An interpreter or translator can be easily tripped up by distinctive wordings that appear to be a mix of both the source and the target language. These wordings are based on the speaker or author merging his or her grasp of two languages and using a term from one language as if it were a component of the other. Our flow can be interrupted when the speaker or text author uses the vocabulary learned in their single language household or social group.
There is a name for this! It is called Second Language Acquisition. In fact it is an entire component of the field of linguistics. I taught a graduate class on this subject for a University of Houston program for Bilingual Educators. Translators and interpreters should take a look at these elements of communication because you will be seeing it in documents and you will hear it spoken.
A professional interpreter or translator never passes judgment on the speaker or author by labeling their language as correct or incorrect. It is our job to learn all the different ways a person may choose to communicate so that we perform in accordance to the highest professional standards.
Second language acquisition elements can dominate the communication patterns of dual language speakers in certain geographic regions. Interpreters in Houston are used to hearing the English term for feeder road used interchangeably in Spanish and English as “la feeder” or ”feeder”. I have seen it in Spanish source texts written as fider. East coast Spanish interpreters hear La Gua Gua for bus because of the predominance of the Puerto Rican use of this term. I invite you, dear readers, to comment and report examples in other languages.
In industrial employment settings, sub groups also demonstrate transference patterns. Names of tools, equipment, materials, employer titles or specific places on a job site (lunch tent) may have very different version that have no resemblance to the dictionary translation.
Job duties and procedures can be expressed by converting the English name (noun) for the equipment into a verb and using that word for their job title or description.
These are examples of Second Language Acquisition Transference.
transfer: influence of similarities and differences between the TL (target language) and a SL (source language) that has been previously (perhaps imperfectly) acquired.
Here are some problems that transference causes which impede the LEP from successfully acquiring the second language:
negative transfer (interference): cross-linguistic influences resulting in errors.
underproduction: learner produces few or no examples of the second language. This is often caused by conscious avoidance of difficult wordings in the second language.
overproduction: learner develops a habit of repeating a transference wording more so than native speakers of the second language.
miscomprehension/misinterpretation: When relying on native language transference the second language is not thoroughly comprehended nor used correctly resulting in production errors:
Why is the linguistic explanation important to Judicial T&I professionals? Because it defines how the speaker or author came to use this untranslatable term. Lawyers and Judges benefit from knowing these elements of the communication process. Lawyers can better represent their client when they know how their witness communicates naturally. Judges benefit from knowing that the testimony is intact and not altered by mistranslated evidence or misinterpreted testimony. Translators can use Second Language Acquisition elements in their translator’s notes.
I will follow up with specific suggested procedures to follow when you face SLA elements in your work. Look for the post: What To Do: Spanglish, Chinglish and Konglish.