Difficult Languages to Simultaneously Interpret – Part II of II
Simultaneous interpretation is the act of orally interpreting audio with only few seconds of lag time. A strenuous task for any language, four languages in particular that are tough to simultaneously interpret are Arabic, German, Korean, and Navajo. In part two of this blog Korean and Navajo will be discussed. The origins of the Korean language are incredibly obscure and a topic of ongoing debate among many linguistic scholars. The modern Korean writing system, han’gul, was developed in 1443. The Navajo language stems all the way back to around the year 1500 AD, and first appeared in writing around 1850 AD.
- The biggest challenge with interpreting Korean lies in the grammar. Verbs and adjectives can be conjugated in hundreds of ways.
- Every Korean sentence must end in either a verb or adjective as well. In Korean, the sentence “I play baseball” would literally translate to “I baseball play.” Moreover, negatives come at the end of sentences in Korean. Sticking with the above example, “I don’t play baseball” would literally translate to “I baseball play don’t.”
- There are two different ways to say “I” or “me” in Korean, dependent on if you are speaking formally or informally. 나 is used in informal sentences while 저 is used in formal sentences. This aspect of the language creates even more decisions for the interpreter to make.
- There is a reason why this fascinating Native American language was used as a code (and never broken by the Japanese) in the Pacific front during World War II. One reason why it is so difficult to comprehend has to do with the fact that it is only spoken by roughly 150,000 people, a dying language as most speakers are shifting to English. The language is also surrounded by a complex culture.
- Within the language specifically, Navajo uses no grammatical gender and a free word order concerning subjects, objects, and verbs. The way in which the native speaker organizes the words sheds some light on what words are important within the message they are conveying.
- It also has singular, dual, and multiple categories of plural, and they are usually marked on the verb rather than the noun.
What are some languages other languages that are difficult to simultaneously interpret? Do you agree that the examples used above are challenging? Can you provide any tips on interpreting Korean or Navajo?
You may also be interested in the following:
Ebook: A Resource for Working With Interpreters and Interpretation Equipment
Article: Methods for Practicing Simultaneous Interpretation
Article: The World’s Ten Most Translated Authors
Article: Difficult Languages to Simultaneously Interpret – Part I of II