Letter from the Editor
I'm at work: a spacious booth at the UN Conference Center in Bangkok. The door behind me opens onto an internal hallway, another entrance separating our area from the public space outside. Before me a desk-to-ceiling window allows for a good view of the room while providing acoustic isolation.
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Yet I wonder if another kind of isolation extends far beyond the outer door and well past the metal detectors at the entrance to the building. It took me longer to get here this morning: the Assembly of the Poor was demonstrating outside Government House and traffic was worse than usual. When my air conditioned taxi stopped alongside an open-windowed red bus, I was yet again reminded of my privileged existence: taxi fare to work will represent a third of the minimum daily wage of a local worker. In SE Asia the reality of myriad others is never far away and has the excellent habit of bursting into your bubble.
I've had many a conversation with colleagues touching on a paradox in our profession: the best-paying jobs are often ones that seem to be most divorced from these other realities.
We work in pleasant surroundings for a decent wage, but sometimes feel unnecessary, mere ornaments present to fulfill the requirements of a language policy or regime. I've heard many a conference interpreter wax nostalgic about the undeservedly lower paying jobs they used to accept early in their careers - on the ground, working directly with people, making a difference in a situation where they could play a vital role. It seems that a climb up the professional ladder may lead to a better view through the window, but not always, or necessarily, greater personal satisfaction.
Over the last decade the world has become more aware of interpreters: movies and books adopt us as characters, television is more likely to offer programs with interpretation, the press brims with reports on conflicts in which interpreters have been outcast, attacked or killed.
What does this all mean for us? This issue does not supply answers, but it may help frame the question. The articles on offer share a trait: in one way or another they all refer to a broader social context.
Eduardo Kahane leads off by challenging us to re-examine the very way in which we perceive our profession and our place in the world. Interpreters in conflict zones: the limits of neutrality dares us to cross conceptual borders and act collectively in consonance with what we may discover on the other side.
Bringing back laughter to an Acehnese school by Prangtip Daorueng takes us to Indonesia to tell us of how AIIC helped a school get back on its feet after the 2004 tsunami, and what that has meant to the local community.
Five years ago we published Henri Methorst's remembrances of a half-century in the profession. To honor his memory, the Congrestolken Cooperative and the Dutch region of AIIC joined forces to give recognition and monetary assistance to projects aiming to break down language and cultural barriers. Ricarda Gras offers us a brief history of the Henri Methorst Award.
"Vienna, 1948." To me the words evoke The Third Man - Graham Greene, Orson Welles, a familiar tune, a certain Ferris wheel. The city was occupied and divided, Europe still in the throes of ideological wrangling among the victors. To participate in a conference of European socialist parties in that setting must have been delicious. It was Wadi Keiser's first major international conference and he looks back on it in Mon "Congrès de Vienne".
The AIIC Training Committee has initiated a new Training of Trainers cycle. Matthew Perret attended the first seminar and tells us how reassessment was the order of the day in Interpreting Studies Research and Interpreter Training - Worlds Apart?.
Our book review takes a look at the emergence of a major new player in the international media. Phil Smith says that Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, "Tells the Al-Jazeera story with great fluency. Hugh Miles is an Arabic speaker with broad knowledge of the Middle East and he plots the early history of Al-Jazeera as it carved a unique position in the region as a network listened to and trusted by millions."
To wrap up we offer you a Language in the News based on the results of an Internet search of interpreter + conflict. We think it complements the other pieces in this summer issue quite nicely. And you are invited to complement it further by adding you comments to the articles of your choice.
Articles published in this section reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.