G8 interpreters – the art of many different dinner party conversation


How the world’s most powerful people ask one another to pass the salt?

Their mother tongues are English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian.

So how do the heads of the G8 group of leading economies actually converse?

Enter the interpreters (not, please, the translators, who deal in the written word).

In heavily multilingual meetings, says Deborah Muylle of the International Association Conference Interpreters, use may be made of so-called “pivot” languages, allowing what’s known as “relay” interpretation.

This means – taking last weekend’s G8 dinner as example – that if, say, Italy’s Mario Monti chose to speak in Italian, his words would likely have been interpreted first into English (sufficient for several delegates) by one interpreter, then into Japanese by another (for the benefit of Yoshihiko Noda) and maybe Russian (for Dimitry Medvedev) by a third. None of which makes for the most convivial of dinner party conversations. But that’s how it works.

Hope nothing got last in interpretation.


Article written by: Jon Henley




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