Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Martin Scorsese, Cinema and the Future of Interpreting

Last month, Academy Award winning film director Martin Scorsese delivered the 42nd annual Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Earlier this week, I had a chance to listen to Scorsese’s lecture on the power of images, motion pictures, and what he calls “the language of cinema.” His insights were enlightening, but one of his comments was particularly poignant and encapsulates what I think is the state of the interpreting profession today. 

“Cinema,” he said, “has always been tied to technological development. And if we spend too much time lamenting what’s gone, then were going to miss the excitement of what’s happening now. I mean, everything is wide open. To some this is a cause for concern, but I think it is an exciting time precisely because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, let alone next week.” 

Of course, interpreting has not always been tied to technological development and it has been around much, much longer than cinema. But the development of interpreting in the modern age has been closely tied to technological development, beginning with the first microphones, amplifiers and mixers that were used to test the feasibility of simultaneous interpretation at the International Labor Organization in Geneva and later to facilitate the war crimes tribunals in Nuremberg. Technological advancement continues and is having a profound effect on how, where and when interpreters work, but more importantly, on how the world communicates.

I agree with Martin Scorsese, it is an exciting time precisely because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But there is an unprecedented opportunity to influence the future of interpreting and the way the world communicates. InterpretAmerica 4 will take place on June 14-15, in Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. This will be an unprecedented gathering of interpreters, interpreting industry leaders and technological innovators meeting to bring interpreting into the 21st century. Won’t you join us? 

Early bird registration ends May 12, 2013. 

Barry Slaughter Olsen

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