Diversity and Inclusion

How Translation Powers Inclusion

Skift Take

Language interpretation creates a hugely beneficial sense of inclusion. It allows everyone to easily comprehend the content, and empowers them to share their thoughts and ideas.

Ewandro Magalhães is a language industry executive and former chief interpreter in the United Nations system. He stumbled into interpreting in the early 1990s while working at the Brazilian Parliament. From there, he founded one of the largest translation companies in Brasilia with his wife, before undertaking a master’s in conference interpretation in the US. He became an accredited interpreter by the US State Department, going on to work for the IMF before spending seven years as chief interpreter for the United Nations. He left his job at the UN to co-found Kudo, a tech start-up that aims to revolutionize the way interpreting is delivered. He is also a TED Educator, TEDx speaker, and the author of three books.

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The Evolution of Remote Simultaneous Interpretation

Remote simultaneous interpretation was first thought of as remote participation, where the majority of participants and the interpreters were all congregated in one meeting space, with a small number of delegates dialing from their home country. This remote participation was conducted over the phone with specific protocols and evolved to also allow interpreters to dial in remotely. The Iceland volcano eruption of 2010, which led to numerous UN meetings being canceled, showed that there was a need to increase the focus on remote simultaneous interpretation. This became all the more urgent due to the Covid pandemic, where meetings moved online, and interpreters were able to work remotely.

The Subtle and Controversial Difference Between Translation and Interpretation

Many people may refer to the act of interpreting and translating as simply translation. However, there is a subtle difference. Translation applies to the written word and interpretation to the spoken word. Some argue that a distinction should be made. It could also be argued that interpretation isn’t possible without initially translating, first finding the equivalent words and then providing the cultural and topical context around them. 

Demystify Myths Around Interpretation 

One of the myths around interpretation, especially with roles in governmental organizations, is that interpreters are involved in high-level conversations that may include classified or sensitive information, which they could then share with others. Whilst they do hear these conversations, their role is to be a conduit between speakers, and as such, they don’t retain the ideas as you are constantly in a flow of conversation. The other misconception is that any errors that occur in high-level conversations between heads of state will make the news. Still, much like in a traditional conversation between people, interpreters also have the opportunity to correct any mistakes during the course of the discussion.  

Empowering Participants by Communicating in Their Native Language

Providing interpreters at your event, both oral and sign language interpreters, empowers attendees to be recognized. Language is a human right, and allowing attendees to participate in their own language allows them to bring their heritage to the meeting and confidently share all their ideas and knowledge. Without this, attendees can only express themselves to the level they are comfortable with in the conference language, which can result in minimal participation and engagement. It may not be beneficial for meeting and event planners to have an interpreter available for all aspects of the program, but including them within the meaningful and key parts of your event can improve engagement and enrich the overall experience for all participants.

The Ephemeral but Key Role of Conference Interpreters

Conference interpreters play a key role in the event they are attending and the participation of the delegate they are working with. However, their role is confined to that specific event. Their own participation is always to be the voice of someone else, sharing their ideas and thoughts, for a designated period of time before. The delegate would not be able to fully participate without the interpreter, making them an essential component of the conference, but once the delegate’s participation ends, so does that of the interpreter. 

The Power of Genuine Storytelling

There is power in genuine storytelling, whether that be via social media or some other format. Magalhães enjoys telling stories that resonate or matter to you, purely for that reason and without a business goal and strategy guiding each interaction. He appreciates connecting authentically with your audience, and it may also lead to positive business outcomes but in an organic way.