Category Archives: Languages

A Conference Interpreter Offers Insights About Inherent Language Skills


Ewandro Magalhaes

I am thrilled  to introduce a friend and well known conference interpreter who will be an occasional, hopefully regular contributor to Musings. His writing is delightful because it is anecdotal and  entertaining as well as informative.  I know that you will recognize the value in it.  His perspective from the conference angle of a professional working outside of the U.S. will serve to round out our appreciation of  the current status of our industry. Enjoy…

Ewandro Magalhães is a seasoned conference interpreter, author and interpreter trainer. He holds a Master’s in Conference Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and is a former contractor with the U.S. Department of State, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization of American States and several other international organizations. He is the author of Sua Majestade, o Intérprete – o fascinante mundo da tradução simultânea (Parábola Editorial, São Paulo) and an active member of TAALS. A national of Brazil, he has worked in four continents and now lives with his family in Geneva, Switzerland, following his appointment last year as Chief Interpreter of the International Telecommunication Union, the UN agency for ICTs. Ewandro is a gifted writer and presenter with a passion for learning and disseminating knowledge.

As an intro to his post:
Think bilinguals have a natural edge in interpreting? Well, think again. In a recent article featured in the ATA Chronicle (May 2011), Ewandro Magalhães explores how the virtues or limitations of our languages configure and discipline our way of thinking and how we function as interpreters. Beware! What you know may be working against you in the booth. Click here to learn why!

Whimsical Language Post



 Today is my birthday, so as a present to myself,  I get to write about light-hearted, fun, or just interesting stories that are  language-related which I have recently come across. On the subject of  interpretation, I have written in recent posts about the interpretation of body language and the language of smell and forensics.  We can now add to that dream interpretation.  At first glance, this could seem like any quack could set himself up to do this in an Arab country or anywhere for that matter. However, it is not as simple as that in the UAE.  In Islam,  it turns out that  dream interpretation is only permitted if it is done by a trusted scholar, pursuant to an UAE fatwa issued in 2008! Furthermore, certain interpretations have been standardized.

I found the following article about Grosjean’s new book, Bilingual: Life and Reality, to be very insightful.  I encourage you to click on the links with excerpts from different chapters.  His blog on bilingualism from a psychological standpoint is also very original and will be of interest to all linguists.

As I have gotten flowers today, I felt I needed to know more about the language of flowers and I find myself  in complete agreement with the metaphysical stance of the last sentence in the article referenced.

I will close by sharing with you the next book choice on my summer reading list that promises to be  informative, fantastical and entertaining!  It’s called In the Land  of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent.  Click here for excerpts.

The Wavering Fate of Language Programs and Languages in General


This is a persistent issue that the world needs to solve.  I just came back from the InterpretAmerica Summit in Washington where we heard from Dr. Kayoko Takeda talk about the fact that there is not more research being conducted on interpreting is the U.S. because there are no doctoral programs for our profession and that is where in-depth research projects are usually carried out.  Moreover, the Monterey Institute of International Studies‘s  masters in T&I are the only ones left to date in the States.  It is mind-boggling that our country is not taking the necessary steps in this direction to equip our students with professional language tools that will enable us to compete properly in the relentless process of globalization.

I just signed a petition on Linkedin launched by the AIIC group in that forum to ask the University of Westminster not to cut its conference interpreting program.  I urge any of you that can support it to sign in and do so. The University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Relations teaches some of the world’s hottest languages of the developing world such as Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Chinese.  They receive federal funding, as well they should, because we need to be able to communicate fluently with these countries, in their languages, for business and international relations to prosper.  Nonetheless, because of our economic predicament these programs are slated to receive drastic cuts that will severely hinder their ability to provide this very needed service. It is happening not only here but in countries such as Malayasia that is struggling as its language, which was the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago, is losing its dominance to English. In this regard, I have always been intrigued by the talks that our colleague, Dr. Georganne Weller, has given at professional forums regarding INALI, and the very important work they do to promote indigenous languages in Mexico. I understand there are over 200 indigenous languages in Mexico! Speaking of indigenous languages, the Cherokee Nation apparently understands this problem here and has created a private language immersion school for Cherokee, in Oklahoma, that is applying for charter status.

I will close on an interesting note which caught me by surprise.  Chinese proficiency testing is growing in Mexico, at the Confucius Institute of the Autonomous University of Yucatan. Read about it here. Perhaps a reader from Mexico might be able to shed some light on why this effort is gaining popularity there.

Cindy Anthony’s Voice and Body Language Show Lies On Stand In Attempt to Protect Casey « Dr. Lillian Glass Body Language Blog


Cindy Anthony’s Voice and Body Language Show Lies On Stand In Attempt to Protect Casey « Dr. Lillian Glass Body Language Blog.

As you know, I have been following this trial with prior posts.  It’s fascinating to see that there are specialists interpreting not only what you say but also what you don’t say vocally but your body conveys silently, body language.

I wonder if anyone will expound on the language of smell which has been so talked about in this trial?

Texas Senator Insulted Spanish Testimony – Video | Mediaite


Texas Senator Insulted Spanish Testimony – Video | Mediaite.

A self-professed LEP individual, Antolin Aguirre, was testifying last Friday in Austin at a  Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee hearing regarding Senate Bill 9 which is designed to crack down on illegal immigrants in Texas. Please listen to the video in the referenced article.  Texas Senator Chris Harris from Arlington told Mr. Aguirre when he was two minutes into his testimony through an interpreter, that it was “insulting” that he should be testifying in Spanish because he had been in this country for many years.  Whereas I believe that it is incumbent upon residents of this country to learn English, I also strongly believe that if one does not feel comfortable testifying about an important issue in English, one is entitled to express himself coherently through an interpreter.  I have spoken to federally certified interpreters in Texas who have assured me that they have interpreted for the legislature on many occasions. I find it close-minded and unconscionable for a U.S. Senator to have made such a statement and I would welcome your views through the poll as well as your comments.

Euphemistically speaking: This may interest you* | The Economist


Euphemistically speaking: This may interest you* | The Economist.

It is intriguing to note, as I mentioned in my earlier post on the Rana trial, how culture totally conditions our understanding of language.  Whereas the same words may be used, the meaning may vary tremendously, even among speakers of the same tongue but from different areas.  Then there is the way that language morphs. Hence the importance of an interpreter, who conveys not just words in another language but true meaning and some times connotations that can only be understood by a cultural broker.

Enjoy these English to English renditions!

Translation: “The man who _____ed an entire country” | The Economist


Translation: “The man who _____ed an entire country” | The Economist. Have a look at the provocative challenges a translator has. For those who speak Spanish, here is another article regarding simultaneous interpretation where you face the turbo-charged version of this challenge, having to juggle alternatives in real time. This all dovetails nicely with the recent article in the New York Times regarding the advantages of bilingualism in forestalling Alzheimer’s and other degenerative ailments of the brain.

Rana trial: Nuance lost in translation – Times Of India


Rana trial: Nuance lost in translation – Times Of India.

I found this article from India regarding the ongoing trial in Chicago of Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago businessman accused of aiding and abetting the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, absolutely fascinating. The subtle cultural overtones and double entendres that are not readily apparent to the general public are very humorous from an intellectual standpoint. Apparently I am not the only one that sees the appeal behind the storyline as it is rumored that George Clooney has bought the rights to the story.

I would love to have comments by readers from Asia generally speaking and/or Pakistan if I were so lucky, that may be able to put this more in context for the rest of us, allowing us to enjoy the nuances to the hilt. If you are not familiar with the case, click on this link.

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