The following is taken from Roderick Jones’ fantastic book, Conference Interpreting Explained, and is reprinted without the kind permission of St Jerome publishers.
Analysis of Links
The first key to understanding a speech is the identification of the main ideas; the second is an analysis of the links between those ideas. A speech is not just a sequence of juxtaposed sentences. The sentences are related to one another in a particular way, and it is this relationship that determines the overall meaning of a speech.
The number of ways in which ideas may be linked is in fact fairly limited. First, there may be a logical consequence: The import duties imposed on Korean cars are excessive and discriminatory. Therefore, they must be reduced. Consequence may be expressed very clearly, as in this example, or with words such as consequently or as a result; it may also be expressed more casually and by sometimes ambiguous words such as so.
Second, there may be a logical cause, as in The American government has been exerting greater pressure on the Colombian authorities, because the illegal import and consumption of cocaine from that country is again on the increase. The interpreter must likewise register all words like as, since or due to.
Third, ideas may be sequential, following on from one another, but without logical cause or consequence. In such cases sentences may be simply juxtaposed or the ideas linked with the little word and. Here it must be noted that when ideas are simply juxtaposed – where the link is what we might call a `zero link’ -the interpreter must not fall into the trap of creating another link artificially. Although key words such as because and therefore should not be omitted, to create a link where there is none in the original is an equally serious mistake. Nor should the interpreter abuse the word and. A series of sentences strung together by and …and…and… is poor style, which may irritate the audience; worse, the resulting formlessness of the interpreter’s output may actually make the overall sense of a speech difficult to follow.
The third type of link-sequential-is particularly important to note in comparison to the fourth type, namely links which actually oppose two ideas. In this set of links there are different sub-sets that the interpreter should also be aware of Such an opposition may be simply offering an alternative or casting a different light on a question: The strong Mark may not be good for our exports, but is has contributed to holding down inflation. It may also be a flat contradiction: you claim that you have been unable to fulfill your export quotas,- but our figures show that imports from your country are actually double the quotas. On the other hand, the opposition need not imply a logical contradiction but may contrast two situations: Certain countries have attempted to apply strict monetary and fiscal discipline, whereas others have felt it more important to stimulate the economy. Lastly, an opposition may simply attenuate a previous idea: This is a very useful proposal. However, I don’t think we should get too excited about it…. In all of these cases it is important for the interpreter to reflect the right form of opposition expressed by the speaker.
Apart from these four basic types of links-logical consequence, logical cause, sequential ideas, opposition-ideas may be linked by certain forms of speech that the interpreter should exploit. For example, the speaker may put rhetorical questions. If the speaker asks `Why?’ and then goes on to answer their own question, the interpreter, depending on the target language, may choose to translate the rhetorical question literally, but may also choose to omit it for stylistic reasons and reproduce the idea by beginning This is because…. Alternatively, a speaker coming to the conclusion of their remarks may signal this by beginning a peroration with Chairman, ladies and gentlemen…. Again, it is up to the interpreter to exploit this structuring element in the speech, even though it does not have much intrinsic meaning, to make the interpretation more clearly structured and therefore easier to follow for the audience.