Differing skills of interpreters in Portuguese India
By piecing together the many but scattered references to linguistic and cultural mediation in contemporary sources, some of which were first-hand accounts, we can build a picture of interpreters and interpreting during the Portuguese voyages of discovery and their early quests in India and the East. Linguistic and cultural mediators were not held in high regard, with convicts or slaves, regardless of hether or not they possessed the requisite language skills, often being forced into this role when it involved dangerous tasks such as gathering intelligence and making the very first contact with new peoples. They thus developed survival skills, in particular, to tread a fine line between the two camps, which in turn aroused suspicions about their loyalty, a prime consideration for the Portuguese. Subsequently, with the increase of missionary activity, another group of interpreters developed with quite different characteristics: they had to be Christian and of good moral standing, have a good grasp of Portuguese and be eloquent speakers of their native languages, in which they had to express novel religious concepts. Even though the Jesuits paid attention to their technical abilities and rovided training, like the Portuguese administration, they also judged their interpreters’ effectiveness on the extent to which their substantive goals were achieved. Interior poses unique challenges to in-house professional translators as they endeavour to convey the “voice” of the public administration to a large and diverse international audience of practitioners and private citizens who interact with the Ministry for various reasons on a daily basis. Starting from an overview of foreign language services provided by the Ministry’s staff linguists, this paper focuses on translation services and explores in detail text types, clients and readership and the special challenges represented by L2 translation along with the strategies and practices adopted by staff translators to cater for the specific translation needs of both central and peripheral offices of the Interior Ministry. To illustrate all this, the two authors have drawn extensively on their own daily experience as staff linguists within two different structures of the Ministry, namely the Criminal Police Directorate in Rome and the Police Headquarters of Gorizia, offering a number of practical examples of translation of Italian texts into English, their L2 and the preferred choice for almost the totality of the Ministry’s communication needs.
The Interpreters' Newsletter
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Garry Mullender, "Differing skills of interpreters in Portuguese India", in: The Interpreters' Newsletter n. 21 (2016), Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2016, pp. 47-61