The Boston Globe and The Daily Beast interviewed several members of the American Translators Association for articles concerning the possible summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Both news outlets contacted ATA to find out about the challenges interpreters in such high-pressure situations face when interpreting the conversations of world leaders.
“These are historical talks, if they happen, and the interpreter will play a huge part in this,” ATA Spokesperson Judy Jenner told Sam Stein of the The Daily Beast. “Kim doesn’t speak English, as far as we know,” she says. As for Trump, “it would be easier if you know him and worked for him, but he is a significant interpreting challenge.” Jenner emphasized that it takes thousands of hours of practice to develop the skills necessary to be a professional interpreter.
Korean interpreter and former ATA Board Director Jacki Noh, a long-time interpreter who worked on the nuclear-arms-focused Six Party Talks with North Korea in 2003, assured Stein that differences in the language spoken in North Korea will not be a problem for an experienced South Korean interpreter.
ATA Member Harry Obst, in an interview with David Scharfenberg of The Boston Globe, also emphasized the importance of having a highly skilled professional interpreter in the room. “If each side brings a professional interpreter, whatever the two tell each other will come across the way it was said.”
Founded in 1959, the American Translators Association is the nation’s largest professional organization for translators and interpreters. Its primary goals include fostering and supporting the professional development of translators and interpreters and promoting the translation and interpreting professions. ATA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, has nearly 11,000 members in over 100 countries. For more information on ATA, please visit www.atanet.org.
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