they applied this same theory to all jobs. Immediately proving that this was not the case, Viaggio suggested that if one theory cannot be applied to all kinds of translations, then we have contradictory theories. 
In order to succeed in communicating the ideas, thoughts and experiences that are in our head, he said, we need to transfer them to the head of our  interlocutor. It is impossible to check whether this is actually being achieved, but generally, communication succeeds. The speaker added, however, that if we stop to  consider that the interests of the different parties involved are all distinct, what someone might say is not necessarily of the same relevance to all receivers.

So, based on the original message, what should we tell the interlocutor so as to allow him/her to understand what we are communicating  and understand it in the best way possible, so that the "meaning meant" and the "meaning understood" are one and the same? According to Viaggio, the meta-communicative purposes of communication govern the answer to such a question, and so too govern  translation.
The speaker made the point that what we provide to the client is a service, and as such, we must adapt to the needs and rules of the context. The interpreter’s job is to handle communication in such a way as to prevent a breakdown. How should they do this? Different strategies may be applied: climbing up or down in register, explain or not, add, omit, tone down, mind every syllable or glide over mistakes. A translator cannot take refuge in literalism because this implies refusing to reflect on their practice. ("Don’t blame me, blame the speaker!").

Viaggio explained that translators gain wiggle room whenever the interests of the parties involved coincide. If they diverge, however, and the interpreter ends up siding  with one, he/she will immediately torpedo the other. Translation / interpretation must be designed to fit the meta-communicative purposes.
The speaker said that we need to forget that we are interpreters or translators, and realise that we are intercultural, interlingual mediators. This means that conveying the meanings of words is not always the most important goal, and as a matter of fact, there are times when it will be the least important.
In short, an interpreter must determine what is relevant; achieve it or die trying and be able to explain and defend his/her analysis. 
There is only one universal rule in translation and interpreting, which must  never, ever, be broken: It all depends. Mediation pursues relevant identity between meaning meant and meaning understood. Thus, the client is no longer "god", WE decide what is right. So the problem now is that WE are accountable.

Viaggio points out that since our "science" is still an embryonic one, clients still tend to think that, more often than not, they are right. This is the scenario in which the interpreter/translator becomes a kind of hero, at least in theory.
Adela Ezcurra