Interpreters in movies special edition: Games of Interprethrones.


“Daenerys: They may suit my needs, tell me of their training Interpreter: The Westerosi woman is pleased with them but speaks no praise to keep the price down. She wishes to know how they are trained. Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell her what she would know and be quick about it. The day is hot. Interpreter: They begin their training at five. Every day, they drill from dawn to dusk until they have mastered the short sword, the shields and the three spears. Only one boy in four survives this rigorous training. Their discipline and loyalty are absolute. They fear nothing. Ser Jorah: Even the bravest men fear death. Interpreter: The knight says even brave men fear death. Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell the old man he smells of piss. Interpreter: Truly, Master? Kraznys mo Nakloz: No, not truly! Are you a girl or a goat to ask such a thing? Interpreter: My Master says the Unsullied are not men. Death means nothing to them. Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell this ignorant whore of a Westerner to open her eyes and watch. Interpreter: He begs you attend this carefully, your grace. Daenerys: Tell your good Master there is no need Kraznys mo Nakloz: She’s worried about their nipples? Does the dumb bitch know we’ve cut off their balls? Interpreter: My Master points out that men don’t need nipples.”


Here I am again, surprisingly adding an extra post to the planned trilogy about interpreter in movies. That is a shock even for me since, as soon as I wrote the third part, I just wanted to delete everything. If I didn’t, it is because of the hard work done to complete it, and because I was happy with the result after all, if not of the things through which I passed to achieve it. I want to dedicate this post to the first episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, a TV series very special to me. In it, we have seen plenty of interpreting scenes, and I don’t want to analyse all of them, for different reasons. Among them, maybe the main one is the fact that the same mistakes are repeated over and over, due to the fact that the characters are improvised interpreters, as it has always been for centuries. In the new episode, however, we see a scene in which the interpreter seems to know her job, at least at the beginning (don’t worry, she’ll soon disappoint us); moreover, the scene is long enough, as you can see from the partial transcription I have included, and there are some subtitles which allow us to see the modifications introduced by the slave-interpreter. Just for those of you who don’t know the series: start watching it now! No, seriously, I will try to summarise something for you, although I know of great summaries, both on the internet and in person, and I don’t think I can get close to that. Daenerys is trying to have an army to fight against her enemies and win her kingdom back. To do that, she visits Astapor, the land of the Unsullied, the slaves famous for their skills in battle. There, she meets Kraznys mo Nakloz, the slave-trader, to obtain the soldiers she needs. It is here, during the negotiations, that we see this incredible interpreting performance. I think this example would disturb anyone with a vague idea of what interpreting is, you can imagine how I felt watching it and then attending a two hours session about interpreting protocol the day after. No wonder my friend and fellow interpreter Marta sent me a message as soon as she watched the episode, to tell me that it was interesting material for my blog. I don’t even know if there is any need to talk about the “He says” any more, I am so tired of that! The interpreter must speak in the first person when interpreting; if he/she uses the third person, it is exactly to express his/her own opinion, as in “the interpreter cannot hear the speaker”, or “the interpreter would like to ask the speaker not to read”. I am pretty sure some of you can remember me saying that more than once from the booth. The interpreter, in this episode, offers us the complete range of things not to do. She is not impartial, which is to expect, since she is the trader’s slave. The problem is that it doesn’t matter who pays you, you are invisible and impartial. And I say that keeping in mind that one of the most famous Spanish translators in Barcelona once said that, if one of the parties was in clear inferiority, he would act to favour it. With all the admiration for him, I don’t agree with this kind of conduct. But, let’s go back to our poor slave; in one of her first interventions, she shows us a great selection of don’ts: the third person, as I said, the adding information, and the expression of personal opinion. For once, you could be a good slave and don’t use your free will, and you miss the chance, well done! Her master does what any client attending trade shows organised by SOTUR does: gets lazy and asks the interpreter to answer directly. The difference is that, at SOTUR, the client at least explains the idea the first time, and you can interpret; then, you can repeat it again and again using your notes. It is not the best way of doing it, but it still is respectful enough. In the show, on the contrary, the interpreter becomes the speaker. It is not a case of culture broker, a role often used by the interpreter, when he/she explains cultural aspects quoted by the speaker; here, the mediator is the one delivering the original speech. Then, we have the apotheosis of what we don’t want to receive from the speaker, and what we should never do. I am going to repeat the interaction in here to make it clearer: “Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell the old man he smells of piss.

Interpreter: Truly, Master?

Kraznys mo Nakloz: No, not truly! Are you a girl or a goat to ask such a thing?

“Tell the old man”? Who was absent during the pre-session, the master, who doesn’t know he has to address Daenerys, not the interpreter, or the slave, who didn’t illustrate that point? If that wasn’t enough, she brilliantly asks “Truly, Master?” Are you kidding me? Say what he said, for pity’s sake! I know that interpreting for your Master is not easy, and that few of us have the skills to do it remarkably, but you don’t even try, my poor girl!

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