Using machine translation can aid personalised communication

I came across this story about the difficulties journalists have when working with interpreters and thought they are worth sharing as the talking technology side of EMASUK can help eradicate some of these difficulties. I have italicised the ways that our resources and tools can support you.

The difficulties of working with an interpreter

1. Accuracy: The biggest and most obvious danger of working with an interpreter is that you’ll get facts wrong or misquote someone — a serious mistake when interviewing anyone, let alone a prominent figure. – When using the talking and written technologies you can double check what is being said giving you confidence.

2. Tone: An interpreter’s tin ear can lend a tinny feeling to your story. In a phone interview, Barry Bearak, a New York Times reporter who served as a foreign correspondent in South Asia and Southern Africa, recalls covering the aftermath of a hurricane in the Dominican Republic while working for The Miami Herald:

“I went to some village and just about everything had been washed away. I interviewed some man who had lost everything, and tears were coming out of his eyes and he was moving his hands to and fro, and the interpreter said something like, ‘I estimate the damage to my dwelling to be substantial.’” Bearak asked his photographer, who happened to speak Spanish, to interpret from that point on. – You are incharge of the talking and text technologies so you can see the body langauge and hear the tone of their spoken word.  As the parent, patient or customer speaks whilst typing you get a better feel of what is hapening rather than through a third person. NB. We heard of a nurse who was at one of our hospitals and was carefully telling a mother her baby was dead and why it had hapened whilst being compassionate and the interpreter was overheard by another member of staff to say ‘your baby is dead’ with no emotion only fact the closer we can get to two way communication the better our overall communication will be.

3. Bullshit detecting: When interviewing someone in your primary language, you pick up on hesitations or stammerings, hear when they start to say something and then backtrack or sense when they are putting things diplomatically, and these clues help you know when to probe further. Using an interpreter hinders your ability to read between the lines. – Using the talking technologies because you are in charge of the communication you can pick up the hesitations and any other indicators that as teachers we see that are out of the norm.

4. Color: Unless your interpreter is diligent about translating every single sentence, including offhand remarks or under-the-breath mutterings, your ability to add color to a scene will be impaired. – Although the conversation will be slightly delayed it does allow for color.

Considering cultural differences and barriers will likely already make it difficult to understand a story, it’s crucial to set ground rules with your interpreter and anticipate pitfalls.

If you are interested in the rest of the story that gives advice to journalists you can find it at:


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