Sign Language Interpreting Chapter 1 continued...
For thousands of years, controversy has centered around the ways in which translators and interpreters can render source messages into target messages in as neutral a manner as possible. Some have argued that literal translations are truer to the original, while others suggest that free translations provide more appropriate renditions. However, until relatively recently, few have examined the utterances of interpreters in order to examine interpreters' contributions to the discourse of interpreted encounters. Recent sociolinguistic analyses of interpreted interactions indicate that the role of interpreters is not as neutral as much of the literature has either assumed or prescribed. In a recent examination of interactive interpreting, Wadensjö raises an important question with regard to interpreter neutrality: "Given that neutrality is a notion concerning relations, the question concerning dialogue interpreters' activities must be: neutral in relation to whom and/or what?" (1992, 268).
Wadensjö suggests that the interpreter must be neutral with regard to the participants for whom she is providing a service. While interpreters might feel more or less loyal to one or another participant, or to one or another of the participant's goals, the interpreter must keep these feelings separate from her task as an interpreter in order to successfully accomplish it. Wadensjö found that this need to maintain a distance from other participants actually contributed to interpreters' omissions of certain kinds of utterances. For example, when a participant foregrounded the interpreting task through comments such as "Say what he says now," the interpreter did not always provide a rendition of these comments (268); that is, the interpreter did not interpret the comment that had been directed to the interpreter. This example seems to raise an additional issue with regard to Wadensjö's question of neutral relationships: interpreters have the option of remaining neutral in relation to their own utterances, be they renditions of others' discourse or not.
Translation and Interpretation
Both translation and interpretation deal with the rendering of a given text into another language. Frishberg (1990) distinguishes between the two on the basis of form. That is, translation refers to written texts, while interpretation refers to the "live and immediate transmission" (18) of discourse that is spoken or signed. Both activities share certain commonalities. Regardless of mode, all texts can be seen to be "evidence of a communicative transaction taking place within a social framework" (Hatim and Mason 1990, 2). Moreover, many of the questions that plague the one also plague the other. Thus, the two are born of a similar history. As Roy (1989a, 1993) points out, assumptions regarding translator neutrality are related to scholarly discussion of the processes involved in the task of transmitting text between languages. The issue of a translator's influence on a text and the question of how to maintain neutrality in translation can be seen as an underlying cause of the historical dilemma in translation studies: literal versus free translation.
Undoubtedly, questions regarding the quality and appropriateness of translations have been in existence as long as the practice of interpreting and translating texts. Although face-to-face interpreting no doubt preceded written translation (Cokely 1992), the development of writing systems first provided the means by which to assess a translator's work. Thus began an unending controversy regarding the qualities that define issues such as accuracy and equivalence in translations.